The serenity prayer is one of my favorite prayers to recite,
God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And the wisdom to know the difference.
The prayer is simple, but one that is always there in time of need. It also can be one that serves and comforts you. The first step is the acknowledgement of God, and our need for his mercy and help. One might stumble over the reality of a higher power existing, regardless of how one believes or feels.
There will be times in life (for all of us) when we feel powerless over our circumstances, and we will most certainly seek help outside of ourselves. Even if it is from another person or group of people. In these times, we seek out hope, wisdom, truth and even serenity. It points further to the reality that as humans, we were never meant to walk alone. Hold onto this given inclination, it might point you to the greatest truth ever discovered or even your destiny might be revealed.
Things we cannot change
All of us in life are surrounded by things we cannot change, for example, one could wake up in a perfectly good mood and ready to take on the day. Despite that, however, there might be the furthest from how you woke up. In fact, if you or I are not in control of faculties, we can find ourselves absorbing their very own mood. This is written from both experience and repeated failure. There are times in life where it is easier to deal with the world around me, and others where nothing but chaos surrounds. Anxiety pounces, and depression finds a way to mix itself in.
A few things that have aided me in this, beyond saying this prayer, is slow breathing through the nose and out the mouth: Breathing in 5 seconds slow and exhaling 5 seconds slowly. Repeat this for 2-5 minutes daily. The second practice is knowing that you cannot control how people act or what they decide to do. If on the other hand, were the cause of another’s problems, then take ownership of it as much as you can. Make the amends that are needing, with the understanding that is up to them how they respond. Thirdly, pray, even if you have never prayed before. There have been times, when alone that my prayers have been screams and laments. Though, I am not proud of the fact, none the less God’s spirit has always comforted me.
The Things We Can Change
Most often the things we can change, are the same things we refuse to do. Our hearts have a God ordained way of letting us know what’s wrong and what requires fixing. Yet, we knowingly suppress the truth of what we should do. For instance, we might believe that it is time to embark on the path of our own destiny. And yet, we don’t because we’re afraid of the judgement or attitudes of others. What we are meant to do, will continually rise to the surface until we do what must be done. We might not be able to control what happens around us and to us, but we can change how we respond to them. It takes a lot of time, and grace but it is a skill set that can be improved upon.
Its also something that you will fail at, a lot, rather learn to get back up quickly and stay on course. We can change quite a lot about ourselves, we only must be able to put in the work daily. We can learn self-control, to eat better, we can shed weight or body fat, we can improve the relationship around us, we can make the environments around us look and feel better. There is so much more that can added to the list, if only we let the discover the dreams and visions that God has placed inside of us, then we will find a mode of being and a true reason to live.
I’m going to try and express what living with depression feels like, and the battle that wages violently in my mind. I have long wanted to open my chest up and share the grappling match that takes place from within. My aim here is not sympathy, but rather to be candid not only for my own personal reasons but to help others as well. As that has always been my biggest goal in this life. Many times the depression that I experience inside, is like that of what person being attacked by a group of people. Completely outnumbered, and all I can do is cover up to guard myself even a little bit from the heavy blows. Often, there is a smile on my face, but that often is a mechanism to not show what’s truly going on. I’ve been smiling my whole life, so in some ways it’s my default. I’ve learned and sadly so, not to open up because then I won’t have to deal with the responses of others. People of faith have told me (over the years) that my faith is weak if I wrestle with depression, and if I go down the spiritual check list, everything should be just peachy. Little do they know how harmful statements like that are. Or “you have a good life, what could you possibly feel depressed about?”
With that line of thinking, its okay for everyone else to have bouts with depression and despair-just not me? It only makes me want to close myself off all the more. It’s painfully lonely when you feel so stuck in life, you keep spinning your wheels and feel as though you aren’t going anywhere . Similar to being stuck at the back of the line always. Often, it feels like I’m paralyzed on the inside and can’t move. And yet, each and every day, I get out of my bed and do what I’m supposed to. The dark enemy in my mind says “you better get comfy, because this is all your life will ever be, because you’ve blown it too much to get better.” And as many times as I have attempted to drive out the dark enemy, all I want to do is curl up under and blanket and not move.
