For Tammi Musumeci Beating Her Demons Is Bigger Than Being World Champ

For Tammi Musumeci Beating Her Demons Is Bigger Than Being World Champ

Tammi Musumeci won gold in the featherweight division of the 2015 IBJJF No-Gi World Championships, beating Mackenzie Dern in a thrilling final that was one

Nov 12, 2015 by FloGrappling
Tammi Musumeci won gold in the featherweight division of the 2015 IBJJF No-Gi World Championships, beating Mackenzie Dern in a thrilling final that was one of the highlights of the tournament. In this exclusive blog she wrote for FloGrappling she reveals that her toughest battles came not in the tournament, but in her everyday life. 

This past weekend I competed at the 2015 No-Gi World Championships and was able to secure the gold medal in my division against some of the best competitors in the world. I am really thankful and happy for this, but for me personally, competing is more than chasing medals and winning. 

Overcoming The Odds

It is about the fun I have doing it and overcoming my own obstacles and proving to myself that I can do what I set out to do. Every person has a set of unique limitations and hardships that can be detrimental in overcoming the various challenges that they are faced with in life. The problem however, is that only the person experiencing the pain knows what their obstacles are and only they can overcome them. I know my struggles and deal with them daily. 

This is why this weekend was such a victory for me.  

Giving Myself A Hard Time

Besides winning of course, I was able to do what I love which is being a jiu-jitsu competitor and was able to do so without giving myself such a hard time.

I love the "grind" and all the hard work and countless hours of training that goes into preparing for these tournaments. I love being able to showcase my hard work and ability on the big stage in front of the many people watching. 

Even though I love all of this, most of the time, my mind didn't allow me to enjoy what it is that I love. It was not that I didn't prepare enough or that I wasn't mentally strong, it was just that my emotions prevented me from doing so and it was a very frustrating experience for me. I'm the kind of person who tries to ignore the pain I sometimes feel and try to push through, but sometimes doing so would cause me more distress and discomfort. 

It got to the point where I was going to give up competing completely because it was so frustrating to me, how against myself I was. It wasn't so much winning and losing. 

Winning And Losing Only Part Of The Puzzle

I win and I lose and I have no shame in either of them. I am the kind of person who is happy as long as I am able to try my best and give it my all, whether the outcome results in a win or a loss. 

The frustrating part was that I was already defeated emotionally before I stepped on the mat. I would have so much self-doubt and negativity that even if I came out the victor in the fight, I would still be so sad and depressed because it was just so frustrating having my own mind be the one to bully me and bring me down. 

I would discuss my feelings sometimes and the answer I would receive is that, "You can't be depressed. You go to school and train hard and work out and eat well. You don't fit the category of someone who is depressed." How wrong they were and thank goodness, I sought out help anyway.

Depression And Submitting The Stigma Of Mental Illness

I have learned a lot and as I spoke to people on and off the mats, it became evident that a lot of people who train jiu-jitsu struggle with depression, although they may not outwardly show symptoms or talk about it. I realized how important it is to get help and not suffer. 

Awareness of depression and other mental illnesses is extremely important because so many people are struggling with this internal pain and will continue to drown without the proper help. I was asked to hold up a sign on the podium, this past weekend for a friend who is trying to gain awareness of depression and "submit the stigma" of it (#submitthestigma). 

tammi musumeci armPhoto: Musumeci BJJ

 I was encouraged to share my experience so that others who are experiencing the same thing will realize that they could get help. I think people feel that those who succeed are "perfect" and things seem to go easy for them. This may be true for some, but not true for me at all.  

Depression is the invisible disability, so no one sees that you have it, therefore, there is no mercy. I struggled my whole life and always felt so alone even with so many people around me. I had to work extra hard to get good grades and put so much pressure on myself that sometimes I felt I would explode. I had to remain focused at all times not to lose my path. You see, I was not blessed with the carefree, happy, outlook. I had to always work real hard to see the positives. This impacted me greatly my whole life, but I believe now that it no longer has to. 

Finding The Fun Again In Jiu-Jitsu

This weekend was fun for me. I was able to enjoy myself and compete to my best ability. I was surrounded by good supportive, healthy people and was good to myself. I was a good friend to myself and looked to make myself feel good and not bad. I heard people come off the mat, disappointed and saying that they suck. I felt so bad because they were beating themselves up as I used to. 

Jiu-jitsu is a match. It's a game. There is a winner and loser of the match, not of the people. You may lose but that doesn't make you a loser. You may win, but that doesn't make you a winner.
We all need to do our best to be the best, but also be mindful of the others around us. Just like being a sore loser is bad, being a sore winner is just as bad, if not worse.  We are all one match away from being knocked down on the podium, or even off of it totally. We must never forget that.  

Growing As A Competitor And A Person

I had a bad year with competition in the sense that I didn't win gold every time, even though I wanted to. However, I grew so much this year. 

I survived a dislocated elbow and was able to rehabilitate enough to compete again. I travelled to another country and got to fight in the ADCC which was a dream of mine, and I was able to receive the help I needed to allow myself to enjoy my one life that I have. 

I will continue to compete and know I will not always win the match however; I refuse to ever let depression stand in my way of being the best I could be. 

As with anything in life, don't go against yourself. We are special and all have a purpose. Life is the journey of finding out what our purpose is and how we can make the most out of the cards we were given. Please, if you are depressed, seek help. You are worth it! 

Watch Tammi in action in the finals of the 2015 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds right here.