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Mens Health

Cedric and the Black Dog - Part Two

Cedric and the Black Dog - Part Two

Black Dog 2

Cedric and his black dog is a vignette that describes the experience that a lot of blokes have with depression.

Often guys say that they are followed by a black dog, or they feel like they are at the bottom of a dark bottomless shaft, or that they are an actor trying to play themselves. These descriptions highlight that depression is a very individual, subjective experience. It’s impact or severity and how long the experience might last can vary. Yet, it is pervasive, sometimes debilitating, and its symptoms can affect your thoughts, your emotions, how you act and behave, as well as your relationships. However, with the right knowledge and support, overcoming depression is very possible.

The underlying cause of depression is not completely known. However, what is understood is that it’s not necessarily a single event or experience that causes depression, rather it is the combination of a number of contributing factors that lead to its development. Other contributing personal factors such as biological or genetic vulnerability, chronic stress, medical problems, and medications, social, lifestyle and relationship challenges may also trigger depression.

Research shows that women often experience depression more than men, however, men are less adept at recognizing symptoms. Often men underplay what’s happening to them, resulting in attempts to ignore feelings of sadness, shame, hopelessness or guilt. Typically, men will allow the underlying causes of the problem to develop over a prolonged period of time, until it becomes chronic. Often, men will attempt to mask the problem via masculine behaviors of aggression, anger, and loss of control.

Men also respond to the experience of depression through increased substance use such as drinking or drug use or engaging in high-risk activities such as drink driving. Men also isolate themselves more than women when depressed, and will immerse themselves into their work or interests. Subsequently, their relationships with loved ones, friends and colleagues start to deteriorate. The unfortunate irony with this behavior is that these relationships are often critical in overcoming the problem that they are experiencing.

Over prolonged periods of struggling with depression, men begin to experience physical and neurological symptoms. Depression is associated with cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. “Many men were not aware that physical problems such as headaches, stomach problems, and chronic pain might actually be symptoms of depression.” Chronically recurring depressive episodes also impact the formation and regulation of emotions and memory due to neuroanatomical abnormalities. This includes the areas of the brain responsible for attention/working memory, executive function, and memory recall. Brain structure actually changes because of depression.

The greatest risk for men in relation to depression is the impact of suicide. Untreated chronic depression can sometimes lead to suicidal ideation and acts of self-harm. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men die by suicide three and a half times more often than women. A contributing factor to this number is due to the extreme methods in which men choose to take their lives. In the US, firearms account for almost 50% of all suicides. White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides and the rate of suicide is highest in middle age, white men in particular.

However, due to the greater social awareness surrounding depression and its treatment, men are nowadays more open to the idea of reaching out. They are open to the feedback from friends, loved-ones, and colleagues that they are not alone and that professional help is available. While men’s willingness to help themselves has started changing, more needs to be done. Continuing research into men’s physiology, interpersonal and intrapersonal psychology to identify effective gender specific treatment options is required. Such options will drastically help men cope emotionally and physically with chronic stress or acute adverse experiences.

The potential of decreasing the likelihood of developing depression involves proactively improving the quality of lifestyle factors. These factors include good sleep patterns, healthy eating, and nutrition, as well as regular exercise and self-care habits. Improved relationship connections, such as intimate or romantic, family, social or occupational are the foundation of reducing the likelihood of developing depression. Finally, further social advocacy is needed to facilitate men seeking help and to teach everyone to recognize the signs of depression in men.

If you recognize any of these symptoms, then consider connecting with a trained, licensed mental health care professional and start a conversation.

  • A desire to withdraw;
  • Losing interest in friends and activities you used to enjoy;
  • Difficulty concentrating on things;
  • Feeling down or irritated most of the day, nearly every day;
  • Significant change in weight or change in appetite;
  • Changes in sleep patterns;
  • Changes in activity, such as speech, thinking, movement;
  • Feeling jumpy or physically agitated;
  • Fatigue or loss of energy;
  • Negative and unrealistic thoughts about guilt or feeling worthlessness; and
  • Having thoughts of death, or suicide or have a plan for suicide.

If you are struggling with any of these experiences, or are concerned about someone who is, then I invite you to have a conversation. Call me on (512) 470-6976 or schedule a free 20 min consultation to explore your options for help.

- Simon

Information and Resources on Men's depression:

Heads Up Guys:

Help Guide:

Beyond Blue:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

Cedric and the Black Dog – Part One

Cedric and the Black Dog – Part One

Black Dog 1.jpg

My name is Cedric and I have a black dog that follows me everywhere.

