Work On Me…

“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.

https://mobro.co/CullenTim?mc=1

H is For…

It’s a great month for mental health awareness, September is suicide prevention month and Thursday the 12th was R U Ok day. As some of our followers well know, mental health is a topic that is close to our hearts here at A Mind of Its Own. We’d like to think we are part time advocates and yet full-time suffers who are here to help others by spreading our message that it’s ok to go and seek help, it’s ok to be suffering and most importantly it’s okay not to be okay. So in tribute of mental health awareness we handed over the reigns to the big man and let him do what he does best and write this weeks installment all on his own. He took a big step last week personally in his journey through his battle with mental health. As a team we are proud of what he’s managed to achieve and the courage it took to do something so we’ll sign off and leave you to him.

There are a couple of days each year that I tend to get passionate about, AFL Grandfinal, Hockey grand final and well any sports final that is a good excuse to get on the cans (Tins) not breasts. But days where we get to stop and think about a cause that affects millions of people around the world, those are the days I am most passionate about. The causes that have not only affected me but those I care about and those I wish to help or at least attempt to help through my journey to wellness. As you go through this blog there is a lot of raw and emotional details that quite often gets left out of stories that are told but as some point they all come to light and need to breathe.

The term head fuck (sorry for swearing) was certainly something that was floating through my mind all day last Thursday. Whilst I can talk about pretty much anything there are certain topics that push my anxiety through the roof. Lets just say my body does not react well to stress or anxiety for that matter and given getting up in front of a lot of people is usually not my favourite thing to do unless it involves alcohol it was safe to say everything was on high alert and I was running the various ways it could all turn out in my head and what people would think of me once they knew everything about it or at least enough to start making their own opinions of me and what I am going through on a daily basis.

Sitting their palms clammy, chest tightening, thoughts racing through my head, in front of a group of people that know me as someone I am not. That is not my idea of fun or my idea something I want to do very often. Why was I there? I was there to tell my story, my battle, my fight, in the hope that it will inspire others to at least start the conversation. A conversation, any conversation, what we don’t often realise is that by having a simple conversation that we could be saving someone from themselves, from the darkness, from that abyss. Mental health issues affect everyone at some point throughout their lives. There have been times where I’ve sat at bars drinking my sorrows away talking to absolute strangers about my thoughts and feelings all because I knew the chances of seeing them again were slim to none.

And so last Thursday I dug deep and faced myself, my insecurities and my anxiety and depression head on but what I didn’t count on was the fact it would floor me a couple of days afterwards. I asked myself if it was a selfless act to help others or whether I did it more for me to face my fears. I left out a lot of the gory details but I shared enough that people understood that my journey hasn’t been easy. It took a woman for me to finally go and get myself some serious help. It only took one day where all my insecurities and issues flooded to the surface in a body wrenching panic attack that had me hugging the toilet bowl until I was sick. Sitting in the shower head in hands waiting for the next wave of nausea to hit me while my head swam in a sea of thoughts and self doubts that I couldn’t control.

I knew it was time for me to go and see someone, time to go and get some professional help and time to start putting my mental health first. I may not have done it for myself but I did do it for those I love and care about. I did what I needed to do to ensure I was on the road to recovery, on the road to rescuing what I could from that dark place I had ventured into. In a sense, who I am, hates who I’ve been. Yes, I thought it was weak to speak, I thought it was unmanly to not be ok, to let people know that I was not ok, I thought it cowardly to need help whether it be professional or from family or friends. Five years on and I now see that it takes more courage to speak your truth than it does to find every excuse under the sun to ignore what’s really going on.

So I sat there in a room full of colleagues and told the truth, the more I think about it the more I see that it wasn’t just for me it was for them to. If I got through to at least one person then I know I’ve made a difference. If not then at least I can say I did something that scared the absolute crap out me. It put me out of my comfort zone and made me face something I’ve often kept hidden from the public. It wasn’t that I was ashamed, it was that I didn’t think it was any of their business. I didn’t need everyone to know what I was going through, only those nearest and dearest to me needed to know that was going on. Then one day this blog started, first of all it was only ever meant to be an outlet for me to write as a coping mechanism something I would do to help me through the worst of it. Little by little I grew the courage and confidence until at one point last year the first A Mind Of Its Own post went live. Forever marking a milestone in my journey with mental health and a great day for our new fans who get some of their time wasted each and every week.

And we’ll continue to write, to spread the message and to question everything. I and the team will research what we don’t know, listen to other people and their opinions and continue to attempt to share both sides of the story even if we don’t like and or agree with them. We’ll also continue to highlight the stigma that comes hand in hand with mental health. We’ll give a voice to those who don’t have one or haven’t found the courage and confidence to speak up and ask for help. We are all about creating conversation or at least starting them and watching them go up like out of control bonfire and walking away. In some ways we are the instigators of the conversations that no one wants to have.

The following was written in a dark place at a dark time but it was written to give the reader a sense of what it’s like to suffer anxiety and depression from the mind of some who suffers and who is able to articulate feelings into words to allow a genuine description of what can and does go through the mind of someone who battles anxiety and depression on a daily basis. The description below is how it is to be in my head from time to time. It’s not always this way but a lot of the time it can be a dark fucking place where things make little to no sense. Well at least that dark place has helped us to create some kickass blogs over the past year that we a super proud of like really proud like a parent watching their child’s first dance recital or game of sport. So without further ado we hand back over to the bossman to show you the otherside.

Thousands of words flutter across the screen yet none of them make sense. Like your mind all scattered and your body that’s lost control. The legs that don’t work with the mind running at a million miles an hour. You question yourself and wander into the meadow of self pity and doubt. It’s not all flowers and greenery in your head, it’s the warzone with bullets flying, shells exploding and misery exposing itself to the world. Welcome to the daily struggles, the daily battle, welcome to my warzone. I don’t need you to challenge me I have a constant battle raging in my head. It’s a challenge to draw a ceasefire from the warring parties but there are days that you manage to negotiate a truce at least for a couple of hours before the first shots are fired to break the silence.

There are the days where the body just goes into shutdown or full revolt like the spanish in 1936. From feeling on top of the world one day to laying in the fetal position in the shower as you throw up from the anxiety induced nausea the next. Then comes the embarrassment like you’ve just crapped yourself in front of the entire school during assembling. Stuck in the infinite feedback loop of embarrassment that you let it get to the point you were physically sick and wanting to hide away from the world for days on end. That’s the sort of thing that goes through your mind once you’ve experienced the sweat, tears and chest tightening, nauseating effect that anxiety and depression can have on the body.

You wanted to understand it, see a little insight to daily life, well welcome to the world of an anxious man.Thoughts all battling to take centre stage, all there to make your mind a jumble of feelings, thoughts and constant complaints. And yet ours is just mild can you imagine a severe case of anxiety or depression. They say they understand yet they are often ill informed and question the why. Trust us when we say if we had the answers we’d tell you because we’d like to know ourselves. Why our smiles are often fake and our feelings are hidden behind a mask worn for the world’s sake just as much ours. We don’t really want the questions, sometimes we just want to be left alone in our darkness. Most of the time we’ll rise from our ashes like a phoenix born again until the next major battle.

It could be hours, days, weeks or months but nothing can prepare you for the next onslaught and the army marching through your mind, heart and soul. You might just get a taste of what it’s like for some of us on a daily basis and that will be enough for you to look into the light from the darkness. You still won’t understand or comprehend how we battle, how we strive, how we make it through the days but you will find a respect that wasn’t there before, something born from exposure to the thing you didn’t want to know or understand. Now you know a little bit more perhaps you’ll pay attention when someone needs or asks for some help. Maybe you’ll see the signs as they arise and be able to lend an ear because sometimes that’s all it takes, sometimes that’s all we need, someone to listen.

