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Rising From The Darkness: Overcoming PTSD Through Physical Activity With Eric Beach

FIF 22 | Overcoming PTSD

Through training and competition, one can find a healthy release to the stresses found post-military separation. Eric Beach is a US Army Veteran who fell into a dark and dangerous downward spiral after leaving the military. What kickstarted Eric’s healing process was searching for the same sense of physical exertion and camaraderie he had in the military. This led him to join IRONMAN and became a cast member on NBC’s Quest for Kona. Today, Eric joins Robert "Fireman Rob" Verhelst to share his story of how he struggled with cancer and rose from the darkness to co-found Project Echelon, an organization that aims to aid fellow army veterans and their families find healing by using physical activity through endurance sport as an outlet.


Listen to the podcast here:

Rising From The Darkness: Overcoming PTSD Through Physical Activity With Eric Beach

I have a special guest. This show is about inspiring and motivating individuals in giving stories that they can relate to. My next guest is from Wisconsin, the great state. Eric Beach, it's great to have you on the show.

Thanks for having me. I'm excited about this conversation. I’m always having fun talking to you.

It’s a blast. I'll give you a background about Eric. Eric was a US Army veteran. You did a tour in Iraq?

Yeah, back in 2003.

Eric is an amazing individual. He took on the challenge of doing an Ironman. He had never done a full Ironman before but went for the big one in Kona. That was back in 2017, correct?


He also started this amazing group, the foundation that I'm a part of as well. He's the Cofounder of Project Echelon. It's about educating, equipping, empowering veterans, their families, and the communities to heal through self-discovery and physical activity. Eric, you have many great stories that it's almost too hard to pick which one I want to take and have you talk about. Let's start with Project Echelon because that is a passion of yours.

Some of our greatest passions are born out of some of our lowest moments. For me, I was coming out of the military and having an identity crisis in a sense that I went to the military as an eighteen-year-old, unfairly asking the military to teach me what a man was. You don't get the full picture. You're going to war so you're not getting the totality of what makes a man, a man or a woman, a woman. I left it more confused than I was when I went in. Certainly, the war had something to do with it but the framework for my PTSD and confusion was laid early on in life. The exacerbating symptom was the blast from an IED, the loss of life, and things of that nature, and thrust back into the civilian world with not a bearing of where to go or what to do. I used drugs and alcohol to self-medicate because that's a successful plan for many. As we watched movies, that’s what you do. It worked for me in the sense that if I wanted to avoid nightmares and bad feelings, I would drink and do cocaine because I didn't sleep. When I did fall asleep after a bender, I wouldn't remember my dreams. It was brilliant.

It was healing to you at that point.

It did. The funny thing is when we heal, we look for what works even if it's unhealthy. It seems to work so we have security in it. Even though it didn't make me feel any better, I still had bad moods and days. It was covered by this chemical. I ended up overdosing on drugs and getting a court order to either go to a six months’ rehab or live with my parents at the age of 22 for six months. They moved me to a different city and I restarted. I still made a lot of mistakes. I didn't heal but made some progress so it was good enough for me.

I eventually met my wife and that's what would drive my sobriety, in a sense, away from drugs. I still abused alcohol. I was a respiratory therapist and I lost my job twice. That was the start of my spiral where it got dark again for me with my spouse and at the time, two-year-old daughter. Jenna, my wife, was gracious in stepping up for the family to make some money by starting her own photography business that led me to get into video. It led us to Kentucky to go to school. We're glossing over a lot to get to that.

It's a whole journey. The amazing part is you being able to talk about this. Keep going. I know what’s coming but for the readers, for you to be able to get to this point of being able to talk about it is huge.

That's where we get to Project Echelon. That’s a huge part of it. I used other programs to heal. I had a service dog. This was on the other side of my actual suicide attempt in 2008, shortly before I met my wife. I didn't tell her until 2020. She didn't realize how close in proximity my suicide attempt was to meet her. If she had known that and how I was doing drugs up to the week before I met her, that might have sent her running. It's weird when you think about the timeline of these things but I came out of these situations.

