How I fought depression in the dojo


Charleen Meiring’s confidence had always been shaky. When she went through a tumultuous divorce in 2012, it wrecked her remaining self-esteem. For three decades before that, the orthopedic nurse had been dedicated to healing others. This time, she found herself in need of help, quietly battling depression. “It affected my family and my work,” Meiring says. “I did feel like staying at home and just sitting there, doing nothing, curled up in a ball.” Silent, invisible, destructive, the illness threatened to consume her life. Until Meiring found an unlikely saving grace – karate.

Every time her daughter, Chloe, attended karate classes, Meiring watched on from the sidelines. “The children made it look so easy,” she says. Inspired by her daughter’s development from shy to self-assured kid, Meiring decided to join. “I was the first old person in the dojo,” she says. “You can imagine how I felt!” At first, it wasn’t what she’d expected. “There were a few times that I wanted to stop,” Meiring says. “It didn’t seem to be staying in my head. I couldn't do the actions.” Despite the difficulty, she persevered. Being a karateka took Meiring out the house and into a world where her only option was to fight, physically and mentally.

As Meiring’s assertiveness grew, so did her martial arts skills, and she progressed to competitive karate. Last year, Meiring was selected to attend the World Japan Karate Association Championships in Amsterdam. There, she turned 51 years old. Her gift? Two punches to the nose and jaw from her opponent, and one silver and one bronze medal to bring home. Since Meiring started practising karate, she’s been able to discover her inner strength – not just to make it through the day, but to flourish. “Becoming the best version of yourself is a lifelong process,” Meiring says. While the battle against depression can be a difficult, ongoing process, Meiring now has the confidence to fight back.