TW: self-harm, suicidal ideations
Hi! My name is Mason (Macy) Fischer, and I am currently a freshman on the Oregon State Women’s Rowing Team. I am originally from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and have always been involved in athletics. Throughout my life sports have always been there to ground and give me a place to succeed.
Growing up, from age 6 to 15, I competed as a national level swimmer for my local swim team, Atomic City Aquatic Club. I made a change and started rowing right as the pandemic hit in early 2020 for Atomic Rowing. I competed and trained as a dual sport athlete through my sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school. I started the recruitment process for rowing towards the middle of my junior year. Looking back on it, this was one of the most exciting times of my life. My goals and aspirations were growing, and I was on the way to becoming a D1 athlete. I gave my verbal commitment to row for Oregon State in August of 2021 and signed in early December of 2021.
Training over the summer before leaving for Oregon, I had the most support I could have imagined receiving from my home. My teammates, friends, and family made it their goal to show me how excited they were that I was pursuing my dreams. Living in a smaller town, normally people do not get the opportunity to leave. Throughout my middle/high school years, I was independent and kept my head down, focusing on what I wanted to accomplish which was becoming a D1 athlete. I spent my nights after training putting in extra hours at the gym and waking up early before school in hopes of being the best athlete I could be. The idea of being able to get out of my small town and prove to everyone that I could be a part of something bigger than myself was all I wanted to do. This thought carried me through the remainder of my summer, and I took it upon myself to prove to people that someone from my town could accomplish big aspirations. I always put myself in a position to prove to myself and to those around me that I am worth it.
I spent my first month at Oregon State transitioning into the new atmosphere alongside the other freshman recruits from multiple sports including: rowing, track and field, golf, and baseball. Going into the first week of training with the team, I was full of excitement for the new environment I was entering. On a warmup run on September 1st, 2021, I rolled my ankle. After a week of running, erging, and biking on a “sprained ankle” I ended up in a boot. After three weeks on crutches, and eight weeks in a boot, following multiple x-rays and MRI scans, I learned it was much more than a sprain. I had torn both my anterior talofibular and calcaneofibular ligaments, had a marrow edema on my medial talar bone, and tibial tendon tenosynovitis. Coming to terms with the extent of the injury is something that took me months. I took a few weeks off training to attempt to heal the injury and started swimming as soon as I was cleared to.
I have always struggled with anxiety and depression, and it was something I thought I had grown out of. I had not felt the way I was feeling since the beginning of high school. Having the opportunity to practice has always been my source of relief from anything happening in my personal life and has always allowed me to focus on something that is important to me. Being told that I had to take time off from my sport and spend that time away from my team, made everything even more difficult to comprehend. Building trust with my teammates is something that takes time, effort, and practice. Not being involved in all the little moments made me feel even further from my team and what was supposed to be my support system.
Mental health in athletics is always portrayed as being easy to access, but when you are actively struggling it is harder than you can ever imagine. Through my own frustration and stress, I found myself feeling trapped and hopeless. I was overthinking every situation and conversation. It led me to believe that I was unwanted. Those around me were giving me space, which allowed me to further distance myself from my teammates and closest friends. No one could see the pain I was feeling or how my head was making me believe I was worthless. Through all of this, I kept that same false smile on my face, hoping I could make someone else feel better than how I was feeling. After 3 months of going on a downward spiral, I began self-harm. My only hope was that something would help me with what I was dealing with because I was desperate. Not completely understanding what I was doing yet but believing that there was some relief coming with it. I never let anyone see how bad things were getting. Some of my closest friends knew I was struggling but I never let anyone know the true depth of everything going on in my head. All of this was mainly for fear of what others would say or feeling like I was a burden to those around me.
Three weeks before leaving for winter break, I had a moment that changed everything for me. On November 18th, 2022, I had my first thoughts of wanting to end my life. That night was filled with fear, guilt, and disappointment in myself. The fear of how those around me would react to me coming forward with my feelings was the hardest for me to come to terms with. The guilt of worrying those around me made this feeling even harder to cope with. I found myself filled with disappointment. I had everything I could want, why did I feel so little and as though I was a burden? This scared me more than I can describe, and, in that moment, I realized I needed to reach out for help. Mental health is not a joke, and is not something to take lightly, as I had done for most of the semester. It took me a few weeks of talking to multiple doctors, therapists, and our staff here at OSU to figure out the best options for me. I started medication, and further upped my doses, trying to figure out what worked for me individually. Although this is not a long-term fix, it is something that has allowed me to start my healing process and learn further how to cope with the situation. I was told by some of my friends that throughout the entire time I was going through this struggle, from the outside I appeared to have everything figured out. I was seen with many close friends, and always had a smile on my face. I always seemed so positive, optimistic, and had everything going for me. Yet somehow, it never felt like this, and until I was able to dig myself out of the whole hole and gain some perspective, I did not realize the fake face I had put on. The realization of how easy it was to portray myself as being completely okay, makes me realize even more how easy it is to hide feelings.
Through the past few months my coaches, teammates, friends, and family have been a huge support system to lean on. I have made some of my closest friends through this experience, and it is something that I would never change. Although I wish I had never had to go through the pain I did mentally, I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I would not change it for the world. Now I realize the lack of help and support in athletics regarding mental health, and I find this to be truly unacceptable. Changing the stereotype and the system that is placed around the idea of reaching out for help and in return getting the help necessary is not something that should have to wait until someone is on the edge of everything. I am not going to sit around and wait for more lives to be taken because of something that can be helped. I am beyond thankful for everything that this experience has taught me so far, and I want to be able to share my story to as many people as possible.
Currently, I am still healing from my injury, but I can happily say that I am looking forward to the season ahead of me with my team. I want others to realize that it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to reach out and ask for help. You are always wanted, and there is so much that you have yet to experience. Find the time to reach out to those around you. The happiest people, and the ones who seem to have everything figured out, could be the ones struggling the most. Kindness goes a long way, and without the support and kind actions of those around me, I do not know where I would be right now. I am proud to be here still and take it day by day knowing I am doing my absolute best to become a better version of myself as both an athlete and a person.