I went to Kentucky to go to film school. That's where I had my biggest meltdown. It was this moment in the production trunk. I was directing an eight-minute TV series. It wasn't a real one, but you had to script it, work with the cast and crew and direct it. If you were a second or two over or under, you lost 10% of your grade because in network TV, live production you have to be on. They owe $250,000 worth of airtime to this advertiser. If they cut two seconds off of it, they lost a whole bunch of money. It's high stress. You're in this truck with your headphones on. All of a sudden, I didn't realize it was going to do this. It sounded like being overseas in the comms on the radio while you're in this truck that’s so familiar. I broke down and ended up walking out of the truck. My teacher was gracious and let me do it again and I passed.

There was much in that time in life that broke me down to the point where I had to drop out of school and figure out what I was going to do. At that point, I had another plan to attempt suicide. I wasn't actively going to do it but I would daydream about how I would do it. I would go into the attic and pray that my wife would find me and nobody else or my kids. That came out in a meeting with one of our nurses in the home care program from the VA for the caregiver program. That started me on the path because that was my wife's worst fear and I was watching her fall apart. She stepped up again and found me a program called Save A Warrior. That was a 5.5-day war detox program that got me on the straight and narrow, but I still felt something was missing. I kept wanting to go back to the military to be a police officer CIA, SWAT, Covert Ops, and all this masculine superhero stuff. It wasn't possible for my family and me. I was like, “Do I want to do PT at 4:45 in the morning?” Probably not.

I figured physicality was something I could bring into my life now and replicate some of the stuff I missed in the camaraderie of the military. I always wanted to try a triathlon. I didn't have the money to do it so I didn't know how to. I started looking into it and I was like, “The average triathlete makes $135,000 a year.” The average triathlete spends $10,000 to get into Ironman.” I was like, “How am I going to do that?” I talked to my wife and she supported me. My mom signed me up for a $70 race. It was a gift from mama for a birthday. I needed a bike and I didn't know what to do and how to train. Eric Hill's wife was my wife's friend in high school and they're both elite athletes.

Is Eric Hill the Cofounder?

Yes, two Erics. I’ll admit that it’s confusing in board meetings. Like giving tasks, it’s, “Eric, will you reach out?”

It’s easy to blame each other.

FIF 22 | Overcoming PTSD

Yes, “Eric, I thought you were going to do that?” “No. I’m going back to the beach like in the military.” It's easier. I reached out to him and he helped demystify the sport, tell me what I needed versus what I wanted. Did I need the aero helmet on my first triathlon on sprint distance? Probably not but you get wrapped up in that mindset of, “I’ve got to look like the pros and stuff but you don't necessarily need it. He helped demystify that. We went out and campaign for funds to afford some of the more expensive aspects of it in the future. He told me, “What we did in this training is we started a nonprofit. Would you want to do that?” I’m like, “Yeah.” When you find something that works for you, you want to open that up to others. Project Echelon became this thing that was modeled after my own journey from suicide to living and using endurance sport specifically for me to do that. We started Project Echelon and have helped over 100 veterans get into cycling, running, and gym memberships. Two people have run Ironman since we've started Project Echelon. Getting to help those veterans and their family members take that journey I took to health and healing through endurance sport has been one of the greatest rewards of my life.

It's a long-term. That's the best part of it. PTSD has a lot of stigmas. You said in one of your interviews about the invisible wounds. That's such a huge thing because we don't see it. It's hard to believe sometimes and to be like, “Why don't these people get over it?” It's a daily challenge, isn't it, and it continues.

It does. I reflected on this with my wife. You'd spoke about using your voice and Project Echelon was that thing that gave me a platform to use my voice. That's something I discovered was vital to my own healing. We all have the thing we need to embrace for us to grow. For me, boldness in speaking and not worrying about what people were going to say about me or that I was wrong or whatever negativity comes my way, didn't outweigh the need for me to speak up. I would tell myself, “No one wants to hear what I had to say because everyone's heard it.” “I know all the tips and tricks. You read that from a book. We don't need to hear from you, Eric.” That would hurt me.

I need to speak out because what happens when I don't communicate to a friend like Eric Hill or anybody else who's striving when I don't connect on a Facebook forum for Project Echelon or something to that effect, I don't write my book and guidebook, I don't develop things and put myself out there. I regress fast. It takes 2, 3 days and all of a sudden, it's been three days and I'm sitting here depressed. I'm in a funk, I don't want to work out, I don't want to do anything. It's a constant process. When you avoid those things, your mind goes back to this PTSD mindset or post-traumatic stress disorder where our mind wants to keep us safe from the world. Even though it has no idea what the real world is because it's an ancient part of our brain saying, “If you stay home and stay quiet, nothing can hurt you.” Even though that's a real death to ourselves. Post-traumatic success development is where you actually avoid all of those things that want to keep you still in sitting and move forward. If you don't do it, you'll get sucked back into the cave.