We’ll leave it there for another week and thank all our pundits for having a read of something that was a little hard for the big man to write but something that needed to make its way to screens of the men and women of Australia and the world. It’s something that we’ll continue to write about and something that will always be close to our hearts. We’ll continue to spread the message that it’s okay not to be ok and that it’s more than ok to seek help. So again we’ll wrap up this party and wish you all a fond farewell until next week or the week after. It really depends on who can come up with a new idea or blog and get it down on paper the quickest but never the less we’ll be back on your screens before you know it. So with that all said and done we wish you a bonza week and we’ll get back to you before you know it. A Mind of Its Own out…

Who Are You Anyway?…

This week we let the editor-in-chief take the reigns and share a letter he wrote to himself in a drunken haze, while he had to do a lot of editing, rewriting and sometimes guessing as to what he had written we thought it would be a good idea to share it with you all as an example of when things go shit that you can often remind yourself that there is always a future out there that you control. Because when you are at rock bottom the only way is up and sometimes we just need the rope and harness thrown down to us so we can start pulling ourselves out of the hole, hand over hand. So without wasting anymore of your time we’ll handover the keyboard to the boss and allow him to hit Ctrl+V and paste the letter and allow you all to read, ponder and question like we did whether we should have him committed.

Dear Editor-In-Chief,

If you are reading this it’s for a good reason, you wrote this letter to remind yourself that despite how you are feeling right at this very moment in time, as your eyes move from line to line reading every word and taking it all in. Things will get better, they have to get better and you will heal, we all heal. It just takes times and time is something you have plenty of. Make the most of the days, weeks, months and years you have on this planet and continue to have no regrets. There’s a difference between doing something and paying it lip service but you have always known that. It’s ok to be sad and upset, it’s ok to be angry but most of all it’s ok to feel the way you do. It’s natural and it’s part of the process, they say you’ll go through all the emotions and maybe you will, maybe you won’t there will however be a process that you will go through. But remember this letter is to remind you that in time things will get better but before then you will have some choices to make. Some that are easy, some that will be hard but at the end of the day you are the one who gets to decide on them. As you’ve always said you make your decision and you stick by it.

 

Like an absentee voter on election day, you have been missing for the last couple of weeks. While your body fills the seat in which you sit typing this, your spirit and mind are nowhere to be seen. Like a lost cat of dog you may need lost & found posters stuck to every light pole in the area offering a reward for your soul and spirit to be found. They are truly missing and with them you have lost the rest of yourself. You are a walking husk that resembles a zombie more times than not lately. Sleep eludes you as you lay awake pondering the future, past and present. You’ve lost the ability to find joy in life and people are starting to notice. Your colleagues at work and friends question how much you are sleeping and what you are doing with yourself in your spare time. They worry about you as does your family. You’ve never been one to take things lightly and we know you’ll be assessing everything and questioning yourself and everything going forward in life.

You might feel that life sucks at the moment and your life is coming down around you. Those foundations you built and planned on expanding upon are cracking, splintering and starting to literally fall to pieces like some dodgy tradesman’s handiwork. What you forgot to remember was the one thing you’ve told yourself time and time again. No plan survives initial contact and what could possibly go wrong, will certainly go wrong. Life has a habit of throwing people curveballs and though you might not be able to see it in this point in time you aren’t the only person who is going through things at this point in time. That being said you have some decisions to start making and for that you will need the following things.

 

Firstly you’ll need a clear head so do yourself a favour and put down the bottle. Sit and ask yourself how much alcohol you have consumed since that fateful day in late April? How many hangovers have you had? Ask yourself how your body feels and whether it’s coping with all the poison that you continue to pour into it night after night alone in the dark attempting to numb the pain and loss you are feeling. Put on your big boy pants mate, pour the drink down the sink and start to take life by the proverbial balls, take it like a man, yeah wrong choice of words but you know what we mean. You need to take a breath and put your general wellbeing in front of your current need not to feel a goddamn thing. There is a lesson in all of this somewhere and once you clear your mind you’ll have a little bit more of an idea what that might be but until them the wheels will keep spinning in the haze of your mind.

The second thing you need to do is stop looking for answers and reasons as to why. All it is doing is causing your anxiety to sky rocket and your depression to drag you back towards to that dark pit. Having been there before you know it’s not a good place for you to be and you’ll just make things worse for yourself than better if you let this drag you down. You want answers we get that, but sometimes there are no answers and you know that better than most people. You can feel the pain and hurt that comes with each word spoken between you. The tears you’ve shed are only just the beginning of the rough road that you will need to walk over the next couple of months. There will be good days and bad days but firstly you need to stop looking for answers, they’ll come over time and at present there are no answers. There is no one to blame, there isn’t a single moment that lead to this, this is life and unfortunately it will surprise you from time to time.

 

Not having someone or something to blame can be hard but it gives you something a lot of people don’t get and that’s opportunity, an opportunity to still keep some form of friendship, some form of decorum between the two of you and most importantly a piece of your heart still intact. Having that piece of heart allows the memories of the good times to far outweigh the bad. But should you continue to search for answers your mind is always going to be second guessing everything and everyone throughout your life. You deserve happiness and to have everything you want in your life you just need reminding of that from time to time, reminding that at the end of the day you are both good people who deserve the best in life and to be truly happy. It takes courage to speak your truth, remember that as you forge through the fog that is currently your world.

Thirdly don’t close yourself off from everyone and everything, in times like these it’s easy to throw up walls to protect yourself. It’s also very easy to shut yourself off from the world and become a hermit. You though need human interaction, you will go crazy if you are left alone with your thoughts and feelings. We are not saying distract yourself and not think about things we are saying don’t become a hermit. Don’t become detached from all the things that make you who you are. Make you the person that started on this journey, the person you have always been, the person you will always be. You owe it to yourself to get one foot in front of the other and continue on in the world. It’ll be hard, it’ll be damn hard but what alternatives do you have?

Drink yourself into a black hole after working so hard to get yourself out of the pit, spiral out of control and watch your life to continue falling apart? Lose your job because you are two hungover to turn up to work. Your friends give up on you because you don’t want to help yourself and turn them all away as no one could possibly know the pain and hurt you are going through. All that self pity won’t be worth a damn when you are on your own and a full blown alcoholic who needs rehab but no one is willing to help push you there. The only person you have to blame is yourself, you had an opportunity to make a decision early on in the piece how you handled this. Hence this letter. You are better than that and that is exactly why you made yourself write this letter to remind you that no matter how bad things get there is always going to be some good come from the worst of pain and loss.

Chin up and straighten that upper lip soldier, cry when you need to cry and lean on your friends and family. You are not alone and things could always be worse than they currently are. This will pass and the pain will heal with time remember that and if you need a reminder read through this letter and remember all the good times. Until then you are loved and appreciated always remember that. Get back into a routine and get yourself back to the fit, fun, friendly person you know you are. It won’t make the pain go away but it will certainly help you as you’ll have something to focus on and a goal to work towards. Until then believe in yourself you are your own hero.

Your biggest fan and supporter.

You

When writing this the intent was to remind myself that no matter what the darkest days hold there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel. While friends and family will be there to provide support and love they can’t be the ones to push you to forge forward with life that is on you and upto you to pull yourself through the fog into the light. It’ll take time as does everything when you are healing or trying to get past something that has hurt and saddened you to the core. At the end of the day i know I will be fine and I’ll be able to move on with life but for now I’ll shed a tear or two knowing that a chapter has finished in my life and that I have no regrets. Some of the best memories in my life have been made over the past couple of years and I’ve met some amazing and uniquely wonderful people who all have a story of their own to tell.

We all go through tough times in our lives, times that test us and show us what we are truly made of and what it takes to come back from the darkest of pits the lowest of days and highest of highs. Life, it’s never a guarantee that everything will be ok or go the way you want it to, that’s the thing about life it will continue to test you to ensure you know you are alive and show you that you are stronger than you thought. It’s shown me through all the tears that I am stronger than I thought and that at some point i will be ok and I will get on with life but for now, I’ll take it day by day and get one foot in front of the other. After all it’s all i can do while I heal and mend the wounds.

Friends and family are there for me and I am thankful to each and every one of them that has reached out and shown me that I am not alone through this time. Even those who’s support i feel I don’t deserve have shown me that there is a goodness in everyone and that people move on with time and are able to get on with things that means that you can two. They say life is what you make and well you’ve got yet another chance to make something of yours and show the world who you truly are and what you are made of. Though life is hard in these days, never give up for your day will come. Anyone who is a Bliss n Eso fan will know that one and the song those lyrics are from is something of an inspiration as it With Friends like you.