A few days ago I was listening to a man, who deeply depressed, and so to attempt to get the pain to stop. He jumped off a bridge in San Francisco, by the grace of God he survived, but what he said struck me. He said that as he was falling off the bride, he instantly regretted the choice he made. He said that many people don’t want to die, they only want the pain to stop. And you know what? He’s exactly right, I have had many dark nights of the soul, I have even spent days in a hospital, and I can attribute myself resolve to stay in the fight, to God gracing me with a stubborn hope. Anne Lamott says
““Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
Going back to the analogy of being beat up by a group of people, after the beating, I lay there for a while. But eventually I find the strength to get back up. It reminds me when Neo fights the agent in one of the final scene, Neo is getting his ass handed to him, the agent thinks that he has completed his task at finally shutting neo down. And yet Neo gets back up again, the agent in a state of disbelief wonders what’s in Neo that helps him get back up. Why!? Why do you persist!?
I persist because in the depths of who I am, I know that there is something else on the darkness. In spite of such paralyzing heaviness. Christ has given me himself and he alone is my anchor in life. And even he got back up after the worst suffering imaginable. The other night, a friend reminded me that depression is not my true identity. That being a beloved child of God is, that is my truest self. As we walk, crawl and drag ourselves through the heaviness , know that you were never meant to carry your pain alone. You can cast all your pain upon Christ because he cares for you. I’m reminded of the line, in the foot poem “when you see only one pair of foot prints, it was then that he carried you.”
I don’t know when the pain will end- or that it will even stop. But I can tell you, that it is worth it, getting up each time you feel destroyed by life’s current. You never know what life could turn out to be.
My intent for this post is to get members of the jiujitsu community, to see beyond the surface of jiujitsu. Beyond the belts, the shiny gold medals and even all the latest trends. To see the people around you and how the art can truly help others cope and even heal mental illness.
It would seem as though, I’ve had a grappling match with depression most of my life. Even as a kid, I’d go from smiling to having a wave of sadness wash over me. Of course living withcerebral palsy brings it’s own battles. Knowing that you’re not like everyone else in the world. Knowing where you belong in the world is as equally daunting. Truth be told, I’ve always felt like a misfit.
As a child, I went through a handful of surgeries, each requiring months to recover, taking me out of school and away from friends is in some ways worse than the physical pain. My one saving grace as a kid was learning how to grapple. It was my escape from even knowing I had CP, it was an escape from my mind and so much more.
Learning to grapple made me feel as though, I was alive and that this could all lead to a greater purpose. I’ve been a martial arts instructor since the age of sixteen, teaching very styles, disciplines and people from all walks of life. I love the arts. But the one art I love the most is jiujitsu.
I truly believe that it can change people’s lives for the better, students and professors have the ability to use the gift of jiujitsu to change people’s lives for the better. The way some other arts cannot. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Rickson Gracie once said that sometimes as a teacher, you are sometimes a psychologist as well. In that sometimes you have to teach others to be calm, control their emotions and transcend the challenges of their lives.
As many may know, speaking up about depression or any challenge can take a lot of courage. It’s often what we are most willing to speak about that gives us healing and hope. Most of the time, my team mates see me with a smile on my face, sometimes the smile is real, but sometimes the smile is a means to hide the pain.
I smile and don’t let anyone see the fight going on inside me. Which is daily. But once I feel my GI and belt wrap around me. I know everything will be okay. For me, I love the human contact of Jiujitsu. Which I don’t get much of. I know that either when I’m learning a new technique or rolling with friends. The pain and sadness will leave me. Then- I can breath and feel that everything is right in the world.
Jiujitsu has taught me to breath. To breathe through the heaviness of depression and even anxiety. To move and make space even when I am feeling smothered by life. There’s always a way out of a tough position.
My hope is that members of the jiujitsu community will look deeper into jiujitsu, and see the healing properties that it possesses. It’s not about the pursuit of gold medals, the stripes on your belt or how many cool techniques you can do. It’s about the people around you. Open your eyes, pay attention to your team mates, check in with the people around you. If you know someone is struggling, and you don’t know the words. Offer them your silence, your listening ear. Keep them rolling and moving forward in the journey. Am I completely free from the weight of my own depression? No, I am not. But Jujitsu has offered a healing, and am community that I have never had. And quite frankly, it is better than any medicine a doctor could offer me.
Remember, we are a community that exists to make each other better. Jiujitsu exists, not so much for the sake of violence. But to reveal the greatness that lives inside us all.
Depression sucks, especially the kind of been experiencing the past three days. It’s like something dark, just came and busted out a lawn chair and began to relax while it indulged in it’s favorite beverage and snack. Then I think to myself, “Hey, I didn’t invite you here” Then this dark creature replies “oh, but you forget I show up every year.. When you least expect it.” That you do, but it doesn’t mean this depression is welcome.
