Am I still mentally ill or do I not understand what it is to be healed?  | Eric Lampaert on whether the Fringe will help him with his problems

Am I still mentally ill or do I not understand what it is to be healed? 

Eric Lampaert on whether the Fringe will help him with his problems

Like many performers, I subconsciously stepped onto the stage seeking a love that could potentially replace the kind I lacked in previous years. 

That rush of dopamine enveloping my brain as I put a spell on a crowd of strangers seeking the sweet release of their daily life so that briefly, even for just a second, we can all forget about what goes on outside the walls of our comedy nest. It’s nice to forget.

In my experience, comedians aren’t more prone to suffering mental disturbances; it’s just that we have time to reflect, alone in our empty hotel rooms, dissecting all the horrible parts of our psyche so that audiences can laugh at the sad clown rather than reflect on their own challenging life.

The prefrontal cortex, the control panel to our thoughts and behaviours, takes about 25 years to develop, so anything that happens in that period gets hardwired in our brain and becomes the baseline for our identity. 

I won’t tackle my past in this piece, but  the results were over a decade of depression and anxiety, trapped in a prison of my own mind, desperate to escape. It’s exhausting trying to be happy when you're not. I just accepted my thought tornados as part of the human condition; past to the left of me, future to the right, here I am; stuck in the middle never being present. 

People say time travel isn’t real, which is nonsense, for I spent most of my days sucked into old memories or ruminating multiple possible scenarios of a future based on a past I feared. You tired of reading this yet? Welcome to my life. 

‘If you don’t like it, that’s your problem,’ I would often say to friends.’This is me, deal with it.’ But at some point you have to take responsibility. Mental illness isn’t a choice, but recovery is. 

I won’t suggest what therapy is best for someone; we all have different brains and I’m no doctor, but hypnosis allowed me to dive into my unconscious, deeper into the recesses of my memory, pushing through membranes of repression and unlocking doors which were keeping me in the dark.

I emerged from the sessions a different person and it was scary at first. Living with depression and anxiety was like being in an abusive relationship, guising themselves as my protectors but in fact keeping me from enjoying the fruits of life. I hated having their voices in my skull, but they were familiar, they were all I knew. 

So when I finally made peace and truly forgave my past, the voice in my head was positive, giving me compliments and wanting to take care of me. ‘Ugh gross, get out of my head stranger!’

Every new day I looked forward to the sunrise and it was freaking me out. I rang my best friend. ‘Mate, I need help, I feel good every day.’

‘Isn't that the point of therapy?’ he replied. ‘Embrace it, you idiot.’

I coincidentally completed therapy on December 31, 2018. New Year, New Me. Since then, I’ve been on an odyssey to learn my new driver.

I’m Eric, but not the old one. I do things I don’t recognise. I’ve either unlocked something in my brain that allows me to Spidey-sense my surroundings or I’m a different type of mentally ill. I became so present I could ‘feel’ being the epicentre of my universe and thought the environment was talking to me, sending me messages, guiding me for a purpose I’m not privy to. 

I snowballed this sensation of good to a point of unbroken euphoria, and like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun. Did I meet one of the Gods? Some sort of higher intelligence governing the multiverse? For many sleepless days, I became a vessel to help others and no longer cared for Eric as he no longer existed, except as a passenger experiencing our shared reality as though it were a lucid dream. On March 17, I woke up a blank slate, I experienced a drug-free ego death; I didn’t know my name, didn’t recognise my apartment, I knew nothing. It was as if the last 32 years of my life were the cinematic intro to a video game and I woke up as a character who had to work out this new identity.

I was taken to a hospital, from which I escaped, and subsequently taken to a more secure location; picture One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. 

I’m still learning who I am. I find myself in places barefoot, I threw away my wallet because ‘money’s not real’. I am performing two shows at the Edinburgh Festival: one about my old life, Borne Of Chaos, and another about the new me, Yum Yum. I have no idea what to expect, but I found talking about my mind and being received without judgement helps me stay grounded. 

How will this affect the Fringe? I don’t know. I’m healed from the old, but I haven’t found balance yet in the new. I’ll get there. Till then, I had to post a message on my Facebook wall asking my friends for help. Here it is: 

‘Dear Edinburgh Festival friends, if (if) you see me wandering the city streets late at night alone and I'm being weird like talking to statues or dancing to the sounds of passing bus, please come say hello and remind me to breathe, because it might mean I'm off on one in my head. Having the opposite of depression is brilliant but it does mean I now pick leaves from trees and eat them because technically it's food, or I think tables have consciousness and I give them a little kiss. So, you know, swings and roundabouts. I'll help you get back up and you can help me get back down haha. Cheers thank you bye.’

• Eric Lampaert: Born Of Confusion is on at Laughing Horse @ The Counting House at 16:15 daily while Yum Yum is on at the same venue at 18:30

Published: 3 Aug 2019

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