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Depression & Jiu Jitsu


After writing about training with anxiety a couple of months ago, I came to understand that this time in my life was so difficult. Thankfully I haven’t had any anxiety attacks since, but reflecting made me realise what usually goes along side anxiety, and that’s depression.

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve never understood why people get depression and anxiety, until I got anxiety. It’s really disabling, and something that is a right pain in the arse for someone who likes to achieve. I’m a list writer and I LOVE crossing off my jobs, chores and tasks for the day. Every day I’m achieving a goal, even if its just making sure I remember to post my latest ebay sale or email my invoices to get paid.

Depression is something that I have never understood, and I still don’t. Everyone deals with situations I a different way, but what do people really have to be depressed about? Those who have depression have a room over their heads, aren’t in financial crisis, have a job, train jiu jitsu. What is is that they can be depressed about?

Earlier this year I had quite a few sessions of mind coaching to sort out my anxiety. It worked, and I would highly recommend it. I was advised to go and see my GP for their opinion too. I decided against it. For one, it’s so difficult to get an appointment, and two, I knew deep down they would prescribe me drugs that I would refuse to take.

In August last year I went to the World Masters in Las Vegas. I had a great time, but on the way home I got salmonella poisoning from an omelette I ate on my last day there. It brought my immune system down so low, that some stress at work caused me to contract shingles. I massively improved my diet and cut out caffeine and kept myself well hydrated. I tried to train and teach my classes as much as I could, but I was wiped out for the first two weeks. I gradually got my strength back and after 4-5 weeks, I continued as normal in training.

In life I had a huge burden and humongous stress surrounding me to do with a legal issue I had been going through for 18 months. The weight on my shoulder was drowning me and I couldn’t shake it off. I was worried, stressed, and life just seemed like I had fog all around me. I was depressed…..

As one of the higher belts and active competitors at my gym, people look up to me, come to me for tips and advice, and when I coach, I don’t just coach jiu jitsu, I coach peoples day to day problems too.

The biggest lie I tell almost every day is “Yeah I’m good thanks”. I don’t want to burden people with my problems. I go to train jiu jitsu to get away from my problems.

There were nights that I would have a stressful day dealing with my legal issue, be in tears, and have puffy eyes from crying for most of the day with worry. But I had the Dublin open to train for. So I picked myself up, and took myself to training. I taught my classes week after week, and pushed myself to never miss a class, even if I didn’t physically want to go, I knew it would make me feel better.

Just before I went to Dublin in December, I took words that the owner of the gym I taught the ladies Saturday class at, the wrong way. I had been dealing with people speaking to me in such a way that was so degrading and like I was some sort of idiot, so the slightest wrong thing said to me, just made things worse. So I quit my Saturday ladies class.

I felt so low, but training kept me a bit sane and my endorphins flowing. I felt bad for the ladies that they had no Saturday class to train in. The pressure was on, and the weight on my shoulders was so intense, that I just felt worse that I had let people down.

I went to Dublin to compete, but struggled to get my weight down. I missed weight by 100g, but turns out it was the fault of the official scales. I didn’t know this until after. I couldn’t compete as it was an instant disqualification. So I went back the next day and competed in the No Gi. Thankfully I was up a weight class, so I had loads of weight to spare. Amazingly I wont the match with my one and only opponent by submission. I centebrated with a Guinness on the way home in the airport.

Christmas passed, so did new year. Both were nice and spent with family. January was pleasant, and I met up with friends. My diet was off plan, and I pretty much ate what I wanted. I kept up my training with regular classes and my strength and conditioning too.

My personal life was still a struggle, dealing with this legal issue was completely dragging me down. I would cry almost every day with worry and fear. It was like I was dealing with my own little Brexit. No one really knew what was going to happen. One thing I did know, was that I would have to attend mediation. That was until one day I found evidence to show that the person I was dealing with was a fraudster and I had caught them out. They refrained from mediation, and everything was going to be settled and in my favour. It was just a matter of time.

Previous to this I threw my toys out of the pram and quit my Tuesday ladies class that I had been teaching for 2 and a half years. I was fed up of everything.

I was coaching people in jiu jitsu, and coaching them outside too. They didn’t know that I cried every day because of my personal life struggles, and I had to coach them in to choosing if they should go to training or not. If that is their only worry in life, then I’ll be more than happy to swap mine with theirs.

This was in mid March, right before I was going to compete in the Pans in Los Angeles.

A few days before I found the evidence I needed for my legal issue, I competed in the London Grand Slam at the Copper box. I only had one opponent, and she was a judo black belt who loved to keep me pinned to the mat. Our second match was quite possibly the worst jiu jitsu match I have ever experienced in my whole 8 years of training. Her throw was incredible, but I later found that I had bruised my sternum, and cracked ribs (I think, but can’t be sure, but was 6 weeks before it finally heeled, and I’ve had cracked ribs before that heeling in exactly the same time) from it. I probably should have had it checked out, but that’s hind sight. Her shin on my face and neck was frustrating, and the pins were boring and not the kind of jiu jitsu I like to fight. I was so sore for a week after, even with my high pain threshold, I could barely train the Monday after the match. So I sat out and watched. I took a couple more days off training and teaching my one to ones.

When it came to flying to LA, my ribs were feeling better, that was until I trained at Atos two days before my matches at the Pans. I was in agony after sparring, but didn’t say a word to anyone. I know the negative comments and advice would make me want to pull out of the competition. This time last year I went there with a broken hand. So this competition was feeling like it was my nemesis.

Competition day came and I had two matches. I didn’t play my usual gave on the bottom, I went on top and tried to pass. I got a foot push right in my ribs and then I let her sweep me after trying to contain the pain I was feeling inside. I lost both matches on points, and took a default Bronze.

Not content with my losses, and thoughts of being injured did not stop me from entering the open class. I only had one lady from Brazil to fight, and the determination helped me win in quick time. I got the submission win and the absolute Pans gold medal.

I was elated, so was my mum and my uncle who came to watch. It was a great day. When something like this happens, I cry with happiness. It was just what I needed after such a tough time dealing with life.

The week away in the USA with my mum was brilliant, just what my mum needed as well as myself. When I got back, I was on a mission to make things right. Something happened in me that changed. The fog that had been surrounding me for 6 months had lifted. I could finally see clearly and the weight had gone from my shoulders. Unfortunately I still had my rib injury, but managed as much as I could in training when I got home from LA.

Reflecting on the last 6 months from September when I got shingles, to March when my legal issue had finally started to go my way, I know I had depression throughout this time. I always remember what my aunt told me. The best thing for depression is exercise. You need to let the endorphins flow. After 6 months, you’ll start living the depression.

One thing I do know is that I am grateful for so much. A roof over my head, a family (and dog) who loves me, food in my fridge, a job, a place to train, a good life that gives me time to travel and see the world. There is so much about my life to be grateful for.

I knew that a pill was not going to make me better and get out of this depression. Keeping my endorphins flowing was the key. Of course everyone is different. I’m a super strong individual with a lot of motivation. I put it down to my Leo traits and lion heart that gives me this strength. One thing everyone should do though, is train and be grateful.

#trainingwithdepression #brazilianjiujitsu #bjj #womenbjj #competitor