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


Very pissed off….

It’s just one of those days today. Little things are going wrong, making my temper shorter and shorter as each thing happens.

Like most run ups to Christmas, the London wide transport service starts to fall apart. I don’t know whether this is an infrastructure problem, underfunding or staff shortages, but today has seen delays and cancellations all over the place. Not one train has been on time. The buses are late, packed with Christmas shoppers as well as commuters. I’m due to go out again later and I wanted to get home, put my feet up and have a cup of tea. Not even home yet from a meeting I had to attend. It’s a shambles.

Not only that, I’ve nearly had my right foot taken off by someone treading on my heel as I was walking across the station concourse. The next person to do that will get a decent size 11 boot straight up their backside. So as you can tell, small things are irritating me and my mood is deteriorating quickly. I hope the evening will be better than the afternoon, but right now, steer clear of me because the steam is starting to come out of my ears.

Living in London! Don’t you just love it.

Rant over

Allen Brooks xx

Thinking Time…

A week is a long time in politics, so the saying goes. Also a week is a long time in the life of Allen Brooks. This week I think will be a total contrast to the shambles of last week, which is in the process of being dealt with.

Weather? Dank, dreary, cold and wet best describes it, and that’s only the good points. It’s thoroughly unpleasant out there. Not worth bothering with daylight, might as well be dark the whole day, like the North Pole!

I went for a CBT appointment this morning and discussed the issues of last week, and how it affected my equilibrium. I always enjoy talking to the counsellor because she gives me a dispassionate view of things and that brings me back down to earth, from the anger and annoyance of last week to a more chilled out outlook this week.

I have got something planned for tonight, but if this dreary weather continues, I may decide that a night in the warm and in front of the TV would be better than freezing my proverbials off waiting for public transport in the evening rush hour. I’ll make a decision later.

And finally, a little tribute to the people I spent time with on Thursday and Saturday, the regulars from the pub. Warm, friendly and welcoming people, and they also helped bring me back down from the angry and unsettled mood I was in last week. I may not show my appreciation at times, but I really do this time and thank them for just helping me chill out. Thank you guys!

A few things going on this week, and I’m determined to enjoy them. Watch this space!

Thanks for listening.

Allen Brooks xx

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

Laudable…but is it too little, too late?


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

A day for national rejoicing…

Yes, Allen Brooks has a sore throat. A relief to all I’m sure. There’s been a lot of colds and bugs hanging around recently, and I thought I did well to avoid them, until now.

Didn’t have a very good night’s sleep, shaking and shivering, and when I woke up, the throat is quite sore and I feel under the weather. It’s just a cold, nothing to worry about, except that us men like to make out it’s far, far worse.

I haven’t gone to peer support this morning, I don’t think sounding like a dalek from Doctor Who would have gone down well with the rest of the group. Also, it’s extremely cold outside, albeit bright, so the attractions of daytime TV, a duvet and good old central heating are better than freezing one’s proverbials off waiting for buses, etc.

I’m just glad it’s not flu. A cold I can deal with.

Thanks for dropping by,

Allen Brooks xx