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

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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

Helping me process difficult things…

Something has just occurred to me. Some of the posts I put on here are happenings from the past. Some people would say that the past is the past, stuff that has happened cannot be changed and we all need to move on.

But this is very cathartic. By getting my thoughts down on the blog, recalling the good and bad times from my life, I’m able to enjoy the good memories and process the bad ones. I’m able to see what went wrong, to recall it lucidly and to then run it over in my mind and move on from that. I can then move on to the next good moment that is about to happen, I can put those bad memories in a compartment in my mind and close it. It may be an accidental process, but it seems to be working. Here we are, just over a month from Christmas, and so far, I seem to be dealing with the attentions of the time of the year quite well, so far, I must qualify.

So to give people advice, who are thinking of writing a blog to chronicle their thoughts, you are doing the right thing. To process, to deal with those bad memories, you are sharing with others, to improve your own way of dealing with the brickbats that are regularly thrown at us. As I said, it’s an accidental process, but it’s helping me currently. I hope it can help you too.

Thanks for dropping by,

Allen Brooks xx

The day of the funeral….

June 2010. It was a time of change in the UK. The sitting government, led by Gordon Brown, had lost it’s majority at the General Election and was replaced by a coalition, led by Conservative leader David Cameron.

It was also a time of change for Allen Brooks too. My 79 year old mother lost her fight for life, and the funeral to celebrate her life was imminent.

The hiatus between her death and the funeral itself was surreal. The trauma hadn’t quite sunk in yet. The days leading up to the funeral seemed to drag. 

Then the day itself. It was typically funeral type weather, grey and drizzly. I put on my best suit and got in the car, my mind still having not processed the events. I had to do a eulogy to the assembled throng, and to that point, my experience of public speaking was limited and unremarkable to say the least. 

Myself and sister had chosen some of Mum’s favourite music, from the superb rock band, Queen, including the very apt song, The Show Must Go On. The service and the burial went by in a blur. I did my eulogy, no doubt mumbling my way through, but the emotions were being kept in, for now. 

As we were leaving the church, the CD playing The Show Must Go On broke down. This caused some amusement amongst the mourners, and I made a comment about Mum buying a cheap CD. The final committal saw an outpouring of emotions from everyone, including me. The day was still grey and drizzly, and we went back to sister’s house for the wake.

It went ok. Grief and bereavement are strange bedfellows. No one can put a time limit on how long you grieve. Time, as they say, is a great healer. There are times now when the memories are still fresh, other times, the events of 2010 stay in the back of the mind. But the death of a loved one is one of the most stressful life events anyone can go through. The finality, the realisation that they’re not there anymore. But as Queen and Freddie Mercury said, The Show Must Go On. That’s how I’ve had to deal with life in the intervening seven years.

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

I want to tell you a story….

I had another CBT appointment today. This time, we are going to be trying to process the horrors of seven years ago. 

I had to recount the whole story, from beginning to end. Not bad in 35 minutes! The mind has it all stored, and chronologically, and eloquently, I went through the lot. I stayed fairly emotionless, a little bit anxious, but I managed to get through without resorting to wiping away any tears.

The counsellor was busy scribbling notes, and we are going to pick out individual themes and then to process them. Could this be the start of dealing with the bad anniversary that crops up every May/June? Too early to say, I’m going to have to wait until next year to see if this experiment is going to work.

I’m quite proud of myself for doing that, and staying stable. Relaxing now with a coffee and a bite of lunch. I’m fine! Just goes to show that confronting matters can help sometimes. I’m just not very good at doing so. 

A good start to the week…

Allen Brooks xx