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


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

Refusing Lithium…

Two years ago, I was faced with a stark choice. I was on Fluoxetine anti depressant medication. And like the upping of the last Mirtazapine dosage, there were very bad side effects, like mood crashes and suicidal ideations, albeit fleeting.

I had to do something. I had to go through my local mental health team, to advance a change to another medication. The choice that came back was either Mirtazapine or Lithium.

I had a vague knowledge of Lithium, namely it is used to treat extreme mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder for example, but it causes physical side effects such as kidney dysfunction. Regular sodium tests would be needed to regulate any Lithium I would take. 

I weighed up the choice and decided on Mirtazapine. Apart from the last very bad downturn, by and large it’s kept me reasonably ok. That’s not to say Mirtazapine is perfect, it’s not. I know which dosage is right for me. 30mg. 15mg is too ineffective and 45mg, too much the other way with bad side effects. Straight down the middle will do for me.

This is a choice that a lot of people with mental illness face. To stay on medication, to reduce or increase it. Life is all about choices, good and bad. And I’m very glad I didn’t choose Lithium. 

Allen Brooks xx

The Small World in which we live….

Hi there. Today I attended a local mental health seminar where many service users, charitable organisations and health professionals all congregated to discuss the way forward for services in my local borough.

I hadn’t been to one of these events before, and I was invited by a mental health advocate who is interested in getting me to join more groups and try and offer my skills and experience to the said organisations.

It is a small world out there. I recognised three people that I’ve had dealings with over the last few years. Two work within the NHS and the other was a member of the Peer Support training group. 

There were plenty of topics of discussion, like improvement of services and the combating of stigma and discrimination in mental health. Some pretty lively chat went on, and I hope the feedback that was garnered can go towards improving the lives of those in the borough. We all will watch and wait. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you see.

So, all in all, a nice experience and I may also have picked up another volunteering opportunity. That’s yet to be confirmed. But it’s nice to be back, mixing with others and making my voice heard. And that, after the last few months, is a blessed relief.

Allen Brooks xx

Start the week…

It’s been a busy Monday. First of all, I had some money to deposit at the bank. Also, I handed in a mislaid debit card that I found on the train the other day. It is surprising that people can be so careless, it’s a good job I’m honest and handed it in. Honesty is always the best policy.

Then it was off to another CBT appointment. We discussed further the problems from years ago, and we also discussed forgiveness. Will I be able to forgive myself for all the mistakes that were made to led to all that upheaval in 2010. It’s going to be a long road to forgive and forget. Training the mind to do the same won’t be easy. 

Then I had to collect my anti depressant medication…except there was a slight problem. The doctor has put my dose back to 30mg, but hasn’t put it on the computer system at the practice. So I had two packets of 45mg tablets. No good, so I refused those and amended the prescription. All should be well tomorrow.

Spoke to one of my peer support colleagues as I haven’t been in touch recently, we had a good chat and sorted out some future scheduling. That was good.

I’ve got a local mental health event to attend on Wednesday. The borough where I live isn’t great on mental health events, so it will be interesting to see what it’s about. I need some more things to keep me busy. 

And finally, the company who cancelled the telephone interview last week got in touch today and the interview took place this afternoon. I was reasonably confident, gave good answers to the questions and had a good rapport with the interviewer. So much so that she asked me the same question twice. I joked that old age might be the problem, as I often forget things too. I hope my personality and enthusiasm came across well, and I hope to make it to the next stage. Fingers crossed.

So a busyish day. So much the better. I seem to be taking some element of control after the lows of the summer. Days like today certainly help in improving my mental state and my well being. 

Allen Brooks xx

The Land of Nod….

As you can appreciate, sleep is a precious commodity to me. And recently, I haven’t been sleeping well at all. I had an old bed that was soft and uncomfortable to sleep on and with lots of fidgeting later on, I was able only to sleep for a few hours. Lack of quality and quantity shuteye.

Well I have a new bed now. And it is really comfortable. It’s like being back in that hotel room in Fuerteventura. The sleep that week was relaxing and delightful. Last night was the best sleep I’ve had in ages. A long sleep, but of the best quality. It’s been a very long time since I’ve said that.

How do I feel? Ok as it happens. That very bad spell is now in the past. I’m back in the land of the living. Things have calmed down. Each day lived is an achievement. And I’ll go on achieving.

Allen Brooks xx

Take care Clarke…
In the news the other day was the disappearance of former footballer and mental health champion, Clarke Carlisle. His disappearance sparked concern from his family and friends, but thankfully, he was found in Liverpool. 

Clarke is in hospital at the moment, but at least he is in safe hands. We all wish him well and every health and happiness. Life cannot be easy for him, as I can testify, but he knows he has a groundswell of support and love for his eloquent views on mental health and how it affects those in sport and especially football. 

Get well soon Clarke!

Allen Brooks xx