Gilt off the Gingerbread…

The other day I was over the moon, that the presentation I did was well delivered and received. Today, however, was indicative of how one can return to earth with a large thud.

Today, I was attending a training day at this London based mental health charity. To summarise, we discussed mental health conditions, services and how we deal with callers ringing in to the helpline service.

That was all fine, I could deal with those topics and was able to make a contribution, after all, I have lived experience and am able to draw on that. I may not always be right, but I do have knowledge of my own problems, and those of others, to a point. Knowledge is power.

Where it all fell apart was a role play exercise. I played the part of a caller ringing in to the helpline, another member of the group was the volunteer/listener. I had a script to work from, and this is where I felt decidedly uncomfortable and incredibly anxious. The script, not to put too fine a point on it, was very uncomfortably close to my own problems. 

I had five minutes to speak, and the more it went on, the worse I was feeling. I was glad when it ended, because I was very close to breaking down. The group member listening was fantastic, and I wouldn’t have any hesitation in talking to her if I rang the helpline. She listened intently, demonstrated great empathy and tried to point me in the right direction. She fulfilled her part of the bargain, I came up very short.

The emotions were bubbling to the surface, and I had to leave the room. I couldn’t face being the listener to her caller in return, I was gone at this point. One of the facilitators came out and chatted to me to take my mind off the subject. That did help, but the confidence I demonstrated pre-role play exercise had dissipated and I sat, rather glum and reflective, for the remainder of the session.

Thankfully, I will not be partaking in volunteering for the helpline. I don’t think, with my recent issues, that trying to reassure callers in distress is my bag, so to speak. I have put myself down to do some work online and some admin; dealing with distressing issues is beyond me, quite frankly. 

One thing the experience told me is that any confidence and aptitude I showed up to now, has been knocked. I tried to wind down with a meal and a drink in a local pub, but coming back on the train saw my mind still turning over the events of the day. Good at some things, rubbish on others. And you wonder why I’m anxious? 

So time for reflection and a good night’s sleep. I feel mentally exhausted and need some recharging of the over wound mind. Looking forward to bed and a hopefully relaxing Sunday.

That’s all. See you soon.

Allen Brooks xx


Fantastic Feedback….

My line manager has sent me the feedback that was done by the audience following the mental health presentation that was delivered yesterday.

And the feedback has been very, very positive. That is the key thing. I think that the audience have gone away with more knowledge and education on mental health issues, to prove that the message we delivered hit the spot. 

Companies can ask for consultants to come in and deliver presentations on a range of issues, and the consultants can charge top dollar for their time. But what those consultants don’t have is experience. Money isn’t an issue for me, knowledge that I’ve done a good job and have left the audience with a good impression is reward enough. I didn’t turn up in a suit and tie yesterday, just a jumper and a pair of jogging bottoms. That tended to fit in with the informal atmosphere in the room, and that helped us all relax and enjoy the morning. 

So I’m really pleased with the outcome of the presentation, and I hope there are more to come. We can always do better and look to improve our content and delivery. But that was a two hours that will stay with me because of the way we got our message across. Could there be a career as a keynote speaker on mental health for me? Who knows….baby steps, but that was so enjoyable yesterday I can’t begin to tell you. 

Feeling good!

Allen Brooks xx

Unhappy landing….

For avid readers of this blog, you will know that I’m not a great lover of air travel. I can just about tolerate it, but I’m not a fan in all honesty. 

Which leads me onto today’s tale. I was coming back from a honeymoon in Malta. I had just recently got married and me and the wife (or the better half, or in this case the better three quarters) had spent a week in the sun kissed Mediterranean island.

The journey back from Malta was relatively trouble free, until we reached the outskirts of the UK. It was windy and the plane was being thrown a little off it’s steady course coming into Gatwick. I don’t like the landing part of a plane’s journey and as we came in to touch down, I sat bolt upright in the seat. 

Just before the wheels touched the ground, the pilot bailed out and lifted the plane back into the air. Now I hadn’t been confronted with this before. I was scared and I also realised that adrenaline was brown….

I shouted “What the hell’s going on?”, “Why are we going round again?” and generally panicking. Nobody else was, including the wife, who I managed to bawl at at the same time, for which I received a ticking off in her own inimitable and frightening way.

The plane circled the airport for what seemed an eternity. Then the pilot made another attempt to land. This time, he was successful, though the plane landed with a large thud and lurched to the right. I was relieved we were on terra firma at last.

As the plane was taxiing back to the gate, the pilot announced what the problem was. “Sorry about that ladies and gentlemen, it was rather windy the first time and we couldn’t land. We had to adopt the go around procedure”. A bit more reassurance and then the pay off line, delivered with that clipped Home Counties accent that most pilots seem to have….”but we don’t charge you for going round the airfield again”.

