My name is Daniela. I’m a 21 year old BJJ blue belt. A pessimistic avantourist with a violent fear of failure, fighting on daily basis with my biggest opponent – myself.
My cheerful/cheeky personality would never give out what lies beneath the surface and this might leave some people really shocked. I’ve always felt the need to speak up so other people like me could know they are not alone in this fight, that feels like no time limit, no holds barred death match.
I moved from Bulgaria to Scotland in 2015 by myself, straight after finishing High School. I made the decision to move because I felt suffocated in my own destructive thoughts, fueled my depression and eating disorder.
When I was a kid I was bullied a lot in school for my weight. I’ve always looked older than the other kids. I felt older also. Being a victum of verbal and physical abuse made me hate myself to the point I could not look at myself in the mirror without thinking that I am worthless and I do not deserve to live.
In my desperate attempts to “become normal” I started a suicidal diet that left me brainwashed for years. I went from 80kg to 55kg. Somewhere in the process I also developed an eating disorder that has been part of my life for the last 7 years.
Not long after I started to look like a “normal girl” I got sexually abused, which took my self-loathing on another level, making me hating my body for years to come. I’ve always felt like I’m not enough, but this made me feel completely worthless. Every morning I was waking up starving, weak and exhausted. And if there was a day I woke up not feeling weak I automatically starved myself even more so I could feel weak again. Then I went from not eating at all to eating everything I could see. I started hiding food so I could binge eat later and force myself to vomit it. In my sickest days it felt like I was suffering my punishment and then cleansing myself. I felt weak but I felt light. I was more brainwashed than ever.
Until one day I had enough of this vicious circle and I started to fear that I’d gain my weight back. I was done being the victim. I was done being weak.
I joined a local MMA gym coached by an amateur MMA fighter with a wrestling background. My first coach, Sheriff, was the first person to believe in me when I couldn’t even look at myself. Before he went abroad he told me to go and find a coach that would help me develop the potential I had within me. He told me about the strength and determination I possessed.
Before moving to Scotland the first thing I looked up was a place to train. And this is how my love story with Aberdeen Combat Center started.
I was invited to the BJJ classes by my coach Martin Young, who lent me my first GI. An old-school Faixa Rua from his training times in Carlson Gracie London. Halfway through my first official BJJ class I dialocated my knee cap. I still don’t know what was worse – having to wait 40 minutes on the mats in agony or the paramedics cutting his GI trousers into pieces to put the knee in place.
I’ve been through many things since moving to Scotland. I’ve been broke; having no money for food or electricity. I ate boiled pasta with sugar for a month. I was homeless. I was lost. I felt like the world wouldn’t lose anything if I was not there, and I couldn’t speak about any of this with my parents because I didn’t want them to worry any more. I also had no one in Scotland. I was more alone than ever. Sometimes it felt like the bad times would never pass, but another one of my coaches and my biggest anchor, Nath MacDonald, taught me to use the adversity as fuel.
After the accident I fell in love with Jiu Jitsu. Instead of being put off from the injury I become obsessed. I managed to drag myself there day after day to watch the guys train. And I was there every day until I could join them again.
Jiu Jitsu changed for me for good.
It taught me that I am not worthless. It taught me that I can achieve anything I put my heart and soul into.
What keeps me going in my lowest days are all the people I’ve met through BJJ and all the people I’m going to meet. I’ve been to 7 countries on my own so far and the BJJ community have always welcomed me with open arms. Regardless of gender, nationality or language barriers.
Now I don’t get panic attacks when I have to speak to group of people.
Now the only thing I see when I look in the mirror is a strong young woman.
Now I smile in photos without feeling self-concious.
Now I am not at war with food.
I still have a lot to work on with myself. I’m still the insecure girl who wanted to disappear. I still doubt myself and fight my own thoughts on daily basis.
But now I know I am powerful, now I know how to fight back with a smile and laugh in the face of my depression. One day I will get her. One day I’ll make my depression tap. Until then the journey continues.