Ghosts in the Machine…

June 2010. Mum had just passed away. I was in the house on my own, and it was slightly ghostly to say the least.

There was a telephone console in the living room that connected to a call centre in the North of England. The reason for its installation was that Mum, in her last few years, was becoming less mobile and the call centre was for elderly people who had fallen while indoors or some other emergency. Mum had a device where she could press a button if she needed the call centre and she was put straight through.

After she passed away, there was of course no need for this console any more. But I didn’t know how to disconnect it and return it to the manufacturers. So I left it. 

I fell asleep on the sofa one night and it must have been the small hours of the morning, when I heard this whirring and clicking sound, followed by a voice. The console had clicked itself into operation and the call was going through to the call centre. I hadn’t touched the console, there were no loose wires or connections. It did it all on it’s own. To say it frightened the life out of me at 3 in the morning was an understatement.

I dropped off back to sleep after I cancelled the call. Then an hour or so later, the whole process started again. This was very spooky. Mum had gone a week and her spirit was very much living on, making calls from beyond the grave! 

I was in the house for a further five months, the console had been returned, but the ghostly feeling of just me in a two bedroom house was still there. I felt alone, afraid and there was no one there to talk to. All very supernatural. But the ghost of my recently deceased mother lived on….

Allen Brooks xx

Warehouse woes….

2010 again. I found myself a job in a warehouse, helping to prepare shopping orders to go out to the general public. It was a job that I actually quite enjoyed for a while, the staff were very friendly and I was able to concentrate on something pleasant for a change.

Then, as so often happens, it all started to go wrong. My car had stopped working altogether one night, leaving me without a decent mode of transport. So I had to get three trains and a taxi cab to the warehouse from my home, costing me a fair amount of money each time.

Also, I was in deep debt, left over from the failed marriage. Money was coming in, but with the debts totalling up to a £1,000, I couldn’t pay off the debts and keep myself going properly. I was disappearing down a black hole once again.

One night, I was busying myself in the warehouse. A song was being played over the radio, I can’t remember which one, but it brought the emotions to the surface. I carried on, and I don’t know how I didn’t break down in front of everyone. Call it devotion to duty I suppose. But it was a near thing.

In the end, I had to leave the job. I started to go downhill again and I couldn’t give the company the commitment they demanded. Though they were sympathetic, I had no choice but to depart. I felt I was working 40 odd hours a week but with no end product, tangible money in my account. I was living a lie. The debts needed to be paid off. It was a horrible time.

The result? I did pay off the debts, eventually, but I haven’t had a full time job since. I doubt whether I could hold down a steady job now, especially with all the ups and downs of my autism. One day, though, it might all change. But for the moment, full time work is out of the question.

Wasn’t 2010 a great year? Not!

Allen Brooks xx

Christmas 2010…

Several months earlier, my world was in turmoil. Mum had passed away in June of 2010, and I was struggling to come to terms with that event and others that were going on at a similar time.

Usually at Christmas, I go to my sister or nephew for dinner. This particular year, it was at sister’s. How would I cope? This will be the first Christmas without Mum. 

The day arrived. I remember the day, it was the tail end of a very cold spell of weather. I wasn’t in the greatest frame of mind, emotions were swirling around in my head. It was time for dinner. I sat there, but there was a vacancy never again to be filled. Normally I would eat my dinner without too many problems. This time, I left half of it. The appetite was gone. I wasn’t enjoying this at all.

At future Christmasses, I tried to shut out all the bad memories, with some measure of success. I don’t enjoy that time of year, and it is very difficult to push myself through to the New Year. But I must have been strong to have lasted this far. Another test of my mental fortitude is on the way in a few months time, and the weather outside this summer’s day speaks only of winter. Dark, gloomy and with foreboding. I have to cope each and every day. There’s no other choice. 

Allen Brooks xx

The homely cottage at the end of the road….

It was a summer morning. I was asleep in a comfortable bed. The first shafts of morning were starting to peep through the curtains. 

Then…..rumble…..roar…..rumble….rumble. What the hell is that at this time of the morning? I’m awake now, wanting to know what this noise is.

It’s the first express train of the day from London to Cornwall, thundering it’s way along the line just 150 yards from the front door. The noise seems endless….and then it disappears….the train has entered the tunnel to it’s next destination. 

It’s August 1979. The weather is glorious. I’m on holiday in Devon. I’m only a stone’s throw from the beach on one of the most idyllic stretches of coastline anywhere in the UK. I struggle to get back to sleep. The roar of the train has woken me up. But I remember. I’m on holiday. This is how it’s meant to be. Then the seagulls start their raucous cacophony. 

I go back to sleep for a while. Mum and Dad wake me up and it’s time for breakfast. The radio is on. Dad has been to the shop for his newspaper. I switch on the TV. I turn over to ITV. Nothing. Just a blue screen stating that are no programmes due to an industrial dispute. It’s been a year of strikes and discontent amongst British workers. But I’m only seven years old. What do I know? Not a lot really.

Then it’s time to get ready, get my bucket and spade and make our way to the beach. Golden sands, clear water. We pitch our deckchairs and stay there for the rest of another glorious summer’s day. I’m in and out of the water, looking a bedraggled mess by day’s end. But this is a holiday. Good times. Good memories. Admiring my Dad’s suntan. Watching Mum squeeze her way into a swimming costume. The memories are wonderful. And on a wet July evening that I’m looking at right now, August 1979 was very memorable. 

Allen Brooks xx

Whiteout..

