“From Birth to death, everything in between is a memory and will later become your history” – T.M Cullen
With Movember in full flight and the upper lip getting a little itchy, while I sport the worst attempt at a moustache for charity since Caitlyn Jenner went the full snip (Too soon?). I only thought it fitting you all heard from the man behind the blog. The month of Movember is a timely reminder of mental health and health issues for men in general with Movember being the foundation in which research is launched into a myriad of growing health concerns. For me it’s a double edged sword, a month in which I am proud to raise money for something that is close to my heart and also a reminder of a former life that helped to push me in this direction but also threatened to break me all over again. A life full of memories both good and bad, a life that I am thankful I got to experience but also one that taught me a lot of lessons about life and about myself.
Known as Daily Write Cullen to the readers or the Bossman to those who contribute to the literary genius that is A Mind of Its Own. I thought it only fitting being almost 2 years down the track that we, more specifically I, tell you the real story about how and why this blog came to be. The inception of what has become a weekly fluff piece or time waster for some people has become a life saver for me in some regards. It’s given me something to focus both my time and energy on week in, week out. It’s an outlet when I am not working on my book, keeping fit by hitting the gym or playing sports. Whilst many will call that a distraction I would say that it’s a healthy distraction that allows my creative side to flourish and gives our fans and friends something to laugh at each week.
What you are about to read is a story that a lot of people will be familiar with, a story that is probably no different to anyone else’s who suffers from anxiety or depression. It’s a story that helped to create this blog and furthermore the rekindling of the love for the written word. I’ve never been good at talking or writing about myself and when you throw my anxiety and depression into the mix it’s even harder to document and talk about. It’s something that over time I have become more and more comfortable with and accepting of. It’s been a part of my journey and a part of my growth to who I am today.
So to start I need to paint you a picture. Looking back at my youth and growing up there were never any traumatic events or occasion that would trigger anxiety or depression for that matter that I can recollect. Even speaking with my parents now about it all and asking questions there is still nothing that we, as a family can put it down to. I was a happy child who despite having parents who divorced when I was very young and having a stepfather who was often a giant arsehat, had an upbringing in which my mother and father strived to give me everything I needed to be successful in life. Like all kids I fought with my brother and sister but over the years have come to realise just how much they mean to me to the point I have their first initial tattooed over my heart.
I grew up with parents who despite being apart, both wanted the best for me and wanted to see me succeed in whatever it was that I chose to do in life. They supported me and bent over backwards to ensure I could go away on sporting trips to represent my state and had everything I needed while doing that. They supported my hopes and dreams and mum was always driving me to training, games and trials. Academically they could have pushed me a little more but at the end of the day I got their in my own way and perhaps that was the lesson they were trying to teach me. Whilst you can help someone as much as you like at the end of the day if they aren’t willing to do it for themselves they’ll never truly do it.
Along with my grandparents they instilled in me great morals and values. In essence they’ve helped to mould the man I am today. There have been others along the way from coaches to friends and family as well as heroes and idols. They all played a part in shaping who I am, but ultimately I was and I am responsible for the person who I’ve become. I don’t blame anyone or anything for my journey and how things have now turned out, after all everything happens for a reason and I would not be who I am today without the lessons life has taught me. The older I get the more I can look back at moments in life and recognise those life lessons and specific events in which they happened. I also have a lot of hindsight moments after the fact but that’s part of being human.
So what does all this have to do with A Mind of Its Own well the answers lie below. When we look at a piece of art, we all see it differently, we interpret the artists intentions and message differently. I guess that’s what it’s like living inside my head as thoughts and feelings whirl around doing back flips, forward flips and somersaults or perhaps that’s what it’s like for everyone living with anxiety and depression in general but I can only speak for myself. While many people are organised and methodical with their thoughts and feelings, my mind is more like a Jackson Pollock painting with paint flying everywhere across the canvas. That’s probably how the first draft of this blog will look before it’s tidied up, spell checked and proofread. A scattergun approach of thoughts on a page to be deciphered and reordered to make some semblance of sense. But that’s the thing with life right?, sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense, no matter how many questions you answer.
I guess I’ve always known there was always something there, a demon lurking within, that was destructive and angry always threatening to pull me down into the dark pit of despair. From a young age there were signs and indications that I can look back at now and identify for what they truly were. From Anxiety attacks when I was younger and forced to do things I didn’t want to, some I now see as silly (The kindergarten Zucchini in Bikini attack comes to mind, a good story for another day) to the day after day of crippling depression that I would cover over as exhaustion or over doing it from training too much.
The funny thing is that there has always been a sport to mask it whether it be cricket, hockey or footy, in fact looking at it now sport or keeping active whilst being great for my mental health just helped to cover up what was really going on inside me. I would feel great from working out and getting a release of endorphins for a day or two but would come crashing down if my routine was thrown out of whack or things became out of my control. I would focus on burying myself in work, assignments and the latest video game in order to not have to admit to myself or deal with the fact that there was something that I was struggling with. That there is something that I will always struggle with.
