Meg Lanning Discusses Mental Health Struggles and Life Beyond Cricket

Former Australian cricket captain Meg Lanning recently shared her experiences with mental health challenges that influenced her decision to retire from international competition in November 2023. At 32, Lanning described the internal battles that prompted her to step away from a sport where she had achieved significant heights, including leading her team to victory at the 2023 T20 World Cup.

Lanning’s mental health issues manifested themselves in several detrimental habits, notably an obsession with running, which became her primary coping mechanism. This obsession led to a significant reduction in her weight, with Lanning revealing that she dropped from 64 kilograms to 57 kilograms, explaining, “The ratios were out of whack a lot.” Her rigorous exercise routine greatly impacted her eating and sleep, causing her to often miss meals or sleep restlessly for barely two hours a night. “I dreaded night time because I knew I would go to bed and not be able to sleep. That would make me so mad,” Lanning admitted during an interview on The Howie Games podcast.

This unhealthy balance began to significantly impact her daily life and relationships. “I did not realize [it affected] my ability to concentrate. I didn’t really want to see other people… I disengaged a lot from friends and family,” she said. Her mental turmoil peaked during and after the high-pressure environments of the T20 World Cup and the subsequent Women’s Premier League in India, where she led Delhi Capitals to the finals.

Besides her physical and mental challenges, Lanning also faced an identity crisis, often questioning her life beyond cricket. “At some point, it’s got to stop. I felt very out of control in terms of what my future looked like: ‘If it’s not cricket, what does life look like if I am not playing?'” she reflected. Despite these personal challenges, Lanning’s performance on the field never wavered. She successfully led Australia to a T20 title in 2023 and performed strongly in domestic leagues.

Her decision to retire wasn’t made spontaneously but followed a temporary break in 2022 after the Commonwealth Games. Upon her return, she still felt unprepared to meet the exhaustive mental and physical demands of international tours, particularly the Ashes series. The realization and acceptance of her condition were delayed, partly due to her state of denial about the severity of her situation.

Looking ahead, Lanning is cautiously optimistic about her future beyond cricket. She never allowed her internal battles to visibly affect her game, a testament to her professionalism and mental fortitude. She continued, “I ran on auto-pilot while playing for Australia and that I was able to fix the pieces organically without being affected at all.”

Currently, Lanning is exploring what her life might entail without the routine of international cricket. During previous breaks from the sport, she traveled and enjoyed simpler pleasures like drinking coffee, and she now contemplates potentially opening her own coffee shop. “I love coffee… I do have this one vision of maybe one day owning my own coffee shop,” she mused.

While Lanning is still involved with cricket, she acknowledges the need for a balanced life and the importance of mental health. Her immediate goals include finding alternatives to playing, such as possibly entering coaching or commentary, while ensuring she remains connected to sports in some capacity. Lanning’s story highlights not only the pressures faced by elite athletes but also the resilience required to both confront and overcome personal adversities.

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