  
Year:- 2009. It was deepest winter time in deepest England. I’d just finished my night shift, working at a postal sorting office. During the night, I’d witnessed bucketfuls of snow descending on this part of England. I wasn’t looking forward to my journey home in the car.

I set off, snow still falling. It took me an age to make it out onto the main dual carriageway. When I reached there, the horrors were about to unfold. Cars strewn everywhere, people having given up trying to reach home in some of the worst winter weather seen for some years. 

I sat there and pondered my fate. What do I do, I thought to myself. I decided, probably foolhardily, to press on and reach home, some 35 miles away. I set off, through the deep snow, inching my unsteady way forward. There were other people trying to help others get onto the carriageway, some with success, some without.

I drove on, at a very slow speed, afraid to depress the brake pedal for fear of skidding off down a ditch. If I knew how my life would pan out, I probably would have driven off the road on purpose. This thought though, was not on my mind as I slowly made my way along.

There were abandoned cars, in ditches, in lay bys, as the futility of beating the snow became more ever present. Then all of a sudden, white out. A complete white out. Visibility reduced to a few metres. Snow falling heavily, I gripped the steering wheel tighter and plodded on, becoming scared as I did so.

Mile after mile, there was nothing to be seen. It was like a Christmas card, only worse. The time seemed to be going forward very slowly. A forty minute journey turning into a two and a half hour test of endurance. My right foot was on the accelerator, albeit gently. My left foot was nowhere near touching the brake or the clutch, as that would have spelt disaster. 

Then, the blizzard slowly abated, and I reached the motorway, where conditions were somewhat easier. I started to breathe a bit easier, knowing the worst was over. But what a frightening experience, probably the worst as a car driver I’ve ever experienced. Determination saw me through to journey’s end. Again, if I knew the fate that was to befall me in the years ahead, I could easily have made a decision that would have signalled the end for Allen Brooks. Fortunately, that decision never came to pass, certainly not while driving a car. In other ways, yes, but not in charge of a metal box with wheels.

I can look back now and can remember the night very clearly indeed. Scary, frightening and terrifying. A bit like my anxiety and depression on some days. But I got through it, as I will with this bout of depression and anxiety that is currently plaguing me. Determination to succeed, and to battle against all the odds, that’s what keeps me going.

Allen Brooks xx

Seven years on, Part Two. The packet of paracetamol….

Contains some upsetting material 

I sat there…..thoughts dashing this way and that. I just had an argument with my now ex-wife, and I was shaking with fear. Fear of my next step. 

I went to the kitchen. I found a packet of paracetamol. Still shaking, I brought them into the living room. I still sat there, contemplating the worst. I started to push one of the tablets from the packet….and then I stopped. The racing thoughts had slowed down. I started to think of the consequences that my possible actions might have. 

The world seemed a dark, unforgiving place. There was no hope for me. I exhausted myself in the failed marriage, was left with no money, and my mother was on her death bed. The abyss was getting deeper. Could I be about to end it all? 

I put the tablets down. Crying uncontrollably, I rang my sister to discuss what has just happened, and my next move. Taking my own life was not the answer. But this was only the beginning. The beginning of a journey that continued to drive me to the edge, on several occasions. A month later, I was in the doctor’s surgery, penniless, helpless and clueless. That is another blog post altogether. 

Here I am, seven years later, writing this post about those dark times. Eventually, I would be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, so that explains those traumatic life events of 2010. It wasn’t a summer that I remember fondly. It could have ended and well….Allen Brooks wouldn’t be writing this.

Rationality intervened and those suicidal ideations are no longer a feature. I do get anxiety and some down days, but ingesting a heap of tablets is not the answer. I realise that now. I didn’t know much about mental illness then. Time is a healer, and I can talk about it now. Talk about it to others and stop them from pursuing unacceptable avenues of escape. I owed it to my family not to disappear from the mortal coil….and I think I made the right decision. 

Allen Brooks xx

Seven years on…..Part One

I remember the day very clearly as if it were only yesterday. June 2010. It was a hot summer’s day. My mother was in hospital, with her life about to end. It was expected, but that doesn’t stop the grief. 

I went to watch cricket, somewhere locally. I had my phone on constant watch, waiting for news. I tried to shut out the inevitable, but without success. Then, sometime around 7 or 8 in the evening, my sister rang me to inform me that Mum was no more. Dazed, I got in the car and drove to the local hospital.

I made my way to the private room. I took one look at my mother, and left the room immediately. I couldn’t look any more. Her life was at an end. I wept, as anyone would do. Her pain and suffering was at an end. My pain and suffering was continuing, unabated.

I spoke to both my sister and brother-in-law, then I left to go home. I then phoned the relatives to let them know. It didn’t sink in, despite the grief. I know that sounds weird, but it took a while for the enormity of events to sink in properly. Everything else seemed to be crashing in on me, at a tremendous velocity. This only added to it. 

Time is a great healer. I still miss my parents, of course, but at times like the present, my brain has tried to shut things out. There are times when my thoughts turn to why they went so quickly, why is cancer a horrible disease that claims so many, why, why? They won’t come back, but some days when I wake up, alone, looking at the four walls, I wonder how I reached this point in time.

But the world still turns, still spins on it’s axis. Life moves on, and this year is turning out to be pretty good, thus far. But events such as seven years ago still remind me of those dark times, stuck down that deep abyss. I’m sure as this week progresses, I’ll be busy so that I don’t think about seven years ago. Doing well to shut it out, but it isn’t easy at times.

Allen Brooks xx