Er….thanks for frightening the bejesus out of me and to say we don’t charge you for the privilege of the go around was rubbing salt into my panic induced wound. Off we got, and I was shaking like a jelly on a plate. Wobble, wobble, wobble.

Walking back through the terminal building, I was somewhat shell shocked by the whole experience. The wife found it all utterly hilarious of course, the laughter would have been on the other side of her face if I decided to end the marriage then! If I had done, I would have saved myself a lot of hassle, but that’s another story…..

It took me a few days back on solid ground to wipe the experience from my mind. Now that I know that pilots can perform this go around procedure, if it happens again, I can be assured that there is nothing to worry about. Flying and public speaking can be two of the most stressful things anyone can do, and yet I do these things, after a fashion it must be said. The mind is a complex thing. 

Allen Brooks xx

Memories from this morning….

Something that has kept turning over in my mind from the presentation I did was the comment a member of the audience made:-“Thank you for being so honest and sharing your story”

To explain, I gave my mental health journey in around about ten minutes, commenting on the autistic diagnosis and the underlying causes of my depression and anxiety. All it was was an honest account of what has been going on. 

I don’t see being any other way on this issue. People admire honesty and I don’t embellish or exaggerate the story. It is what it is, and the story, amongst all the other things we did, seemed to be appreciated by the audience. If I can make one bit of difference into how that particular company deals with it’s workplace mental health, then I have done my job. 

Nothing but good memories from today…and that will stay in my mind in some future low moments, it will certainly help. 

Allen Brooks xx


I always think there’s no such thing as perfection, though I have tried to be the best at certain things, presentations, umpiring and the like, I can get rather down when I don’t perform up to the standard I’m capable of.

Today, me and my line manager went to do a mental health presentation at a local construction company. This is something different to what I’m used to as we haven’t done an adult presentation for quite a while, as most of the work has been in schools and colleges.

We were there for two hours, and to say it was wonderful would be understating things. It was an absolute joy to do, everyone really was interested in what I had to say, and we both used interaction to stop people from being disinterested, and that worked superbly. 

The number of people that came up to us both was a testament to how it went. We were complimented very fulsomely and thanked for our time. We had equal amounts of light and shade, mental health is a heavy subject and there was a dose of humour to help us. It was an informal atmosphere and that seemed to work better too, rather than standing up and pointing to a screen. There was an opportunity to describe my own mental health journey, and there was a video as well to describe what our charity does. A perfect blend, and an ideal template for future presentations too.

As I said about perfection, I believe there’s no such thing. But the two hours I have just enjoyed were pretty damn close to it. While I type, I’m enjoying a jacket potato with prawns as a well earned lunch. Now that is a great way to round off a super day so far. 

Just to say, when I’m feeling ok, I enjoy what I do, and I felt very relaxed today. Now that is a rarity, but as in Latin, carpe diem. Seize the day, and I have.

Bye for now.

Allen Brooks xx

Good Friends….

Evening folks. It’s been a good day today. One of those days I can look back on with some satisfaction. It helps to have good people around you to help you feel ok, and tonight was a good case in point.

Me and two former work colleagues went to a local greyhound racing track for some good quality sport and some lively banter. We won some money, we lost some money, but as this something we only do every so often, it provides a welcome change and relaxation. 

It helps to have great friends and it’s just good being in their company. After all, they have to put up with me and my ever changing moods! Tonight was very good and it helps keep my feet on the ground, knowing that there are some fine people out there who look out for me. I sometimes don’t realise it, but it is sure appreciated.

Early start tomorrow, so good night all.

Allen Brooks xx

Strange questions?

I went for another CBT appointment yesterday and it went very well. However, I have to fill in a form at the end of each session that indicates to the counsellor how I’ve been in the last two weeks. Moreover, there’s a section on the form that is somewhat alarming.

The section in question refers to suicide and any preparations to do so, whether currently or in the past. I’ve no idea who’s decided to redesign the form, but this particular section is frightening. Currently, I feel reasonably ok, and to answer questions on a very dark period in my life is something I find difficult.

The counsellor and myself have come to an agreement that I don’t fill that section in. And to be honest, if someone was that much in crisis, they wouldn’t be sitting there talking to a counsellor, they would be in a hospital’s A&E department or being taken to a psychiatric unit. Very, very bizarre line of questioning on a form, and one that strikes me as being poignant and somewhat insensitive. 

I don’t know what other people who undertake CBT think about this, but this is just a personal opinion. I’ve no wish to be reminded on a form on events that could have seen me in real danger. Maybe NHS England need to reconsider upsetting people in this way.

Allen Brooks xx