As our members show up for class it’s often a busy and hectic time. People are greeting each other, putting on uniforms, grabbing their cards and rushing to the mat. We smile, say “how are you?” but do we truly know what life is like, and has been like for our training partners? It was always my intention that this school would be a safe haven for its members, a place where they can…grow. It’s a feat sometimes to even get to class, life is incredibly busy, full of options and obligations to fill our time. So why make it a priority to get to Jiu-Jitsu? During the sign up period we ask the question “Why do you want to do Jiu-Jitsu?” and the answers vary, some say fitness, others community, and a few want to be UFC stars. But what is found quite early on is something entirely different. I hear people say “I am faced with my ego.”, “I’m working on my insecurities.”, “I have found a community of support here.” Something magical happens when we start learning to connect our brains to our bodies, we are expected to be fully in the moment.
Suicide Awareness Month
This last month, September, was Suicide Prevention Month. At the beginning of the month Rodrigo asked the question “How has Jiu-Jitsu, and Gracie Barra Salt Lake City helped your mental health?”. A few gave short answers which were posted on our Instagram story. But one brave student stepped forward and wanted to share her story. Our gratitude for this can not be expressed. I have a strong belief that when we share, when we are vulnerable, we open the door for others to do the same. The connection that follows leads way to healing and understanding.
A Story Of Overcoming
Mary experienced abuse daily as a young girl by a family member. She was in a constant state of fear and anxiety. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse was her reality during her middle school and high school years. Her life was even threatened multiple times by her abuser. When she reached out for help she was told to keep it quiet, that it would upset those around her. She was told she was worthless and unlovable. All this taught to hide her feelings, her experiences, her fear. As you can imagine (or even identify with) life became extremely difficult to navigate. Her self-esteem was low, her anxiety high, and as a young woman she did not have the skills or support to deal with these heavy and difficult feelings. Her trauma followed her into her young adult life. She sought counseling a few times, but never found the right fit or the right answers for her. She found herself suicidal in her early life, attempting to end her life by overdosing on pills. A few years after this experience she met her husband and they moved across the country together. After another move to Utah Mary felt extremely isolated in a new place and no sense of community. She was staying home now with her young step daughter, not working, and alone most days with her thoughts that eventually got the best of her. Overwhelmed with life circumstances, old demons started to rise again. She and her husband were actively trying to conceive hoping to add to their family, but instead of the excitement of a new baby they were faced with the heartbreak of 2 miscarriages. Mary found herself again in the depths of depression and exiting this life seemed like the only reasonable option.
The Feeling of Belonging
Mary’s husband and step daughter started training at GB Salt Lake City and constantly asked Mary to come. She finally conceded and showed up. Her first experience Mary said she instantly felt like she belonged. She was greeted with kindness and that put her at ease. She says that her first experiences practicing Jiu-Jitsu was like she was fighting her old demons. She learned how to love herself, that she was capable of learning the techniques. She learned that she is not worthless, and that people can love her, that she can belong somewhere. That what she learned in her childhood was wrong. Jiu-Jitsu showed her that she is lovable and she belongs somewhere. Mary say’s “The first time you come it doesn’t fix it all. But the more you come and the more you learn about yourself the more you are going to start loving yourself. And the more you are going to have the strength to battle the demons you have.”
“Everybody has a different back story and walk of life right now. But we all come together and help each other regardless of our background, regardless of who has hurt us. Jiu-Jitsu pulls you into the moment and out of your head, it forces you to focus on what you are doing.”
I am honored that Mary wanted to share this story with us, her Jiu-Jitsu family. She is so right that we all have a different story, but there is strength to overcome our demons together supported in this group. She will tell you that this saved her life, that this broke the cycle of depression. That practicing Jiu-Jitsu and being a member of this community has allowed healing as well as brought strength. Together we grapple, we trust each other, we are problem solving on the mat. And we are doing it together! These moments on the mat translate to the lives we live off the mat. The lessons learned in the gym elevate us all to behave, grapple with problems, and face adversity in a more positive light.
Thank you Mary for your courage to share your story and help us shed light on suicide awareness as well as mental health. It is an issue that I know has affected us all in some way or another.
You are a member of a community that will support and love you. You are surrounded by teammates and coaches that have got your back! You are not alone. If you are struggling please use your voice and ask for help.