Martial Art and Mental Disorder

Narges

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I'm in a painful situation. I've been suffering from bipolar disorder (a condition characterized by severe and frequent mood swings and in some cases suicidal ideation and psychosis) for years. I started karate four years ago at the age of 14 and it helped me immensely. I love every aspect of MA; the exercise, the competition, the self defence, the spiritual stuff,etc. I'm very enthusiastic at the dojo and I try very hard, but it's never hard enough because I am heavily medicated for my mental illness and the pills have side effects. They slow me down and make me weak and drowsy. I hate them. They keep me sane, true, but why would I want to be sane if I can't participate in the activities that I truely enjoy? I want to excel in MA! I want to pay my sensei back for her work! I feel like I'm running on a treadmill, wasting my energy and never moving forward :(
 

tshadowchaser

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You have a condition that requires you to take medication and you take it. You also have a love of your martial art.
I know you want to be the very best you can be and that you want to show your instructor that fact. I am also sure your instructor is aware of your situation and is proud of you for doing what you do in class and at tournaments.
Being the best in class or tournaments is NOT the goal of the martial arts. Learning, working hard, helping others in class are higher goals than being the best.
Immerse yourself in every workout. Lock out the outside world for the time of your workouts. Let your mind find strength in the hard work you put into those workouts.
Your instructor is paid back every time she sees a student doing the best they can under any circumstance. Dedication and strong workouts within the persons capabilities at the time repay your instructor for her efforts.


Check with your doctor and see if a different med regiment might be suggested.
 

harlan

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Good advice from Shadow. :)

Just would like to add that NO ONE gets through their martial art journey without hitting 'the wall'. The one that can't be ignored, the one that has to be accepted in order to continue training. That wall, for me, is arthritis and age. For others, severe physical limitations, and for others such as yourself, it's an internal struggle.

It just plain sucks to have to accept limitations, to have to modify our desires, sometimes our school and style of training in order to continue, and a bitter pill at times to swallow. I personally have to remind myself that flexibility, directional change, and strength through softness, aren't just external lessons.

MA study IS a constant challenge...and not just a physical one. Keep striving. That is Budo.
 

jks9199

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Work with your doctors on the medications. They're the experts on that; nobody here (unless they happen to be an MD with appropriate specializations) is able to give good advice beyond that regarding your treatment. Noncompliance with meds due to side effects is a major problem in treating bipolar disorder, and your doctors should be working to find combinations that are effective with minimum side effects.

You're also rather young; everything I know says your doctors should be reassessing your diagnosis and treatment frequently as you age.
 

Xue Sheng

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I really cannot add much but...

Talk to your doctor not nameless faceless people on an internet forum.

But with that said the way I see it is this

Un-medicated you have severe and frequent mood swings and in some cases suicidal ideation and psychosis

Medicated you feel slower and drowsy

Looking at this logically which do you think is more advantageous to training martial arts and which condition give you better opportunity to pay my sensei back for her work

Personally I vote slower and drowsy.

But then I over all of this I would vote talk to your doctor before you do anything
 

Balrog

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Work with your doctors on the medications. They're the experts on that; nobody here (unless they happen to be an MD with appropriate specializations) is able to give good advice beyond that regarding your treatment. Noncompliance with meds due to side effects is a major problem in treating bipolar disorder, and your doctors should be working to find combinations that are effective with minimum side effects.

You're also rather young; everything I know says your doctors should be reassessing your diagnosis and treatment frequently as you age.

And...work with your instructor as well. Tell her about the meds if you haven't already. Perhaps work something out with your doctor on your med schedule where you take your evening meds after class instead of before.

There's always a solution. You have the desire to find it and your instructor and doctor are the resources you can use to do that.
 

Flea

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Great to meet you Narges! I have bipolar disorder myself and some unique challenges to my practice. For me I go through periods when I can't focus on anything for any length of time. And sometimes the vigorous exercise, coupled with the confrontational format, trigger a mania.

In both situations I simply take to the sidelines for a bit. Usually I can't jump right back in after a few minutes of "supervising." The mania breaks can be a little funny because I'll usually pace slowly and do various breathing exercises. I'm in a very small group in a space the size of a football field so it doesn't interfere with the class. The teacher is clued in so he knows I'm not being disrespectful.

With the last group I trained with, I stepped out because of "back problems," which is also true. (I also have some blood sugar issues and occasionally step out for a couple bites of ___.) I like my present group enough that I would probably be straightforward if anyone asked, but they haven't. As I see it, as long as I'm respectful about how I handle my health during class time, there's no reason for it to be an issue with anyone else.

