The Bleak Midwinter…

Winter 2010. I managed to get a job working for an online shopping company, and until I had another relapse of depression and anxiety, it went largely ok.

The one thing I remember about that period before Christmas was the intense cold. As my car was off the road, damaged beyond repair, I had to get trains and a taxi to work each night, costing me money that I could barely afford, despite getting a regular wage. It was at this time that I was in a lot of debt, and struggling to pay off bills. Despite trying to concentrate on the job in hand, the peripheral stuff was causing more problems.

Anyway, one morning, I had to get the train back to London. The temperature was around -13, extremely cold. I get to the station and manage to get the train as the station staff were saying “this will be the last one for the foreseeable future”. So I was lucky. When I returned to home, I had to order some flowers for my sister’s birthday. I hadn’t warmed up at all, and when I got into the florists, my hands were blue with cold, despite wearing gloves.

I tried to write the birthday message and my hand just cramped up. The message came out as an unintelligible scrawl that a young child would have turned their nose up at. The temperature was still bone chilling. I managed to reach home and switch the heating on full blast.

That was a very bleak midwinter, and the depression and anxiety was about to wash over me more markedly than the extreme cold. The legacy of the failed marriage and Mum’s passing was still troubling me. Trauma has a funny way of destroying every fibre of your being.

Winter 2010. Forgettable and traumatising.

Thanks for looking in

Allen Brooks xx

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Lost luggage…

Dream description time. A dream I had last night was one of those fatalistic ones, where something went wrong and I was trying to get out of it.

I was on a plane, which landed, and I had a good holiday. Coming back to the airport for the return, I had my bag ready to put through the security scanner. I was in this long line of other passengers and I didn’t think it was moving quickly enough. Finally, I stepped up, put the bag and it’s contents into the scanner, I walked through to collect it, and…….nothing. The scanner had swallowed all the contents and my personal effects such as mobile phone, house keys and wallet had gone.

I started to panic, I checked again, but the bag had gone. I quizzed the security staff but they were at a loss to explain what had happened. I couldn’t get on the plane without my personal effects.

I then had to spend an extra few days in the destination while I had to sort out various things, like cancelling my debit card and making sure I could claim on contents through insurance. I know this is a dream, but to have all my things disappear like that into thin air was very worrying.

And then I woke up. I still have my things! They haven’t disappeared. And neither have I. But what a scary dream. I wish I could replay the dream, include the holiday and the plane journey but not the bag going missing! Sadly, the subconscious doesn’t work in that way. All very bizarre.

Thanks for looking in

Allen Brooks xx

My first……trip abroad.

March 1991. I was eighteen at the time, still a teenager and still hadn’t seen much of the world. I was writing to a pen friend I had met on a UK holiday and she lived in Germany. Her family invited me over to stay for a few days. This was it….my first trip abroad and my first trip on a plane!

I arrived at Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports. I felt a little bit lost with all the hubbub. Eventually, my flight was called, a British Airways flight to Munich. To say I was very nervous was an understatement. My stomach was the proverbial washing machine as I boarded the plane.

And off we went. Nerves gripped me to such an extent that I held onto the arm rests on the seat. The gentleman next to me wondered what the hell was going on. When I explained, he was a little more kindly and understanding. I was glad the plane landed, about an hour after leaving London.

Munich railway station knocks a lot of the UK Stations into a cocked hat with it’s grandeur and enormous presence. My train was there, and it left on time, to the second, something you don’t see very often in the UK. I arrived at my destination, looking for my pen friend and her family. No sign. I walked around and around the station trying to find them. Still no sign.

Now I was starting to get worried. Mobile phones were only in their infancy so I had the traditional pay phone to use. And also, Germany’s currency was the old fashioned Deutschmark, so I had to fish out some coins for the phone. I got through, eventually, to my relief. They told me to get another suburban train, and we did meet up finally. The worry of being in a strange country on your own and having a lack of communication was really praying on my nerves. But all was well in the end.

And now onto the journey home. My intended flight had to be changed as the pen friend and her family had a prior engagement. Surprisingly, the airline took note of my predicament and got me on an earlier flight. Excellent, except for one major problem.

This was March 1991, just after the Gulf War had finished. There were security alerts galore, all round the globe. I got on the plane, we sat on the tarmac for what seemed like an eternity, until the Captain told us that there was a security alert regarding the flight and the plane was going nowhere. Cripes! This was when I realised that adrenaline was brown….

Off we trooped into Munich Airport and I must say the security operation was first class. My personal effects were checked, re checked and checked again. There were lots of stern German officials and plenty of sniffer dogs. Efficiency wins out and I was very impressed. The only slight concern was a very stern female official who sifted through my already worn clothes. I got over the shock of that and it was back on the plane, two hours late.