So I’m going to express and share about what I’ve been feeling without giving power to loathing and deprecation of the self. Which I have been prone to do. However it will be a goal of mine within the new year to really fight against feeling sorry for myself and speaking negatively about myself. Depression is interesting in the sense that, it can feel your mind with lies that you know aren’t true. And yet, because its so heavy it feels true all the more.
The depression will say that I’m a fraud, no woman would ever want to be with me again, I’ve made to many mistakes and that my life is as good as it could possibly get. Meaning I’m stuck and life as I know it. Is over.
Again, I know it’s not true, but as I said the depression makes it seem all the more real and powerful. I’ve been on different medications for depression, and been to various counselors and I’ve had bad experiences with both. Medications only seemed to make feel worse, physically and mentally and most counselors I’ve seen have cooking cutter responses to my pain. So I said screw it both.
For me I believe that nutrition and fitness are big parts of fighting it, but you can do all that and still grapple with depression, however short the duration. For me, I’d rather have short durations, than to be where I once was, where I was having a couple panic attacks a week, puking before classes in college and so on.
This year hasn’t helped, though I’m thankful because here, in small Nebraska were not that restricted by Covid. But it doesn’t help, hearing about it every day, having a never ending political battle. Moreover, having cerebral palsy doesn’t help at all. It’s not like I can just leave the house whenever my heart desires. It’s also difficult when you don’t have any friends who can readily come pick you up or hang out with you because of their own circumstances.
Which is why I’ve tried a lot to be happy with myself and my own company, this is not just my battle but for many with cerebral palsy. Depression doesn’t make you weak, I just choose to lower my head and keep moving forward, to keep taking the shots. I’m not directly apposed to seeking help- I’m more open to talk therapy than anything. I’d only like to find a decent fit.
In the midst of the depression and the powerful blows that it deals myself and others, I’ve learn to channel a deep warrior strength inside me. One that knows that this darkness will pass, I’m learning to notice the pain and darkness within, and yet not be over ran by it. I’m learning to not let the depression over ride the duration of my day.
I still manage to workout, eat healthy, workout etc in spite of the depression that faces me. One might say that that’s not healthy. But to me, I say that that’s making war against the depression. It’s me fighting, going down swinging no matter what.
My greatest anchor through all of this is my relationship with God, prayer and reading my Bible. That’s what’s bigger than any darkness in my life.
The other night there was a lot of reflection being done, there I was sipping my whiskey. Depression set in mildly during the day, so that probably didn’t help. But in my reflection, the concept of trauma surfaced to my attention. Trauma (in various compacities) is something that many of us deal with. I’m no stranger to trauma, as having cerebral palsy and all the pain that I’ve had to endure because of it, has left it’s finger prints on me. My first operation, I can remember being brought back to the pre-op room, there my parents had to leave to go to the waiting area.
What honestly went through my mind as a child, was that I was being abandoned. Sure, that fear and panic produced an irrational fear. But the point is these moments in my childhood, had a great effect on most of my life. As mentioned before, a lot of us have our own trauma. Some more severe than others. What that should do then, is that should give humans grounds to show empathy and connect with one another. Healing comes in simple form when we can say the words “Me Too” to quote Rob Bell from his book Velvet Elvis. When we are willing to be vulnerable, that is when I believe God truly begins to heal us. The most profound lesson that I’ve ever had the privilege of learning, is that we cannot heal on our own.
We need to confess that we have a problem, that we cannot conquer it on our own, and that we need God to work in us by his grace and community to walk along side us. Even those of us who try and white knuckle our way towards healing eventually get burnt out by trying so hard. Of course, this takes a lot of humility, gumption and inner bravery to admit any of this. Again, people wear masks (no pun intended), we try and appear as though we don’t need help and do things on our own. And while a fair amount of self-sufficiency is great, no man- woman is an island to themselves.
It took me such a long time to face my own trauma in my life, more often than not when I thought I was making progress, the fear and panic only seemed to get louder as time went on. Confusion set in , and the thought came to my mind “why am I not getting any better?”
“Why am I still so afraid?” And the answer, for me anyhow, was that I was still looking to people to save me from my trauma, to save me from myself. Well meaning people can help and provide wisdom and some comfort. But only God can heal us and give us the peace we crave. So, in this moment, I deeply want to you to know that God loves your more than any other person on earth could. You are not so far down the road, that you are out of his reach. It’s ok to admit you need help, not only from God but from others. You have purpose to complete with your life, and someone else can benefit from your own story. Go fourth today, knowing that the past doesn’t define who you are.
