Tony’s Story

Tony talks about his experience of the ‘long, dark night of the soul’ and his difficult mornings.

Stock Crash - Portrait of Tony, John Cullinane, 2019

Tony is a 74-year-old father and grandfather. He was born in Three Springs and grew up on a farming property. Tony’s brother died at age 15, which had a significant impact on his family.

They moved to Toodyay and a year later, Tony contracted polio. He spent four months in an iron lung in hospital. During that time he couldn’t see his Mum or Dad and he felt extremely isolated. This was very tough for Tony and had a lasting effect on him.

When he was older, Tony studied at Agricultural School. He went on to manage properties for others and then bought his own property in Mingenew. It was only partly cleared, so he put in a lot of work getting it into shape. After a series of financial mistakes, Tony lost the farm which devastated him.

Eventually, Tony was able to buy another property in Toodyay. In 2008, he was caught up in the global financial crisis. He lost a lot of money on the stock market and felt financially inept. This is when his depression really set in.

Tony continued working hard because he wanted to earn back some of the money he’d lost. He took on a series of difficult jobs, including FIFO work, driving road trains and operating large machinery for seeding and harvesting. These activities helped with his depression for a while, but his children became concerned about the safety of doing this kind of work and convinced him to retire and move to Perth. Once Tony had stopped working and was waiting to move home, his depression really hit him. He started feeling hopeless and having suicidal thoughts.

He was living by himself on 240 acres and he felt totally alone. His toughest times were in the darkness, leading up to the mornings. He believes ‘the long dark night of the soul’ is a very apt description for what he experienced. In the mornings, he often felt like there was no hope.

Tony went to the doctor but refused to see a psychiatrist because he didn’t want anyone to know what was going on. His son stepped in to become his carer and while Tony found it difficult to let his son make decisions for him, he eventually realised it was time to start listening to someone else. Tony went to Hollywood Hospital where they changed his medication. He also started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

After moving to Perth, Tony found it important to keep busy. He started going to the Men’s Shed where he was able to meet people and make friends.

Besides this, he now does voluntary work and spends time reading and writing. Writing poetry gives Tony a huge amount of pleasure. It helps him reflect back on his own life and capture positive moments. He also finds the routine of waking up and getting a coffee and the paper very helpful to get through difficult mornings. All these things have helped him manage his depression very successfully.

Tony also spends time giving presentations on depression to try to get through to people in the same situation. He encourages people to seek help sooner as he regrets not doing this himself. Tony finds this work incredibly rewarding.

John Cullinane

Born in Subiaco in 1957, John is a semi-realist painter. He has studied drawing, fine art, painting and ceramics and has been exhibiting regularly for over 30 years. His paintings can be found in many prestigious Australian public collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of Western Australia and Parliament House, Canberra. He draws inspiration from both reality and his imagination and uses symbols to construct paintings that convey an objective emotion to the viewer.

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