September 8th, 2019

Eric Bigger: Saying that you are not ok is ok

'Bachelorette' contestant Eric Bigger on how talking helped him face his own personal mental health struggles.
Mental Health | In the Barber Chair

It's ironic how people come to me for advice and feel comfortable talking to me about anything when for years, I was the one hiding what I was feeling. I realized, over time, that when I actually began to talk about what I was going through, it actually began to heal me.

I didn’t always have that awareness. Growing up in Baltimore City, I always felt like I had to “be the man of my family,” “be strong” and just “deal with it.” There’s no time to relax and be calm because you’re living in a state of fear. I always felt I just needed to survive and be better than I was because unfortunately that’s the stereotype for black men in the inner city. As I got older I began to realize the trauma that mindset had caused me.

To me, being a man of more words is about being openminded and freeing yourself of any negativity or resistance you’re feeling about speaking out. It’s about being transparent and letting your truth out. A lot of times when we're going through something, we think that we're alone. But the reality is there is someone else out there that is going through exactly what you’re going through but you just don’t know it because you’re holding back. I think the most important thing to know as a man is that saying that you're not okay is okay. To me, the strongest men are the most vulnerable ones.

“I realized, over time, that when I actually began to talk about what I was going through, it actually began to heal me.”

I think men should talk more openly about their mental health because sometimes you don't even know you have a mental health issue until you start talking about it. I remember about two years ago after I had just gotten off the show The Bachelorette, my agent looked at me at one point and said something like “why are you always so tense?” I started thinking and looking through my past and I realized that it’s from the environment I grew up. I always felt like I could never relax or be vulnerable. That one moment opened up a conversation and dialogue around mental health and made me realize things about myself that I didn’t even realize I was feeling. I didn't even know I was anxious or was feeling depressed because I was so used to holding everything in.

For me, seeing a therapist has really helped. She helps when I’m struggling and just need a different perspective. I think it's so important to talk about things because it can change your life. When you're an open person, life is much better because you're not holding onto anything or trying to run from anything.

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