Reflections…One Year On

Around this time last year, I wasn’t feeling particularly great. I decided, purely on a whim, to escape the dark recesses of an English winter and fly abroad for a holiday. This I hadn’t done since 2009. Last year, I remember going into the travel agents and booking myself a week at the lovely hotel pictured, in the gorgeous Canary Island of Fuerteventura.

Looking back, it’s something I didn’t regret doing for one moment. A little bit of impulse, a bit of inspiration, and then before I knew it, I was at Stansted Airport on a cold January morning ready for an incredible adventure.

What about this winter? Well, you see last year’s trip was a one off, a hunch. This time around, though I don’t feel quite as bad as last year, there isn’t quite that desire or impulse to fly off to warmer climes. Maybe I might fly abroad during the summer, but doing something like last year’s trip makes it all the more sweeter. Waiting a few years for the next one would make me look forward to it. But I’ll always remember that fantastic island in the eastern Atlantic, memories that will always stay with me.

Allen Brooks xx

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A full diary in the Christmas lead up

To help with getting through to Christmas Day unscathed, I have a fairly full diary next week as the big day approaches. There’s the usual activities, volunteering, Peer Support (which I haven’t been to recently), Music Bingo, CBT appointment and a few meals with friends to put the icing on the cake.

I can assure you it does help in distracting me from all the extraneous stuff that’s involved with Christmas, the less involved I am the better I feel. The bit that does get me is the period between 27th and 31st December when all the festivities have largely finished and everything has slowed down. The local area is quite ghostly, little traffic and everyone is away. Got to try to keep occupied between those two dates.

All in all, looking forward to Monday and the lead up with little or no Christmas involvement. That suits me down to the ground and keeps my well being just this side of sanity. Friends and family obviously help too!

Allen Brooks xx

Loneliness and Solitude at Christmas

Though I live on my own, I do have some family and very good friends. I will be seeing a lot of family and friends over the next two weeks, and that helps me get through this festive period.

Others though, aren’t so lucky. We see a lot of adverts on TV and on trains about loneliness. This time of year magnifies that feeling of solitude and helplessness and some people just cannot buy into the Christmas spirit at all. I also think that Christmas has become too commercialised, money and presents coming before health and well being. People who are less fortunate than ourselves can get forgotten about.

But it’s supposed to be a happy time, right? Well, if you believe all the hype, then everyone should be happy, smiling, full of Christmas cheer and bonhomie. The reality though is that some cannot be that way, they cannot pretend. I allow Christmas to pass me by, and as the years go on, this becomes more of the case for me. I cannot pretend to be happy. I am what I am. If I’m unhappy, I’ll be unhappy, and I won’t put on an act. There’s so much pressure and all for what? 24 hours in the year when we over indulge and before we know it, it’s all over again.

So, if there’s anyone that you know that is on their own, try dropping them a message or popping round to see them. That may give them a lift at this pressurised time of year. Always remember those that are less fortunate. I’m ok, I do have family and friends. I can just about tolerate Christmas. Keeping busy and forgetting about it can work wonders and stop me from feeling down. But it isn’t always easy of course. Bear that in mind as you tuck in to another lorry load of Brussels sprouts, after unwrapping another load of socks and watching some mediocre Christmas TV. Keep an eye out for those who want to shut themselves away.

Allen Brooks xx

Christmas 1990….

Three days before Christmas 1990, my world was about to change. My parents had gone to the local hospital, as Dad had been unwell in the previous few weeks. Some tests had been done and the results were now available. The news could not have come at a worse time.

Dad was given the news that he had three months to live. He had an aggressive cancer of the oesophagus that prevented him from keeping any food down. His weight had started to reduce. I, of course, broke down and unashamedly wept. Three months and Dad will be gone. I was only 18 at the time and we were very close. That Christmas was very surreal and unhappy for me. Wouldn’t you be if you received that kind of news?

Dad managed to last another four months, but a once fit and healthy man was now reduced to a shadow by the illness and endless rounds of chemotherapy. I hated seeing him just wasting away to nothing, and I got angry at the fact that cancer was to claim another good person in life. Why him? I’ve never received the answer. All I can say is I hope I don’t go through what we went through, unable to eat and drink and gradually becoming weaker by the day. But his spirit got him through seven months.

They say time is a great healer and it’s been 25 and a half years since he passed on. But to be left without a father at the age of 18 was something I couldn’t get to grips with. His wise advice and calmness would have helped me through some difficult moments, but that is a hypothetical statement now. He watches over me and he is never far from my thoughts, even at Christmas. Dad was taken away from us far too early.

Allen Brooks xx

Christmas Casual…

One of my previous jobs was doing temporary work for Royal Mail at various mail centres in the South East of the UK. The work only lasted for three or four weeks, from the beginning of December to Christmas Eve, to cope with the enormous surge of cards and parcels.

Though the work I do now in the mental health field is a lot more rewarding, spiritually and emotionally, the work at Christmas was good fun. I worked with some superb people, we had a real laugh and were left more or less to our own devices, though we had a job to do. It paid for a few Christmas presents and kept me busy in the run up to the big day.

Being a postman at this time of year was a tough stint. The workload was significantly multiplied and the one enjoyable factor was getting tips from customers, one year I made £100 or so in addition to my wages. I must have been doing a good job…..ahem. Not only did I get money, the occasional box of chocolates or a bottle of something alcoholic was sometimes given. Ah, the memories. A long time ago now, but I don’t miss the workload or the early starts.

Allen Brooks xx

Conceding to the lurgie..

Yesterday for the most part, I felt ok. The evening and night time though, was a different matter. I have a cold at the moment and thought by having a little r and r yesterday I would be ok today. Not so.

You know when you have a cough or sneeze a lot, and your ribs hurt? Well my ribs feel as though I’ve been kicked every time I sneeze. Add that to a general malaise and quite a bit of tiredness, and I have the early stages of a winter cold.

I was due to go to watch football today and have an evening out later on, but I think for my own peace of mind and future health, I’m going to spend the weekend in the warm, watching some sport on the TV, and drinking plenty of hot beverages. Now I know why this month of the year has more colds and flus than the rest. Because of everyone doing shopping, getting stressed, all confined in a small space and giving bugs a chance to spread around.

Ugh, hate having colds…

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