For me personally, I've seen the greatest growth in the sense that my PTSD, my symptoms, instead of two weeks, it’s two hours. Instead of a month, it's a day. I can come back. At that time, I'm talking to my wife and that's a key because my wife wants growth for herself too. The other side of PTSD, as you said, the invisible wounds, my wife said, “At best, most times, PTSD is invisible to everyone except those in the family.” She gets a front-row seat and that damaged her so I needed to give her space to heal too. The fact that we're both healing together is my definition of love because love is the willingness to extend yourself, to yourself or to another the gift of spiritual development. It’s getting out of her way and empowering her to grow in woodcraft or whatever she wants to do. It’s the same thing she did when she said, “Sure, Eric, do an Ironman.” That's no small act. None of it is.

Would you call it healing or as building resilience? The more that I've gone through it as well as understanding that I don't think I'll ever be whole again. Talking with a lot of people they say, “I don't feel whole. I don't feel every day that I'm getting off on the right step.” It's building that resilience to make each day count because it's worth it.

That's the concept that used to bother me so much when I was first starting. When people would tell me, “You're always going to have PTSD.” I’m like, “No, I can't. Surely I have to be able to grow.” The more I do it, the more I've accepted.

That's such a huge word that you said, acceptance.

Acceptance, that's been the biggest part. The catalyst was resilience and the other one was ownership. Those two in pairing I would say are my two biggest things. Ironman has been a great opportunity and proving ground a training ground for resilience because the race wasn't about a podium or a medal, it was about putting myself into the fires were coming out gold. It was a transformation and the fact that if I can do this if I can lean in on this ride, that's 3 or 5 hours long, I can certainly go and finish the last bit of my writing that I have to get done for my project. If I can put myself in this acceptable pain and not life-threatening, I can realize how tough I am. That toughness can then transpose itself on to living situations in relationships and not being intimidated by the successful person I'm standing in front of sharing my heart with.

It's interesting because I was watching your Quest for Kona video. You guys can also watch that on. It's on YouTube. You can search Quest for Kona and look up Eric Beach. You can hear all about a story and I'm not going to ruin the ending for people but there was something interesting in there that you said. It was right before the race and you said, “I'm dreaming so big. It scares me.” Tell me more about that statement because that's a huge statement.

That's something that I've realized. If I'm not dreaming big enough to scare myself, I'm not dreaming big enough. A dream is something that should be out of reach of reality. I'm not saying I want to go to the moon, because I know what it takes to get there. I know the level of mathematics required to get there and I'm not that guy. When I do when I dream, when I look at something out of reach and it has to be big and it freaks me out bad when I find my dreams. I have a couple that are scary but all the steps required once you get that dream have to be something you're willing to do. If the dream for me is, “I want to be amazing to be a running back in the NFL.” I’ve got to look at that objectively.

I’ve seen you run and that’s not going to happen.

No, it’s not. Have you seen my thighs and upper body strength? I'm over the age limit to enter the NFL. I'm not going to do that one. That's a dream and it's cool and all but it's not one that I can pursue. I know that but when I look at qualifying for Kona, that's scary. I look at it like, “Could I do it?” You have to look at the time commitment and I had to be willing to say, “For 5 or 6 years, I dedicate myself to this.” Am I willing to do that and writing a book like yourself, that's scary too, because people are going to judge it? They're not going to buy it. Would anyone even care? Who am I to put out a book? I'm not Ryan Reynolds or some huge celebrity. That's all scary but that's all overcoming all the obstacles for me. You have to figure out if the steps to get to that impossible dream are possible.

One of the great things about what you were saying was you don't want to go to the moon and become a running back. Everything has to revolve around what your purpose is and what your passion is and that's a hard thing. Going back to your military, when you got back, what was your purpose and that was something that you were talking about. You didn't know how to find that purpose. A lot of veterans have that issue. You leave this sisterhood of I know my task, mission and objective. You get back into society and it’s like, “Where is it?” That's the hard thing. Can you tell us more about that part of it? When you're talking about your dark moments and suicide, there are a lot of people that go, “There isn't any light. There isn't a path for me.”

