Stephanie Labbé battles with depression and she enjoys it.
If that’s a perplexing concept, consider that Labbé is a professional athlete. She lives for competition and thrives on challenges. For her, every moment is a chance to improve herself.
“I’m enjoying the struggle,” she says, “and I’m enjoying how I’m able to grow and really learn from it every single day.”
But it wasn’t always that way.
It was in 2008 that Labbé was first called up to Canada’s national women’s soccer team. Then just 20 years old, she was Canada’s third-string goalkeeper behind Karina LeBlanc and Erin McLeod, and didn’t see much action.
At first, this wasn’t a problem. She was getting the chance to practise alongside some of her idols, and they taught her a lot about what it means to be a professional both on and off the field. Meanwhile, things with her pro club were going well.
As time wore on, though, Labbé’s outlook grew darker.
In 2012, she had joined a new team in Sweden and didn’t know anyone. She was an ocean away from her parents, family and friends. Still unable to make the starting lineup on the national team on a consistent basis, Labbé made a big decision: she simply walked away from the Canadian national team.
“I was just at a point where waking up every day was a struggle,” she recalls. “Coming out of every training session and wanting to cry, and having no confidence, not believing in myself … and it’s kind of this vicious cycle of focusing on all these things that I couldn’t control and it was just eating away at me and pulling me down and I just wasn’t happy anymore.”
That summer, the national team won the country’s first-ever women’s soccer medal, a bronze, at the London Olympics. Without her.
Even if she was unlikely to have played, she could have been there. She would have been part of things. And she wasn’t. It was a massive moment in Canadian women’s soccer, and she missed out. She started to close herself off from the…