Two songs that remind us to never give up and that we are our own heros and when you reach rock bottom you will bounce right back. Not to sound like a broken record but over time things will heal and change for the better. Like the title of this weeks blog the coming months will be telling in answering the question of “Who are you anyway?” we are no doubt about to learn a thing or two about ourselves and who we are and furthermore who we want to be when we come through the otherside of all of this. With all this advice I have given I hope some of it has sunken in and I’m not going to ignore myself but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done the old, do as I say not as I do speech.

In what was one of our more heartfelt posts for the year we are hoping that we’ve provided you with an example of what you two can do when things aren’t going well in your life. A simple letter can be a constant reminder through the dark times that things will eventually get better. It’s not always easy to remain positive when things are falling down around you but all you can do it try and believe in yourself. It’s all one can do to get through day by day. Until next week remember you too can get by with a little help from your friends and its more than ok to ask for help, heck we should all be asking for help more often. Unfortunately that thing called ego often stops us from reaching out in our moments of need. Park the ego and get on with it. Until next week believe in yourself you are your own hero…

Halcyon…

The Webster dictionary gives us several options as the meaning of the word Halcyon, but we’ll just go with Tranquil, Calm, Peaceful. All things that when you switch on the news seem to things within a pipedream. While there may be pockets of beauty that people would describe as tranquil we live in a world that is far from Halcyon. Most people would say there lives are quite peaceful but what about those that don’t know or ever feel they’ll have inner peace? What about those that suffer from mental health issue will they ever find their own Halcyon or at least a little peace of it that will allow them to have a day or days away from fighting the battle that rages day in day out with there own minds.

When we first started this blog and it’s aptly titled self we never envisioned that we’d actually write several pieces that were personal and a slight insight into the minds behind the publication. Reading back through pieces we can see why people would think that we are mad, or at least a little angry with the world. The world we’ve created for ourselves in a bigger world where all we can do is try our best and be who we are. Not who people want us to be, or believe we should be. Our editor-in-chief has spoken several times about his battle with Anxiety and Depression. About the ups and downs, the highs the lows and the times he’s had to crawl out of that pit and put himself back together like a giant lego set. He’s not alone in going through this there are millions of people around the globe suffering but this isn’t something we haven’t told you before.

What does all this have to do with the word Halcyon besides everything of course. Think of Halcyon as a place in your mind. Now take that image and ravage it with the worst mother nature has to offer. All that chaos and destruction of the tranquil, calm, peaceful place is now replaced with uncertainty and fear. The more information we absorb the further into pit we fall. The black surrounding you like a blanket enveloping your skin and swallowing you up, stretching tighter and tighter around you until you can’t breath. Yeah that’s why this week we’ve gone with Halcyon to point out that you can go from a peaceful existence to a world of chaos within seconds and find yourself at the lowest of lows, you find yourself at Rock Bottom.

So what happens when you hit rock bottom and have to build yourself up again brick by brick. Do you have people you could rely on if this was to happen to you? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself what if? In today’s new age society we have plenty of life coaches that will tell you that you can’t think about the what if’s or have regrets because they’ll hold you back from obtaining growing, achieving and obtaining those future goals. But what if all those people are wrong and it’s not a bad thing to have what ifs and plan for the them. There is no reason you can’t have a future in which you protect yourself against a little pain and angst. Prior planning or preparation, prevents pisspoor preformances. The five P’s used by so many successful people around the world. That’s why people with Anxiety will often fall in a heap if something happens they hadn’t planned for or wasn’t part of their plan. They like to have routine and more importantly a sense of control.

Back to Rock bottom we aren’t talking about trying to prepare yourself for the worst but more so having some safety nets to fall into when the rug is ripped out from under you and your falling through the that floor towards the pit of despair. Because let’s be honest at some point in life we are all thrown a curveball or two that come out of absolutely nowhere and there is nothing we can do about it except stand there and swing. Swing with all we’ve got in the hopes of connecting and knocking it out of the park. There are those people that can bend and not break but for most of us that is not the case. Most of us break when thrown that curveball or proverbial rug is pulled out from under us. As we drift down through the blackness waiting for our bodies to slam into the bottom of the pit that for some people becomes bottomless, swallowing them whole, we are allowed more and more time to think. Time to reflect and this is where the what ifs come into play. By the time you reach the bottom your focus has turned to how in the hell are you going to dig yourself out.

Last time we check shovels and rope didn’t come at the bottom of a bottle but many a person turns to the bottle, while some people need heavier building equipment and find themselves nose deep in Columbia’s finest or Afghanistan’s brown being sunk into any vein they can find. The effects of drugs and alcohol on people’s inhibitions have long been documented throughout history. Hell the CIA and Army used LSD on soldiers during experiments and it was said to open their minds and mouths to things many had blocked out or forgotten. So it’s no wonder that a little dutch courage can have the tightest lipped people talking about their deepest darkest secrets and fears. Give them something a little stronger and they’ll tell you their unedited story word for word to the point your ears start bleeding. Every little nitty, gritty detail will come out, including things you didn’t need to know.

What does this have to do with the pit of despair and climbing your way back out or building yourself back up again. Well we are glad you asked because like always we have little insight and some advice we can provide. Like a shaken up bottle of soft drink it’s not going to spill over until you crack that lid open. Well to a lot of people wallowing at rock bottom in their pit of despair, drugs and alcohol are like those gimmicks people buy of those ridiculous TV advertisements to help them open tight lids on jars. They can often just have a placebo effect, in other cases they can actually work and crack the lid on all those thoughts and feelings that have been pent up well before but also during they time fell through the floor into the pit. Like Mount Etna erupting or that bottle of soft drink you’ve spent the last half an hour shaking. That pressure release can often feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from your shoulders. As everything spews forth onto the ground around you or the people around you.

Too often though that need to be able to talk and get things out, before it spirals out of control, leads a lot of people become dependant on the bottle, bag or whatever crutch they are leaning on to help them through the dark times. But once we’ve pulled ourselves from the pit and put ourselves into some serviable order it will only hold us back from putting the final pieces of our puzzle back into place to create a new or continue our way forward in life. Whilst everyone will tell you that everything is going to be ok on your way down and then on the way back up their is a period where you gaze up from the blackness and wonder if it truly will be ok. That’s before you stub your toes on those bricks and either start to build yourself back up, decide to solidify your foundation or just build a little hut to wallow in all your self pity like a human hermit crab.

Whatever you chose to do know that rock bottom is a place that we can all come back from, the bottom of that pit allows us a solid base to build upon time and time again until we become that person we truly are or the best version of ourselves. You can learn a lot about yourself, about the true you in the dark recesses of that pit. You can learn about the person you want to be, ought to be and truly are. Out of despair, sadness and pain heroes are often born and as we’ve learnt from history, if you just believe in yourself you are your own hero. We have the unique ability to be able to rebuild ourselves time and time again in any shape and form we chose that best suits our needs.

Lean on those around you, do what you need to do but remember no matter how black the pit there is always a light at the end that we can climb towards either on our own of with the help of friends and family. Look after your mind, body and soul, you’ll need them in the weeks and months to come, they’ll be your greatest asset in the rebuilding and climbing phases you will go through. Times will be tough there is no deny that but you got this far so hang in there a little while longer and you’ll make your way out of the pit, hand over hand, foot by foot, inch by inch. You can find strength you never knew you had in the strangest of places. To quote Ayn Rand, for those of you who don’t know who she was, she was ahead of her time and a brilliant author. Pick up a copy of Atlas Shrugged it’s a great read and a classic.

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”

― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

At Rock Bottom we have nowhere else to go, we have no other options but to either give up and as Ayn said let our our fire go out or to spark and ensure our hero doesn’t perish. As we close yet another albeit brief chapter of A Mind of Its Own we are reminded that life will throw you the unexpected, no matter how much you plan or prepare for it things will happen, they will creep up on you and they will hurt you. How you bounce back from it though is in your hands, you hold the power, not that black pit you find yourself in. Until next week, when you find yourself at rock bottom there is always options and always people you can lean on to help you climb. Adios Amigos!

Wicked Sensitive Crew…

It’s 2019 so one would think that people have the ability to overcome and adapt to the world around them, a world where people can be themselves without the fear of being judged or oppressed for their views and beliefs. That they would be free to ride the train in peace whilst reading a book. To not have to sit and listen to someone from another country preach anti-abortion and christian religious beliefs at them and a carriage full of people they don’t know. In an ideal world that would certainly be the case but in the world we live in where anything and everything goes, it seems to be the “norm” that anything that is deemed to be outside of the “norm” is strange and or just weird. Just like the guy on the Sydney train who, yes is entitled to his views and opinions should know there is a time and a place and that time and place is not on an evening train after everyone has had a hard day at work and just wants to wind down before getting home to their loved ones or pets.

