Don’t Forget Your Mouthguard

“Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.” ― Margaret Atwood

When you live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety, it’s not easy to find comfort in everyday life. Between trying to avoid being bumped into on the sidewalk and looking for an acceptable seat in the library (by a window and in a corner), life can take its toll. When you live with mental illness, you spend a lot of time just trying to cope with everyday life. Sometimes, you’ll try crazy things just on the off-chance that it will help you deal with the anxiety or depression that just seems to be a part of life.

My crazy thing was trying martial arts.

Yes, the girl who is incredibly uncomfortable with physical contact gets hit (and hits back) for fun four days a week. Finding my place in the martial arts community has been an incredible journey for me. Seeing yourself improve is wonderful for your self-esteem, and the physical work helps produce endorphins. (Fun fact: Endorphins help fight stress!)

Running forms or boxing patterns is a wonderful way to calm down your OCD, and the minimalistic decorations of a kwoon (the Chinese version of a dojo) can help calm you down when you’re feeling over stimulated. You’ll almost always be dealing with the same group of people, so you don’t have to worry about dealing with strangers. Almost all martial artists are only going to make contact (of any kind) with you if you’re 100% okay with it, so if you don’t want to be touched you don’t have to worry about that either!

But martial arts isn’t just about the physical work. It’s about finding balance between your physical, mental and spiritual health. The people you work with in these areas become your family and start to support you through your life. You develop close relationships with them and learn to trust them. These people are able to show you strengths that you never thought you had and are willing to help you work through your weaknesses.

Martial Arts has helped me become more comfortable in my own body because I’ve seen what I’m capable of. I’m more comfortable walking to my car by myself, because I know that I’m more likely to be able to take care of myself. I’m more comfortable saying “I struggle with mental illness,” because I’ve found a huge network of supporters.

This family that I’ve found has encouraged me to seek help for my problems and they’ve stood by me through all of the ups and downs. Everyone has been willing to listen to my doubts and fears, while encouraging me to be brave and take the steps that I need to in order to take care of myself.

On days when it feels like my entire world is falling apart, I know what to do to help put myself back together. I kick off my shoes, grab my mouthguard and a pair of gloves and fight my anxiety and discomfort.

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