The Power of Jiujitsu Against Depression

            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.      

Rambling on Depression

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.

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Thoughts on Trauma Part 1: Healing first

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.

   

Talking About Faith and Mental Health-again.

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.

We Adapt. Or We Die.

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.

Why I Quit Leaning on Anxiety Meds

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.

Why I love CBD: A Few Reasons

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.

Here is what I use: https://johnnyapple.com/cartridges/

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A Tighter Grip.

I don’t even know where to begin

All I know is that I want to get a grip on myself.

My anxiety has been so bad.

My emotions have been everywhere.

And sometimes I feel like my chest is going to implode.

I find myself crying when I am alone.

I find myself utterly sensitive to the energies around me.

One moment I am happy and the next, anger, sadness, frustration rage.

I hate this…. I hate this.

My soul is desperate for change.

I want to know what it’s like to feel stable.

I hate feeling like such a wreck.

Perhaps its only a season or moment in time.

All I want is to break free. And not be dominated by this internal, unstable and insecure war inside me.

I want to get to the bottom of this, one breath at a time, one step at a time.

 

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Like Martha

The idea came to me during Jiujitsu class, that I should start posting short devotionals. My hope with these small entries is that people will be spiritual stirred  to draw closer to God and even work out where they might be in their daily lives.

Luke 10:38-42jesus-mary-martha-396319-print-do-not-copy-notice

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus[a] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

I’m a type A personality, I like to get things done in a timely manner. And when things don’t, I tend to freak out. My anxiety sky rockets and I am anything but a peace. In fact saying that I’m a grump just doesn’t do it.

Martha is one that I would relate to, one can easily tell that she is stressed out. And probably wants to leave a good impression, especially when you have someone like Jesus in your home. Martha is obviously frustrated with her sister Marry for choosing to not help her with all that needs to be done. If I was her, I’d probably be cussing her out quietly in my heart and mind.

Yet Marry chooses to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to every word he utters. What Marry chooses to do is stunning to my soul, yes she knows things need to be done. No, I don’t believe that she is simply shunning her sister. I think what is happening is she knows that for the moment, it is better to sit at the feet of Jesus. To simply be still in his presence.

We should do the same, why? Because the more we learn to be in the Lords presence, the less our anxiety wraps it’s arms around us. The more joyful and peaceful we will be. We won’t be so let down by others, for we will know that God is the one that provides us with all we need.

 

 

It’s Back…

I can feel the depression setting in again, it has been for the past few weeks. It’s like an unwanted guest trying to take of space in your home when they’re not wanted. There have been moments where I have lost interest in things that made me happy, in those moments I’d rather eat ice cream, drink beer and sleep.

I’m not trying to glorify the depression, I’m only trying to express what a bitch it is. Depression is never  simple or easy to bring resolution to, in my experience, it needs to be  met with heavy love and hope.

Normally when I am faced with depression, the only thing that I want is for a friend to put their arm around me, to tell me they care, that they love me and that I’m worth it. Quite honestly, I haven’t had a love like that for many years. Ever since my friend Garret moved away, got married etc. Things changed drastically. Garret used to hang out with me all the time,  take me places and remind me of who I was.

I miss that, so very much. These days my days are spent attempting to seek the type of community and connection my heart desires, after all, the golden rule of all life and religion, is to treat others how you would want to be treated. In the words of Bono and U2 “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.

Maybe the honest to God truth is that I’ll never find a friend like Garret again, and I just have to be okay with it. But he will always be the example of how to treat and care for others. Sometimes I just feel like selling all I have and going somewhere where people who are in need of a friend, a touch, a huge and warm words for the soul.

I would rather give my heart to people who wanted than to live wondering if I mattered.  The one factor that I have found that truly fights this evil monster of depression, is a purpose. Give a person the smallest hint of light and watch what they can do it. I know that this isn’t always the case, but it almost seems as though that something changes in the soul and even brain chemistry. When a person knows that they might be able to little less dark than when they found it, is truly powerful.

I just am tired of feeling like I am but a memory in this world, I miss being able to smile and meaning it, I miss feeling like there was a dragon to be slain. I miss feeling like a warrior..

 

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