Anna has an inspiring story of resilience, both as a college athlete and as an Asian American living through racial injustice.
For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Anna Glenn and I am a former UCLA gymnast and 2020 UCLA graduate. As a strong mental health advocate, I have found that there is strength in sharing stories about mental health, as it helps with normalizing conversations on this topic and establishing a sense of community. Over my four years of undergrad, I discovered what it really means to “deal with” depression. As a senior in high school, I suffered my first major injury, tearing the labrum in my right shoulder and ultimately undergoing my first orthopedic surgery and benching my senior season. Although it was upsetting to sit out during my last year of club gymnastics, I was excited to recover knowing that the start of my collegiate career was just around the corner. Unfortunately, getting back to competition was delayed another year as I tore my labrum for the second time in the same shoulder the following fall during preseason training camp at UCLA.
This injury crushed me as I had just started training major skills again and was starting my career at UCLA. This is when my journey with mental health issues really began. That fall quarter was by far the hardest thing I had to go through up until that point in my life. I was adjusting to living across the country, getting used to dorm life, finding new friends, learning how to navigate STEM classes while also feeling isolated from the team. By the time season had started, I had dug myself into a deep hole of depression. I didn’t realize I needed help until my sister had mentioned my mental state to my coaches and trainer at the time. About six months after starting school at UCLA I had my first therapy session. I had no idea what to expect going in, and I was not confident about the effectiveness of therapy at the time. Everything was so new and none of my teammates really knew how to help. Long story short, a year later I made my collegiate debut in lineups and competed for the first time in two years. Therapy, along with a strong support system and establishing ways to decompress ended up being my saving grace. After that experience of going through therapy, it hit me how important it is to take care of your mental health and how crucial that one component can be for other aspects in your life and, in this case, my athletic career. My sophomore year, I ended up helping the UCLA Gymnastics team obtain a national championship as well as back-to-back PAC12 championships.
Injury proved to be a common trigger to my depression, which hit in another big wave my senior year of college. After dealing with a nagging knee injury the season before, I suffered a back injury all throughout preseason my senior season, which prohibited me from fully training for about 4 months. Aside from the fact that this injury made going about day-to-day activities extremely difficult, it also took a huge toll on my mental health. By October of my senior year, I was ready to medically retire and my depression hit an all time low. I was crying every day, couldn’t find any joy going to practice, and felt so disconnected from the sport. I confided in my coach for support and he allowed me to take a week off of practice as we decided a break from the sport was in my best interest. I started to see my therapist more consistently and leaned on my friends heavily during the next few months. Just as I started to get better physically and mentally, Covid hit. However, after getting through the past 4 years and my own personal battles, I was confident that navigating all the uncertainty with Covid was going to be manageable. When I reflect on my college experience, I feel proud of all my battle scars and all of the adversity I went through. As cliche as it sounds, all the challenges I overcame made me more resilient in the long run. As a new graduate and member of the working world, I feel ready to take on any challenges that come my way in this new chapter in my life.
Aside from sport, I identify as Asian American. With all of the racial injustice that has been brought to the media’s attention lately, this has been a particularly difficult time for both the Black and Asian American community. As a member of the AAPI community, I feel scared and angry. Identity has always been an interesting topic for me as I was adopted into a white family and grew up in a predominantly white area in North Carolina. Coming to UCLA had a significant impact on my cultural identity as I surrounded myself with Asian American friends and was in an Asian American social club on campus from my sophomore to senior year. I have never felt more proud to be Asian American. It is saddening to see that hate crimes towards Asian Americans has escalated to an alarming degree since the onset of Covid. Many of my friends are now scared for their families, which makes me worry for them. As it is a very trying time to live in, for everyone, I find that gaining support from friends and family, practicing self love, and finding ways to educate yourself and others is the best way to move forward and work to a safer, healthier world.
I hope my story inspires others to share their mental health stories and to reach out, find and share resources, and to make your own mental health a priority!