“I’ve struggled with depression.”

It’s scary how many times I’ve heard this sentence from people. It’s even scarier when I think how many times I’ve said it myself. I would risk saying that more people have looked for a psychologist in the last decade than every other year in history combined. That’s happening not only because the number of depressed people has increased, but also because for the first time in history we have the guts to admit it. We are willing to admit we have a problem, and we say it out loud: “I’ve struggled with depression”. “But what all of this has to do with professional wrestling?”, you ask me.

It was Monday morning in Brazil and I had some free time. On the other side of the world, literally, there was something special happening: the G1 Climax 29 final. Kota Ibushi was facing Jay White and I decided to jump in and enjoy some great wrestling. I wasn’t expecting what was about to come, though.

Over the last year or so, pro wrestling has been one of the few escapes from the bad feelings. During times when I felt weak, body slams and german suplexes were keeping me up. It may sound silly like the old “put smiles on people’s faces” BS, but it’s been real. Legend says that this quote came from Argentina Rocca when told about a fan. According to the lore, a reporter asked a crippled young man why he liked watching Rocca wrestle. The fan told him that when he watched Rocca, he felt it was him in the ring. He felt powerful, almost unbeatable. Once Rocca heard the story, he said that’s what made everything worth it.

Hardly I knew, that morning I was about to experience something similar to that young man.

The match started like every other match. I knew I was watching something special because it was the G1 Climax 29 final, after all, but it was only special as a professional wrestling match could be, nothing more than that. It didn’t take long for me to realize it was much more.

Once Ibushi started to sell that ankle something was triggered in my head. I went back to Ibushi’s match against KENTA in Dallas. When attempting a dangerous high spot on that match, the Golden Star twisted his ankle and he would sell it for the rest of the tournament.

And here the unlikely metaphor starts. Ibushi went for something risky and he missed, and he got hurt. Let me tell you now, ladies and gentlemen, I am no psychologist, but, from the little I know about it, that’s what we call trauma. The funny thing is that it was only a spot in a professional wrestling match, something that wasn’t even supposed to happen, and it connected to a personal experience of mine in a level that I couldn’t explain even if I was Hemingway. I too, like Kota, went for a dangerous spot. I too missed. And I got hurt from that.

Trying to explain depression to someone who never experienced it is something really hard. Imagine your mind trying to destroy everything your body is trying to keep intact. It’s a constant struggle against yourself. You feel alone as if everyone left you. You lose yourself. Although your heart beats, you don’t feel like within yourself. And though everything working against it, you have to fight. That’s the worse thing, all the odds are against you and you still have to do it on your own, just like Kota Ibushi.

It’s fascinating to me how Jay White suddenly turned into a personification of everything that I’ve been facing in recent months. And his performance in this match played a huge role to make this even more powerful. Also, that was what made me cheer for Ibushi like I never did for anyone else before.

Just like depression, White hit where it hurt the most (Ibush’s ankle). He used underhanded tactics. He mocked the Golden Star when he couldn’t fight back. Until he could.

It was a simple strike that switched something in Ibushi. His facial expression turned into that one that we all know. The one that makes him a real killer in the squared circle. And then Kota fought back. He hit as hard as he could, going against all the odds. It wasn’t a one-way road, though. The Switchblade would strike back on his own, but never fairly. And during those exchanges, I saw the good days and the bad days I had to go by to overcome the pain that has been consuming me. Just like Rocca was to that kid 60 years ago, Kota Ibushi was representing my struggle in the ring. Just like that kid, I felt powerful, almost unbeatable. Still, I was scared. 

What if Kota lost?

Would that mean that is no hope? All those feelings of insecurity hit me back. But just for a second. For I kneed them out into oblivion, just as Ibushi did with White in that ring.

After the three count, I took a long breath, and I let some tears roll.

It was supposed to be just a wrestling match during an unimportant Monday morning. It ended up being one of the deepest experiences of my life to the point I no longer intend to use the sentence “I’ve struggled with depression”. From now on, if someone asks, I will say: “I wrestled depression”.

And I beat the bitch with a knee to the face.