All of us deal with mental struggles. Whether it’s depression, fear of failure, panick attacks or feeling suicidal. Since there is not enough open conversation about it, here are five stories from inspiring jiu jitsu women. Because in spite of what you might think – you are not alone.
From our founder @erinherle: I wasn't diagnosed with any mental illness until my 20's when I entered a study I found on Craigslist for an experimental anti-anxiety drug. I was so ashamed to go to a therapist that I took the opportunity to make some money as an excuse to be treated for what I knew was a diagnosable and treatable mental issue. • Years later, I would go on to be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, and Depression. And my trips to a weekly therapist and later, visits to a psychiatrist, worked synonymously with my time on the mats training jiu jitsu. • In 2015 my dad ended his life at my home in LA while I was living on the other side of the country. After making the announcement to friends and family by raising money for @namicommunicate, it became clear how many people within the BJJ community are affected by mental illness and suicide. So #submitthestigma was created to share support and educate about mental health. I'm not a professional but by being candid and open about my own struggles, I've inspired others to do the same. This is how stigma is submitted. • I'm currently a black belt competitor and writer navigating my way through the jiu jitsu lifestyle, while maintaining my mental wellness with both medication and mindfulness.
Friends I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for following and supporting me on this giant life journey. I’ve always struggled with how I perceive jiu jitsu, sometimes it can be my greatest enemy and sometimes my greatest relief. Not many of you know this, but for most of my life I’ve struggled with depression, and four years after starting bjj I was at a breaking point. I wanted nothing to do with the sport and was ready to quit and never look back. Encouragement from a few choice people (esp. @jtorresbjj ) made me stick it through, and I was rewarded with a road of challenges, victories, losses, injuries, heartbreak, motivation, perseverance and a true sense of self. My greatest joy right now is sharing this art and lifestyle with others in the hopes that they will have those same experiences or greater. The road has been tough, I’m sometimes angered by how the sport has been moving away from the virtue of respect to showboating and drama, and sometimes I’m frustrated with how quickly the body can collapse due to stress and overwork. All that being said, I wouldn’t trade this path for anything else, and for anyone feeling discouraged with their place in this little realm, know that you are not alone, and whatever you set out to do, you will find it, just give it some time and effort ❤️ #bjj
Competing is not easy for me. I struggle with self-doubt and the fear of “not being good enough.” I’ve probably lost more often than I’ve won, and I still have to take a big, steadying breath every time I register for a tournament. This exists even despite the obvious enjoyment I get when I step out onto the competition mat; despite the thrill of doing what I love in front of masses of people. But greater than the fear of not being good enough, is the fear of settling for that, of accepting mediocrity. Everything I do in life is in an effort to take me farther from that place where dreams never take flight and “what if’s” fill the horizon. I may not become one of the greatest, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try. || #becomemore #thepassionthatdefinesyou #togetherwearestronger #bethesharkinyourocean #bjj #jiujitsu #blackbelt #athlete @atosjiujitsuhq @performance360 @virusintl @sharksportsfitnesstraining 📸 @dbrisenophoto
From @fionakojj: I never been diagnosed with depression. It is not acceptable in my family. As far as I can remember, I've always lived in my mind; analyzing everything. What I said, what you said, the technique from last night, what I should eat, and about myself. I criticize myself constantly. I tell myself that I am not good enough. I am not pretty enough. I am not skinny enough. I am not smart enough. Suicide has always been in the back of my mind because it's my way out. Many times I just don't want to deal with it anymore. I get tired of trying and think maybe it is time for my story to end. • Two days before Europeans, I tried committing suicide. I sat in my Lisbon Airbnb with a noose around my neck made from my Gi pants drawstring and a chair set up to hang myself. I had cried every day for over a year because of things that were happening in my life that validated all the bad things I had always told myself: that I was unlovable, not good enough, not pretty enough and that I do not deserve to be happy. I texted my sister to say that I was sorry and goodbye but she saved my life that night. • She stayed on the phone with me for 8hrs talking me down. I lost 2 lbs from crying that night. I was such a mess that I had to have a friend pick me up and drag me to the tournament to fight. I was only able to hold everything together long enough to finish my matches. This photo caught the moment after I won my finals match and I ran over to my Professor and melted down. • Whenever I hear about suicides within the BJJ community, I am very sad because BJJ has been my saving grace. It has been the reason I get up in the morning. It's given me more of a family that I could ever ask for. It has given me a reason to smile a lot of times. When I get in my depressive moods, I often go to class and it pulls me out of my dark moods. • BJJ has been the one thing that has kept me going for the past year. For people who struggle like me, all I can tell you is to find your one thing that makes you hold on for a few more hours, hold on for just another day, hold on for just a little longer. Something to look forward to because your dark mood will pass too.
From @kbjiujitsu: It’s very uncommon to catch me without a smile on my face. It is a projection of my spirit, but it is also mask I wear when I am deeply despairing in depression. I often hear the disbelief of people when they learn of my struggles with anxiety and depression: “You suffer from depression?! But you always look so happy!”. • You want the truth? The face of depression isn’t a frown or looks of dejection. The face of depression is often a smile. It is the face I put on to take on the World, despite the heavy onset of sadness that I cannot will or wish away. I struggle on a daily basis between the extremes of wanting to push past my pain or surrendering to my sorrow. There are moments when I can feel happiness and contentment warm me, but there are even more moments where I feel lost, drowning, and barely keeping my head above water. But I take each moment at a time and each day at a time. • I’m in a dark place right now, but thankfully, I have Jiu-Jitsu to be a light. When I put on my gi and tie my belt around my waist, that smile doesn’t feel so heavy. It feels real. Jiu-Jitsu has connected me to others who share a story similar to mine and it has given me the strength and ability to speak, to be heard, and to be understood. • If you are reading this, you are not alone. The best of us are not without struggles. Being a black belt does not exempt you. If you can smile, do so, but if you cannot, if it is too heavy to wear, don’t force yourself. Be kind to yourself. Reach out. Speak. I can’t promise you that it will go away, but it will get better.
If you want to read more about mental health awareness in the jiu jitsu scene, make sure to go to www.submitthestigma.org, an organisation founded by Erin Herle. On their Instagram (@submitthestigma), they feature stories of anyone who struggles with mental health, thereby creating open conversation about mental health and mental illness.