That's a big one that I've been dealing with now is how to communicate it. I've had, in the past, people would ask me that question and I'd be like, “I haven't sat down and thought about it.” It's like you arrived at this point and you're like, “How did I get here?” You invest and look and I was reading something and watching something. I don't know if you're familiar with Sebastian Junger, he wrote a book called Tribe. He talks about the idea that Western civilization is built and set up for depression. What he means by that is when you look at the tribal situation or the setup of some indigenous tribes still lives in, they're under 35 people.

What he has found is the largest living unit that a person can live in and be happy. We don't have that but in 35 people, you know who you are. In a unit of 70, I'm the number one man and the gun. I know my roles, responsibilities and I know how to shut up and wait for someone to tell me to sweep up rocks, pick up cigarette butts or find the motor boy. I show up for PT and I don't have to think about any of it. I know who I am and where I stand. I'm a specialist, a private first class, a sergeant, a first sergeant. Everything is so set up in a hierarchy, that your group that you're in is seven people in your squad and 30 people in your platoon. It's a small unit and that 35 people in the first platoon is 1 of 3, which makes up the 70 or 90 people in your battalion, company or battery. Everything is small and it breaks down to a small intimate unit. You go out to the civilization where the small town that I went back to was 67,000 people. That's a smaller town for the state where I was living. How do I fit into that? Where's my identity?

I find it in my twelve friends who drink and party. That becomes my identity. I know where I stand. I'm the funny guy in this group. I'm the veteran who we joke about, “We can get into a fight tonight because Beach is here.” That was my identity and I was a rebel in a sense and got pulled over, got out of a ticket or something. I was heralded, I was scared but I go to the party and people would be like, “That's epic. Tell the story about that time you got pulled over and didn't get a DUI.” That became my identity. You have to find the right group of people and get away from your identity found in that group and that is hard.

You're breaking away from the pack. Which if you're a wolf, it means death, because you have to be in a pack so you're literally fearing death and breaking away from what you try to find through anonymity. That's what it is. We're around people all day on social media or on the streets. We don't know any of them. We're by ourselves. That's not how we were meant to be. We're meant to be in small groups so you have to find your tribe. Project Echelon is much my attempt successfully, I'd say, to create tribes of people within the tribe of and it's not only in triathlon.

That's a great thing for any veteran out there that's reading this and says, “Do you what? I'm looking for my tribe. I'm looking to help my inner voice speak better to myself. Project Echelon is that outlet.” The thing with Project Echelon that I love is there's so much ability to be yourself there. That's the big thing. Find your path through endurance sports and find others that have that same feeling that you may have.

That's another growing experience for me. It was the letting go of, “It has to be done the way I did it and you have to follow my path.” When you first find something that works, you want to shove it down everyone's throat and not give them a chance to make it their own. That's a growing experience and I truly and firmly believe that the physicality of what you do. I'm saying it could be yoga, 5k, a running event, a biking event, swimming, weightlifting or anything like that moves your body and releases those natural chemicals like the endorphins, dopamine and all of that. It allows you a wonderful partner in challenging some core beliefs you have about yourself because that's where it's tough to sit with and challenge yourself.

I can't control anyone out there so what's my part in this problem? What’s the boundary I need to set that got me into this mess in the first place? When you're out on a bike ride or running and you ask yourself and reflect on those questions or shortly after the end of the run, you have dopamine in your system. You don't beat yourself up so much. You can ask yourself those questions and move on to and discover where you need to go for your next stage in healing and you're not alone. You can throw that against the group and say, “I'm feeling this way. Is this valid?” People can say, “Me too.” That powerful word of me too is harder to find in an echo chamber.

FIF 22 | Overcoming PTSD

You have the ability and the courage to say that you feel this way because there are a lot of people, myself included, for a long time you feel you're damaged and you don't want to say anything. You don't want to say that I'm feeling this way because people are going to look at you differently. You're saying, “How did you get to that point in that internal conversation?” because that was the same with me. Get to that point in an internal conversation to say, “It's okay to be vulnerable and say that you're not feeling the best. You're not feeling you are worth being around.”

