"Get Up And Dance!"
"Get up and dance!"
That was the message I received two years ago when I was deep into my first ever Ayahuasca ceremony somewhere in the middle of Costa Rica. Going into the night, I had asked God to help me be more empathetic and understand people who are depressed, sad, or anxious. I had never gone to a dark place, and I didn't understand why people couldn't just suck it up when they felt down.
During the ceremony, I was hunched over, holding my stomach for about 4 hours straight. The only way I can describe the feeling is when you are curled up next to a toilet, throwing up repeatedly, and you feel like you are going to die. Only I couldn't throw up in this case, so I had to sit with this pain in my gut for hours. I didn't want to move; I wanted to cry for my mom. That's when I got the message, "Get up and dance!"
After refusing the call multiple times, the message came back a different way, "Jimmy, when people are depressed and you tell them just to suck it up, this is how they are feeling as you tell them to effectively just "get up and dance." So you are going to feel like this until you get up..."
I got up and made my best impression of dancing for about a minute before finally finding my throw-up bucket and letting it all out. I felt instantly better and I got the message. For the first time, I was able to understand why people can't just "suck it up!"
This experience allowed me to understand others around me much better. I understood depression, loneliness, and sadness on a whole new level.
I felt terrible for all the times I lacked empathy for others and I vowed to be able to help people that were in this place.
A few months back, I was hanging out with a couple of friends, and I realized that one of them had been depressed for the past 9-10 years. I never knew before what he was going through and although I'd been a good friend, I didn't know how to help him. I still didn't think I was the right person to try and go through this with him; instead, I knew I could build a support team around him and swarm him with friends that could help him through these challenging times.
He joined my men's coaching group, "We Are The They," and after a few months, he had 49 new friends to stand by him and support him with whatever he was going through. He recently went through a couple of very difficult experiences in his life, things that would have sent him into a downward spiral only a couple of months earlier. Only this time, he seems to be thriving even with the chaos in his life. He told me that one of the friends from the group had called him every day to see how he was doing. Another one meets up with him every week for dinner or to hang out. I even had him help another member of the group who had a family member going through something similar and he was able to find purpose in supporting someone else. Someone he didn't even know a few months ago.
I share this because I learned a valuable lesson that I have been able to put into practice.
I was not the person to help this friend with parts of his journey. I still can't empathize with him like some of the other guys in the group. Guys have been in that same place and felt like he's felt. But what I was able to do and what he created for himself by signing up for the group was to bring in dozens of other talented people that could show up for him every day, and together, we are watching this man change for the better every single day. The last time he showed up, several of us commented that he looked and felt "lighter" than he ever has.
We cannot get to where we are going by ourselves in this life. We need community and friends and brothers to bring us along. The beauty of "We Are The They" is not that I have all the answers; I don't. We have been able to build a fraternity of men committed to helping others, which provides opportunities to both serve and be served every day.
There is so much purpose in helping another human through a hard time. I'm forever grateful for that ayahuasca experience because it was a huge reason I knew I needed other men around me to help those in our community suffering from anxiety, depression, or just sadness.
I know that I will never again tell someone to "suck it up."