Scaring people….

Not absolutely sure about the timeframe on this, but all I remember was that I wasn’t in a good place. I was having all sorts of dark thoughts, my self esteem was through the floor, and I’d taken to Facebook to express how I was feeling. Thinking back, it was the middle of summer, but can’t pinpoint a year. My memory playing tricks, now that is unusual!

As I said, it wasn’t a good time. One night, it must have been around 1 or 2 in the morning I suppose, my emotions overflowed. I got my phone, went on to Facebook and gave full vent to my spleen. It was pretty graphic, pretty horrifying and I was so low that I couldn’t muster any shred of self respect.

I eventually got to bed, and received a text message the following morning from an acquaintance of mine who saw the message. She was horrified that I could write in such graphic and revealing detail, and was worried for my well being. Along with her daughter, she invited me out for a meal that afternoon. I was still in a bad place, but the empathy she showed will always stay with me. I came home from the meal feeling a little bit better.

Was the graphic posting on Facebook a cry for help? I suppose it was. I needed some people to see what was going on. My life was heading nowhere fast and this was my way of expressing this frustration and anger. It wasn’t clever, it wasn’t very smart to do this. But when your mind has gone, rationality goes out of the window.

I like to think that I’ve calmed down on the social media front, and I have other avenues where to express my feelings, like peer support group, and my CBT counsellor. Going off the handle like that wasn’t me; and I do think before I act now. That horrible evening, I wasn’t thinking. That’s how screwed up I was. Facebook is a tool I only use now to communicate about sport and social activities, and not to vent my spleen about my private life. It can cause problems.

Older, wiser? Don’t you believe it!

Thanks for dropping by

Allen Brooks xx

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Laudable…but is it too little, too late?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42194524

I found this story on the BBC News website this morning and it brings home a subject very close to my heart.

I’ve spent some of the last couple of years visiting local schools and performing presentations on mental health. One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. To me, it’s important to start early and impress on youngsters why it is important to have good mental health. The workshops we performed brought in fantastic testimonies from the schools and one or two disclosures. The youngsters felt they could disclose in us.

Disclosures. A service should be available NOW in all schools for children who may think they have the beginnings of mental illness. They then could be signposted onto professional services for further help. Making that first step is always the most difficult.

So the article above details a Government plan to have some kind of assistance put in 25% of schools by 2022. Why then? Why not now? And 25%? It should be in all schools, but as we all know, finance and resources are always a stumbling block.

I would go a stage further and have mental health on the national curriculum for say an hour a week for all pupils. These sessions could see local people come in, people with lived experience, and maybe some professionals too, to detail what goes on with mental illness. What are the signs? Who do we turn to? and other such questions.

I’m all for schemes to improve the lives of those about to become adults. I’m all for Governments of whatever persuasion to pour in money to help those in need. But is it too little, too late? We need to stop the rate of suicides in people between the ages of 13-18. Any life that you or I can save is a real fillip to those in need. I would like to see more done, and for people like me who are still under secondary mental health services, I would like to give back some more to the stars of tomorrow.

Thanks for dropping by,

Allen Brooks xx

Former employers and mental health…

After last night’s meeting, some thoughts crossed my mind about previous employers of mine in relation to their attitudes to mental health.

I first started going downhill in 2007. I’d been in full time work since the end of the 1990s, start of the millennium. There were no hints of what was to come in 2007. There was no diagnosis, no medication and no awareness from me about the perils that lay ahead.

If I had my time over again and I started going downhill much earlier, what would have been the attitudes towards me? I can tell you that I wasn’t treated very well in most of the full time employment I undertook, and if I took time off due to mental illness, I think I would have a much shorter CV than now. The employers had a rigid and tablet of stone attitude to illness, you dare not have time off, it was a crime close to treason. So long as productivity wasn’t affected, they couldn’t give a stuff.

I would like to see if any of those companies have changed their attitudes. Are there procedures in place to deal with mental health issues? Are employees treated with respect and given appropriate time off to deal with their problems? Are the employers sympathetic. I wish I could answer an emphatic yes to all three. There is much work to be done to convince the naysayers that taking time off for genuine illness isn’t a crime. Treat people with respect. But as I said yesterday, talking about mental illness is still difficult for some in society.

What I will say is that having moved into volunteering and the mental health field in 2012, I haven’t looked back. I’ve met and engaged with some fabulous people, professionals and service users, and been totally rewarded with insight and perspective into how we live our lives. I didn’t have that insight back in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and neither did the employers. I’ve changed, I doubt the employers have.