This harkens back to my favorite quote, which is from Mary Oliver, which goes something to the effect of, “Someone I loved once handed me a box of darkness. It took years but in time, I realized it was a gift.” I'll break that down because it's a beautiful quote, but it sounds scary. When I left the military to your point, I was labeled as no longer effective. That was the phrase that was stamped onto the paper because I had admitted I was having trouble sleeping and had PTSD. My first sergeant said, “I have no use for you then.” That was hard to hear from your purpose. I went through this process and when I got to this point where I had a service dog and I sat with this quote, it challenged me for ownership. What I realized was I had blamed everybody else for my problems. I needed to own my part in all that I did because there was nothing that I could do to anybody else that was going to make me feel better.

To get to that point, it took a conversation. I'll say that it was not forced on me but losing your job and having a wife who cares about you, pushes you and wants the best for you, gave me the confidence and who didn't judge me. My wife, I dragged her out of bed in a nightmare. I woke up and she woke up too, me grabbing her ankles and dragging out of bed. That was scary. She didn't want that life but she didn't run away from me. The reason I married her when people say, “Why did you fall in love with your wife?” It’s because she was the only person in my life that didn't run away from me and to have that love was empowering because I wanted to honor it. I had to look at myself and open up to mentors. I had to read books and own the fact that this is going to be painful because it's all on me. Nobody else can do this for me. The psychologist can't do it for me unless I open up and commit to it. I'm truthful for him and to her and say, “This is my real feelings. This is how I'm doing. If we gloss over it and we avoid those moments, as uncomfortable as they are, they will always stay that way and will always stay in the dark.

The truth is no matter how dark things are, there's always candlelight in the room of darkness. Sometimes it's right behind us and no matter how much we look around for it, it keeps staying right behind us. That's partly because we need to open up ourselves to allow someone to look over our shoulder and say, “The light is right behind you.” You’re like, “Yeah.” I can look over my shoulder and see it. Sometimes that's a psychologist, a spouse sometimes that's a friend or a mentor but you have to be the one who opens up to them and says, “I need help.” It's always there. That's the one thing I've learned after my suicide attempt in 2008. I've done things I never thought I would do. I've gone to France to raise Ironman. Are you kidding me? That's not my story or starting a nonprofit. All these things that I've done shouldn't have happened on the other side of this suicide attempt. It took my willingness to finally say, “I can't find this light you’re talking about. Where is it?” I wanted that and I found it. I've always been able to find it since because the tools I've developed over nine years or however long or how long it has been.

I love that story because it is developing those tools and at the same time, it's finding that light every day. A lot of people are like, “That's exhausting.” Life is worth it. Who would have thought? You would have never thought that you would have gone to France to race an Ironman. It takes every single day and work. A lot of times, people hear these stories and they go, “I've never been in the military or fire service. How does this relate to my life? It doesn't have to be those extreme circumstances, like depression or fear is in everybody's life, from teenagers to people in their 70s. What you're saying is that internal conversation. What would you say is the biggest thing for your internal conversation that you ask yourself, maybe daily, to get yourself on the right path?

I've read a book called Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. It's become one of my biggest tools. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand the truth of our emotions. I've always asked myself this, when I feel something, I use a strong emotional response to be my guiding rod or divining rod. Instead of finding a well I find the truth to what the emotion is trying to tell me. What I have told myself is when I feel something, I say, “Remember, feelings and emotions never lie, but they don't always tell the truth.” I have to look at the emotion that I'm experiencing because that's truthfully the most I get pulled out of my success is a strong emotion and whether it's anger or despair. Those are the two most common.

If it's despair, I tell myself, “Stop.” I'll say this too. It takes time to catch it because you’re not like, “I'm feeling despair. Let me sit down.” Sometimes two hours have gone by and I'm like, “We're doing that thing again where we think everything is horrible. We're going to fail and now we're not going to talk to anybody.” When despair is present, I always ask myself, “What is it that I'm doing that I need to stop doing?” “What is it I'm not doing that I need to start doing?” What that is, despair is this emotion that hits me and us. When I say despair, it's not depression. I say depression as a clinical diagnosis. This is a chemical problem in the brain. When we talk about depression, a lot of times we're talking about despair. That's why I say despair.

