Inspirational interview with author Clive Culverhouse
Name: Clive Culverhouse
Occupation: Author & Project Assistant
Hi Clive, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer some of my questions.
I know that the subject of mental health is very important to you, would you mind telling me about your personal relationship with depression?
What have been your biggest challenges and how have you dealt with them?
Firstly, thanks for involving me in your amazing ‘TLC a conversation with…’ project. You're welcome! Depression just kind of happened! I was the last one to be aware of it occurring. I was injured out of my job and career and from that I inadvertently slipped down a dark path that saw me basically cutting everyone out, even myself as I had no real reason to be anymore. Well that’s how it felt anyway. Actually I still had a lot, my wife and my children mainly but depression distorted my perception and it was upon almost losing them that I realised something was wrong. I had to get help. My biggest challenge was getting back into society and the world. I set goals and had a focus and it was working forward to these that I started to bounce back.
Have you always spoken so openly about your own personal relationship with mental health? Why have you chosen to speak out? Was it difficult for you?
I haven’t always spoken about it. In fact I hid and kept so out of the way that I practically went out in disguise because I felt ashamed that I had let people down by not being who I was and losing friends. Plus it was quite clear that people didn't know how to talk to me, I don’t know, in case I did something silly I suppose, I was mentally ill so in the eyes of others I was a freak. One of my goals was to learn about mental health so I did some courses and it was on those courses that I began to open up a little and I found it helped and actually I got on better getting it out and controlling it. The way you describe yourself as being seen as a freak really highlights the stigma that's attached to mental illness.
Mental health issues not only affect the individual dealing with them but the people around them, how did it affect your relationship with other people?
Well like I said, I cut everyone out, even those closest to me. I lost touch with everyone except my wife and children and all I did was become Mr Angry and shout at them.
You work in a mental health environment, why is helping others important to you?
I think it’s because I’ve been there and so I want to support those that need it. I’m not saying that I know what other people are going through. I only know what I went through but with gaining qualifications in mental health awareness and counselling, it’s something I can give back so to speak. I think that personal experience can be really important when helping others and this can be related to any situation in life of course.
In your work you must hear a lot about other peoples’ challenges? do you wish you could wave a magic wand and make them all disappear? Do you ever feel burdened by them?
There was a time when my first reaction would have been to wave a magic wand to make people’s difficulties disappear but actually I wouldn’t if I had one! I can only speak for myself and how it feels to me but the troubles and difficulties I went through has really helped me in a profound way of how I deal with things now and how I look at things now. I went through what I went through and there’s no question I feel a better person for it, stronger, wiser and more understanding of others. I understand where you are coming from, I'm also happy that you have this outlook for yourself, but I believe that some people, despite the outcome would prefer not to go through the experience at all. I also know that some people are not so fortunate in their own outcomes.
I wouldn’t say I feel burdened because a problem or challenge is an ongoing thing until its resolved, and that’s the secret – it can be resolved, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow or the next few weeks or months but one day it may well be so I just work towards the goal of the individual and try to provide an ear of support.
What would you say to someone who believed that they were suffering from a mental illness?
I don’t like to give advice, I prefer to give support; there’s a big difference. Support is the most important thing. If someone feels they are being heard then that does more than advice ever will. Only the person suffering can bring themselves back and with a support network around them, they stand a good chance of doing so. I agree that support is vital to individuals experiencing difficulties of any kind.
Why do you believe that there is such stigma attached to the subject of mental health? Is this something that you faced when speaking about your own issues?
There’s definitely a stigma to mental health, I’ve witnessed it first-hand. People treading on eggshells around me, keeping their distance and just being different around me as though I was a time bomb waiting to go off this is where I believe education needs to addressed. Sure some people do bad things when they are mentally ill but so do those who aren’t mentally ill. The newsreader will always point out that the person involved was mentally ill when they did whatever they did, they never point out anything about anyone else. The biggest threat form someone suffering a mental illness will come from themselves in the form of self-harm, decline in self-attention etc. but people seemed unsure and scared of mental illness. The only thing that will address this is mental health awareness. I think it's safe to say that I can see an increase in mental health awareness happening, especially as people, including yourself, are happy to share your own experiences to help spread support to others, and I believe that there will be many grateful people out there that are happy that you did.
The government seem to be addressing the subject of Mental Health more seriously, what would you like to see done with regards to the awareness of mental health issues?
The biggest thing I would like to see done is a closer working from other agencies. The Government working with GPs, and GPs working with support groups and community psychiatric staff, counsellors etc. I co-run a mental health support group in my community and I know that GPs DO NOT work with us, they don’t work against us either, they just don’t utilise community resources effectively and that’s a real shame, not to mention so frustrating. It’s the most frequent thing I see at the support group, people who have been to their GP and have had no joy and have nothing to show for it, they’re left in limbo in a society that doesn’t know what to do with them!
You have recently written and published 2 books! The Legend of Heliodor: The Crystal Spirits and recently The Legend of Heliodor: Tales from the Realm, a collection of short stories, how did this come about?
It came about mainly because I suddenly had loads of time on my hands because of losing my job! I’ve always written one thing or another and so I naturally turned to writing something.
Is there a hidden message in your stories about mental health?
Many of my stories do contain hidden messages, some subtle, some obvious. I wrote a short story called The Seller (in my new book haha). The Seller started his sales pitch but the recipient didn’t answer and so the Seller had to keep talking. Eventually the Seller opened up and talked on a deeper level but the thing is that he was allowed to and after it he felt better and although he didn’t make the sale, he felt it didn’t matter because he realised there were more important things, in this case being listened to by others. I think being heard and listened to is vital in mental health. Well in life too really.
I’m sure that your stories provide some escapism? Is getting away from the real world from time to time important to you? Do you think your stories provide this escapism for others?
I’d like to think so, I’d fail as a storyteller if readers couldn’t escape into my stories! Escaping is important. Whether that’s an escape into fantasy world in a book, a hobby, a movie, whatever, we all need a diversion from time to time. I agree!
What do you like so much about the fantasy era that you write about?
With the fantasy genre you can create any world you want. I can take people anywhere! To see dragons, witches, monsters, heroes, warriors, anything. Magic can be done, anything is possible.
Is writing something that you have always wanted to pursue?
I’ve written stuff for most of my life. When I was a teenager I used to write comedy sketches and sold some to television editors and comedians. I wrote stories here and there. I’ve always been a bit of a closet writer!
What advice would you give to people when they are faced with difficult times?
What advice would you give to people about pursuing their dreams and ambitions despite any challenges that they face?
Like I said, I don’t like giving advice, I’m not really the best person to ask that because I have wobbles and relapses, I would say that this is normal and occurs for a lot of people. For me I seek support from those around me. I get a lot from the support group I run, I get a lot from my family, my wife is incredibly supportive and I have a very good friend who is always there for me and who I’d hate to be without. I could say all the usual stuff like don’t give up and things will get better but quite honestly I’d rather be listened to and know that my ‘inner circle’ is there for me. I know a lot of people might not have support around them, it’s difficult and complex which is why the community needs to work together more for everyone.
What is your ultimate goal with regards to your work, writing and your future projects?
I don’t crave the limelight or fame, never have. I don’t want to be worth millions. I just want to be there for my family, have a few successful books out for people to enjoy and live in comfort. I wish you all the luck with your book sales!
I thank you for your time Clive and wish you all the best with your future projects.
Thank you for your interest, it’s been my pleasure to answer your questions.
Anyone wishing to see my work and thoughts can visit me at my blog: