“I don’t think anyone really noticed that there was anything off. Sometimes I wish someone had,” says Anais when she recounts breaking down on the mats of her high school wrestling provincial tournament.
That final tournament was long after Anais realized she was dealing with depression. She grew up in Toronto, Canada. Anais started off playing field hockey in ninth grade, but switched to wrestling in 10th grade. By her junior year of high school, she was her team’s senior women’s captain.
Anais gave up wrestling when she began pursuing her undergraduate degree in New York. She lived what she calls the “stereotypical college life” until she heard about rowing.
“They needed someone small who was impervious to the cold and good at yelling, and I was all three,” she says. She began coxing novice women and men her first two years, then moved up to junior varsity and varsity by her junior year. Anais enjoyed rowing and says she met some great friends there, which helped her deal with her anxiety during her early undergraduate years.
“There were definitely times when the routine of just going to practice, going to lift in the mornings was the only thing that helped,” she admits. “It wasn't that I had to pretend to be normal during them — it was just that it was a different space where I didn't have to worry about my boatload of issues.”
These “boatload of issues,” as Anais describes them, includes depression, anxiety, and police showing up at her doorstep in the middle of the night.
“I’ve probably been depressed as far back as I can remember,” she says. High school was a blur for Anais, who blocked out as much as she could. “I was miserable pretty much the entire time,” she says.
She describes a vivid memory she has from her senior year during a provincial tournament: “I’d gotten eliminated from the bracket after a second loss and I just remember breaking down on the mats because I was so sad. Not because of losing — I mean that was part of it — but I was just so f---ing sad and I didn’t have the words to properly express it.” A lot of people cry, she says, but this is where she had wishes someone would have noticed.
Actually, someone had noticed just a couple years prior to this. This is when the police showed up.
“I’d posted on a forum and that got interpreted as a suicide note,” Anais says. The police did show up to her house, but even then, she says “nothing really happened.”
“I got taken to a child psychologist as a result of that, but my dad was in the room the whole time,” she recalls. “How can you tell someone that you’ve spent the past five years wishing you were dead on every single birthday cake when your dad is in the same room?”
Anais has worked extremely hard to make her mental health a priority. There are still ups and downs, but she found a great therapist who was helpful and medication that is working for her. Her high school wrestling coach was also helpful in calming down Anais and her teammates. She is thankful for him, calling her coach “genuinely such a good guy.”
Coming to terms with her situation has also helped. She admits that she will probably be on medication for life. She is hesitant when thinking about talking to her younger self — “younger me though she’d be dead well before 20, but I think I’d at least like to tell younger me that older me is happy now.”
Anais emphasizes that being in a good place takes a lot of work. The work doesn’t ever really end, either. But, finally, she says, “I can’t believe how happy I am right now — I still have bad days but I’m happier now than I ever could have imagined when I was younger.”
What does “normal” mean to Anais?
“Oh boy. I don’t know if I have a normal — not much about my life has been ‘normal’ in a lot of ways. I hit a burnout a couple of months ago because I was so overwhelmed with like seven job applications and school all at the same time…and at first I was like ‘Hm, is this a me thing?’ and then all my friends were like ‘No, Anais, normal people also get stressed when applying to seven jobs at once.’ So I guess I don’t really know what normal is, either.”