It’s not my dog. I don’t know where it came from, but it plodded its way into my house years ago, unannounced, uninvited, and the damn thing won’t leave. I’m not a dog person, so I don’t know why he chose me. In fact, I don’t like pets at all, but I’m sadly getting used to its presence. I refuse to give it a name, because I don’t want us to become friends. My hope is if I ignore it, it will wander off and find a new owner.

This dog accompanies throughout my entire day. It’s sitting there at the edge of my bed when I wake each morning. As much as I want to stay here under the covers in the hope that it will wander off, I know the moment I wake, it will be there staring at me with its dark black sullen eyes. It’s not a friendly dog. There’s no wagging tail, no lapping tongue here. It’s no fun. It doesn’t want to play, or go outside. It doesn’t like to do anything, other than mope around. This sad creature just nuzzles at me, constantly vying for attention, which I feel compelled to offer. What on earth does this useless, pathetic creature want?

This black dog is very territorial. It doesn’t like any of my friends or my family, and it certainly doesn’t get along with my boss. Keeping this a secret at work is causing me to drop the ball constantly. Occasionally, it growls at those around me with its deep throaty, guttural sound. I’ve seen it raise its hackles, and snare its sharp teeth to protect me. From time to time, it destroys my furniture and chews up my possessions. I don’t know where it acquired a taste for that. I know it means business and I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t have any intention of putting up with anyone’s shit.

It’s odd that no one has mentioned that they’ve seen me with this dog, well, at least I don’t think they have. I’m pretty sure that my family doesn’t realize that this thing constantly accompanies us, even when we take the kids to the movies. When the family’s around, it curls its tail under and sits in the corner of the room. I know, because I can see it sitting there in the corner of my eye. It’s distracting. When they leave, this black dog returns to my side. I’ve even woken from a nap, with it sitting on my chest. Do you know how hard it is to breath with a massive dog sitting on you? I thought I was going to have a damn heart attack.

I know that it’s just a matter of time until someone’s going to complain. I find myself staying at work longer, so that it can hide undetected in my office. When I’m at home, I stay alone in the garage with it for hours at end. My family shouldn’t have to put up with this uninvited guest the way I do. Sadly, that makes me feel guilty. I’ll sit there surrounded by my yard equipment, and I’ll put back a few quiet beers. When this happens, the big black dog wanders off for a while, no doubt to pester someone else. When I wake up in the morning, the damn thing’s back.

I’m not sure what to do. I honestly have no clue and I’m pretty sure that this black dog is getting bigger. Maybe I’m paying too much attention to it, but it’s presence is starting to worry me. I’m concerned that I’ll be caught out harboring this unwanted guest, before I can figure something out. I’d like to talk to someone, anyone, however I have responsibilities and I can’t let my family down. The sight of this creature makes me sick to my stomach and as a result, I can’t think straight. I can tell that this dog finds all the things that I used to enjoy doing, well, boring and dull. I look forward to those peaceful moments at night, when everyone’s asleep. I just sit there, wide awake, thinking. Thoughts just rolling around without any resolution. Just me and this this damn black dog. Someone must have trained it well.

Cedric and the Black Dog - Part Two

5 Tips to Be a Normal Guy

5 Tips to Be a Normal Guy

I’m sure the moment you read the title, you knew that I wasn’t serious. You might have felt compelled to read on to get the twist - or you are genuinely curious about how to be a normal guy. If it’s the latter, give me a call and we can talk.

Let’s clarify something up front – there’s no such thing as normal. Sure, there’s the ‘usual’ and the ‘average’ and possibly the ‘typical’ but normal is a whole different kettle of fish. It’s not uncommon to hear people say, I just want to be normal, or I want to know that I’m normal. However, when we explore what normal means, we quickly realize that it’s like playing on a field where the goal posts are completely invisible.

Pursuing a sense of normality can take an incredible amount of energy. This pursuit detracts from experiencing the best of what life has to offer. A good proportion of the ‘norms’ that we attempt are completely misguided, misinformed - and more importantly they always belong to someone else. Attempting to adhere to a sense of normality can have huge personal, social and cultural ramifications.

If you want to be be normal, here are five ways to get there:

1. Accept the Status Quo.

This implies that we accept and attempt to preserve certain values, principles, concepts and structures. The nature of the status quo is often so deeply entrenched in our lives, that we often don’t recognize it. For some, the status quo means that their circumstances are accepted without considering the potential for change, regardless of the potential. Maintaining our status quo, leads to discontent. If you want to be normal, accept the status quo, as the status quo.

