Eric, age 51
“Some people don't think it's a disease. They say, 'you'll get over it.’” This was Eric's response when I asked him what the hardest thing is to communicate about his mental illness. “It's hard to explain to different people what we go through. Some don't listen.”
Eric is a kind-hearted, gentle person who lives with major depression and chronic anxiety, in addition to long- and short-term memory problems due to a traumatic brain injury. His parents verbally abused him as a child, and his twin brother didn't want him around. There are also memories and present day situations that trigger his PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Eric turned to drugs in high school, which escalated to heavy drug use in his twenties, putting Eric in situations where he was sexually abused by other men. Through it all, he always worked, a functional drug addict. As an adult, relationships with some people have been difficult: a marriage ended in divorce, and some of his family still sees him as he was twenty years ago, despite being clean for years.
Like everyone, Eric has bad days and good, “sometimes overwhelming and lonely, but sunshine makes everything better.” He admits that life is still a struggle, but he has a better way of handling the stress than in the past. One thing Eric realized when he looks at his past is that, “God reminds me that certain people aren't good for me.” Listening to gospel music and going to church are why he's sober today. “God keeps blessing me despite my faults.”
The message Eric wants to relay to others living with mental illness is that “you can still function through your mental illness, but stay in a positive support group, see your psychiatrist, and be around positive people. It's ok to be by yourself and have boundaries, but have a balance in your life, too. Thank God for the things He brought you. And try not to put yourself down because you'll get stuck in old events of the past.”