Having spent plenty of time on trains across the country we and understand the need and want to just have a peaceful ride to your final destination. Why do you think so many people have headphone in and stare at their phones or tablets from the moment they get on the train to the moment they step off onto the platform. People like to use the time to decompress, the last thing they want is a raving American pushing religious beliefs and telling everyone he loves them. It’s bad enough we have a muppet in the white house let alone a religious nut on a train. If we were on the train we wouldn’t have been as nice as the man who eventually spoke up and asked him politely enough to shut up. As human beings we need to be more sensitive to others particularly in confined spaces. They say a comedian needs to be able to read the room with certain jokes, well the same goes for those who wish to get a point across as we said there is a time and place you just need to know when that time and place is.

Which leads us into this weeks blog, something that we looked at a lot over the week that has just flown by something that all our friends, family and followers out there with mental health issues might understand, something that is slowly changing and softening over time. In days gone by a man was defined by his masculinity, he was worshipped for his womanising ways and controlled the world through manly ways. But as Beyoncé said “Who runs the world? Girls” and any man worth his salt would know that. So why is it that men who are sensitive are seen as soft or less manly? If you are in touch with your feelings you are often on the end of some nasty name calling or ribbing from your mates at school or friends and family members? In a world where we are all striving for equality why is it that some women want all the same things as men and yet they still look for what they define as ‘A real Man’. They still have ‘man’s jobs’ or as we’ve come to know they as ‘Just the jobs they don’t want to do’.

So why as males are we become more sensitive, in an era where hipsters, trendsters and the LGBTQI communities are finally getting a voice. Why is it that the typical, fair dinkum, Aussie bloke become a softy? They say we are in the age of the Sensitive New Age Guy or as the ladies in CLEO, Girlfriend and other glossy magazines designed to create another generation of insecure, body image issued women refer to them as SNAGs. And yes that is a generalisation on our behalf we are well aware that it is not the intention of these magazines to portray a perceived image of what the ideal woman should look like. Perhaps that is just us being overly sensitive but there can’t be much of an argument against the fact that young ladies and women look at the covers of these magazines and subconsciously think that’s what I should look like or why don’t i look like that? Again we digress, and it’s time to get back on track to discuss the growing sense of sensitivity among young males.

When you think of masculine men we often think of the film stars of old that portrayed some of the most masculine characters you will ever see. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, Samuel L Jackson to name a few. Just pick a male film star from the 80’s and early 90’s, the characters were all tough, masculine men who took charge and could easily fit that typecast of ‘A Real Man’ that we have been culturally accepting of for generations. Perhaps there is some fault in media that continues to push what a real man should be like. Men shouldn’t be sensitive, they shouldn’t cry, they shouldn’t have feelings and they certainly shouldn’t be worrying about how everyone else is feeling and whether or not they are ok. That is and has been male culture for centuries, since we walked out of the caves and began walking proud and tall we’ve always shown a tough, masculine, non-sensitive side to the world.

It’s a little like wearing a mask that is only taken off in the confines of your own house when no one else is watching. So again we ask what is it that is making men, particularly young men and perhaps more the millennial than generation Y morph into actual human beings with thoughts and feelings. We say that with a little skepticism as some of them are quite rude little bastards who have no manners or respect which is one thing we’d change if we could. Always respect your elders! They’ve been there, done that and a lot of the times got the t-shirt just to prove it. Those that have found some sensitivity and are in some ways redefining masculinity as well as showing future generations that its ok to be sensitive are striving forward with confidence, their heads held high and we might have a few ideas why. The A Mind of Its Own team compiled a few thoughts and reasons why we feel a generational shift is allowing men to become more sensitive with some resistance from an unexpected party.

Ok so is it more sensitive or are males just feeling it’s becoming more and more ok to just be themselves? Are we becoming more accepting of our inner self, of out thoughts, of our feelings. Of all the articles we read there was pattern beginning to map itself out before us. The shift wasn’t just in our minds as sensitive middle aged men writing a blog in between trying to finish a novel that’s been in the works for several years now. It wasn’t that people with mental health issues are more sensitive. It’s a generational thing that points to the fact that yes the world is slowly but surely changing but there is always going to be resistance. Women according to studies are looking for that softer man as they take charge of their lives and families in the 21st century feeling more empowered. We read several articles and blogs before stumbling across an article in Forbes magazine by Jules Schroeder that outlined the 7 following reasons she felt men are opening up to being more sensitive whilst redefining masculinity.

1. They Value Self Awareness. While traditional masculinity says “don’t feel,” modern masculinity says “dare to feel.” Millennial men are committed to knowing themselves on a deep and personal level—even if what they find is difficult to confront or conflicting. Rather than hide from or deny who you are, become curious about who you are and have the courage to represent yourself authentically.

2. They Are Non-Conformist. The rigid gender roles for men and women are becoming more loosely defined as millennial challenge the status quo. According to one international study titled “The Decline of the Manly Man,” the percentage of men who are staying home to care for children is rising today while women are slowly surpassing men in academic performance and closing the income gap. The evolved man isn’t swayed by gender roles or what society deems “manly.” He doesn’t need to be validated externally by conforming. He acts according to his own volition, and he isn’t threatened by women rising, either.

3. They Don’t Want To Compete With One Another. Instead of trying to gain empty status, the evolved man knows his worth lies within. He is secure within himself to the extent that he doesn’t need to put others down in order to feel better about himself.

4. They Value Authenticity. Men have no need to pretend they’re someone they’re not, because they’re not ashamed of who they really are. You can cultivate authenticity in your life by ensuring your outer self is aligned with your inner self. One Boulder, CO-based movement, called the Authentic Man Program, is dedicated to empowering men in their authenticity so that rewarding interactions are made possible.

5. The Want To Be Vulnerable. Outdated masculinity says men shouldn’t show any sign of weakness. But modern masculinity embraces vulnerability as an expression of courage.

6. They Act According To Their Values. A man follows through on his values. He values his own sense of self above others’ sense of who he is so he honors his commitment to himself first and foremost.

7. They Are Motivated To Grow. Evolved men don’t just stop at “evolved.” They are continuously looking for new ways to grow and develop themselves. You can be proactive about your own development by attending education-based events. You will be better able to see your own blind spots in the context of relationships, so considering joining a men’s group or starting your own.

One disturbing fact that came out of researching this piece was the amount of mental and often physical abuse that is brought against men and women. While the values and role definitions in relationships and culture are shifting so too are the figures when it comes to abuse. While men tend to react more physically, the alarming numbers of women lashing out at their partners has been steadily climbing in the last 5 years around the globe. Men are still 50% less likely to report abuse with most citing that it would be seen as weak to do so. Those that did report it stated that it started out as verbal abuse escalating over time, taking a turn and becoming physical. Police were also less likely to believe a male than female when it came to reports of physical abuse with some officers reportedly laughing it off and telling the complainant to just go home and sort it out.

It would seem even as we shift towards equality, slowly, like the hare and the tortoise and men start to become softer, more sensitive and as some females put it more feminine we as humans still feel the need to repress one another. Whether it be through cutting each other down verbally or physically lashing out we are still in the mindset that one sex needs to dominate the other, rather than finding that balance. Perhaps in our generation that is not possible while we still have cultural aspects ingrained in us from the past. But the millennial, perhaps they have an opportunity to lead us into the 22nd century changed where we are all truly equal and it’s ok to be sensitive. Sensitive towards yourself and sensitive towards others and a true picture of what a human being should really be. After all there are no rules that say you can’t be tough, strong, masculine and yet still sensitive, kind and caring. There is nothing to say you can’t have all of those great qualities.

While we feel that people who suffer from mental health issues are a little more sensitive than most people we believe this to be the case for one simple reason. They are more in touch with their emotions. Whether they are able to cope and deal with those emotions is a different question altogether but the fact that they feel on a different level to most people often allows them to understand emotions, feelings and thoughts a lot better once the tools are in place that allow them to filter and sift through them logically. When we set out to write this weeks blog the question we had in mind was why are we so sensitive or from the writers prospective why am I so sensitive? That wasn’t the question that we should have been asking. The real question is why are we always made to feel it’s a bad thing to be sensitive? Or in touch with our feelings? Why is it deemed feminine if we are empathetic, kind, caring and nurturing? Yes generally all female characteristics but nevertheless all traits that can also be shown by men.

