How I Used Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in My Battle Against Depression
Robin Williams once said, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless, and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” Many of us who battle depression do a great job of masking our true feelings. We put on our smile just like a piece of clothing each day before we walk out of the house. We laugh, we joke, we try to portray the exact opposite of how we feel inside. For me, it was almost like playing a character. The Adam that everyone saw in public was the polar opposite of the one that existed behind closed doors.
I’ve battled depression of some form throughout most of my adult life. I was the type of person who really didn’t believe he was depressed. I would just chalk it up to stress at work or at home, financial problems, relationship issues, or anything else I could use as a deflector to keep me from having to address my real, deep-rooted issues.
My depression really began to take a toll on my everyday life during the end of 2017/ early 2018. At this time my second marriage began to fail and I was suffering physically from neck and back injuries suffered from a car accident in December 2015. My life seemed to lack any direction; I was simply existing from day to day. I began to suffer from weight, self-esteem, and self-confidence issues.
I came to the point where I said enough is enough. I needed some form of an outlet to help me just get away from my daily struggles. I’ve always had an interest in some form of martial arts but it always seemed something (time and/or money) got in the way that kept me from pursuing this. I came across an advertisement for Gracie United BJJ. I talked my interest over with a couple of close friends who told me I was crazy to try BJJ at this age. They said I missed the boat. I was too old, too fat, and too banged up from my car accident. Best case scenario, I would get my ass kicked a couple of times then quit. Worst case, I would get seriously injured. But, like most situations in my life, I tend to not listen to the advice of others and I signed up for my introductory class. I remember my first class very well. The warm-up exercises had me winded. I was as flexible as a dead tree. I wasn’t able to complete the four 5-minute rolls at the end of class. I also threw up in the parking lot before going home to soak in a hot bath. I went back two days later for my second free class and signed up at the end of the night.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me a much needed break from the stresses in my life. It helped motivate me to set goals for myself as well as create a daily schedule, a “game plan” if you would, to help me obtain those goals. Jiu-jitsu helped my physical well-being. I began dieting and completely changed my workout routine. I dropped 54 lbs. during my first four months and saw my high blood pressure virtually disappear, and I saw improvements with my chronic neck and back pain as well. I began to progress in my class, increasing my endurance, flexibility, muscle strength, and technique. Seeing progress helped bring back my self-confidence and my feeling of self-worth. My instructors and fellow classmates were very influential and supportive. I owe a lot of my success to their encouragement.
That first jiu-jitsu class was several months ago. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs during that period of time. Some things have worked out in my favor while others didn’t go the way I wanted them to go. Jiu-jitsu has been such a positive influence on my life. I take many of the benefits gained such as self-discipline, persistence, and the ability to work well under pressure, and apply them to many aspects of my daily life. Jiu-jitsu has been a life-changing experience. What began as a simple glance at an advertisement and a single thought of, “hey, this looks like fun” has turned into a true passion. I can’t wait to see what happens next.