‘When I feel depression knocking on the door, I know how to turn it away’

Philip Morgan, 66, reframed his thinking after going through a series of health problems, including silent strokes (caused by a frontal lobe injury), a cancer diagnosis and early-onset vascular dementia.

“Life seemed just hopeless,” he says. “However, now I can talk about good ways to overcome hopelessness.”

Once skeptical of alternative mind-body practices, “it was all a bit fascinating to me,” Philip found that during his recovery he “desperately needed to engage and practice mental wellness.”

It focused on rewiring the pathways in your brain that control automatic thought and behavior patterns, also known as increasing your neuroplasticity. Two of the small changes he made were talking to strangers more and practicing gratitude.

“I’d hate to come in as that crazy guy you don’t want to sit next to on the train, it’s more about striking up a conversation with people I’ve held the door open for, that sort of thing.”

While undergoing radiotherapy treatment, Philip tried to see the positive aspects of his situation. “It’s wonderful that the hospital staff could do something for me and they didn’t send me home because my diagnosis has no treatment.”

Philip has also learned to adapt to the effects of vascular dementia, including short-term memory loss. “On my bad days, I wake up and I don’t know where I am or what day it is.”

He refers to his smartphone as “an extension of my brain” as it contains vital information, including events on his calendar and a contact book with names and photos. “I’ve gotten used to not panicking in the morning, but mentally putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.”

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Perhaps his greatest help in life is his dog, Wilson, a “scruffy” black Scottish terrier who shares his conversations. “Wilson is a friend and knows exactly what is going on, he gets upset with me and I get upset with him, but we understand each other very well.”

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