Despair is often the fact that our emotions are trying to say, “You're being that person that you aren't. You wearing that mask or your old habits that prevent you from discovering your authentic self is present. We're trying to kill that false self.” It's not killing the physical self. That's where the call to suicide can get muddled for me as I was trying to kill the fake person that I had become, not my real self. That's what I always ask myself, what is it that's trying to die in me or grow in me? Sometimes it's an eating habit. I need to stop the way I'm eating because I'm not going to get to my goals if I don't. I have to understand why I eat the way I do. What is it I'm trying to avoid through food? What is too hard? It's usually, “You're putting yourself out there so we're trying to protect you from it.” I'm like, “No, I want that protection. That's death to me. I have to do this.”

When I feel that I can make choices or if I'm angry, what is it that I'm angry about? What unmet expectation is happening? Why do I deserve it? I would get angry about being with elite athletes or Project Echelon because they're good and I'm not. I had to say something like, “Why do you feel entitled to it?” You're not training, eating and recovering like them. Why should you perform like them? You have to own that. That's where ownership comes in where it scales back to reality. What steps are you willing to do? What are you willing to do to get out of despair and make forward progress?

That becomes my biggest thing and I'll tell you this, a lot of times what we do if we're willing to sit and track it back, it's a decision we made before the age of eight. A lot of our worldview is formed by age 8 or 9. If you've never been to war, it doesn't matter. I didn't go to war at eight but some people were in abusive households. Whether their parents weren't there for them or whether their parents were there but were verbally and physically abusive or their parents were overindulgent and gave them everything they wanted. Those are all things that set us up to be confused and uncomfortable.

I loved what you said. It's not acceptance, it's the ownership of who you are. You and the person that's going to change you is you and taking that. Eric, your story is amazing. This is a random question here but what would you say your greatest accomplishment to date is?

That's a beautiful question because I would have said Ironman France initially but what I would say my greatest achievement has been sitting with my own emotions and owning and burning my victim card. For me, it’s to stop blaming everybody else, figure out not that the situation happened and saying, “This person abused me. It’s cool that it had to happen.” It's not that. It's understanding that the box of darkness, back to the Mary Oliver quote that I was handed, is my greatest impact. Not because it happened but because it did happen and I'm going to do something about it.

FIF 22 | Overcoming PTSD

I'm going to empower myself to help somebody else who has handed the same box of darkness because people can't be handed abuse, trauma and be helped by someone who hasn't experienced that same thing. My realization and greatest empowerment is the fact I've survived the fires of what I've been through in my life and now giving it back because I'm willing to sit with it, agree with it, hear it and say it happened. How can it prevent it from happening in the future? What can I do to learn about myself because it happened and how can I give that to somebody else? That is my greatest achievement in life.

It’s to give and give. I want to tell any veteran that's out there or even other individuals that are struggling to find that calm, peace and contentment to go to You guys have information on there. You can also contact Eric and Eric, that's not confusing at all, and find that self-discovery or a new path. In essence, travel down that journey path that Eric Beach has traveled down and he can help you to find that new path that's going to lead you to your potential because everybody has their own journey. Eric, I have to say that listening to you is an amazing thing. I'm constantly trying to get better in listening to individuals like you and being able to help other people. It’s an amazing journey you’ve been on.

Thank you and I appreciate your work too because it's people like you that create systems to help people unpack their hurts, hang-ups and move forward that makes it accessible and easier for someone who doesn't know where to start. I appreciate the efforts you’ve been doing.

We’ve come to an end and I've got three questions that I asked you. You've answered one of them and we have a rapid round of questions for you. This is exciting. There's no pass-fail. There's been a lot of fear of that in the past. Here's my first question for you. What is one thing you haven't done but it's outside of your comfort zone?

I want to say this and it sounds vain, but I want to go on an audition for a movie. That sounds wildly uncomfortable to put myself in front of someone and let them judge me based on my appearance and my ability to embody a character.

Are you thinking of romantic comedy?

I never saw myself as a leading man. Maybe I’d be the best friend.

Maybe it’s like Good Will Hunting and you'd be Ben Affleck. I like it.

I'll be Ben Affleck to whoever is Matt Damon.

The second question is always your quote but you went over that. I love that quote. Can you give us that quote again because it's a great one for those individuals seeking a little clarity?

