I first experienced depression in my early 20’s. It runs in my family and seemed to be no big deal, take some pills and shut up about it. Grow a set was a phrase I heard and eventually told myself regularly.  Fast forward a little bit and I suffered a bad concussion with post concussion syndrome lasting 8-10 months. This was when depression took root in me. The headaches and thoughts accompanying them were awful and never went away. Medication after medication for the headaches failed to help until the day the dr said,” we’ve run out of options, I don’t know what else we can do.” Predictably, I didn’t take this well and those thoughts in my head started making more and more sense. Fortunately, I was able to get admitted to an inpatient facility. I spent a week there and the following 3 months at an out patient facility. Now I was armed with a psychiatrist, a psychologist and 25 pills to take every morning.

Over the next several years my medications changed and I showed much improvement. With the help of my dr I was able to go from 25 pills daily to 12. A huge win for sure. I later got my count down to 3 pills, even better. That’s when I was hit with thenews,” You have Usher Syndrome and are losing your vision.” I was making so much progress and to be dealt this news was… difficult. I decided that I needed to finish my college degree and learn some new life skills. January 16, 2008 I embarked on a new journey to learn to live as a Deaf-Blind person (I was born hard of hearing). After my first semester, my brother asked me to go with him to check out this new Jiu Jitsu school down the street. That started my training in May of 2008. From then through January of 2014 my training was inconsistent. Depression made frequent visits to me and kept me away from training for months at a time.

November of 2013 was the last time depression stayed with me. Between that onset and January I decided to put Jiu Jitsu at the top of my priorities. This is when my life changed. It was a struggle, for months to simply walk through the door of the academy. I started with 1 class a week, meaning I wouldn’t allow myself to miss an entire week. This became 2 classes then 3 then 3 with a double session, then some boxing and mma training and over the following months I lost weight, developed skills and confidence, made friends that insisted on choking me and finally realized a simple truth.  My truth was this: in my life, if I put my Jiu Jitsu training as my priority, everything else will fall into place. It has, it truly has. After 6 years and 10 months I earned my blue belt. An achievement that opened the door to any other achievement I set my mind to. I am currently months away from earning my Masters degree in Social Work, I’ve learned American Sign Language and tactile ASL, I’m independent with my cane and I’ve made significant progress on other goals in my life as well. All of this is possible because of Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu unlocked my mind, it freed me to be who I truly am and it’s  given me the tools to live an extraordinary life. Jiu Jitsu will always be my top priority, how can it not be?

If you or someone you know suffer from depression, speak up. Reach out.  Talk to that friend or family member and let them know, often, that you are there to help no matter how big or small the problem, no matter how long it takes, you will be there. That person needs to hear this.  From someone who has lived with depression at its worst, reaching for help is scary and vulnerable. Know that this isn’t a problem that you are best left alone to deal with. Focus your energy on reaching out for help, let someone help guide you in the right direction. In time you will look back and know it was a great decision.

Patrick Pallies