Australian Veteran visits Cameron to raise awareness on PTSD

Australian Veteran visits Cameron to raise awareness on PTSD

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -A retired Australian Veteran visited Lawton Monday hoping to inspire other veterans and members of the community working to overcome PTSD and depression.

Retired Major Andrew Cullen served for 17 years in the Australian Army.

He was diagnosed with PTSD after being discharged in 2012, following multiple deployments to Afghanistan. He says he fell into a dark depression that almost cost him his life.

He just published a book in April that he and his wife, Zoe wrote together called "Resurrected, A Story of Hope" and that's exactly why they're here, in a town full of military families. What they want to do is inspire people, especially active military and Veterans who may be facing mental health issues and let them know they too can overcome it.

Being told by doctors he would have anger issues, battle depression and be completely disconnected from the world forever is what Retired Major Andrew Cullen was told after serving 17 years in the Australian Army. He was discharged in 2012 and diagnosed with PTSD.

"I really struggled to understand my purpose in life and who I was because I went from being a strong individual to someone I couldn't even at times determine what was real and I was seeing things that weren't there," said Cullen. "I was having hallucinations."

Those symptoms, Cullen says, nearly tore his marriage apart and caused him to lose connection with his four kids.

He went to psychologists, psychiatrists and was put on lots of medications, including anti-depressants. But, it wasn't until he wrote his feelings down and the things he was experiencing in a journal, that he realized it was helping him and his wife, Zoe cope and communicate again rather than just arguing.

"I started reading it and was like hang on that's actually not what happened," said Cullen. "And he was like, well what did happen and then I started to write my version of events and it's interesting because there's always two different versions to events. We definitely noticed that."

That's when a friend read both Cullen's and a version of events written by Zoe. And decided their journey, struggles, method of coping should be published

"It helps me so much," said Cullen. "I'm still healing. I'm not miraculously cured and I still go through bad days and still suffer from nightmares and night terrors and things like that but doing this has given me new purpose in life."

James Easton, a fellow Aussie, and Australian Exchange Officer at Fort Sill was one of the many that left changed and inspired after Cullens speech today. He's served for 9 years and says the biggest issue with PTSD is that people are afraid to talk about it and admit they feel symptoms...

"There are very few people I would say that haven't seen or known someone that has experienced it and I think the biggest part about it and why it's so good having Andy go around and talk about it is just that exposure and getting comfortable talking about it," said Easton.

Cullen wants to remind those struggling today to not give up, but to keep fighting because your life and your story are not finished.

"PTSD, Depression, anxiety, mental illness...they're not a life long condition," said Cullen. "You can get through it. The biggest message we want to promote is share it. We want to tear down the veil that prevents people from talking about mental illness."

Cullen and his family will travel to Oklahoma City next to speak and learn more about programs in Oklahoma that help Veterans. From there, they will continue their tour across the country over the next four weeks.

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