“Good God! Good God! Will somebody stop the damn match? Enough’s enough!” JR screamed out from the announce table and over the airwaves as Mick Foley’s (Mankind) body lay on the ground, lifeless, and seemingly without hope. His opponent (The Undertaker) jumped down through the cage and I sat back, stunned. The paramedics came and Mick was taken off on a stretcher.
I was scared. I was scared for the wrestler, my hero, someone who I considered— my friend. I had never met Mick before, but I always loved what he represented on television. Here was a guy who was different. He was “crazy, demented, goofy” and didn’t look like all of the others. He wasn’t chiseled from stone more like molded from whipped cream. He wasn’t the ladies’ man, but could always put on disco music, throw on the tie dye, and be welcome at a table of beauties as Dude Love. He was a guy that when life would become unbearable, would reach down deep and bring out the badass (Cactus Jack) who knew only pain but channeled it into something productive, being named ‘King of the Deathmatch’ in Japan and world champion.
Wrestling with Mental Illness
So what does all of this wrestling nostalgia have to do with mental illness? I liked this guy because I saw myself in him. I played characters in hopes of getting over with the crowd (being accepted). I saw myself as the person who continued to experience pain and hurt, but wanted to recover from it quickly(resiliency), to give the inward pain a big “Fuck You” and “Bang Bang” (Cactus Jack’s catchphrase)and turn it into something that would help myself and others in my life.
Cactus Jack, Mankind, Dude Love all taught me to never let anything keep me down. As a kid, I was able to relate the pain that he felt on television because it was the pain I felt on the inside. Blow after blow. Chair shot after chair shot. My heart and mind continually receiving blows, sometimes by those closest to me. The pain felt like a metaphorical chair shot to the head.
How many of us can relate to that? Critical parents, unrelenting grandparents, demanding bosses, cold spouses who say with more with their silence than words, or friends who continually belittle and berate you with the hope of motivating you, but all it does is cut and hurt and bring us down even more. You see why I could relate to Mick? Because, pain is pain. Inward or outward, both can become unbearable. But, as many children cling to superheroes, I clung to the man who looked different and never stayed down. I never gave up because of him. Because of him, I found resiliency. Heroes teach us things about ourselves and life. I had a hero and, today, I still need a hero.
Find Your Hero
We need heroes. Maybe this is God, a superhero (I recommend Batman), a friend, a relative, we all need as the addict says “a power greater than ourselves”. These are the people or things that we can look to that keep us going. For me, it’s anyone who overcomes. I love and resonate with movies of conquerors, underdogs, and the “little guy” because there are times the little guy in me needs a reminder from heroes like Rocky Balboa “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
So I encourage you today, my friends, to find your hero.
Just so you know, Mick got up from the stretcher and walked back to the ring that day. He finished the match. Blood, beat up, and battered; he walked back into the ring to finish for the fans.
Mick taught me something that day that still resonates with me today. Sometimes our pain can be turned into purpose. Sharing our pain and victories gives others something to believe in and hope for, even on the darkest days.
Spread hope, not hate. Both are contagious.
Be well my friends,