Finding Your Light in the Darkness

We all have a gift, and that's a fact. We are all on this earth to give the world something that we possess within ourselves. The trouble we have is finding that light along the way. Some of us find our light through the darkness and that's why it is important in life, to not become discouraged by the negativity.

I lost my mother in 2016. I boarded a plane to head off to Australia and I knew that was the last time I would physically see her. She had been sick for almost a year with stage four lung and brain cancer. She was nearly in remission when a rare, untreatable form of cancer developed in January of 2016. She underwent experimental treatments and drugs to combat the cancer but her condition only deteriorated.

Oddly enough, it didn't feel like the world was crumbling in like it should have. My brother and I became closer than we ever were before. We spent every minute of each day together. Going to the gym twice a day, spending hours each day at the hospital (even though our mom didn't know who we were most days,) and finding ways to relieve the stress.

But as the time came closer for me to leave for my next season, I dreaded leaving my brother and my mother behind. But everyone around me assured me I had to do it. And so I did.

As I headed off to Australia, struggling with demons the entire flight, the comfort of my brother's company faded and the situation became much more real. To make things worse, when I landed in Australia, I found out I was playing in paradise. Most people would think that's great, since it would help get my mind off my situation at home, but it did the opposite. I was concerned for my brother and the burden that was left on him. I missed being around my mom and I felt my world spiralling down a dark hole.

When my mom passed away, that hole got DEEP. The darkness swallowed my world and I turned to alcohol to get me through the difficult times. 18 or more drinks a night became standard for me and my behaviour was destructive. I did a pretty good job of hiding this from the world but those closest to me knew what was happening. This carried on for a month or so before I headed back to Australia to finish the season.

I would slip in and out of these episodes, refusing to deal with my internal struggles. I did what we are all taught to do- bury the pain and move forward because the world stops for no one. I had responsibilities and people that needed me to continue moving forward, so I never addressed what I was feeling internally.

Fast forward to fall of 2017. I was living my life in the same patterns. I dropped my morals, I dropped my usual disciplines and I was again, self destructive. My depression was about as bad as it could get. Luckily for me, I was living with an American teammate in Luxembourg and he was one of the best, most moral people you will ever meet (appreciate you Scott.)

In the second game of the year, my chest got tight mid game. My heart started racing. I was concerned, but my breathing patterns were normal so I kept on. About a minute later, the darkness in my vision started to creep in from the corners.

The next thing I knew, I was on the floor.

My heart was racing. I couldn't catch my breath. I couldn't get air in to my body and the pain was getting sharper as my heart was racing faster. My vision was blurred but as a I looked up, it was Scott over me asking me what happened. All I could say was, "my heart."

I remember this next part so vividly and it will be something I never forget.

I remember looking up into the arena lights, with my vision blurred, it was the white light we always hear about. I remember thinking to myself these exact thoughts.

"It's okay, I don't want to be here anymore, anyway. Go to mom. Let go, Eric. We don't want to be here anymore, just let go."

Fortunately, I didn't.

The paramedics would get to me, give me some drugs to slow my heart down and informed me I was 2 points away from dying.

I would get sent back to the states shortly thereafter, where my depression would get much worse. In January of 2018, I decided I was going to take my own life.

When I went to do it, I got this metaphoric slap in the face- a, "you better not even think about it," kind of slap (I like to think that was my mom.)

Once again, fortunately, I didn't give up and kept moving forward.

A week later, I was given an opportunity to go back out to Australia. I agreed to the terms and came back out to the same city I was in a few years earlier. (A big shout out to Nateo for giving me that opportunity- you helped save my life.)

My depression and personal issues were still a major problem, but there was one major difference this time around- I met Carlie.

In saying all of that, I have given you a quick insight into the darkest period of my life- being ready to end it twice and spiralling deeper into the darkness. Here's why these times are some of the best and most important times on your journey.

Light will always shine brightest in the dark, that's common sense. But our experience in darkness is what we are here for. What we can overcome on our own, is what we can help others overcome as well.

Similarly, when you let your light shine bright, you will find your path. Too often we dim our own lights. We allow the darkness to switch us off, but the darkness is in fact nothing more than a test. A test to find if we can find our light to switch it back on and light this world up.

My darkness has enabled me to find what I need to be doing. While the answer did not come right away, it came when I was ready for it. It came when I found my light once again. Those who have been in the dark, know how good finding that switch is and lighting up the world around you.

Those who are still in the darkness- please keep going. Look inside of yourself to find what illuminates this world. When you find it- light that b*tch up because if there's one thing this world needs, it's bright lights.

When I look back, I think the most important trait I have mastered in my career is persistence. The persistence to overcome obstacles, to continue moving forward when there feels like there's no way forward or the path isn't clear. I have been told "no" more times than I have been given a yes, and for that I am grateful.

When my mom passed away, I could have quit. When my heart gave out on me, I wanted to quit, but I didn't. When doctors told me I would never play again, I could have stopped, and for a time I thought that's what would happen, but I didn't.

If I would have given up, I wouldn't be here today. I would have never realised why I'm here and what my light is meant to do. But I am here, and I am going to let my light shine brightly. I look forward to what 2021 will present to me, darkness or otherwise so I can use my light to brighten up another small corner of the world.

Stay bright. Stay positive. Give love. Keep it going.