To help curb that craving and handle the drastic life change that would result from the weeks touring European cities, Sarah came along. The doctors really insisted, Eric tells, without her they thought trying to travel would be a horrible idea. She would be able serve as an intermediary between the highs and the lows and try to keep Eric in stable state.
It wasn’t just the possibility of substances that Sarah would have to be on the lookout for that could lead Eric back into a suicidal state it was also simply the act of performing.
“When you’re on tour and playing every single night and you’re getting all this love and attention from people, the rush is like jumping out of an airplane. It’s just this huge adrenaline rush you get for an hour on stage and then you get to spend the rest of night talking to all these people about how wonderful you are and they just want to take a picture with you and shake your hand and tell you that that you're awesome.
“And then you get home and it’s like stepping off one of those moving sidewalks at the airport at a hundred miles per hour. You’re right back to picking dog shit off the ground and cleaning dishes,” Eric says. “It’s absolute hell.”
While the rush that comes from performing can keep Eric up, it doesn’t always have to be so grand. As he describes in his poem “Post Office Box,” it can be something inconsequential that puts you in or pulls you out of the dark.
“Even if it’s just a phone bill, it’s you seeing your name on a piece of paper and knowing that you’re living a life. You just need a little validation; you just want to know you exist,” he says.
So how do you get back that rush? How do you satiate that need? For Eric at least, it’s through boxing. Although not your prototypical jock growing up, physical activity has proved extremely beneficial. He decided on boxing because he was told from his doctors that he needed to find something that he couldn’t potentially make money from—so no art. No music, no drawing, no writing. It had to be something that he did simply because he enjoyed it.
“It could be pulling weeds in the garden or riding your bike but something you’re never going to go pro at,” he says, “but you have to find something you love.”
He doesn’t get quite the same feeling as playing on stage in front a thousand people—which is pretty understandable—but for Eric it’s the next best thing.
This past month Eric held a reading from his re-released collection of poems. Reading back through them is painful, he attests, even if right now he isn’t thinking about taking his own life. The poems brings back vivid memories of knowing that his death was a certain thing, to know for a fact that he was going to jump.
This isn’t the first time he’s discussed his bouts with depression and mental illness. Leading up to his hospitalization he had actually candidly spoken about his thoughts of suicide, to friends and to strangers. With strangers, it was often easier.
“I think it’s because you don’t get the push back of talking about your feelings to someone you’re intimate with or someone who your good friends with,” Eric recalls, “It’s a one sided story, a monologue. I’m telling him or her how I feel and a lot of times they’ll just listen.”
But with a friend? “They would slap me in the face and say, ‘What are you talking about?’”
Even if it’s just a phone bill, it’s you seeing your name on a piece of paper and knowing that you’re living a life. You just need a little validation; you just want to know you exist.
Some people simply didn’t understand. “I had to really explain to them, I had to say, ‘Look, when you have a bad day, you’re able to get over it, you’re able to look at the things in your life that are great and it can inspire you and you’ll snap out of your problem. You’re capable of snapping out of it. I’m not. And I need a little extra time to work through my moods, my problems.’”
Even so, some close friends, who he thought would comprehend his experience, didn’t. He lost one friendship when a friend accused him of boasting about suicide.
However, many were very supportive. Something that Eric believes is vital, “The safety net that they can be for you is huge, for whatever you need, even if it’s simply a hug or a quick conversation.”
It took nearly five months after his diagnosis to really come forward and begin publically talking about his illness. But after coming forward, his reason for talking about his struggles changed. It wasn’t about just about getting help for himself anymore, it was about helping others.
It started simply enough: a post on Facebook. A post that said that he had been 5150’d and been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The positive responses he received were overwhelming: people simply offering their support, people coming forward about their own illness or individuals saying that it had helped start a conversation about mental illness in their home. That’s what convinced him to republish and rewrite Trading Sunshine for Shadows; it was the understanding that he could be a voice that could help people struggling with mental illness.
“If coming out helps one person who maybe has felt depressed or has been diagnosed, then all the trouble of being open is worth it,” he says. “One person might hear my story and start enough conversations in their lifetime to save a life. It could cause a ripple effect.”
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