Over time we may see a change and these qualities will be accepted in men but for now both men and women will have to continue in their set gender stereotypes that have been cast in stone for centuries. Because let’s be honest for just a second if we may, it’s not just men who judge other men for being sensitive, women are often just as judgemental as their male counterparts when it comes to the sensitivity of men. Still to this day, Friday 12th of April in 2019 it is seen as very unmanly to be in touch with your emotions and have a little bit of softness about you. How many times have you heard the words “You need to grow a pair”, come from the mouth of a woman or “You’re being rather emotional for a bloke”. Far too often as humans we tend to speak before we think, instead of letting our minds filter and process what we are about to say. For some people this may be a difficult process in itself as they feel justified in their position. For others though it is just purely about getting their point across whether they are right or wrong. We tend to refer to these people as the Last Word Brigade.

In another eye opener for the year we’ve learnt that it’s the kids once again leading the way rather than the adults who should know better having spent more time on the earth and experienced more in their lives. Perhaps we should just hand over the keys to the city now and like the lost boys in Peter Pan let the kids govern themselves. They seem to be doing a lot better job than we certainly are when it comes to being in touch with ourselves and the world around us. They say the children are the future and from the looks of things they weren’t wrong. While the kids continue to get it right and grow, we adults will continue to maintain the status quo only to bitch and moan about things rather than making an effort to change them. From the Wicked Sensitive Crew… here at a A Mind of It’s Own we bid you another fond farewell for the week and we look forward to seeing you all the same time next week for yet another install of the blog that keeps on keeping on. Until then Sayonara, yep Japanese this week just to mix it up from the usual European goodbyes.

Beat Up Car…

As I sat in a Cafe waiting for my over priced flat white and a fat filled ham, cheese and tomato croissant I found myself watching the people around me. Something that I often find myself doing when I am sitting on my own waiting. Most were busy chatting with there friends or colleagues as they too waited for their overpriced caffeinated beverages prepared by the underpaid barrister who seemed to know everyone who walked into the cafe. Amongst them was the odd person who caught my attention through their anxious, nervous behaviour. Like the bleached blonde who continued to tap her foot as her eyes darted around the room like she was waiting for someone to jump out and mug her. Or the gentleman who was attempting to tuck himself deeper and deeper into the corner in the hopes of burying himself in the brickwork and avoiding everyone in the room.

It was the first time I had consciously noticed myself looking for people displaying anxious behaviours. Was it because I myself was feeling anxious? More than likely it was, I was in a city where despite having grown up it no longer felt friendly. I had burnt a lot bridges here and when my anxiety was through the roof I often feared running into people I knew. We’ll call it FOBS (Fear of being seen) which unlike FOMO (Fear of missing out) often has me ducking and weaving particularly when I don’t want to speak to people. I guess you could call me the Ninja of avoidance at times. It was all in the avoidance of having to have those conversations where despite the sincerity often behind them you still can’t help but feel some judgement particularly by those who thought you were going to go places.

That’s not to say I haven’t, I’ve been plenty of places and tried plenty of different things only to fall back on my passion and a job that allows me the flexibility to write when i want and what I want. Had someone asked me what I wanted to do with my life 10 years ago the last thing on my mind would have been to become a writer. Over the years though that urge to tell stories both real and make believe has grown stronger and stronger to the point where I look forward to putting pen to paper or sitting in front of my laptop with a cold beer and tapping out a short piece for a blog or working away on my book. It’s also become a very useful tool in my battle against anxiety and depression.

Through writing I am able to give a voice to the things I struggle to say or speak about with family and friends. I am able to give my demons a face and therefore recognise them in the dark times I find myself in a pit of self loathing, insecurity and pain. Most of all I am able to make sense of why I am feeling the way I am in that particular moment. Like the parting of clouds allowing the sun to shine through I can once again see what is in front of me and live in the moment, rather than worrying about the past. There are some people who would say that writing is another escapism and allows me to once again avoid dealing with the heart of the issue. But it’s to those people that I now write.

Too often we are quick to judge what we do not understand or what scares us. We are quick to point fingers or give labels and throw stereotypes around before we’ve we’ve even considered the ramifications of doing so. Mental illness and I can’t speak for everyone but I can speak for myself does not define me or govern what I can and can’t do. It does not make me any different from you or the people around you. In fact chances are that one of your close friends or family suffers from some form of mental health issue given that statistics say one in every six people is a sufferer.

Again with the labels, sufferer, yes there are days that I struggle, there are days that I go from feeling on top of the world to wallowing in a dark, dank, stinky pit of depression, rage and anxiety but I am not suffering. In fact these days I am probably more the norm than the exception. The only difference you might find between me and you as you read through this is that whilst I might not physically talk about I have learnt that it is ok and I talk about it through my writing. I give a voice to all those who still can’t but will grow and develop on their own journey to learning that it is ok to talk.

Whilst I might be able to put all this down on a page and spread a message to 100s if not 1000s of people around the globe the sad truth of it all is that I am still unable to often talk about it all with my wife, my friends and my family. I struggle to voice when the pendulum is swinging and I am going from high to low but like a beat up old car I will get there in the end. I will get there because without those people in my life I would not be where I am today. I would not have the courage to share my battle with you nor the ability to articulate to you that opening up and expressing yourself, your feelings, your thoughts it’s all ok and you shouldn’t hide from it.

For years I found it easier to hide from it all and bury my feelings only to become that over sensitive person who wanted to have a deep and meaningful after a few beers at the pub. I was that guy that portrayed complete happiness on the outside only to be a minefield on the inside. One wrong step and I exploded, firing off from the hip without a single thought of what was coming from my mouth. My wife often refers to it as my mindless rambling and the point where she knows that I am not ok as what comes out of my mouth makes absolutely no sense. It will take me a couple of hours to come down from my somewhat convoluted high horse of jumbled thoughts and irrational behaviour. Only to enter the feedback loop from hell and get angry at myself for getting angry.

Even now writing this my mind wanders back to all the times I’ve lost my shit, become over anxious, made myself physically sick by over thinking and more often than not tried to numb it all with alcohol rather than talk about what was wrong or how I was feeling or most importantly what had triggered me and why I was feeling it. It also churns over with ideas on how I could have handled things a lot better. All I needed to do was take some time and think about things. Slow down and allow my thoughts to collate, manifest and be reflected upon before they are splurged out into the world as incomprehensible sentences to later be deciphered on my therapist’s couch as I recollect my latest episode where my anxiety and depression got the better of me.

Yeah it still gets the better of me no matter what I techniques or methods I use to get it under control actually sorry that’s not the best words to use. Manageable is a better word to use, whilst there is a part of me that feels one day I will control my anxiety and depression at this point in time I manage them not control them but simply manage them. On a day to day basis I manage my mental health. Sometimes I’ll go weeks on end without it really getting to me or getting me down. Those are the weeks that I have everything in sync, my routine is tight, I’m exercising and I’m being creative whether it be writing, painting, drawing or building something. Ok so keep my mind busy and active it helps me out, except when I am trying to sleep but I’ve found reading tends to send me into dreamland pretty well.

As I finished my croissant and watched the blonde lady continue to tap out an anxious beat I gave her a reassuring smile to let her know that everything will be ok. The world may not be black and white, it may not be clear cut and dry and it certainly may not always be predictable but it is what you and I choose to make it. Despite those days where you might feel you have control over nothing in your life you do have the options and ability to change things. It was a lesson that took me over twenty years to learn and one that I no doubt thought I never would as I became more depressed and anxious overtime that I wasn’t a somebody and swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck.

In those often fleeting moments where I find myself people watching and wondering what there lives are like and whether they often struggle I am reminded of the greatest, most precious and real piece of information I will ever receive. I am human! We are the only species on the earth that is able to feel a raft of emotions and think cognitively for ourselves. We are the only species that is allowed the freedom of thought. Whether we can voice those thoughts is a different question all together and not one that I am willing to broach in this price of writing. My point being we are blessed with imaginations, thoughts, feelings, pain and the ability to experience it all in the way we want.