I’ve written on the subject on faith and anxiety before, but after my morning conversation with my girlfriend. It spurred me to want to write some more on the topic, as this is not a topic that can have a once and for all response. I’ll say it again, I have never appreciated how many Christians have handled the areas of mental health within the faith community.
Just pray more.
Have more faith.
Yes and yes..
But it’s not always that clean cut.
While it is true that people that live with anxiety or depression, should interact in their faith more with prayer and trust in God (if one is a Christian). That does not mean that all of our days with, anxiety, fear and worry are all over. They may get better, as we learn how to cast all our cares upon Christ- because he cares for us (1 peter 5:7), and learning different coping skills. Again, it simply does not mean that we will no longer have anxiety come up again in our lives.
When it does though, we will know how to defend against it, so it does not crush us. The biggest mystery through out my own faith journey, is while God chooses to heal some and not others. I am sure that there are some in which God has chosen to heal of anxiety, and others he has chosen not to.
And while this can be seen as a deterrent to faith, I choose to believe that there is sufficient reason for such thorns to remain. Simply because a fellow Christian still walks with anxiety and worry, does not always equate to a lack of faith or trust. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of our own mental health. But because our Lord is good, he always brings us back to the truth of himself.
And when we say to someone, “oh just pray and trust God more” we’re unknowingly making it about our strength and not God. As though we have to pray to drive our anxiety away, as though we have to muster up the strength to trust more. When it is God who spurs us to pray and gives us the ability to come our senses and trust him in the first place.
Sometimes what we say as Christians, in the context of mental health and faith is frankly unbiblical and even dangerous. If I went to a biblical counselor, I would hope and pray that they gave me a bit more than simply to learn to pray and trust more. I would hope that they would offer a listening ear, some compassion and empathy.
Christ told us that life would be full of hard times, but that he has overcome the world. -John 16:33, my faith tells me that Christ has already overcome all the darkness in the world, and with that, I know that all anxiety will be cast into the darkest parts of the earth. If you are one living with anxiety, big or small.
Jesus is not repelled by the anxiety that faces you, his arms are open to you. He loves you madly, his death, burial and resurrection say so. It is because of this, that we can cast all our cares upon him, along with our deepest trust.
I don’t believe that having a disability is a means to completely stop a person, from leading a great life. Be it mentally, physically or spiritually. I don’t. Sharing my story is something I do all the time. And if you know anything about me, you will know that I have had the deck stacked against me since day one.
Perhaps it’s because I had parents that pushed me in the direction that I am now, I’ve been at the bottom. For awhile I listened to all the negative crap that people spoke into my life. I let the words of people barrie me deep- in a pit of nonsense.
Again, if it wasn’t for my family pushing me to be more. I’m positive in knowing that I would still be in the hopeless place. I feel as though its my mission in life to tell people (especially those with disabilities). That they can be more, they don’t always have to listen to doctors, teachers or feel entrapped by their own disability.
For years, I hated my body, I didn’t think that my mind or body could improve. Yes, I will always have CP, but no it will not keep me from being the strongest and healthiest that I possibly can be. Yes, I still may have bouts with depression and anxiety but I will always rise.
Make the most of what you have. Work with what you got.
If you can only lift a certain about of weight, with one side of your body. That’s fine. If one side of your body is stronger, I can deal with that. If you don’t have much mobility in your lower body, there are ways to adapt to the context in which you find yourself. But staying in a mindset in which there is no growth: Mentally, physically or spiritually is equal to death.
Because if we do not choose to allow ourselves to grow, every single day. We will die without every really knowing who we are. We adapt. Or we die.
If you know anything about my personal history, you would know that anxiety and depression have been present in my life, since the age of seventeen. I have cycled through various medications, seen different counselors. And hell, I’ve even spent a few days in a psych ward. For the simple fact that I hated my life and simply wanted things to be over.
To this day, I hold in high regard and esteem, anyone who goes to a doctor, knowing full well that they need help. That is the single bravest thing a human can do. It takes a lot of guts to say “I’m not well right now, and the thoughts in my mind are far too much to cope with on my own.”
Again, thats a beautiful and brave thing to admit. Within my own journey in learning to cope with anxiety and depression have almost always been a part of it. I have tried several times to slowly get off of whatever drug I was on. But the side effects were too great for me. So I’d hop back on the given medication.