Our parents and their parents and their parents, parents never spoke about their feelings or thoughts. It was just something you never talked about, there was and still is a stigma around mental health.It was almost like if you did talk you were crazy or losing your mind and on the off chance you found the courage to talk about your inner demons, there was a good chance you were shunned or called some not so nice names, before they threatened to lock you up in the mental asylum and throw away the key. Being male you were probably told to grow a pair and man the F*ck up. It was never ok to talk about your thoughts and feelings. Whenever I hear the saying “Children should be seen, not heard” it always reminds me of the stigma associated with mental health issues and that it’s still seen in certain circles as being not ok to talk about.
The older I got the easier i thought it would be to ignore the pain, thoughts and feelings that often dominated my mind, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. I would analyse everything and question myself and those around me. Have you ever been alone in a crowded room? Well I have, well at least that’s how I often felt and sometimes still feel. I could be surrounded by friends and family and yet still feel completely and utterly alone and that no one understood me. One would think that would be a clear indication that there was something wrong but being a somewhat wannabe tough guy, I would for many more years continue to ignore that there was something wrong and that i was not ok. I was of the elk that it was weak to speak and men didn’t cry despite the nights I’d shamefully hide my crying in the shower. It wouldn’t last long I would meet my match and someone that would push me to my limits until I would become physically sick and finally break.
To date I’ve truly loved two women, what does this have to do with anxiety and depression you ask? Both have managed to bring me to my knees and both times I tried to be someone I am not. I tried to hide what was going on within me and I changed into someone I thought I needed to be not who I truly am. Compared side by side both these women are actually quite similar in a lot of regards. Which had me questioning whether I have a type and whether that type is someone who is not a good match for my mental health but that is a question for another time and place. The one good thing to come from one of those relationships was this here Blog and the fact that I finally found a reason to get the help I needed. It would set me on a path of recognition and respect for myself and the battle that I’ll continue to face throughout my life. It wouldn’t be an easy journey but it certainly was, and is a necessary journey and one that will continue to answer a lot of questions about myself and where I want to go with my life.
Ultimately it would take me sitting by the toilet, tears streaming down my face, throwing up for no apparent reason whilst thinking my chest was going to squeeze the life out of me or my heart was going to explode out of said squeezed chest while my mind whirled with thoughts of what ifs and worst case scenarios before I finally realised I needed help. In hindsight it should have been sitting in the shower crying that did it but no it was becoming so anxious that I was physically ill that did it for me. The next challenge was speaking up and asking for help, which isn’t so hard in theory but something that I struggled with for a long time and with practice have gotten better with over time. I am thankful to the man who helped me through it all and put me in touch with one of Australia’s leading psychologists, he has become a true friend and someone that I can lean on. If I am honest the reason I first sought help wasn’t for me but more for the woman in my life at the time, yeah part of it was my want to be in a good place with my mental health to ensure we had a future together.
Whilst the marriage didn’t last the coping mechanisms and process to help combat the highs and lows will always remain. I would take the first steps to ensure I was on the path to a better, healthier relationship with my mental health. It wasn’t the easiest of journeys I’ll be honest about that. I would wage several skirmishes within myself before I finally accepted what was happening and what needed to be done. When the suggestion to go on medication was tabled I was strongly against it at first. The fear that it would numb me to the point I’d lose my creativity, just created more and more anxiety. What would my friends and family think? Would I be less of a man? Why did I need to do this? All the questions that ran through my head and which I would over analyse for days and days until speaking with the shrink who calmly outlined the benefits and gave me some assurances that I would still be me.
Welcome to my world Sertraline, a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. Yeah what the Fork is an SSRI? I asked that question when I first heard, thankfully good old trusty Google was there to inform me. Along with the leaflets and information packs handed to me by both the doctor and chemist. SSRIs treat depression and anxiety by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that carry signals between brain nerve cells (neurons). SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin into neurons. This makes more serotonin available to improve transmission of messages between neurons. SSRIs are called selective because they mainly affect serotonin and not other neurotransmitters. So I was now on drugs to help me out for a period of time to be determined by the psychologist, my doctor and I. The good thing was I was still feeling like me and I had time to think rather than reacting straight away to things happening around me. I wasn’t experiencing side effects, my creativity was there, my sex drive and even my emotions.
A plan was beginning to form as to how we would tackle my mental health and whilst I was still feeling a little emasculated being on antidepressants and having to talk to a psychologist on a regular occurrence. I was slowly developing techniques and strategies to combat the day to day effects of anxiety and depression. I would also find myself doing plenty of things I never thought I would like meditation and yoga for example. From cognitive behavioural therapy(CBT), Mentalisation Based Therapy (MBT) and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy I would try them all. I would take little bits and pieces from the sessions and build my own tactics and techniques for dealing with things. I would also find out what worked for me whether it was a release or coping mechanism if you will.