Meds of any kind typically come with side effects, and I know psych meds can be a real nuisance at times. Personally for myself I have a keen memory of my life BM (Before Meds) and I would never go back for anything in the world. If you're unhappy with what you're using right now I'd encourage you to talk with your pdoc to see what other alternatives might work for you. Don't forget there are lots of other highly effective "meds" in the form of a good diet, a solid sleep cycle, healthy relationships, and lots of exercise. I consider my MA to be the best thing that ever happened for me because of all the reasons you list above.

Harlan makes a good point that all practitioners come up against tough limitations at some point. Bipolar is valid, and the challenges it presents are valid as well. Don't let anyone tell you that you're just feeling sorry for yourself, or that you'll never be able to progress. You're not, and you will. You might enjoy this thread from a few months ago too.

Good training to you. I look forward to learning more about your adventure.
 
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Narges

Narges

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Thank you everyone.

Shadow and harlan,
You are perfectly right. Thanks for the advice

Jks and Xue,
I've tried talking to my doctor, but every time I mention my karate related worries and problems he looks at me like he thinks I'm a fool and he ignores the point I'm trying to make. I've kind of given up on him.

Balrog,
My instructor knows. She was one of the first people I confided in and she's been great about it.

Flea,
I'm glad to have found someone who is in a similar situation to mine.
 

oaktree

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I'm in a painful situation. I've been suffering from bipolar disorder (a condition characterized by severe and frequent mood swings and in some cases suicidal ideation and psychosis) for years. I started karate four years ago at the age of 14 and it helped me immensely. I love every aspect of MA; the exercise, the competition, the self defence, the spiritual stuff,etc. I'm very enthusiastic at the dojo and I try very hard, but it's never hard enough because I am heavily medicated for my mental illness and the pills have side effects. They slow me down and make me weak and drowsy. I hate them. They keep me sane, true, but why would I want to be sane if I can't participate in the activities that I truely enjoy? I want to excel in MA! I want to pay my sensei back for her work! I feel like I'm running on a treadmill, wasting my energy and never moving forward :(

I am sorry for your hardship. As others have said discussion about your health and medicine is between you and your doctor regulating it. Maybe you are being to critical of yourself concerning how well you are performing. Maybe there are other activities you can participate in that will help you in class. Talk with your teacher about your concerns and ask what you can improve on and how to go about it. I personally have trouble remembering forms so I write things down, ask my teacher, find videos as refreshers, spend some extra time with my teacher on details.

Also you feel your doctor is not addressing your concerns you can try explaining to the doctor how it this is important to you and if he or she is still avoiding your concerns ask why. If you feel a doctor is not giving you the best treatment perhaps he or she can refer you to a doctor that can address your health concerns that is best for you.

Anyway, this is just my opinion I am not a doctor disregard as seen fit.
 

Kacey

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In addition to the comments already given - you say that you started karate 4 years ago at 14, which makes you 18 now. Your body is still physically undergoing, and adjusting to, puberty. Until you are completely through the physical, emotional, hormonal, and psychological effects of that, it's less likely that "the" medication that works best with your personal biochemistry is going to be found - you're changing too much internally for that; even if the medication you're currently taking is the best one for you, it may not be "the best" until you're completely through puberty, especially the hormonal changes which effect how all medications work - and that could easily be several more years.

That said - if your doctor is not responding to your concerns, then as Thesemindz said, it may be time to find another doctor.

Good luck to you on your journey, and keep us updated!
 

Benevolentbob

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I have a cousin who has bi-polar disorder and has always struggled with taking her meds. In the last three years she has outright refused to take them on most occasions and it is ruining her life. When she's feeling good she goes out spends money she doesn't have along with many other "carefree" things that shouldn't be mentioned here. When she's down she begins to hear voices among other symptoms and scares her family members. She can't hold a job down and nobody will hire her anymore because of her record and she has had things repossessed because of the spending sprees. She's even had physical manifestations resulting from how far she has let things go.

What I'm trying to say is, take the medication as your doctor prescribes. I know it has side effects you don't like, so does about every other medication. As others have pointed out already, the pros far outweigh the cons. It sounds like you need to go to a different doctor though, and there's nothing wrong with at the very least getting a second opinion. Just please take care of yourself for the sake of you and your family.
 

Thesemindz

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That's an important point. I've never seen a person on psychological medication do better after they decided to self adjust their medication. I've seen a lot of people try. Usually the medication makes them feel better, then they decide they don't need it anymore, then they stop using it, then they spiral out of control and lose all context and don't know how to get better.

Follow your doctor's advice. Take your meds. If you don't trust your doctor, get a new one. But don't try to figure out your medication for yourself. There's a reason doctors have to go through so much education.