To be clear, I have always wanted to be off them, because I have always hated how they made me feel. Tired, slow, and sometimes more hopeless than I was at the start. To be blunt, most of the counselors I saw sucked, they were filled with pat answers and didn’t grasp the pain that was inside me.
The more depressed and anxiety ridden I felt, the healthier I ate and focused more on trying to fight back against the anxiety and depression on the Jiujitsu mats or with the weights. Eating cleaning, saying no to a lot of carbs and sugar and saying yes to more protein and water worked. Making my workouts more challenging and taxing worked.
Yet, this lingering depression and random panic attacks through out the week would hit me still. I didn’t know what to do, I was tired of feeling this way, and I wanted it to stop. Fast forward to seeing my girlfriend for to weeks (she lives in NY) I was so happy to see her, that thinking about taking my medication was the furthest thing from my mind.
I even told her a few days into my trip “Babe, I haven’t taken my anxiety meds in a few days.” And you know what, I felt fairly good. Apart from the slumps that I would have mid day, when the depression would come slamming into reality again. I would have moments, where I would sit on my girlfriends bed and cry. Being the amazing woman that she is, she held me and waited until I was done crying. She also would gently remind me that everything would be okay, because God loved me and she loved me too.
It was in these moments, when I realized that, I’d rather feel the weight of my depression and anxiety. Knowing that I was mentally stronger than I gave myself credit for. I’d rather face the pain and darkness head on, knowing with a hundred percent fact that this darkness couldn’t beat me.
I did as David Goggins talks about in his book “Can’t Hurt Me” and started to harden my mind, not in the sense of being angry or bitter. I started hardening my mind to be strong in battle, I would speak to the negative thoughts in my mind.
“Is that the best you got!?”
“Your wasting your time, because you have no authority or power over me”
I would ask myself, “do you know who you are? You are warrior, a child of God and one bad mother F’er.”
The more I began to allow, embrace and feel the mental and emotional pain, the more I allowed myself to accept it, and started using it as more of driving force, to push forward. I often would use anxiety meds to cope with sadness, despair, shame and my perceived failures in life.
At this moment in my life, I have a deeper understanding that, allowing the darkness to swallow me up is never the answer. Wanting to not wake up anymore is not the answer. Being able to go to the root of your pain is the answer.
Once again, if you are in counseling and on medication, I’m not telling you to get off them cold turkey as I did. And as of now in my life I feel fine. But I am telling you, that you are loved, by God and people in your life. I am telling you that you are warrior and a bad mother f’er and I am telling you that the darkness has no authority over your life.
I have wanted to write this entry for quite some time now, my reason for not doing so stemmed from the fact that I am a Christian. My faith is utterly important to me and comes before everything else in my life. That being said, I feared the backlash that a post like this might cause, but I’ve come to a point where I don’t care if fellow believers roll their eyes at me or question the validity of my faith.
I also want to clearly state, that this is not a scientific exploration of what CBD is, there is much more notable places to look than something like this. This will much rather be a few reasons as to why I use it, and why I believe others should use it too!
Reason one: As someone with cerebral palsy, I have tried nearly every muscle relaxer under the sun. In the name of coping with the pain that follows spasticity. Muscle relaxers often make me feel tired and zombie like for a few days at least. With CBD, my muscles are able to relax more naturally and doesn’t leave me feeling like an unproductive zombie.
Reason two: Much less joint pain and inflammation. Once again, as someone with CP, I am more often than not, in a fair amount of pain and stiffness. So much so that it becomes very difficult to walk with my crutches. Having used CBD for over a year now, I have noticed that the inflammation has gone down dramatically. And it’s much easier to move. Are there days where pain is still present? Yes, but it is much much less and bearable, without having to put so many pills in my mouth, that how much more side-effects.
Reason three: Anxiety and Depression, yes CBD has helped me in these areas as well, I don’t have many panic attacks anymore, and the depressive episodes are not as present. Yes, they still happen, but using CBD I find helps relieve the symptoms that are associated with anxiety and depression.
Much more, using CBD is wonderful after my workouts, and it leaves me much less sore and allows to recover faster. I’ll end with this though, I don’t think that CBD is cure all, in terms of our over all health, its also a good thing to learn coping skills, listening to our bodies, getting more sleep etc.
Yet there are more, even greater benefits to using CBD than the ones I’ve listed above.