Low self-esteem has hollowed out my life. I am barraged by
loud voices from inside the cavernous darkness of my head. They project cruel words into my every act, my very being. Regrettably, over the years, I have believed the voices to be rock solid truth. In a twisted way, I believed them to be the voice of God in a not-at-all-gentle form of correction. Words, I found out, much like sticks and stones, do indeed hurt. Those words are like pallbearers, carrying death.
In the summer of 2010, I reached a psychological crevasse, which hopefully, will have been THE bottom. I was volunteering my time at a youth camp in the hills of north Georgia where I was sharing my songs. Of all places to fall apart, of all places to cower in darkness, of all places to feel utterly and inexplicably alone. Here, I was surrounded by a group of loving, encouraging, humorous adults, all there for a single, collective purpose. Naturally as an introvert, a melancholy soul, in this moment I had no solutions for extracting myself from this glue of darkness. I could neither will nor claw myself out. It was so deep I could no longer see light from the rim above. Late one night, curled in bed, a wreck, I verbalized to my wife words I would never have imagined myself speaking: “with the exception of her and our children, I believed I was inconsequential, that the world would be better off if I were no longer in it, that everything – my music career and me personally – did not matter and was a waste of time.”
My mental exhaustion and the earth’s gravity were so intense that I awoke the next morning not with renewed purpose, not with relief, but with the fearful, distinct, and tired knowledge that I needed help. Prodded by my loving wife, I sought out that help.
I called the only person I knew to call, a recent acquaintance, a psychiatrist who had reached out to me only months prior. Over the phone, he listened to my story, and offered me some mental exercises to get through the remainder of my days at camp until I was able to find a counselor in my hometown of Nashville.
Nashville artists are blessed to have access to a counseling service called Porter’s Call. Having heard from my peers that the service was available to full-time artists, I made an appointment. Walking through the doors of Porter’s Call for the first time was humbling, thoroughly intimidating, and absolutely necessary. Having no idea what to expect, I was confident I would be confirmed in my self-assessment as a phony artist and recognized for the fraud I surely was, confirming once and for all the truth of the voices’ onslaught in my head. I knocked on the door with great trepidation. The counselor did not commit me to an institution, nor did he shame me, rather he recognized those “sonofabitch” voices, and encouraged me to instead lean into my friends – actual human voices – for something closer to edification. Through this series of meetings, I was beginning to come to terms with, and embrace, the quirky self I was made to be, as odd and irreverent as I have a habit of being. Over the course of those autumn sessions, light began to slowly infiltrate the darkness shuttered inside me, rains soaked a brittle land, long-dormant flora erupted, old demons were caged, birds were freed, and pallbearers scattered. A song returned to my heart.
During this season I read two books that compelled me to once and for all embrace the artist soul indwelling me, this person I was always too afraid to be for fear of rejection or fear of failure. I read of John James Audubon, of his Kentucky business failure, and of his leaning into his heretofore hobby of drawing and painting. He had a family to provide for; he pursued his art because he trusted it. In Chaim Potok’s 1972 novel, My Name is Asher Lev, Asher, an only child of devout Jewish parents, is torn between two worlds: art and strict religion. He struggles to find balance in honoring the heritage and calling of his parents with that of the artist within. He yearns to paint beautiful things to help ease his mother’s deepening anguish. From both stories, I am learning courage and contentment.
Though I felt utterly alone, I was never alone. I was not abandoned to despair, never left completely to my depression, to my aching sadness, or to the pallbearing lies.
Eric Peters lives in a quiet historic neighborhood in east Nashville, TN with his wife, Danielle, and their two boys. When he’s not performing on stage or tending to his burgeoning lawn care side business, he writes and records songs, and sings them to unsuspecting folks. When he’s not doing that, he ponders quirky things. Eric enjoys manicuring lawns, painting, making folk sculptures, reading history, and eating well-seasoned nachos.