Your mental health issues do not make you a monster that should be hidden away from the world. Sure it can be monster that needs taming and made beautiful from time to time but it does not make you a bad person, it does not make you someone who should be a social pariah or shunned by friends and family. It makes you a superhuman in my book. You are someone who battles day in, day out. It makes you often more human than those around you as you feel everything and often have the ability to feel and read people’s energy when you enter a room.

Mistakes will be made, things will no doubt fall apart but just as there a bad times there will be good times and you are human. Your mental health is important and you are important remember that. We each have a story to tell and something to contribute. As the sun dawns on another day and I board yet another flight for another city I urge you all to find your voice whether that be interptive through one of the arts or through speaking with friends and family or even a stranger. It’s ok to talk and will become more and more encouraged as we rid the world of the stigma that mental health issues are taboo and shouldn’t be discussed.

As I write this I know there is much more that should be said and could be said but I have already taken up enough of your time with this health check and sanity piece. On behalf of the team and myself at A Mind of Its Own we appreciate your readership and constant support as we bring you a new piece each and every week. I promise I’ll hand you back to the team next week to give you a zany take on a topic that comes to us in the early hours of the morning when we should be fast asleep dreaming of tropical beaches. Until next week take it easy. TC…

Leave the War with Me…

There is something to be said for finding your happy place particularly in times of need. Go to your happy place… It sounds like something out of an Adam Sandler film perhaps it was Happy Gilmore as he attempted to putt for the millionth time in order to get enough money to get his grandmother’s house back from the debt collectors but whatever it was he found a place in which he could be happy and himself. So what’s your happy place? Given it’s Christmas and it’s often a hard time of year for so many who are battling their own demons, we thought it appropriate we look at anxiety and depression and how to cope with them throughout the silly season.

Once again we’ve handed the reins over to the the creator of this here fine piece of media to discuss Anxiety and Depression through the holiday period. Knowing it’s a time of year when things start to become a little tiring, a little stressful and somewhat difficult to cope. We handed over the writing of this weeks blog to the Grumpy old man of the office after all it was the least we could do considering we didn’t get him a christmas gift. He has all sorts of coping mechanism for dealing with his anxiety and depression but his best and favourite outlet or his ‘Happy Place’ if you will is sitting right in front of a keyboard listening to the click, clack of keys as he taps out some writing from the original mind of its own. So without further adieu we hand over the keys to the kingdom to the man, the myth, the legend? (Insert questioning face emoji)…

It’s good to the see the team still have a sense of humour after I’ve banished them all to the naughty corner and told them coal is on the cards this christmas unless they get their acts together. It’s been a long year here at A Mind of Its Own, a long but enjoyable year. We’ve covered so many topics and continue to advocate that its ok to talk and more importantly it is more than ok not to be ok. The challenge comes in knowing it’s not weak to ask for help but takes more strength than most people realise. It’s at this time of year that I genuinely become drained both physically and emotionally. As people, we often don’t realise how much we give to others throughout the year. We support both friends and family in some cases so we don’t have to deal with what is going on in our own backyards and in other cases because it’s just what we’ve always done. We’ve always been that shoulder to lean on, that bag to punch, that friend that is always there when we need them.

We do it all without little regard for ourselves and our own physical and emotional wellbeing. Like most things though in life, we can only take so much before it all comes crashing down like a proverbial house of cards. For me it manifests itself in various ways but one in particular is sheer tiredness. I find myself sleeping more and more and feeling somewhat lethargic throughout the day. I struggle to keep my emotions in check and find myself leaning more and more on my coping mechanisms. The big one for me being my writing and spending my time my happy place. There is something cathartic about putting all my thoughts and feelings down on paper whether it be with a pen or taping them out in the virtual world. To me nothing beats that sound of the click, clack of keys as my thoughts appear on the screen before me.

Overtime I have learnt not to fear what I write and more importantly to share it. Whether that be with close friends and family or strangers through this blog. Having to get past the vulnerability and being scared of what and how people will perceive my writing has helped me to not only share my story but helped in my day to day struggles as I battle my own mind, thoughts and insecurities, as i get them out for the world to see. It took me a long time to be ok with letting people know I suffer from mental health issues, but now that I have I realise i am not alone and there are so many people around the world battling day to day like me. Spreading the message that its ok to talk and it’s ok not to be ok is something that didn’t come easy at first but now it’s second nature and hopefully by putting myself out there I am encouraging other who a struggling to speak up and seek some help or confide in a loved one or friend.

Having multiple projects on the go at once allows me to pick and choose depending on my mood, emotions and feelings which one I work on. It also allows me to plan for the future in terms of my writing. When things get really dire I find myself exercising a lot more and even meditating to keep myself balanced. Whilst the brain is a beautiful thing I find that mine can often be destructive and troublesome given the time to wander and analyse life way too much. The constant question of self and those around me becomes tiring and at some point once that fuse it lit and begins to burn out I know there will be an explosion. How it all comes to a head is anyone’s guess. It can be any emotion from anger to sadness or a mixture of them all that leaves me feeling ashamed.

Ashamed that whilst I have gotten better over the years, I still can’t master my emotions. Being reflective I know that I only have myself to blame. I’m the one that takes on too much, who tries to be there for everyone. Who carries the world upon my shoulders as though it is my duty to ensure everyone is ok. Without looking after the one person I rely on the most. ME. It’s a flaw that I own, that I know I can work on overtime. During this holiday period I urge everyone to make sure they take some time out to look after themselves. Self Care is so important and is often overlooked. I can honestly put my hand up and say that my own well being is always the least of my concerns. Finding excuses is not hard, there is always some doing it tougher than I am or going through something that requires immediate attention. Like I said finding an excuse to not have to deal with myself is always easy. Its doing the hard things we often shy away from.

It’s usually this time of year that things will bubble to the surface, those questions that have been haunting me all year, the self loathing, the feelings of being stuck in a dead-end job and the unreasonable insecurities that tend to rear their ugly heads as I have way too much time on my hands to think and over analyse. In years gone by I have busied myself with as much as possible, cramming my days full of things to do as a way of distracting myself from the thoughts brewing inside my head. Hence why for me in particular the holiday season is a good time for me to do a lot of self care and to get as many of my thoughts and feels down as possible. It’s a time in which I can utilise all the tools and techniques I have learnt over the years while I reset.

Whilst it is important particularly over the holidays to ask if people are ok and to be there for friends and family it is so important that you stop, take some time out for yourself and ask yourself if you are ok?. Do the things you need to recharge. Go get a massage, read a book, go to the beach, write, see a movie, go for walk, be active. Whatever it is that helps you find your happy place, a place where you can be you and have no worries. As Bobby McFerrin sang ‘Don’t worry be happy’. Some people will read this and say you are just bandaging over the problems and you are not getting to the root cause of the issues that are making you anxious or depressed, i am inclined to agree with them but I will also caution that, that is an ongoing journey and not something that is going to be fixed overnight like a pantene advertisement.

So this Christmas give yourself the gift of Self Care, you can still be there for everyone but it is important that you do look after yourself and not just those around you. Do the little things that make you happy and stick to your routines. If you gym every morning make sure you do that, if you meditate than do that, if like me you write, than write till your little heart’s content, whatever it is that makes you feel good do it. There is nothing selfish about looking after number one. After all how are you expected to look after everyone else if you can’t look after yourself. The little coping mechanisms you use to get through the days will be so important this holiday period as you will often find yourself with more time on your hands as businesses shut down for Christmas and New Year and without work as distraction for some of us that gives our minds plenty of time to wander.

One thing I often overlook is leaning on friends and family myself, whether it’s a pride thing and having to admit i need some help and can’t do it all on my own or whether its purely because I prefer to listen. I know this Christmas I will have to lean on those around me at some point. I will need my friends and family even if it’s just for an hour, a day or a week. I am only human and at some point I will fall into an emotional heap. There have been times in the past where my wife has found me on the shower floor in absolute tears because everything has become to much or my hands will make fists and hit a tree only for to realise that was stupid as it swells and requires ice. But without my friends and family to lean on it would be a battle that was constantly draining. The hardest thing again is realising its ok to vulnerable in front of them. You don’t have to be tough all the time and letting down that guard will often save you a lot pain and suffering on your own.

