Lost and Found, Upside Down

Megan Vaughan Giesbrecht and Her Passion for Handstands

Krista Stryker

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Illustration by Mihajlo Stojanovic

“Something changed that day. I felt stuck for so long. And then I thought, ‘You know what? I can do that. I can take that advice. I can go to the gym and do handstands.’” — Megan Vaughan Giesbrecht

This article was originally published on my Substack newsletter, On Fire, which profiles the most passionate people in the world. You can subscribe for free here.

Megan Vaughan Giesbrecht skips across the floor of American Sports Acro and Gymnastics, the gymnastics gym in her hometown of Sonora, California. She jumps onto a pair of handstand canes, her toes pointed high in the air. She stands still in time for a moment and then… a cartwheel into a front split. She waves to her mom who watches from the side of the mat. She is laughing. Glowing even.

“What was your question?” Giesbrecht says, emerging from her nostalgic reverie and returning to the present. She looks around and becomes aware of her surroundings — her therapist’s office, with its dimly lit walls, is enveloped in wood paneling and crammed with books, evoking a feel of a movie set from the seventies.

“When was the last time you remember being happy?”

“I just remembered,” she says. “It was when I was a kid running around in the gym… doing handstands!”

Her therapist doesn’t hesitate.

“Well, my prescription for your depression is simple,” he says. “Do that. I think you should go back to the gym and do handstands.”

At first, Giesbrecht responds with a blank stare. “What kind of advice is that?” she thinks. But then, as she lets the idea sink in, she feels an energy rise within her. He’s onto something, she realizes. “I’m in,” she tells him.

“It was one of the first moments of my life that I can look back and think, ‘something changed that day,’” she tells me in our interview. “I felt stuck for so long. And then I thought, ‘You know what? I can do that. I can take that advice. I can go to the gym and do handstands.’”

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Krista Stryker

Performance coach, writer, and athlete. I write about how you can experience personal transformation through movement and exercise. www.kristastryker.com