It feels like another life now, but it was mine.

A year ago, I was alive, but I wasn’t living. I lay in bed all day, barely moving. I felt dead inside, a failure in every aspect of my life. Living with sensory issues had always been difficult, but combined with struggling to find a job, an emotionally abusive partner, and a whole host of other issues, the difficulty had shifted to insurmountable.

My life became a dark tunnel, as I isolated myself, feeling beyond hope. I couldn’t look into a mirror, the pain reflected back at me was too much to bear. I started thinking very seriously about the different ways I could end my suffering, all of them permanent.

And then a miracle happened. Yes, even an agnostic like myself will call it so, I have no other explanation of how a broken and physically challenged mess of a person with zero self-esteem would even think to get out of bed and try Krav Maga.

My first class, I almost puked in exhaustion, but I left exhilarated, smiling for the first time in months. My teacher, Alon Dagan, had taught me how to get out of a choke, and I had actually done it. I felt strong, full of endorphins. Looking back, I felt alive.

The more I went, the better I felt. I didn’t just learn how to kick and punch, I learned productive ways of managing my feelings. Krav Maga gave me a reason to get out of bed. When I felt low, instead of lying in bed, I could kick a bag and express my rage. Although I lagged behind others, I inched my way forward.

Still, my self-esteem remained low. The problems in my life remained once I left the gym, I still had the toxic environment that plunged me back into darkness. I still couldn’t look in a mirror, I still hated myself. The happier I was inside Krav, the worse the negativity in my life felt. I needed to take the fire I had in class, and bring it to the rest of my life. I just didn’t know how.

Happily, Krav Maga has the most efficient solutions for any attack, and at the end of February, I got mine.

It was the first time I had managed to do Element Movement class and a regular Krav Maga class, a fear I had previously thought impossible. I felt slightly less worthless than I usually did. So I gratefully told my incredible teacher, Raz Chen, “Thank you for not giving up on me.”

Raz’s next words shook me to the core. “As long as you don’t give up on yourself, I’ll never give up on you.”

Could I actually be worth believing in?

That night, as the dark feelings threatened to crush me, that thought was my tiny lamp in the darkness. I held it up against the shadows and the fears and said “I won’t give up on myself. I’m going to fight for myself. And I’m going to win.”

So each day, I returned to the mat to train and took the empowerment I got there into my daily life. It wasn’t an easy road, but Raz kept his word. As long as I didn’t give up, neither would he.

Little by little, I began to see progress.

As I learned to spar, I learned to breathe through sensory overload and manage the pain. I began enjoying life so much more. I gained confidence in myself, armed with the new mental tools to fight the demons in my life, inside and outside of my head.

As I learned to punch and kick, I learned how to hold my ground and how to be aggressive when warranted. I began standing up for myself and putting myself out there. I landed a better job.

As I learned how to focus, I also learned how to smile and laugh. I started engaging with the world again, leaving my bedroom and interacting with others. I regained my sense of humor and started to enjoy conversation again.

As I learned situational awareness to see threats, I began realizing that I was better off without emotionally abusive people in my life, and dumped the abusive partner, replacing him with better friends, many of whom I met through sparring and training together.

As I learned to spar and grapple, I learned how to face my fears and I began realizing I was stronger and smarter and better than I could ever imagine. I looked into the mirror and began liking the empowered and happy person I saw.

Each day, I felt stronger as I broke through limitations and met new challenges. Krav Maga opened up a world of self-empowerment and discipline and strength. This was a place where I could thrive and better myself by setting goals and achieving them. I soon began spending all of my weeknights and my weekend mornings training. No more lying in bed, I was up and running to training, humming happily along to the music.

I can’t say it is all flowers and sunshine. I still have my bad days, I still have a lot of work ahead of me. But with a fantastic team of instructors and fellow students, I am no longer that prisoner of depression. I read the diary entries of that terrible period of my life and put them aside, and live in the glorious moments of today.

Whenever I feel the clouds looming, I repeat those magical words. “As long as you don’t give up on yourself, I’ll never give up on you.” Then I smile.

To Raz and Alon, who helped me find this new path, thank you.

Every day feels like another life now, but it is mine. And I’m so grateful it is.

Writer, lawyer, Kravist, friend

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