Talking about mental health is hairy

If I’m being totally honest, over time facial hair became my mask. It was another way to physically hide behind something. But it started as one of the few forms of self-expression that I had total control over.

I’ve done it all. From the 90210 sideburns in HS (not pictured), to the mutton chops and go-tee in college (not pictured), to a 5 o’clock shadow beard as a young professional (not pictured), to full growth beards of the last 5 years.

The rest of my “uniform” – the hoodie, plaid button-down, glasses, and Kangol – developed over the last five years. But they also became part of the mask which is perfectly illustrated on the left.

I actually enjoy dressing up and looking good. But I don’t like a lot of things about myself physically so I created this character. This uniform protected my identity. And it gave me a way to present a persona.

Lately, I’ve been finding young Eric’s voice again. I’ve been exercising more. I’ve been more comfortable in my own body. I’ve been doing more self-care. I’ve been relearning that my youthful intuition is pretty good and I can begin to trust it again. What’s great about that is I have 40 yrs of experience to pull from.

But I digress…

I decided it was time to trim the beard (see the transformation in my story). Facial hair is still one form of self-expression I’ve always enjoyed and will continue to. But the purpose is different going forward. It’s not a mask. It’s me just being me (again).

Although I’m not quite ready to abandon my wardrobe yet, I do feel like change is in the air and spring is on the horizon. So maybe there will be less hoodies and jeans; and more button-downs and casual pants in my future.

Originally published on Instagram, February 24, 2020

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