Veteran cricketer Mike Nowlan with his wife Lynn.
Veteran cricketer Mike Nowlan with his wife Lynn. Contributed

It was when Mike got help he was able to free himself

DURING the last two years I have had two severe Atrial Fibrillation attacks, and these can lead to strokes.

I was told I was very lucky not to have had a severe stroke as a result of the first attack.

I felt that the blood thinners I was put on saved me on the second occasion. On the second occasion, in July last year I did not take the heart pills I was supposed to.

Two weeks later, I had at home, what seemed a mild occurrence again of Atrial Fibrillation. I went into a deep sleep and my wife Lynn called the ambulance because she was not sure what was happening to me.

When the two girls arrived, they ascertained that I was alive and well. Then one of them said, "Did you take your heart pills?”

Needless to say, the male answer was no, I did not think it was serious enough.

She exploded with the reply ” You are supposed to take them before you die, not afterwards.”

She certainly impressed me! Lesson learnt.

The next night I felt something was not right and quickly took the tablets. Within seconds, my heart had settled down, and I have barely had a murmur since.

From that time I continued to deteriorate with extreme tiredness to the point of exhaustion. Lynn had to go into respite at Carinya because I could not care for her. The mental fatigue led to a new unchartered field.

The Black Dog of Depression started to rear its ugly head. It led me into some very dark places and was very confronting.

In consulting my clinical nurse, and discussing the issue with a couple of nursing friends, the consensus was that I had a chemical imbalance in the brain, and this is normally caused by the Atrial Fibrillation events such as I had just been dealing with.

These events deplete the serotonin chemical level in the brain, causing the chemical imbalance and leading to depression.


Depression is not something that is inherent in you; you don't come with it in your genetics. Something has to cause it. My case was easy to determine. Two near strokes led to chemical imbalances in the brain.

But any emotional or physical trauma can lead to this same situation. And we <FZ,1,0,12>all handle it differently.

Military veterans, as well as police and Emergency Service personnel see ghastly things in their service; this often triggers mental responses that can take years to control.

Emotional upheaval, such as the loss of a close friend can lead to the same scenario. Cries for help are often seen on social media, but not necessarily understood, especially by family members, and usually acted on too late.

The issue is the same, whether the trauma is caused by a violent act or an emotional upheaval.

A key to understanding the situation that you are in is finding out how the depression came about. Something has caused it. Treating that issue will go a long way towards healing the whole problem. If everyone was proactive and aggressive towards depression, death because of depression would have considerably less impact on the community & individual families.

I still shudder at the thought of what the depression had concocted for me; it would have been so easy and simple and painless.

And I can certainly see why so many people with depression take the final step. It is being sold to you as the easy option. There are no options where the Black Dog is concerned. Your death is the only way to solve your problems. Painless, without worry.

Depression leaves no thought for any other options. It cares about nothing but claiming another victim. I was asked if my Christian faith would make any difference. Nothing makes a difference; not your faith, your family support group, your mates, your club, nothing. Depression is all consuming. It just does not allow any options to come into the equation. Death at your own hands is the only option.

The Black Dog is very aggressive and persistent.

The more you go on the defensive with it, the more its teeth get into you. You have to be aggressive with it; be pro-active in your actions against depression. I knew I was in trouble very early. It would have been easy to try & hide, not face up to reality. But I was lucky; I had quality professional help available in the local medical centre. All I had to do was ask.

Talking to the right people was what I had to do.

They talked me through the various issues involving anti-depressant drugs.

These drugs become the means to restoring the chemical balance in the brain, which in turn returns the sufferer to a normal balanced life. When I did concede (probably out of desperation) to the use of a mild new version anti- depressant, it took 48 hours to have an impact.

I could not believe how good I felt. The mental torture was gone and I felt so calm.

Apart from anything else, this was important in my care for Lynn, because caring for someone who is severely disabled does involve a lot of stress on both parties. The last thing that she needed is the roller-coaster of my personality impacted by depression. With more than ten years in a wheelchair, she is certainly in need of understanding and emotional support.

My Message is very precise - do not try to fight depression by yourself; that is a one way journey. Get help; talk to professionals who understand. The first thing for a sufferer to understand is that it is not your fault and that you are not the only one.

Statistics are not kind to men with emotional problems. But, after all, how macho is it to be dead because you were too macho to admit to having an emotional problem.

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