Over the past while I’ve been coming across too many posts, articles and headlines, all with one word in common “suicide”. From neighbours, to my favourite actors, to my fellow BJJ players, Young girls, Old men, Sons, Fathers, Daughters, it seems to be something that affects people from every walk of life.
Talking about this is always difficult, it’s like the biggest taboo, you’ll hear it once, people will say it’s a shame and then move on, never to be spoken of again…. Until it happens again. This massive stigma is still floating around mental health, especially here in Ireland. You just can’t have it, it’s like you’re not allowed to. But the problem is, 1 in 4 of us does have it. 1 in 4 of us is stuck hearing the rest tell tales of their friend john who was depressed and just got over it, or people say “I’ve had depression, then I thought of all the people who have it worse than me, and I just got over it, you just have to be more positive”. You want to scream at them sometimes.
I wanted to talk a little bit about my own journey with depression and attempt to remove some of the stigma from my life. I’m going to do that, by showing you some pictures.
I used a scalpel to do this, at the time when I was still doing it, I thought this was the only way I could get relief from my mental pain. It took years to get myself to stop, I think I was addicted to it. I didn’t only do this, I would punch myself, slap my own face, pull my hair, scratch myself til I bled, anything I could do to make it stop, I didn’t even know what it was, could you imagine? All this, and I didn’t even know why. I know they don’t photograph well, but they’re very noticeable in person, and I’m asked about them quite a lot, it can be a bit shameful at times.
When you live with something like this, the biggest impediment to relief is yourself. It’s like you’re your own worst enemy, your ultimate opponent. In the real world you can train to fight an opponent, but your mind, how do you deal with that? it’s you! Just as exercise helps one care for their body, something has to be done to help care for the mind.
So can activity benefit someone with depression? Can you fight off mental health issues by learning to fight? In this grapplers humble opinion, the answer is, yes! I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember, long before I even knew what it was. It’s always been this shadow, lurking around the bend or in the corner of my eye. Every day I had to grapple with it, nothing seemed to shake it. It still hits me hard on some days.
BJJ helps me cope, since I’ve started training, I’ve only tried to hurt myself once. One time during a long hiatus from the classes I fell down hard, I stayed in bed all day, and when I tried to get up and do things, I just couldn’t. It was only one month, but it felt like an eternity, eventually, when I got back to it, it was like… coming home, like I was lost and I’d finally found my way again. It’s a corny way of explaining it, but it was true. I don’t typically talk too much about my anxiety or depression, but i don’t feel like I’m running from it anymore either, if anything I feel like it’s actually leaving me. Like training each day is not only strengthening my body, but strengthening my mind.
When I’m stuck in a bad position, Jiu Jitsu helps me see that there is always a way out. I know now to shrimp when crushed in side control, bridge and roll if mounted, it doesn’t matter, there’s always a way out. And it’s the same with life, it doesn’t matter what your darkest moments are, there is always a way out. If you’re struggling with self-harm like I was and sometimes still am, or if you’ve lost your job, you can learn to endure it, and in enduring come through the other side, sure a little bruised, but alive and with this new found resilience.
This can sound like it might be difficult, I know I still have a hard time talking about it sometimes, but remember, there is always someone there to help you, whether it’s a friend, or your coach, or a health professional, there is always someone willing to listen to you.
Unfortunately, sometimes exercise and activity aren’t enough, sometimes we need real help to get us through the dark days. For those that suffer, there is always help, it may not feel like it sometimes, but it is there, and you’re never a burden to ask for it. For those that want to help, but are unsure as to how, there is always information. I’ll provide a few links at the bottom for anyone who is interested in finding their own way to fight depression.
Submit the stigma: (Bjj practitioners fighting to make mental health as important as physical health).
Mental health Ireland:
Pieta House: (Suicide and self-harm).