2. Agree to all social and cultural norms and principles.

Social and cultural norms are an incredibly strong influence in our lives, often in ways that we are unaware of. These governing norms create the parameters of what behavior, views or opinions are viewed as acceptable or unacceptable. They also attempt to influence what will be tolerated and what could be considered abnormal. If you want to be normal, accept the mainstream view of how you should live your life.

3. Never critically question - anything.

As the old quote states; a life unexamined is a life not truly lived. The challenge here is that it requires us to examine and attempt to solve our own problems by applying various decision making process. Sometimes, it just feels easier to let others make decisions for us. Critical thinking helps create improved intellectual, emotional and spiritual self-mastery. If you want to be normal, sit back, relax and accept all arguments and assumptions that you observe.

4. Constantly compare yourself to others. 

There is an instinctual desire to quantify where we sit in the grand scheme of all things. We look at others to satisfy this need, whether it’s the type of car we drive, how buff you look compared to the dudes in the movies, or how long can you satisfy your partner in bed. To be normal, is to accept only part of the picture presented to you and to create a foundation of competition rather than collaboration. It also makes it easier to avoid being present in our own unique experience of this life. Just join every social media channel available, spend hours ruminating over what’s posted and you’ll quickly start to feel normal.

5. Accept and conform to medical, social and cultural labels.

Conforming to labels is an Olympic sport for some and is highly regarded in many social environments. It’s easy to understand and accept things we’ve not critically explored when there’s an easy way to pigeon-hole, stereotype or classify something or someone (including ourselves) that we don’t understand. It provides a simple and effective way to discard accountability for the things we deep down know we need aren’t quite right.

If we’re brutally honest, the real question that many guys ask, is not what is normal, but “am I OK and do I fit in?” Such questions relate to a sense of self-worth.

A healthy sense of self-worth requires the ability to believe and trust in ourselves and that we as individuals matter, as opposed to seeking validation from external elements, i.e. social expectations of what normal is.

When we dig deep at how we feel and think about ourselves, it’s possible to see that one’s self-worth has most likely been conditioned by an intricate web of pervasive, invisible standards, narratives and statistics for a long period of time. With this knowledge, it’s possible to step back and answer the real questions we seek.

If we don’t like what we discover, then the next step is to be active in reconstructing new ways to empower ourselves and create ways to believe in ourselves and the value we bring into this world.‘Without self-worth, doubts and fears about our very existence will persist until they invalidate our dreams and vision, and undermine our greatest accomplishments’ (Bogee, 1998). 

That’s certainly not being normal. Far, far from it. 

Image by Josh Hallett on Flickr

Simon Niblock is an Austin TX based, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate, dedicated to helping men, couples and families find peace, direction and meaning within their relationships.

Call Simon on 512-470-6976 or book an appointment below:

My Unconquerable Soul {Invictus}

My Unconquerable Soul {Invictus}

It is a universal law, that irrespective of who we are, we will all experience travesty and triumph.

It is essential to appreciate that no matter the circumstance, we are each charged with the responsibility for our own lives. While this entrustment may seem difficult, albeit impossible at times, the responsibility for our destiny resides entirely with us.

This poem written by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) an English Poet, is an inspiring description of the importance of remaining the master of our own destiny, regardless of the pains and perils that life can throw at us.

Henley states that we are inevitably responsible for our own happiness, our own path. He wrote this poem at the age of seventeen, while recovering from a leg amputation. Invictus in Latin means unconquered.


Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstances

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeoning of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

Simon Niblock is an Austin TX based, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate who is dedicated to helping men, couples and families find peace, direction and meaning within their relationships.

Image by Ian D. Keating

Call Simon on 512-470-6976 or book an appointment below:

Is It Time to Rethink Your Legacy??

Is It Time to Rethink Your Legacy??

Whenever I travel, I always try to seek out the oldest pub in town.

I love being able to say that I’ve tracked down a historical landmark and learning the history behind each location. Knowing that I’m sitting in a spot that someone may have been enjoying a beer a hundred years prior is an amazing thought.

I often wonder whether the landlord or publican who established the place could have imagined that their legacy would still exist generations later? Continuing to offer its patrons the chance to enjoy a nice cold beverage (or two) across the ages? When I think of such experiences, the thought of my own legacy springs to mind. 

When men think of the idea of creating a legacy, it is not uncommon for them to ask questions such as; “What mark will I leave on the world that people will remember me for?” or “What do I intentionally want to create today, that others might value once I’m no longer in this world?” or “What on earth will my own legacy look like?”

So, what is a legacy?

