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

Mum’s Birthday…

It was my late mother’s birthday today. She would have been 87. I haven’t really been thinking about the day itself, consciously or otherwise. It’s important to remember that I have to keep going, like she did. She had an indomitable spirit that kept her sane, right to the very end.

I still miss and grieve for her, but as time passes by, the pain does get a little easier. But bereavement is one of the most stressful things anyone can go through. There’s no time limit for the grief, and some parts of the year are easier than others. But Mum is always there, in the back of my mind, if not the front.

Allen Brooks xx

Unspeakable Evil and Wickedness…

America today saw an act of such depravity that it’s difficult to comprehend. 58 people are dead and over 500 injured when a lone gunman fired at a crowd at a Las Vegas concert.

The news agencies were looking for a terrorist angle, but the authorities are certain that the said gunman, Stephen Paddock, has no connection to any radicalisation of any kind. Mr. Paddock turned a gun on himself, so we will never know the motives behind this appalling act. But that won’t stop people speculating as to any possible motive.

It’s difficult to know what else to write or to say. When anything like this happens, words fail me. We live in a very uncertain world, that has a lot of nasty people within it. If our leaders would be more responsible and calmer, then maybe the public would take their lead. But the language and behaviour of those in charge of us can rub off on others. This is partly the reason these acts happen. 

Sheer evil….no other phrase is apposite at this time.

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

That fateful day…

Nine years ago, virtually to the day, I took a fateful decision that would have far reaching consequences. I got married, to someone I believed would honour, cherish and obey. 

The day was glorious, sunny and warm, and I thought this sunny beginning would herald a new chapter in my life. What transpired was lots of dark clouds and eighteen months of ever mounting difficulties.

Was I naive? Was I gullible? Yes to both. I believed, as anyone does when they’re in love, that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. There was no grass, just weeds, and certainly not green. 

The day itself was something I would never change. It all went very well indeed. There were scores of people there and I didn’t have the slightest inkling of any trouble that lay ahead. With the drinks being consumed, the music being played, and everyone having a good time, what could be better?

Oh that we ever should be imbued with that mystical quality called clairvoyancy. oh that we can look into the future and stop ourselves from making fateful decisions that will cause is great harm. But back in the real world again, everyone takes the plunge, then regrets it later.

So it’s an anniversary I look back on with some fondness, but also with mixed feelings. Was just wishing a trap door would open in that church and I would fall through it, an escape. That didn’t happen and the problems of that murky union are still there. There will be an official escape one day… you can be sure of that.

Allen Brooks xx

The biggest little warehouse….in South East England

And in 2009 and 2010, these were the places I worked in. From a decent job and a decent wage and comfortable living, to driving to warehouses throughout the small hours of the night, working for an agency, working for a virtual pittance.

And all for what? To keep my shabby existence going, for the small amount of money to go into my bank account, only to leave it again. I’ve no need to explain who the money went to….if you’ve been following the blog.

I used to go to bed around 10 in the evening, wake up at 1.15 in the morning, get in the car and drive 35-40 miles to some lonely, far off outpost in South East England. On would go the hi vis jacket and sturdy boots, to lug heavy parcels around a warehouse. You very rarely got a break, as being an agency worker, employment rights seem to go out the window so long as the agency takes a profit from you. 

Five hours a night I used to do this, and when there was a small hiatus in the proceedings, I used to sit in the car and tune in to a local radio station. I was lonely, afraid of where my life was heading. I used to look out of the window at the big lorries at the other warehouses in the industrial estate. Cold, dark night, wondering when morning would break. 

Then it would be back to work. A lorry used to arrive with an seemingly endless supply of parcels. Health and safety was forgotten about as well, as parcels were moved about that required more than one person to shift. But when saving money was the object, rules and regulations were overlooked. 

Morning did break, eventually. And it was back in the car, driving the 35-40 miles back home. Wondering to myself why. Why had I put myself in this situation. Working for peanuts, and peanuts that weren’t going to me. 

In the end, the money ran out, the patience ran out and I stopped the agency work, obviously through necessity. I wasn’t well at the time and my life had collapsed around me. But want a parcel moving? I’m your man. 

So to the present day, and I’m so glad I do peer support, volunteering etc in the world of mental health. I want to help people. I’m still in the system and want others to have a chance in life, and not to take the path I chose, misguidedly, back in September 2008. 

I’m just glad to be out of the biggest little warehouse in South East England…

Allen Brooks xx