My name is Jamie Cochrane. I’m a 31-year-old born and raised Calgarian that unknowingly suffered silently for 30 years through a chronic anxiety disorder. People ask me how I didn’t know all of that time, and the answer is both complex and easy.
It's easy from the perspective that we only live once and get one, unique brain to learn and understand in our lives, and can be challenging to understand how your brain works relative to your peers. It's complex from the perspective that all anxiety and depression-related disorders are all beneath the surface, and the related issues are very difficult to comprehend and uncover unless you are specifically educated in these areas and able to have deep and vulnerable discussions with someone that is suffering in silence.
For me, the only reason I got to the bottom of this, is that, in March 2018, my left eyebrow and random patches in the back of my head disappeared. This is the equivalent of being hit in the head with a frying pan. You can’t not notice it. Basically, my brain was so internally stressed over the years, that my hair follicles were attacked as an autoimmune response, called alopecia.
I considered the reaction from my community to be a bit of a personal invasion of what should have been a very private issue. The number of times I was asked “hey man, did you know your eyebrow is gone?” or “lose a bet?”or "what happened to the back of your head, LOLZ.” These questions are coming from both close friends, and barely acquaintances, and random strangers. The context behind them that they had absolutely no conception that there might have been a more serious issue going on all of these years, and if anything, this was a situation open to laughter and mocking. After fielding these unprovoked questions for the better part of eight months, I was looking for an outlet to share my message, as it was very clear to me that society as a whole, really had no comprehension of the issues I was dealing with.
November 2018 rolled around, making the timing perfect to become a part of the Movember community. We all recognize the grotesque and comical mustaches associated with Movember, and the mens’ physical health issues that Movember draws attention to and raises funds to help solve. For obvious reasons, I was not in a position to grow a mustache, however, Movember has recently offered “Make a Move for Movember” as an alternative for females and the follicle challenged fellas. This was the perfect opportunity to share my story with the masses, in a real, vulnerable way. As a non-runner, I thought I would set a modest goal. Run 60km during the month for every $1,000 raised. I thought I would raise a couple grand, and would be easy. Well, I raised over $10k, so I bet the better part of November running laps in the Saddledome concourse (300km = 840 laps!) and sleeping excessively in my downtime to restore the energy I wasn’t used to using.
Needless to say, my direct community was a whole lot more supportive than I anticipated, and illustrated to me, that a willingness to be vulnerable with others can really build a level of trust and compassion, and turns out that I was very much not alone in my struggles, and there was no reason to suffer in silence.
This year, due to the success of the campaign, the vulnerable conversations I have had with other silent sufferers that have followed my lead in seeking support for their issues (and actually being ok talking about them openly), I have kicked the challenge up a notch, and running the NYC Marathon as part of team Movember on November 3rd.
I’ve learned through the challenge of running obscene amounts and gruelling marathon training (already ran 10 half-marathons in 2019 after previously never going more than about 10km at a time), that it’s a heck of a lot easier than living another day suffering silently. I take anti-depressants now, which jump start my serotonin development that my brain lacks naturally, and allows for a more consistent, less anxiety-filled thought pattern. I’ve learned a lot about myself through the process. I continue running obscene amounts to attract sustainable attention for Movember. They are doing great things globally to support men's mental health, and really provide enough laughter in the process to allow for open and frank conversation in a safe, non-judgmental way in their community. They gave me the platform to share my story and the story of many others.
On November 3rd I aspire to run a sub-four-hour marathon. I’ve raised another $10,000 for the Movember cause through my marathon training, and the rest of my NYC Marathon teammates have raised $170,000. If this story resonates with you, I strongly encourage you to have the courage of seeking support, and willing to be vulnerable with your community.