There are many different definitions of what a legacy could be. The traditional view is that legacy is creating something of value that can be enjoyed by future beneficiaries, such as our children, for the purpose of offering security or enjoyment. It may include a gift or endowment that is entrusted from a predecessor to an intended successor or descendent. This conveys that a legacy represents a transfer of ownership, that an heir or recipient intentionally receives something of value, such as money or property that can then be used at their own discretion. Some consider it as doing something that matters, such as a cause, an idea or a contribution that spans across generations. This concept can often imply that a legacy should consist of something intrinsic or tangible that can be used or built upon.

What inspires a man to create his own legacy?

There are many, many reasons why men feel compelled or motivated to create their own legacy. From the desire to provide for their family, to feel confident that they will live a safe, comfortable and secure life without the necessary hardships that they themselves may have endured. For some men, the desire to create a future legacy is an innate driver, while others barely give it a second thought. According to the social researcher, Susan V. Boas, “a legacy is fundamental to what it is to be human. Research shows that without a sense of working to create a legacy, people lose meaning in their life.”

Do men really, intentionally set out to create a legacy?

The idea of legacy, or creating a legacy is generally a fleeting thought. It’s not necessarily the driving force that gets most men out of bed each morning. Life can be all consuming and it’s easy to get caught in the weeds of our daily routine and our busy lives. If picturing our ‘future self’ is a difficult exercise, imagining our future legacy and the impact of what we do today, is often beyond comprehension. Having that degree of foresight doesn’t come natural (even those who have crystal balls in good working order) for most of us. Occasionally, something drastically shifts in a man’s world and he realizes that life is short and he faces his own thoughts of mortality. When this occurs, he recognizes that a legacy can allow him to extend himself beyond the confines of his own life. His desire to be, even remotely, immortalized, can offer something extremely powerful.

What’s wrong with the way we view our own legacy?

However, there is an inherent problem with the way that many men think about constructing their legacy. Picturing it as a future state or commodity to bequeath to a future generation, limits its potential. This mindset drastically limits how it is created, because it does not cultivate living, evolving experience. From another perspective, our legacy fails for those we want to pass it onto, because we fail to live in it, as it is created. A legacy needs to be experiences in the ‘here-and-now.’ It should be a way of living, rather than a destination or series of acquired objects. It requires complete presence in the life one lives now. Adopting this view of legacy, allows a man to live with focused intention on what is most important for his future. Living your legacy, creates an authentic foundation that can provide for future generations in ways far greater than accolades, money, power or influence could ever provide.

If you think it's time to explore your own legacy, or if you feel like your legacy might be 'off track', then call me on 512-470-6976 to start a conversation.

Arohanui, Simon

Simon Niblock is an Austin TX based, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate who is dedicated to helping men, couples and families find peace, direction and meaning within their relationships.

Call Simon on 512-470-6976 or book an appointment below:

Big Boys Don't Cry...

Big Boys Don't Cry...

IMG_2415 3.JPG

We all know that when you throw down the gauntlet, most guys are up for a challenge…

Are you ready to tackle the next ‘Tough Mudder’ in record time?
Sure! Let me show you who’s boss!
Ready to dismantle the kitchen garbage disposal, blindfolded, with dinner guests about to arrive?
Easy mate, I can do that, while still juggling the BBQ!
How about changing the nappy of your child, while in an airplane toilet stall at 30 thousand feet, while experiencing turbulence?  
Come on, that’s old school dad stuff! Would you like me to land the plane too?
How about coming to therapy?
You’re bloody joking right?!
So… we struck a nerve.

Why the adverse reaction? Why do some men suddenly develop a phobia when presented with the idea of seeing a psychotherapist? In my professional opinion, I suspect there are three reasons.

1. Society has expectations that men must be independent, bulletproof, and have the world in the palm of their hands.

2. Men are not taught the language of verbal, emotional expression.

3. The counseling and psychotherapy profession has not fully accommodated the therapeutic needs of men.

Because of these reasons, many men are willing to sit in their pain, while hoping they can push through it, using the same old tired tactics. Most of this is an attempt to show the world that they have both the answers and solutions and that they will fix themselves by the end of the business day.

Let’s explore these reasons a bit further…

Society has done a wonderful job in shaping how men should view themselves. Men are labeled in so many different ways these days, whether it’s trending or not, the story that many guys portray isn’t necessarily their own. Think of labels like ‘metrosexual’, ‘lumbersexual’, ‘retrosexual’, ‘technosexual’ and even ‘spornosexual’. Many of these social narratives are placed heavily on men’s shoulders right from a young age. These labels are created to reinforce our expectations of men and how they should think and behave towards themselves towards women, with their children and other men. 

If society says that men must think of themselves as untouchable and indestructible - then naturally men aren’t going to seek help when they really need it.

