Not so long ago, Anna Pearson woke up at 2:45am, walked 8km up to Cascade Lookout in Manning Park, BC, and watched the sun slowly creep up from behind the mountains, turning the sky shades of gold, rose and powder blue. There’s no doubt that morning’s sunrise meant something special to all 50 strangers who witnessed it as a part of MEC Outdoor Nation and Chasing Sunrise’s Chasecamp weekend, but for Anna, it meant something different.
As she later recapped on her personal blog, Daily Insanity, “… taking on new adventures, meeting new people and exploring the world … was my way of showing the monsters that lived inside my head that I was in control of my life and that they would never be able to stop me from pursuing my happiness.”
The Ottawa-based McGill University grad has spent the past five years coming to terms with her clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder, following what Anna describes as a breakdown and emergency situation over a summer during university. Now, with a healthy routine in place, she bravely chronicles her thoughts on relapse, remission and therapy on the blog, and touches often on a core part of her daily practice: exercise and outdoor activity. “I’ve been doing ballet since I was 4 years old, but I kind of stopped when I went to school,” she says. “Now, being active is hugely important to my daily routine – hiking absolutely has its advantages. My friends say they’ve never seen me so happy.”
One piece of advice Anna is quick to give, however, is not to introduce activity at a vulnerable time. She admits to initially taking up running as a coping mechanism for her depression and anxiety, eventually developing an eating disorder and an injury. She suggests recreational group activities as a first step because they come with built-in community and support. “When you recover from a downward spiral,” says Anna, “you realize all the little things you take for granted, and the outdoors has a way of really highlighting that.”