Since I can remember I have suffered from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. It has affected me at every turn in my life. When I was younger the main trigger of my anxiety was school and to say I had school phobia would be an understatement. Fortunately I come from a loving family who has helped me every step of the way. It’s funny because when you have anxiety you really do know deep down (even then I knew) how silly it is to feel that way and be scared to go to school. However if you have ever experienced anxiety or panic attacks you truly understand how powerful the mind can be.
Fast forward to the end of high school and my early college years I began to feel more comfortable in school settings and was fine attending classes (even though I went to college locally). I decided one day to check out a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy nearby after hearing about the Gracie Family and the incredible art that is BJJ. I went to a trial class and met my instructor who recently told me that when I walked in the school he never thought I would come back after my first class. I can be quite stubborn as he would soon find out. Well to say the least I fell in love with Jiu Jitsu. After my first 4 months I was caught in a Kimura and had my elbow broken. Healed up and back on the mat. My psychiatrist was actually quite shocked that I began training in martial arts due to my anxiety and the fact that I have always been pretty reserved. Jiu Jitsu has done wonders for my confidence and as "therapy". I even decided to major in Education in college, kind of ironic coming from someone who dealt with school phobia his whole life. I wasn’t always on the mat unfortunately because I had to be an adult and work and go to school. There would be times where I hadn’t trained in weeks and possibly even months. I graduated and ended up avoiding becoming a teacher, most likely due to my anxiety and possibly the politics involved who knows.
My anxiety comes back every once in a while to rear its ugly head and has affected my jobs in very negative ways. Training Jiu Jitsu has been a huge outlet and I recently had the opportunity to begin teaching the children’s classes at the academy. I knew I could do it and do it well but once again the mind is a powerful thing and can cripple you quite easily. Thankfully my Instructor is so much more stubborn than I am and he pretty much made me get on the mat and teach. After a few classes I began to settle in and find my groove. Getting the kids to behave is an entirely different animal which I will be happy to share in another post! I managed to push through it and I truly LOVE and I mean LOVE being a Jiu Jitsu instructor. I may not be a millionaire or be raking in the big bucks but I hope to be doing this for a long time and I hope to help out other people who have debilitating problems as well. I am genuinely drawn to the kids who are nervous coming to class for the first time as I was once in their shoes. Even if the class is not for them I always reassure the parents that its ok that they are anxious and explain that I have dealt with it in the past, and encourage them to keep trying to bring them back even if it is just to watch.
It has been about 12 years since I began training and I successfully made it to Black Belt in 2011, something I never thought possible and was a pipe dream. I will be the first to say that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not a magical cure to all your problems but there is definitely something magical about it. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has definitely Saved My Life one way or another.