National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Taking Exit 5150 on the 101

Eric Victorino / Photo: Eric Belladonna

By Brendan McLean, NAMI Communications Coordinator

He’d been to the bridge.

His hands had held the slatted metal railing guarding the edge.

A railing the same international orange color as the cables and towers that reached above him; the same vermilion hue that has become synonymous with the sumptuous hunk of asphalt and metal connecting the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula to Marin County.

This is where I’m going to be Jan. 3, he thought.

Thirty four years—to the day—after his birth, this is where he’d be, standing on the boundary of the Golden Gate Bridge looking listlessly out across the San Francisco Bay.

On Jan. 3, 2012, his now perfunctory thoughts on the bridge would be his last.

As a musician, Eric Victorino had assumed his thoughts were normal, it was just who he was. The continuous struggle and overflowing feelings of sadness and pain were typical. It’s just what it means to be an artist, he thought.

It didn’t matter that his band The Limousines was fast gaining fame, not only garnering attention in the San Francisco area but across the U.S. and Europe. It didn’t matter that thousands of adoring fans came to listen to shows or that he had a beautiful wife and wonderful friends. The thoughts he had were inescapable and would become his end.

But Eric never made it back to the bridge on Jan. 3. More than six months since his pre-determined day of his death had passed, Eric is still here, recently returned from a tour in Europe supporting the internationally renowned band The Sounds. He’s here (still playing badminton in his back yard—in his underwear).

Thoughts of depression have haunted Eric as long as he can recall. “I can think back to being 10 years old and feeling completely overwhelmed, this kind of impending doom feeling of the world’s just too big,” he says. “But it wasn’t until last December [2011] when things”—as he puts it repeatedly—“started to tailspin.”

Episodes of depression could no longer be pushed out by a pen, it would take something stronger.

Sometimes you end up looking for the easiest way out for everybody else except for yourself.

Nights became drowned in pints of amber and shaken tumblers. Handfuls of Xanax, Klonopin, Valium or any other alphabet-laden drug handed to him served as canapés for evenings where the pièce de résistance was a wanton disregard for life.

“I kind of hoped it would kill me and then hope that people would just think it was an accident. Then no one would feel guilty and no one would feel like they had to blame themselves for something I did,” he says. “It would simply be, ‘Wow, what a horrible accident that was.’ Sometimes you end up looking for the easiest way out for everybody else except for yourself.”

But his body mutinied and threw itself into a vomiting fit—one that doctors believe saved his life.

While it was his visceral reaction that may have saved his life and kept his plan for Jan. 3 on schedule, it was a misinterpretation that may have ultimately saved him from making it to the bridge. The following night, Eric had merely gone to the bathroom when his wife, Sarah, began pounding on the door; the echo of her sobs and screams pleading with him.

“E,” she screamed as she pounded on the door, “EEEE!” She was hitting the door so forcefully that a thin fissure started forming down the center of the door with each crash of her fists.

He got up from the toilet and swung the door open. Why was she screaming? He was simply going to the bathroom.

“Who died?” he asked “What’s going on?”

“I thought you were killing yourself!” she cried.

His first reaction: That’s funny. I wouldn’t do that. Not in the house.

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