Mary Oliver said, “Once someone I loved handed me a box of darkness and in time, I realized it was a gift.” To clarify, what that means is that the traumas in our lives do happen. We're not excusing them, but we're saying we own the fact that they happened. It's now on us to figure out how to use it to empower or disempower ourselves and empower ourselves through healing and helping somebody else who has been handed that same box of darkness at trauma.

FIF 22 | Overcoming PTSD

Here's the last question. This one's going to be interesting. If you could pick to have coffee with three other people at a firehouse table. At the firehouse table, nothing is off the table, you can talk about everything and it’s joking. Who would it be and why?

I would have to say this would be Mirinda Carfrae. For those who don't know, she is one of the greatest Ironman athletes of all time and subsequently she is the reason I wanted to do Ironman. I saw her overcome a fourteen-minute deficit on the run to beat Daniela Ryf. It was the 2014 Kona World Championship. There was something about her personality, running technique that inspired me and I knew I had to do the sport. To be able to sit down and talk to her would be incredible.

That’s a great choice, two more.

Do they have to be living?

No, they don’t.

I would say Carl Jung, the psychoanalyst therapist, which was Freud's counterpart. He and Jung in psychology have been a huge tenet to my own healing and understanding of the subconscious, unconscious mind, the collective unconscious. How to reintegrate different parts of ourselves emotional intelligence and all that stuff stems from him. I feel that he had much more to offer but you get old and die. I’m curious what volume two would be.

The last one is a toss-up between two. It’s in a movie so it would either be Ron Howard or Ryan Reynolds. The reason for both is Ryan Reynolds seems the ultimate actor, humorist type of person and humble. I want to know how that works. How you can go to that level of achievement and notoriety and still stay seemingly amazing and a person I could be friends with versus the elitist like Tom Cruise or something like that. We’re not going to be buddies. Ron Howard gets movies in a different way. It would be fun to work with him on a movie if I wrote a screenplay and he gets a story. I want to pick his brain about that.

That’s a good firehouse coffee session. A bunch of them would talk a lot with enough coffee in them too.

They’re diverse enough and it would be interesting to see the common thread. It would be me if I think about it.

It is your coffee table. Now we’ve got the rapid round. I’m going to give you two things and you have to pick one. Paper or plastic?


Soup or salad?


McDonald's or Taco Bell?

That’s the hardest one, Taco Bell.

Camping or hotel?


Fly or drive?


Sleeping late or wake up early?

FIF 22 | Overcoming PTSD

Sleeping late.

Run or walk?


Partly sunny or partly cloudy?

Partly cloudy.

Fire or water?


Use a porta-potty or continue to run to a physical bathroom?

Porta-potty, if I’m lucky enough.

Coca-Cola or Pepsi?


Go big or go home?

Go big. One of my friends said, “fight off more than you can chew and figure out how to swallow it later.”

I appreciate everything that you have. If you want more information from Eric Beach and his story, go to He's also a film producer if you're looking for something it's Vera Volta Productions. He is a fantastic interviewee. Thank you for your time, Eric. I definitely look forward to talking to you again.

I appreciate it. It was a blast.

Thanks for reading.

Important Links:

About Eric Beach

FIF 22 | Overcoming PTSD

The Veteran

Eric enlisted in the US Army in 2002 and was honorably discharged in 2005. He served one tour in Iraq from 2003 to 2004.

The Athlete

Eric is an Ironman triathlete and was recently a cast member on NBC Sports new series "Quest for Kona". He believes through training and competition, we can find a healthy release to the stresses found post military separation.

This release burns off the energy which prevents us from looking beneath the masks we wear and the personas we play in every social interaction. We can look beneath it all and discover our authentic self. He also believe re-discovering the physicality we miss from military service, paired with a different philosophical approach to training, is vital to many veterans journey to healing.

The Man

Eric has been on a journey of healing since 2007. Through all the failures, setbacks, he realized each trauma and each life choice/experience has built him a platform. Every experience, good or bad, uniquely qualified him walk beside others who are walking a similar path. This type of relationship is required to allow others to feel comfortable enough to do the inner work required to find, expose, and heal the hidden wounds of our past.

He is married to his wife of Jenna. Together they have two daughters. Eric is motivated by his wife and children to heal so he can be the man they deserve.

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