The stigma of reaching out for help is both internalized (there’s no way that I will admit that something is wrong) and externalized (he better not fall off his horse and crash). That is an incredibly powerful force in shaping our ideas about masculinity and how we think about ourselves.

As a consequence, many men are never taught (or even expected) to be able to openly express themselves or experience their emotions.

When men are asked to ‘express themselves’ they come up short. Because they haven’t had any real training in this, they don’t necessarily have the right type of vocabulary to communicate what’s really going on inside. Now, that’s real pressure. In many circumstances, this is viewed as avoidance or resistance, and some men are portrayed as ‘emotionally void’ or even just ‘bumbling idiots’. It’s not a case of unwillingness but a simple lack of capability.

Subsequently, men struggle to express what’s really happening behind the kimono and the cycle of shame and despair is perpetuated; their needs get buried deeper, problems never get resolved and their relationships suffer.

What can we do to help men, help themselves?

Offering gender-specific services, practices, and environments that honor the diverse needs of men is a practical way of engaging more men in therapy. 

Services that address the typecasting or labeling that has commonly deterred them, using language that suits men's thinking will help minimize the uncertainty and misconceptions of therapy and open the door to endless possibilities. Hopefully, men can then come out of the trenches and live authentically without fear of reprisal or isolation. If men were confident that this was available to them, then more might actually be willing to engage in services that create a meaningful, healing experience.

If you think your man is hurting and needs help, or if you’re a bloke who has known for some time that things aren’t 100% right, then call me on 512-470-6976 for a free phone consultation.

Arohanui, Simon

Simon Niblock is an Austin TX based, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate who is dedicated to helping men, couples and families find peace, direction and meaning within their relationships.

Call Simon on 512-470-6976 to book an appointment today.





The Changing Landscape of Fatherhood.

The Changing Landscape of Fatherhood.

Image by   白士     李   on Flickr

Image by 白士  on Flickr

With Father’s Day upon us, there’s always a flurry of commentary about the ever changing role of fathers and what it means to be a Dad in this day and age. If you can ignore for a brief moment the consumer emphasis of this ‘hallmark’ day, it offers the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the special bond that exists between a father and his children.

As part of this celebration, it’s time to start a dialog about the ever changing landscape of what it means to be a father.

The men that I work with in therapy describe a tremendous range of parenting and relationship challenges and experiences. With the increase of solo parenting, blended and extended, same-sex and non-married families, not to mention transformations in our commercial and cultural, political and immigration, technology and legal world, it’s honestly no surprise that the role that fathers play in the lives of his children has never been so diverse; or equally bewildering.

The widely oscillating story between nurturer and provider that occurs in contemporary society has the potential to create a tremendous amount of stress for fathers. While there is an increasing movement for fathers to provide greater levels of emotional support and connectivity for their children, some fathers battle to find the right balance between intimacy and fun and traditional roles of being the breadwinner or disciplinarian. This combination can cause confusion for children and tremendous discord between spouses.

Finding the right balance between traditional and contemporary fatherhood roles is a challenge for many fathers who are trying to create their own authentic parenting style. Some fathers describe that the foundation of their role has become slowly eroded or diluted. Others state the opposite, describing their roles as increasingly fulfilling and empowering. These different perspectives may be due to the way fathers are valued (or potentially devalued) in society and the accompanying cultural environment. It may also be as a result of the legacies left for them by their own fathers.

So, let’s not wait until the third week of June each year to have this crucial conversation.

Father’s are ready to openly explore unchartered territory about their relationships with their children right now. They are becoming parenting advocates, they are working closely with other fathers, they are educating themselves and they are even seeking professional help far more readily than any generation that came before them. Fathers recognize that fatherhood is a challenging job and they are willing to acknowledge and take accountability for any mistakes they may have may along the way. They are also willing to savor the love and connectivity with their children when things go well.

Let’s continue and support this conversation beyond this weekend.

So to all the dad’s, fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, foster dads, and any other dad-like figures that play a role in the life of a child, I take my hat off to you. Fatherhood, regardless of what shape, form or flavor you can imagine, can be for some, one of the most rewarding and fulfilling roles that men can ever experience. It’s bloody tough, and fatherhood should be celebrated each and every day.

If you are preparing for fatherhood, exploring what fatherhood means to you or would like to enhance your relationship with your children but find that you sometimes struggle, then let’s talk. Call me on 512-470-6976 to book an appointment.

Arohanui, Simon

Simon Niblock is an Austin TX based, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate who is dedicated to helping men, couples and families find peace, direction and meaning within their relationships. 

Call Simon on 512-470-6976 to book an appointment.