Saturday night, on St. Patty’s Day Eve, my wife and I stopped at a local bar that advertised an Irish folk band. The band was excellent, and at one point asked for anyone who knew how to do Irish step dancing to come up and give it a try. Now, my wife and I got one brief lesson in step dancing last year at an Irish festival, but it turns out good step dancing takes more than one lesson. Nevertheless, we went up and gave it a shot, partly because no one else was and partly because why the hell not.
Although she was better than me in my opinion, it was clear neither one of us knew what we were doing. This was made even more clear when another member of the audience stepped up out of nowhere and did a very impressive display of Irish step dancing. And as I looked around I thought, what a perfect metaphor for living with mental illnesses, when you are doing something and realize everyone else is doing it better than you. And you feel dejected and wonder why you even try. Then you get your answer.
In between sets, two of the band members came over to the bar where we were sitting, introduced themselves, and thanked us for our enthusiasm. After all, we may not have been experts, but at least we gave it a shot. And herein lies the victories that you sometimes have to learn to count. Sometimes merely getting out of bed and showing up is winning, even if you don’t accomplish anything, people will still appreciate the effort.
But the real winning for me was the person sitting next to me. I wouldn’t have showed up and definitely wouldn’t have drawn attention to myself by trying to dance if it weren’t for my wife. Not that she dragged me into something I didn’t want to do, but she was the encouragement I needed to get past my anxiety and do something that I truly enjoyed.
Granted, that isn’t always the case. There are plenty of times my anxiety and/or depression win. I know she sees me struggle and I know she feels like she isn’t doing more to help me. Yet by just being there she does more than she could know, more than I know how to put into words. Mental illnesses are incredibly isolating. They make you think no one will ever stay with you. So when someone does stand by you, it is a little ‘fuck you’ to demons in my head.
If you are struggling, know that getting out of bed is an accomplishment. Reading this post is an accomplishment. And also know that there are people who will be there for you if you let them. You are not alone is a phrase you hear all the time with mental illnesses, and it isn’t just that there are others struggling in silence as well. It is that there are others in your life willing to help ease your burden, just by being there. All you have to do is keep up the fight. No luck of the Irish needed.