Again, because of the security alert, my stomach was doing it’s washing machine impression again. But 75 minutes later, I was back on terra firma. Tired and jaded because of all the chaos, I was glad to get in my sister’s car and get back home. That was my first trip abroad. Exciting and chaotic in equal measure. I’ve been on planes another 16 times since. The stomach still churns, the nerves are still taut. But I can tolerate flying, just.

Thanks for looking in,

Allen Brooks xx

Catching up with old friends…

Yesterday was a good day. We had our usual Peer Support group and it was a mixed session, some serious stuff and some light hearted stuff too. Bit of lunch with one of my colleagues and then off to watch some football in the evening.

The chap I met up with used to be a cricketer, a fast bowler with a spiky attitude, but treated umpires very well. He decided to make the jump to umpiring himself and has been very successful, operating at County 2nd XI level and in the highest form of club cricket.

I don’t get to see him very often, so it was nice to arrange a pre match meet up in a local pub, where some fine beverages were consumed. Then it was off to watch his local team in an F.A. Cup match, televised live to the nation.

There was a crowd of 3,500 to witness the local team’s progress to the Second Round of the Cup for the first time ever. Sadly, they lost 3-1, with the second half being better than the first. But I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere, though it was very cold by the end.

I was pretty tired by the time I got home, around midnight, and I didn’t have a very good night’s sleep either. I had a lot of heartburn which kept me awake for the majority of the night. I was late on parade this morning and felt physically quite drained. But the lure of a clear, cold winter’s day got me outside to do a few bits before returning to home base.

Do you know, I felt good about going to the game yesterday, meeting up with my colleague and just enjoying the experience. I didn’t have to think too much about the day, and so consequently, my anxiety stayed firmly in the box. Things are ok at the moment and being busy is really helping to keep me sane. Just hope it continues!

Allen Brooks xx

Go Compare….

Thankfully I’m not about to dress up as an opera singer and appear in an advert about car insurance. I’m writing about comparing how I am this time in 2017 to that of November 2016.I’m not at my best during winter, but this winter so far hasn’t been too bad. I’ve got a fair few activities to keep my ageing brain occupied, and I’m grateful for those activities. Winter is a long season and keeping busy will help me through those dark and cold days.Why do I compare? Well it was another CBT appointment today and I have to fill in a form at the end of each session, to indicate how things have been for me mentally. The last two visits has seen my score come down to acceptable levels, to indicate a lot more stability and enjoyment in my life. The counsellor was delighted with this improvement, something I aim to work on. My next appointment is not for another fortnight, so I must be making progress! My remark on the seeing the score was “I’ll take that”. I will take that, and I hope to progress through the winter and come out the other side in spring in even better fettle. I hope those words are backed up by actions.So, happy with things. Taking each day as it comes and enjoying myself. Small goals….Allen Brooks xx

Four hours of solitude…

Second day of volunteering at the mental health charity today, and after my poor showing last night, I had a sense of foreboding as I woke up today.

It hasn’t really gone away. But I was put at ease by a few members of staff who were pleased to see me. I was more or less left on my own to do the tasks set. These tasks were completed ok, and I enjoyed the peace and solitude. I seem to be making a good impression, but it is early days. Some of the bad memories from last night have been erased. I enjoyed doing something none too taxing, but relaxing for the mind. Just me and no one else.

Don’t you just love anxiety? 

Allen Brooks xx

Somebody’s Watching Me…

https://youtu.be/7YvAYIJSSZY
Link is the song Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell 

Notes:- check, Computer working:- check, Soft Drink:- check, Anxiety Levels:- check. Look around the room, there are 30 odd people here. 30 pairs of eyes and ears hanging on my every word.

There’s still a buzz in the room. I call them to order as I’m ready to start. The nerves are bubbling away under the surface. I take a gulp of the drink and I’m ready. Off we go. To start, it all seems ok. I ask the audience if they understand what I’m saying, and I see some approving nods. Not much in the way of puzzled glances….yet.

The computer is slow. The application on screen takes ages to load and reload. I can hear a few tuts and a few mutterings. My mind is deciding on what to ad lib. I keep patient. 

Then the questions begin. One question draws a blunt but honest reply. Then I say something which causes a mixture of amusement, bewilderment and argument. I can feel the ground opening up underneath. Please swallow me up! Please!

I look for help, it’s slow in forthcoming but eventually my team help me out of the deep hole I’ve found myself in. The questions keep on coming, but I’ve lost my self control and calm. I feel flustered, and ask one questioner to save his question for afterwards. I manage to stumble on towards the end, and am glad to draw the proceedings to a close.

That’s how difficult tutoring can be. Those eyes and ears, the shuffling of feet, the muttering of the audience. It wasn’t one of my best nights, by far. I hope to make amends next Monday.

Somebody’s Watching Me….

Allen Brooks xx