-Rob
 

Flea

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I'm very enthusiastic at the dojo and I try very hard, but it's never hard enough

One other thing occurs to me. There are many levels of meaning to "enough." There's making the grade with no regard to mitigating circumstances. There's doing your best. There's getting by. There's impressing other people. There's meeting a goal you set for yourself. All of these are completely valid depending on the unique circumstances of the moment.

For most of my childhood I unconsciously held myself to a brutal standard of perfection for everything I did and I made myself miserable. One of the benefits of my own training was learning to see the many shades of grey in my progress. I learned to appreciate myself for my own hard work, and to forgive myself for my shortcomings. Before beating yourself up, you may want to examine your personal definition of "enough" and how you want to apply it to your training. There are no right answers to this. If you choose to, I suspect that it might improve your practice and the pleasure you take from it, and possibly your overall quality of life.
 

chinto

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You have a condition that requires you to take medication and you take it. You also have a love of your martial art.
I know you want to be the very best you can be and that you want to show your instructor that fact. I am also sure your instructor is aware of your situation and is proud of you for doing what you do in class and at tournaments.
Being the best in class or tournaments is NOT the goal of the martial arts. Learning, working hard, helping others in class are higher goals than being the best.
Immerse yourself in every workout. Lock out the outside world for the time of your workouts. Let your mind find strength in the hard work you put into those workouts.
Your instructor is paid back every time she sees a student doing the best they can under any circumstance. Dedication and strong workouts within the persons capabilities at the time repay your instructor for her efforts.


Check with your doctor and see if a different med regiment might be suggested.


I agree. You can only do what you can do. If you work hard and try hard you win! its about what its for you, not what some idiot in a tournament or some one else thinks.

we have a student that is mentally challenged. he works very very hard! Harder then the rest of us do I think. I think more of his one yellow stripe then I do of several peoples green and brown belts!

Give your all, every day. work hard on your kata, be there and train hard. If any one has a problem with it, tell them to go away. they do not matter, what matters is what it does for YOU!
 

Blade96

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You have a condition that requires you to take medication and you take it. You also have a love of your martial art.
I know you want to be the very best you can be and that you want to show your instructor that fact. I am also sure your instructor is aware of your situation and is proud of you for doing what you do in class and at tournaments.
Being the best in class or tournaments is NOT the goal of the martial arts. Learning, working hard, helping others in class are higher goals than being the best.
Immerse yourself in every workout. Lock out the outside world for the time of your workouts. Let your mind find strength in the hard work you put into those workouts.
Your instructor is paid back every time she sees a student doing the best they can under any circumstance. Dedication and strong workouts within the persons capabilities at the time repay your instructor for her efforts.


Check with your doctor and see if a different med regiment might be suggested.

This.

I have a balance problem. My instructors know this. They want to see the best I can be, not the best who can win at all the tournaments. You said your instructor is great - probably its what she wants to see too. Especially if she knows about your issues. :)
 

Mark Lynn

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I'm in a painful situation. I've been suffering from bipolar disorder (a condition characterized by severe and frequent mood swings and in some cases suicidal ideation and psychosis) for years. I started karate four years ago at the age of 14 and it helped me immensely. I love every aspect of MA; the exercise, the competition, the self defence, the spiritual stuff,etc. I'm very enthusiastic at the dojo and I try very hard, but it's never hard enough because I am heavily medicated for my mental illness and the pills have side effects. They slow me down and make me weak and drowsy. I hate them. They keep me sane, true, but why would I want to be sane if I can't participate in the activities that I truely enjoy? I want to excel in MA! I want to pay my sensei back for her work! I feel like I'm running on a treadmill, wasting my energy and never moving forward :(

I teach in a rec center and I have had several students who had learning challenges, so from an instructors point of view I offer the following.

1) Stay on your meds and dont try and self regulate. Work through your doctor to get the proper meds and dosages.

2) I grade my students as to their potential, and their effort to achieve that potential. I have one student who due possibly his medications is like a wet noodle when performing kata because he always was trying to keep up with everyone else. And yet he was there always for class and tried his best. He is sharp as a tack but looking at his forms you would judge him as a beginner instead of the advanced intermediate belt that he is.

3) As an instructor I need to be flexible in my manner of teaching and my expectations of students. They cant all be mini meees (thank goodness), some students are just wired differently (no offense intended). I have one student who has problems turning around, so after a year of trying to learn a basic kata that has 90 and 180 degree turns in it, I decided to teach him Naihanchi. Huge difference in his being able to learn a kata, and it required me to flexible enough to examine what would be best for the student and not just worry about sticking to my curriculum.

Like wise the student that I mentioned above in point 2, in order to correct his form I have changed his manner of doing the katas to be more like Tai Chi instead of the American Karate/Tae Kwon Do that I teach. So he does his forms at a slower speed and he has showed improvement (especially in the little things like bringing his hand back to his hip), I commented to him about his progress after my Saturday class and he told me that he enjoys practicing the forms this way because it allows him to concentrate more on the proper form.