I would still have days where I would fall back into the pit attempting to claw my way out, but they would be few and far between. Over the months following my official diagnosis of general anxiety disorder or GAD as it’s known and depression I would rediscover my love of writing. At the suggestion of the psychologist as a way to deal with recognise and acknowledge my thoughts and feelings at the exact moment. I began to write things down What started out as a journal or diary of thoughts and feelings that were noted and then left on the page never to be thought about again until they were or are discovered in a box months or years later would bloom into something that has now become a piece of pride to me. As I sat one afternoon watching tv and flicking through the unrealistic lives of a lot people on social media, my ex wife said to suggested to me a blog would be a great way to get everything out and could potentially help others going through the same daily struggles. I was going to write a blog, I was going to write for others and not just myself. There was just one slight problem that I would need to overcome.
Whilst the idea of a blog was exciting and gave me something to focus on and pour all that unharnessed and often wasted energy into. I still had my anxiety and depression to deal with. As I wrote piece after piece they sat there waiting to be posted and this is where my anxiety would kick itself into overdrive. I would start to overthink and over analyse what people might think of the blog, of the topics and most of all of me. As I battled with myself whether to post or not to post, it eventually came to the point where ‘Dutch Courage’ or drunk Tim as he is better known pulled the trigger and hit the big post button.On the 13th of March 2018 the first post hit the website much to the disgust of my anxiety. I read that post as I typed this one out and laughed at the poor grammar, spelling mistakes and the fact that my life has changed so much since that day.
In what would become a voice for the people, an educator to the masses and a soapbox for the downtrodden. A Mind of Its Own was born out of a want and need to write. It would go through a couple of iterations before it became what it is today and over time a writing style would develop that is fun, factual and engaging. Well at least I feel it is all of those things. As we’ve said before no topic is safe from the Mind of Its Own twist and the more taboo the topic, the more likely we’ll write about it. The research that goes into each piece is a constant reminder of the research that I did when I was trying to understand and build a picture of what was wrong with me. As it turns out there is nothing wrong with me and writing A Mind of Its Own each week has helped me to see that I am ok, I will be ok and if I’m not ok that, that’s ok too. Living with an anxiety and depression is a common occurrence we just don’t talk about it enough.
I still get a little anxious putting things out there for the world to read and judge me upon but for me that is part of the healing process. The moments of pure vulnerability before I hit the post button each week remind me that I’m alive and that no matter what the world throws at me I’ll get through it. But in all honesty I could never have done any of this on my own.There have been a few people who pushed me along the way and to them I am thankful. There are my friends and family who read every post including the ones I warn them not to and show their love and support constantly and then there are the fans. Without them this blog doesn’t have a purpose. It is for you that these are written. Some of the topics have been suggested and some we’ve just winged from the start but every single one is for the people.
What started out as an outlet for me, has grown into a giant manchild of a blog that will continue to tackle the things that you don’t want to talk about but are quite happy to read about as you take your afternoon toilet break as a way to escape from your job for just a few minutes. It’s also got me thinking that a career in writing could be on the cards after all women love a struggling writer don’t they? Or is that just in the movies? Either way I’ll continue to put out the content week in, week out as it helps with my mental health and if people want to read it all the more better. And if they don’t they are missing out. Where else can you get some slapstick humour, digs at celebrities and actual facts all in one place? I literally spent the last ten minutes wracking my brain for an answer. I couldn’t find one maybe the Onion?
And so ladies and gentleman that is the origin of A Mind of Its Own, it started out as an outlet and soon grew legs and some courage to stand up and take its place alongside the fashion blogs, travel blogs, beauty blogs and the boring blogs that live in the dark corners of the interweb to be a blog that can literally take on a mind of its own and isn’t afraid to stand up and say it’s not ok. That’s the story folks, I needed another outlet that I enjoyed to help with my depression and anxiety and this here blog became just that. We’ve covered a wealth of topics and as previously stated will continue to cover any topic that sticks its head above the parapet.
So from all of the team here this Movember pull out your wallet and donate to someone doing Movember. It’s one less coffee, beer, wine or spirit this week and a great cause. The funds raised go to research into various men’s health issues (Cancer, mental health, suicide prevention) as well as support programs. and Hey it’s a great reason not to shave and raise some money. There’s a link below to my page or you can hit up someone else’s but please, please donate today. Until next week ensure you check in and ask someone if they are ok? Do it for me or someone else you know who’s battling. A single conversation can change someone’s life. Adios Amigos and until next time, thanks for taking the time to read my blog and if you have any suggestions for blogs you’d like to see written hit us up in the comments section.