Thanks for dropping by

Allen Brooks xx

Enlightenment…

I’ve just spent a very worthwhile two hours at a meeting of minds at City Hall in London. It was a meeting about mental health and how to improve access for people in this great city. Unfortunately, depending on where you live in the UK, access to mental health services can best be described as a lottery. Some areas are good, some bad, some indifferent.

So how can we change this? By improving access to services, stopping the taboo about talking about mental illness as though it’s something bad, putting more emphasis on “social inclusion” rather than a doctor just prescribing another round of anti depressant medication. Getting people to engage in their local community, irrespective of creed and colour, would be a start.

Making a difference to those who most need it. I’m still engaging in local mental health services and want to give back to those who feel they need to engage, to get involved, to talk about their issues. What is so bad or wrong to talk about mental health? Changing attitudes and making ok to share your feelings and fears. This social model has more mileage than straightforward NHS services. In fact, this social model can complement, but not take the place of medical services.

I love to help others and to give back what I am still taking from mental health services. It was an extremely productive meeting tonight and there was a huge pool of ideas, a starting point to get out there and make a difference. So much so in fact that a fellow attendee wanted to know how I deal with autism. Making a difference already!

Very optimistic and excited about this new venture, and I hope to be part of it.

Thanks for dropping by.

Allen Brooks xx

Drink, Drugs and Smoking…

I must confess that I only drink alcohol socially, I don’t have a craving for it, and don’t go mad on it. I have been drunk only two or three times in my life, and that was when I was a lot younger. As the passage of time marches on, I don’t see the need for massive binges and the associated hangovers, headaches and grotty feeling that is there the following day. I remember having quite a lot to drink at my wedding reception; if only I’d have done so before I said “I Do”, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble! Ha ha.

Smoking? Never been tempted. Never ever. We all remember those school days when a lot of your fellow peers used to have a few crafty cigarettes in lunchtime, behind the bike sheds. Not me. I hated the smell and the choking sensation of passive smoking. I had a nightmare car journey once where my aunt and uncle smoked the whole way; in a tiny car and with the windows only open partially, this was a recipe for disaster, I felt ill for the following few days.

I was one of those who liked the smoking ban when it came in. Pubs and nightclubs used to be full of smoke when I used to frequent them, now they are smoke free, I can breathe a little easier. My clothes used to reek of cigarette smoke after a night out, so the ban was a godsend. Of course, smokers were up in arms at this erosion of their civil liberties, but I have no objection to others smoking, as long it’s not near me!

I have a more pressing reason not to like smoking. My late father used to smoke regularly, especially when he came home from his shift work. I have a belief that contributed to his demise, all I remember as a youngster is the living room stinking of 30-40 cigarettes being smoked. I hated it then, and especially watching someone slowly contribute to their eventual death, it wasn’t a good feeling.

Drugs? Never ever been tempted. Mind you, as I go out and about, there is sometimes a smell of cannabis pervading the air and sometimes train carriages. Again, if that’s what people want to do with their lives, that’s fine by me, as long as I’m not involved. The only drug I take is one Mirtazapine tablet a day, and if there are any readers of allenbrooks44.wordpress.com out there, you will know the damage that upping the dose can cause to the body. I had several weeks in late summer/early autumn this year where the medication was causing a lot of problems. Thankfully, that’s behind me now. Recreational drugs have never interested me, ever.

So that’s my stance on alcohol, drugs and smoking. Not totally clean living, but glad I haven’t fallen prey to things that can cause longer term harm. Don’t see the need.

Thanks for dropping by,

Allen Brooks xx

From the Heart…

Clarke Carlisle describes being found in Liverpool, as he struggled with his mental health. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41736200
If you get a spare five minutes this evening, please look at the link I’ve pasted on to the page. It deals with former footballer and mental health champion, Clarke Carlisle, who spoke emotionally and eloquently on a BBC Radio show today, with his wife, Carrie, next to him. Clarke reveals how he was found on a park bench in Liverpool after going missing just recently, and the pair talk about the paucity of decent NHS Mental Health care in the U.K. They were lucky that Clarke got decent care, some are not so lucky, they get caught up in the system.

I hope that Clarke is able to move on with his life now, I hope that he realises how valuable a voice he is to people with their own struggles. He’s great to listen to, and he has intelligence, foresight and experience. A true mental health champion, and I hope he will go on doing so.

Allen Brooks xx

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