Out of the Darkness, Martial Artist Walks the Walk in Support of Suicide Awareness
It takes a great deal of intestinal fortitude to compete in any one of the martial arts while in front of a live audience. It takes an even greater amount of willpower to chalk up the courage to openly discuss personal struggles with depression and suicide.
Terri Johnston, 27, is literally walking the walk to address the battle that millions of people worldwide are experiencing on a continual basis.
Whether the pressure and thoughts of suicide stem from online bullying or a plethora of personal issues that affect our lives on a daily basis, each experience is different, and really the only person who truly knows the emotional state of an individual, is that individual.
Johnston, an amateur mixed martial artist has experienced her own struggle, even going as far as attempting to take her own life. Thankfully the attempt failed, and today she is hoping to shed a little light on the burdens that she experienced, and what she is doing to help prevent others from traveling down the same path.
On June 17, Johnston will take part in a 16-18 mile hike in Washington, D.C. to help the cause. We caught up with Johnston to talk about the event and how she is preparing herself. But first, let’s take a look at the online fundraiser she set up. (Interview with Terri Johnston below that)
“Please support me as I take an amazing journey. The Out of the Darkness Overnight Experience is an 16-18 mile walk over the course of one night. Net proceeds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, funding research, advocacy, survivor support, education, and awareness programs – both to prevent suicide and to assist those affected by suicide.
I spent a lot of time debating whether or not to participate in this event. $1000 is a lot of money to raise and if not raised, I will be responsible for paying the money myself. However, this is a subject that is very close to my heart that most people don’t realize. I’ve debated whether or not to share part of my story but I have decided that if my story could help save one person it would be worth putting myself out there like this.
My story (shortened): When I was younger I was in a volatile relationship. I had moved away from all my friends and family and was living with the person. We argued all the time about almost everything. At one point, all the screaming & yelling turned physical.
You might be asking yourself why I stayed. Why did I put up with my life being like this? The short answer? I somehow thought things would change and get better. I somehow thought I loved him. I have always been a loyal person with very low self esteem. At the time, I felt this was the best it was going to get. If I just showed him how much he hurt me, he would eventually change. But just as every other domestic abuse case, that was not going to happen.
I hit a point in my life where I was so low that I did not want to continue with the way things were. I felt like I was stuck where I was: in a different state away from my friends and family, unable to provide a stable life for myself, and relient on someone else. I felt like no one cared, it would be easier, it would not matter. I did not want this pain anymore. I did not want this life anymore. Darkness crept in slowly & slowly until it was overwhelming.. I decided to try to end my pain and my life with a bottle of medication.
My attempt was a failed one. I ended up in the hospital for a few days. When I was released I had a new mentality and outlook on life. I removed myself from the situation that seemed so dark and overwhelming and have never allowed myself to end up in a situation like that again.
Life can be a beautiful thing. Darkness in life does not have to be the end. The candle may dim when the wind blows.. but the wind will subside. And out of the darkness, your light will shine brighter than before.”
In speaking with Johnston we learned that a similar walk will also be held in San Diego, California roughly one month prior on May 20.
Johnston says that she currently plans on doing the walk by herself.
“As of now I will be walking solo. I don’t know anyone else that is doing the walk. There are “teams” available to join but I haven’t joined any since I don’t know anyone.”
How have you been training or preparing yourself and your body for the walk?
“I do long treadmill sessions and walks around my neighborhood when the weather is nice to prepare for the walk as well as high-intensity interval training. I am still lifting weights as usual and training MMA occasionally in between.”
Her own personal experience
“I have had a long journey with depression. The truth is that it never really goes away. I attempted suicide back in 2008. It’s by the grace of God that I survived it. The immediate solution was getting myself out of the abusive relationship. The long term solution was a little more complicated. As I didn’t want to be reliant on antidepressants for my entire life and didn’t really see a difference with them I stopped taking them. I continued to struggle with depression and the more time alone I spent the worse it would get.”
Finding Martial Arts
“I’ve always been interested in MMA so one night I bought my first UFC fight which was Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate. After that fight I decided I wanted to start training MMA. I saved up money until I could afford a month’s membership. From my first night of training I was hooked. There was so much talent at Unrivaled Athletics and they were all willing to help anyone learn. It’s an amazing work out that I would encourage everyone to join. It’s proven that exercise releases chemicals in the brain that help combat depression (endorphins).
I would give 100% of myself during training and pushed myself as much as I could to improve. Putting that much of yourself into something helps with feeling a sense of purpose. And with MMA I not only have that release, I had a sense of belonging, a family. It’s a bond unlike any other relationship.
One minute you’re trying to hurt someone and the next you’re hugging them and working with them to improve. Through my gym family I even found the most amazing church that I’ve ever attended and even since the move to Maryland, still watch their sermons online on Sundays which has also been a huge help in times when I’m unable to train.”
“I trained at Unrivaled Athletics in Pennsylvania for two years. We trained BJJ, kickboxing, boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, some judo and incorporated it all towards cage fighting. Since moving to Maryland I joined Capital MMA where they offer BJJ, Muay Thai, MMA, wrestling, and boxing. Everyone there is also very talented and willing to help. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to train as consistently as I would like due to work and other issues.”
Have you ever competed? Results?
“0-3 in amateur kickboxing. competed at one BJJ tournament where I went 0-2.”
How did you get involved in this walk?
“I heard the commercial for the walk on the radio here in DC. I then researched the information and spoke with a “Walker Coach.” You can register online at theovernight.org. All proceeds go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).”
You stated that if you don’t raise the $1,000 that you will have to pay the balance yourself. Why take something like that on?
“The mandatory $1,000 minimum requirement was honestly why I hesitated to sign up. I contemplated for a little over a month before deciding to register. Most people don’t know that I struggle with depression or that I have attempted suicide. Most people don’t know my story or that side of me at all. I made the decision to share it in hopes that it might reach someone that needed to hear it. While you’re in that darkness, you don’t see any light. You get overwhelmed with this feeling that nothing is going to get better. But it does! If just one person in that dark spot reads my story and realizes (from someone that has been there) that they can get through it and things will get better, then if I ended up having to pay the $1,000 myself it would be well worth it.”
When is the last day for donations?
“It is my understanding that if I do not raise the full amount by the day of the event, I can submit a three-month extension. After which if the amount is still not raised, they would divide the remaining amount up into three monthly payments that I would be required to personally pay. So I believe October is the latest.”