I have another student who has a lot of potential but he too is wired slightly different than others in his class. This kid loves karate, practices all of the time at home, and yet I found out that the manner in which I was teaching him was causing him confusion and was hard for him. Simply put I was offering him choices expecting him to create his own defenses (with guidance of course), when the way to help him excel was to instead give him strict guidelines and say do this technique, then this one, then this one and so on. By doing that, his technique and enjoyment rose quite a bit. But again I had to be flexible and do what is best for the student instead of trying to make him be like me or everyone else.

I believe that it is more important that I work with the student if they have challenges that are really out of their control, learning disabilities, ADD, ADHD, Bipolar, deaf, etc. etc. Sometimes the mere fact that they are coming to class and trying to adjust and learn is really them facing a much bigger challenge than my other students or myself for that matter has had to face. You mentioned that your instructor was one of the first persons you confided in (in your class) about your condition, I would bet they feel the same or have similar view points about your training. I applaud you for caring about your performance in your class, but you reward (or pay back) your instructor by showing up and doing your best.


Mark
 

Mark Lynn

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Just as a side note.

As an instructor, I have had several parents tell me how thankful they are that their son/daughter is taking karate (generic term for the martial arts), often times their child has some sort of learning challenge, physical challenge etc. etc. For them the martial arts has been the one sport / activity that they have found where their child can excel, be themselves, gain confidence etc. etc. Often times they have tried regular team sports because they want their child to fit in and experience sports like other children, but all this did was cause the child and the parent frustration. One parent told me of the mental anguish their child went through just to go to a basket ball game and try and play. I couldn't even begin to relate to the child's suffering.

The reason I write this is because often times we as martial artists, it is often all about being the best, train hard to be the best etc. etc. In the old days of blood and guts karate, the dojo fights etc. etc. (certainly in my instructor's dojo) students with any disability (per say) were generally weeded out due to the severity of the training and the image of the cut fighter (think Bruce Lee) that the public has in it's mind.

However I believe the martial arts actually does more and helps benefit the students with disabilities, medical conditions etc. etc. than "normal team sports". We as martial artists need to keep this in mind that the student who is bouncing off the walls in your class room might be on meds, or he might be off his meds that day and they might have a learning disability that we know nothing about. Or the child with the noodle arms, or who has issues with turning around, or perhaps looking you in the eye, or making up their own one steps, that being in your class is really where they belong instead of trying to weed out the weak students so to speak. That by taking the time to work with the students (and their parents) you can actually have a much greater impact on their lives than just teaching them how to punch, kick, learn that kata, hit a ball with a bat, or dribble the ball down the court.

Mark
 

Jenna

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I'm in a painful situation. I've been suffering from bipolar disorder (a condition characterized by severe and frequent mood swings and in some cases suicidal ideation and psychosis) for years. I started karate four years ago at the age of 14 and it helped me immensely. I love every aspect of MA; the exercise, the competition, the self defence, the spiritual stuff,etc. I'm very enthusiastic at the dojo and I try very hard, but it's never hard enough because I am heavily medicated for my mental illness and the pills have side effects. They slow me down and make me weak and drowsy. I hate them. They keep me sane, true, but why would I want to be sane if I can't participate in the activities that I truely enjoy? I want to excel in MA! I want to pay my sensei back for her work! I feel like I'm running on a treadmill, wasting my energy and never moving forward :(
Dear Narges, I sympathise with you entirely. In my experience bipolar meds are a devil in disguise and can leave you tumbling through torment rather than helping you out of it. I am expert in nothing and but I know there are many complementary paths to assist you, not least of which is the physical aspect of your karate. I find martial art to be not only centering and but also regulatory at times of chemical imbalances. Please do not give up on your art. Your training can be the direction out of your bad days; it can be your grounding when everything else in the world appears contorted. And please do not be hard on yourself. If you make it to training congratulate yourself. If you perform your kata no matter how lacklustre is your performance, congratulate yourself. If you spar, even if you can barely throw a strike, congratulate yourself. Congratulate yourself for getting to this point and never give up on your training. That is my advice. I wish you well in all things, Janna x
 

Flea

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As a side note, I think it's really important for instructors to give a little extra encouragement along with those accommodations for disabled students. For the first several months of my training I was horribly self conscious. I thought my instructor must think I'm a complete loser because I can't even do ____!!!! I eventually came out of the bipolar closet with him (privately.) I don't think he ever fully understood what it meant for my training, but it opened the doors to more effective communication. And I became less worried about what anyone else thought when I had problems.
 
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