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

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

Scrambled Brain…

Thursday nights are usually ones to be enjoyed. There’s the Music Bingo at the pub….which is high on my list of enjoyable things to do…until last night.

Yesterday was an odd day to say the least. Something wasn’t right from the moment I decided not to go Peer Support in the morning. I hadn’t slept well and thought better of going. In the afternoon, I collected my previously broken laptop computer and that now works fine. You would think I would be in a good mood.

But something wasn’t quite right. I made it to the pub, and as usual, I was early. It seemed though, that someone had taken a dark blanket and covered my brain, rendering me fairly numb and uncommunicative, probably no more than normal! 

I just wanted to go home. I didn’t belong at the pub, I didn’t want to mix, I didn’t want to partake of the evening’s festivities. I held on to my coat, thinking that things might get better. But the mind was already half out of the door. And that’s where I headed, disconsolate and lost. For the second time since I started going to this pub back in March, I didn’t want to be there. Something wasn’t right. I wasn’t right. I ran away, into the darkness of the evening.

Why would I do such a thing? After all, I won a fair amount of money two weeks ago. I wanted to be indoors, on the sofa, watching crap TV. I didn’t want to be around anybody if I was going to suck the energy out of the room.

And this lies the problem. I have a lot of trouble mixing with others, on occasions. I feel like an outsider as I have very little to contribute. Everyone likes others who have status. A job, a house, a family, a car and disposable income. I had all this once. People were interested. Not now. People shy away from Allen. Who really cares? Very few in fact. 

So the pub night might well be put on hold for a while. I just need to feel part of society, and at the moment, I don’t. That’s the bottom line. 

One very frustrated and isolated person signing off.

Allen Brooks xx

Stepping into the Unknown…

I got a phone call yesterday asking me to attend a meeting….at the mental hospital I normally attend when I volunteer at the tea bar on occasions.

I’ve not been into the inner sanctum of a mental hospital since I was six years old, when a member of my late mother’s family was detained there, for want of a better phrase. Me and Mum used to make the odd visit, and I vaguely remember the clinical atmosphere and the bleached walls. Being six, I had little idea of what it was like to be detained in these places.

However, it was with a slight twinge of anxiety that I walked into one of the wards, with my line manager, to attend a meeting regarding a nationwide smoking ban on NHS premises and how well it has been enforced.

I sat, listened and took notes and the meeting passed with little incident….until we were hustled back into the meeting room as staff were dealing with an inpatient. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of shouting and a lot of force to deal with the inpatient. It quickly died down and we were allowed to leave.

What did I think of the place? Well, apart from being modern, there does remain an element of detention and imprisonment in there. Unfortunately, all mental illnesses are different and are treated differently. Being “sectioned” or detained isn’t a nice feeling, it’s a feeling I get when mental illness traps me in my flat for a few days, that cabin fever that can really send someone, if not to the brink, then certainly close to it.

The experiment shook me out of my comfort zone, and gave me an insight into what really goes on in a mental health ward. My line manager was quite surprised when I agreed to come along, given the events of recent weeks. But I felt ok enough to deal with this afternoon. I’m glad to say I’ve never been sectioned or detained, and I hope I never will.

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

Lots going on…but a mixed picture

Things are settling down for me personally after a very turbulent spell. The 30mg medication is working fine, I have no side effects from the step down. 

The world is a very uncertain one. The leaders that pretend to represent the people are acting in a very childlike manner. There are several goings on in the world that are worrisome and very concerning. Though I’m far away from the action, the level of uncertainty and hostility isn’t good. For that read North Korea, Myanmar and Parsons Green Underground station in London. And to think that I have problems….

Onto last Thursday now. I had an inkling that my luck was due a change after this bad spell. So it was off to Music Bingo at the local pub.

What was I saying about uncertainty and hostility? The evening was threatened to be spoiled by an undesirable (and that’s being kind) individual who was trying to act all tough in front of a pub full of people who were potential witnesses to any act he was thinking of perpetrating. How much of an idiot this guy made himself look cannot be quantified.

But the evening was rescued by the good people. People who went along for a good time, a laugh and a chance to win some money. Segueing into my next point seamlessly there. I hadn’t won any money at this event for a fair while. And I managed to win, not once but TWICE! Go me! 

I won’t disclose how much it was, but it was a tidy sum. I felt good and my luck has turned around again. 

Last night, it was time to think about the winter cricket umpires courses that I help to run. Along with one of my esteemed colleagues, we devised a plan of action that seemed agreeable to both of us. It was a nice evening, watching some sport on TV and eating a nice takeaway meal. Life is starting to feel ok again, despite the hostility and uncertainty outside of that. 

I’m sleeping a lot better, and I feel generally better. Not 100% I must add, but compared to the horrors of recently, not too bad. I’ll settle for that. 

But one final point. Why are people so aggressive and want to do harm to others? It’s the influence of our everyday news intake and we watch the leaders and those of responsibility acting irrationally and aggressively that shape our world. I do worry and hate all types of confrontation. I wouldn’t be much good in the front line of a battle. But I have my own front line, my own battle. It’s called autism, it’s called mental illness. Life is one long battle. But I haven’t won the war yet…

Allen Brooks xx