The holiday period is a time to catch up with friends and family but don’t feel obligated to do so. I am forever reminding myself that just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean I have to. There is nothing worse than dragging yourself along to something when the last thing you feel like doing is being around people and having to make small talk. You don’t have to make up excuses, don’t even need to explain why, what you do need to do is what’s best for you. If that means not attending something because you need time to yourself than take. All too often we feel we have to do things because it’s the right thing to do, the socially responsible thing to do. At the end of the day I say what’s best for you is the socially responsible thing to do, holidays are a time for doing what you want, with who you want. It’s nice to be invited places but that doesn’t mean you always have to say yes! It’s ok to say NO thank you.

If you take one thing from this blog today it is to look after yourself over this holiday period. Easier said than done, I know. I know better than most but I also know that without self care and those around me to lean on instead of everyone leaning on me I’d be a shell of emotions come the new year and questioning whether 2019 was just going to be a year of the same circles going round and round once again. Self Care does not mean you have to ignore everyone it just means looking after yourself and doing what you want and need to be the best version of you. You can still be there for friends and family you just need to put yourself first for a change. Look after you and you’ll be able to spare some emotional capacity for those who need and want your help.

For me everyday is R U Ok? Day, I will forever ask it and I will always be there to lend an ear or a shoulder for those in need. I also know that I need to look after myself in order to do that. Finding my happy place wasn’t easy but now that i know what it is i’ll always have an outlet or coping mechanism to help me through the bad days because there will be bad days. These days the good far outweigh the bad but it has taken a lot of work both mentally and physically to get to this point and the educating is far from over. There is still so much work to be done before I can truly say I am OK.

So from the main mind here at A Mind of Its Own, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Remember it’s ok not to be ok and it’s certainly ok talk. You do you as they say and look after number one this festive season. That self care is of utmost importance during the silly season. Friends and family will be there for you, as you are for them. Lean on them if you need to, there is no shame in asking for some help. From the team and I until the next episode which by the way is another milestone edition! As the title say leave the war with me and I’ll continue to fight it… Peace out hombres…

Devil on my shoulder…

We promised you a second piece last week, we promised that double dose of a mind of its own. We owe you an apology, often we don’t see what goes on behind closed doors and last week for the team it was a massive reminder of that. The generally funny and often quirky blog that you all love to read is going to get a little serious for our second installment this week and touch on a subject that has affected 100s of 1000s of people around the globe. Normally this is where we’d insert a joke or two and take a track down the rabbit hole with Alice but not this time. This time we are seriously going to be be serious.

Since its inception A Mind of Its Own has been very vocal about mental health awareness and ensuring Australians in particular are getting the help and support they need. We’ve discussed how it is ok to speak out, how young men and women have battled with there demons. How we are slowly evolving and becoming more and more open with our thoughts, feelings, emotions and that there is potentially a further place that our conscious minds go to when our body’s kick the bucket and give up. That we potentially come back over and over again to awaken those that need help seeing their is a higher being if you will.

No matter what your beliefs we can all agree that women’s and men’s mental health awareness needs a little more support and a little more work particularly around suicide prevention. Its a topic people tend to shy away from, a topic that saddens people and a topic that well to be honest is one that most people would prefer to lock away in the taboo chest never to be spoken of again. No one knows the pain and anguish people must go through to feel that suicide is their only option left to stop the pain, stop the hurting, stop the thoughts, stop the burden they often feel they are.

It seems we all have a devil on our shoulder as per the title but for some its often worse than we’ll ever know. Whether your devil is drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, addiction of any form or mental illness there are options for you, there is help for you. We know there are those that will read this and say we have no idea what people are going through and you would be right, we don’t. No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors but believe that with the right help and support there is a solution for everyone out there and being advocates of mental health awareness and suicide prevention we can only try and help those who need it before its too late.

By starting the conversation we hope that men, women and children around the globe start to have a conversation and seek the help, support and stability they need. We need more options for those who feel the only option they have left is to take their own lives. By doing so we often wonder whether they have considered the legacy of pain they will leave behind. The long lasting effects on family and friends who will question for years to come whether they did enough for the fallen. Why hadn’t they reached out, why hadn’t they just ask if they were ok and needed to talk?

Across the country there are programs, charities, support groups and even medical institutes to help shoot the devil on your shoulder. It’s never an easy road to walk when seeking help but the moment you do, the weight of the world can often feel like its been lifted from you. The hardest part though is often admitting to yourself that you need some help and can’t do it all on your own. Once you’ve jumped that hurdle there will be plenty more to come but the closer you get to that often elusive finish line that keeps moving as life shifts and throws more hurdles in your way. The more it moves the more you have to dig deep and get out of your comfort zone but that is something that will become easier the more you accept needing some help and the more you open up about your demons.

As individuals we can do our part and ensure we are asking people if they are ok, a simple conversation can save a life or even make someone’s day. Even if it’s not the topic they really want to talk about, people often just like having someone there to listen and make conversation with them. Over time those conversation will become more and more in depth as you build trust between you. But just being there for friends and family is the first step in helping them help themselves. You can offer advice or suggestions but most of the time the best help you can be is to just be there and listen.

That devil on your shoulder whether it be your thoughts, your addiction or some other problem or issue can be shot. We know several people both friends and family who are forever trying to shot the devil on their shoulder. Over time it becomes easier and easier but it has taken them a lot of hard work and fair amount of pain to get where they are. But as they say you’ve got to take the good with the bad right? And it’s the things are that are always tough and hard that are worth doing. There will be those the uneducated we like to call them that will never understand the struggles and pain that those fighting a mental illness go through day in, day out out. It’s a constant battle that will often get the better of you but we learn to adapt and overcome the more we chose to fight it.

The option to fight may not always be the easiest choice or the one that family and friends decide to go with and it’s those moments where the black dog wins swallowing the ones we love and care about that bring pain and from time to time a legacy with it. Whilst we can never tell someone what to do or make them do anything they don’t want to we can provide them with options and do the small things to help them out as much as possible. Be there and provide that support but don’t make them feel like a burden. Seek professional help and support them through their journey.

For those of us feeling like we’ve exhausted all options remember this, you hold the key, the power and the ability to fight it, you just might not know it yet or how to, but given time and the right support and help you will discover all the tools and techniques to fight that devil in your own time and your own way. We just need to accept that it’s ok to need and to ask for help from time to time. There is no shame in admitting you have a problem that you need help with. It’s more empowering than you may think admitting you are struggling and can’t do it all on your own.

From the team at A Mind of Its Own, we thank you for taking the time to read this blog. To all those that have lost someone before their time to suicide, illness whatever it might be our thoughts are with you. There are no words that can make the loss any easier we can just say that those loved ones are never forgotten and will always be remembered, we can honour them by changing tune and making sure people know that it’s ok to talk and by asking those around us if they are ok or just starting a conversation. Until the next post our friends if you or a loved one need some support, guidance and or help below are the details for a couple places to make a start if you are feeling as though you can’t go to a friend or family…

Lifeline Australia

13 11 14

http://www.lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue

1300 224 636

http://www.beyondblue.org.au

Two Feet on the ground…

As Dolly Parton once sung we are all “working nine to five” or at least five thirty, six ish depending on what time the boss leaves the office. Here at the world’s silliest blog we work whatever time we like, heck half the staff are passed out at their desks fast asleep most of the day. Like a good Mexican restaurant we let them siesta for as long as they like. As long as they walk into the editor’s office with great ideas every week they can come in at ten past nine and leave and quarter past nine for all we care. Ideas are what keep this fine publication ticking along week after week and the sponsors happy. If we had any… Hint to potential investors if you want your free t-shirt you are going to need to actually spend money.

With the chief out of the office on some quest to show he’s still young by putting his body through the wringer and seeing if he can still compete at the top-level of amateur sport. Which is what lead us to write this week piece. With all our competitors writing about self-care at present it was only reasonable that we jumped in the paddock and marched along to the feed trough with the rest of societies sheep. So self-care what is it you ask? So did we, we asked a lot. There were some disturbingly bad answers on google as to what selfcare is so before your minds wander into the proverbial gutter we’ll put it out there.

Noooo self-care is not playing with yourself for pleasure. It is exactly what it sounds like. Self care is taking care of oneself. In a general sense, self-care refers to activities undertaken with the intention of enhancing energy, restoring health and reducing stress. There are many ways to do this and self-care is something that can be personalised for every individual. Well that’s what our good friends at google tell us anyway once we did a quick search.

