A quick prologue:
A few months ago I wrote this piece about #SubmitTheStigma for the good folks at GOOD Magazine. #SubmitTheStigma is a campaign to get jiujiteiros talking about mental health issues, both with each other and in the broader community.
In some ways, even though there’s no mention of me or first person writing in the article, it was one of the more personal things I’ve ever written. I don’t talk about it much in public, but I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety since I was a teenager. (I probably suffered from depression and anxiety as a child, too, but they didn’t diagnose kids back in the ‘80s.)
In the second half of 2016, I had one of the worst depressive episodes I’d had in some time. It was mostly a sort of numb blankness that occasionally plummeted into pits of really dangerous despair. It went on for six months.
During those six months, training Brazilian jiu-jitsu was one of the things that kept me from completely spiraling out of control. Even if I could barely get out of bed, even if I only got out of bed to go train and then went back again, getting to the gym made me feel like a human being, and like I’d done something.
In writing this article, I discovered I wasn’t alone, that BJJ is part of a lot of people’s treatment regimes. If we’re brave enough to step on the mats with someone who is going to try and choke us out, we can be brave enough to have some awkward conversations about our own mental health. And if we can do that, we might wind up getting the support we need, as well as helping someone else.