Whether that be caring for your mental health, physical health or purely pampering yourself in order to feel a little better. That’s what we are talking about when we talk about self-care here at A Mind of Its Own. Not enough people take the time to look after their health in general. They go through the motions and complain they are time poor or just too busy to find time to do the things that would make them feel so much better each day if they consistently did them.

The big dog (Our Editor and Chief) is a classic example of inconsistency when it comes to looking after himself and doing what is right for his mind, body and soul. We asked him what his routine looks like when he feels he is his best compared to the days where we all run for the hills knowing what he is like when he hasn’t had enough sleep or isn’t taking care himself like he should. As a man who suffers anxiety and depression he knows he is best when he has a routine, sticks to it and he makes time to cover something from the mind, body and soul.

Speaking first hand around the office he is the first one to point out that ten minutes each morning meditating is a great way to start the day followed by forty plus minutes of exercise, a good breakfast of eggs and toast and you are ready to rock n roll. Your mind is clear, your body feels healthy and most importantly your soul is happy. As wise as he is, he is also the first person to point out to you that what works for one may not work for the other. We are individual beings and whilst we may share body types, blood types, skin colour and various other things we are all very different and therefore our bodies react differently to exercise, meditation, massage, treatments etc. Therefore you cannot prescribe one regime for everyone.

The best coaches in the world work out how to motivate their athletes, they deep dive into what makes them tick and from their better understand that what motivates one may not motivate another. While there are generalities that can be passed from one individual to the next it is all about that single being and what works best for them. While teams sports are all about the team goals in order to reach those goals and objectives you need to get the most out of the individuals as they a brought together as a team.

As you get older and some of you wiser perhaps, you tend to know what works for you and what doesn’t, yes you may have to try a thousand different ways and things, but eventually you will get there and work out what is best for your mind, body and soul. It does become more and more important the older you get to ensure you are looking after yourself. The lessons you learn about yourself will help you through all facets of life including love for all our fans still searching for the one. It’ll happen and you’ll know when they are the right one just don’t forget to put a ring on it when you do meet him or her.

So from the team at the world’s funniest, friendliest and most sympathetic blog, take some time out each day to look after number one. I can guarantee your number two, three, four and perhaps five will appreciate it. You’ll find not only will you feel fresher, fitter and friskier well we don’t know about the last one but you’ll feel better as you go about your normal routine looking after everyone else as a lot of people tend to do. Starting your journey could be as simple as taking yourself for a walk followed by writing down your thoughts and feelings. So until next week… Au revoir!

Are you still having fun…

With Thursday the 13th of September being R U Ok? Day, we asked our editor and chief if he’d sit in his seat and discuss anxiety and depression with our readers along with telling us how much talking and writing about it has helped him over the past couple of years. As they say a single conversation could make someone’s day, their week or their year. It’s ok to talk and more men and women need to be educated that is ok. SO over to you chief fire away and don’t bore the readers too much please…

Well with that introduction I’d better ensure to make this an easy, breezy read for the folks at home. If you had of asked me to write about this a year or two ago the answers would have varied from Aww hell no to a few expletives followed by a staunch no. The fact that I am now able to sit here and talk about it is a testament that if you can find that one person and start opening up, the more you do it the more you become comfortable doing. In saying that I still struggle to speak with people about my anxiety and depression that I don’t really know or that I am not comfortable with. Even writing this now has a me a little anxious as to what people may or may not think.

Like thousands of men and women across Australia and around the globe I suffer from anxiety and depression. I have my good days and yes I certainly have my bad days, my wife will be happy to attest to that. The good news is they are coming few and far between, I won’t lie and say it was easy to get to this point but I will say that it took a lot of hard work and honesty. Firstly being honest with myself and secondly being honest with those that I care about and love. Being honest and admitting to myself that there was something wrong and I needed help was probably one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life.

No one likes asking for help especially when they often can’t put their finger on exactly what the problem is or why they are feeling that way. So when people used to ask me what was wrong or why i was being quiet I would often just say nothing and try to disappear into the background. I tried changing the topic and more often than not I would ask questions and listen so I didn’t have to deal with my own thoughts and feelings. We all have days when we are feeling a little blue so I put a lot of what I was thinking and feeling down to that. At the time I was living in Brisbane, a long way away from my family and close. Yeah I had some good mates around me but none that I was comfortable talking to at the time.

It wasn’t until I started to display physical symptoms that I knew I had to do something, I had to see someone. I remember one day sitting on the floor of the bathroom feeling nauseous, there was a tightness across my chest and I was actually physically sick and I couldn’t control my thoughts. It was something I had never experienced before but it was something that would happen to me more and more over the following months until I saw someone. Now I would love to say that I plucked up the courage and went of my own volitions however I didn’t. I was given an ultimatum but it was the one that I needed and deep down I knew it was for my own good.

With my decision made I then struggled for some time as to who do I go and see, do I get medical help, do I go straight to the psychologist or psychiatrist, do I talk to friends, family. What do I do? It was daunting, I searched online, I read articles but at the end of the day it was a conversation with my father in law that changed it all. You see we don’t often get to see what goes on behind closed doors. We don’t ask questions that are personal and as men we just choose not to talk about our feelings. Its ingrained and beat into us from birth, strong men don’t talk about their feelings.

This one conversation though set me on the right path, through opening up I learnt that I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t the only person to go through this and there is nothing wrong with asking for help and knowing that it is ok to talk. Now my journey to seek the help i need may be different to a lot of people. I had a Skype call with one of the nation’s top professors of Psychiatry who then pointed me in the right direction and made recommendations. From there I saw my physician and on that back of that we setup a mental health plan that suited me.

My next hurdle along the way was having to take medication, it got me down and made me even more anxious that I needed to take a tablet each day to ensure my highs and lows were kept in balance. It honestly made me feel miserable but what it did do was allow my brain to slow down and process things a lot better. The more I researched what I was taking the more comfortable I became. I would talk about it in my session with my psychologist and together we began forming a plan to put in place the strategies and techniques to allow me to cope with my anxiety and depression if I ever came off the medication.

Over time my dosage has been adjusted, slowly becoming less and less as I become more and more comfortable with my own thoughts and feelings. How I manage and process them has gone from one of confusion and often being overwhelmed to now being ok with them and letting the thoughts and feelings come and go as they please. I’ve also learnt that talking about my anxiety and depression or writing about it has helped me a great deal. Being ok and realising that it is not a weakness but a strength, a strength that shines through in the day-to-day battle with my mind and thoughts.

The uneducated will make comments like what have you got to be sad about or are you suicidal. A lot them won’t even attempt to understand and will shy away from people with mental health issues. The truth is that mental health issues affect everyone differently, yes it does overwhelm some people to the point they want to the pain to stop that’s the sad truth but they are often the people who need our help the most. They are the people who just having a conversation with them could make their day. It could save their life, the problem is a lot of people still feel the shame and stigma that comes with mental health.

Conversations have helped me over the past couple of years, just having them has opened up my eyes to the world and to the fact I am not alone in my struggle. It has helped me understand my mind, understand my anxiety, understand my depression and most importantly understand that it’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to talk, its ok to ask for help. It’s ok to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. Take a leaf from the young females of the world they put themselves out there on social media on a daily basis with there blogging and fashion posts but they are allowing themselves to be vulnerable often for a good cause.

I’ve been humbled this week by several people reaching out to me and sharing their stories and asking for help. Whether they were inspired by me finding my voice and asking for help or not is irrelevant the fact they were able to speak up and say there were struggling made me both proud and humbled at the same time. They were taking the steps to find their feet once again and work on themselves. Most importantly they were learning to love themselves once more. The biggest part of any healing process is accepting that you are going to be ok and who you are.

So it is to all those who are struggling in the world, you are not alone, there is a good chance the person sitting next to you right now is going through the same thing or has already been through. Do yourself a favour and ask people are you ok? What you give you shall receive tenfold as the old saying goes. Pay it forward, look after yourself and take care of those around you. It’s ok to talk, its ok not to be ok, and most importantly it is ok to ask for help. From myself and the team here at A Mind of Its Own, R U Ok? Start the conversation even if it isn’t for you.