Sunday Best…

Hello. On what was a glorious day for mid October, me and one of my umpiring colleagues made the long journey to Cambridge for some information and guidance on how to run some new cricket umpiring courses, starting in the New Year.

It’s a time for great change within the tutoring and learning methodology in cricket umpiring. There’s to be less emphasis on examinations, and more on the practical side of things, such as dealing with players, making mistakes and preparation before an umpire does a game, for example.

Also, there’s some new law changes as well, especially related to player behaviour, which comes as a necessary evil into what used to be euphemistically termed “a gentleman’s game” many years ago. We live in a society now that is more aggressive and querulous, and it is up to the umpires to uphold the traditions of the game, I hope.

It was a long drive there and back, and the four early morning starts in a row sees me in bed by 10.30 in the evening, and also guaranteeing me some good quality sleep, something which hasn’t always been the case of late. Still, it’s better than sleeping in till nearly lunchtime, and sometimes gone lunchtime! But when the medication was such, heavy and poor quality sleep was the result.

I feel ok, not bad, could be better, could be worse. I’ll settle for that.

Allen Brooks xx


Watching and Learning….

Tonight I have spent a very productive few hours in the company of the mental health charity I am currently training with, and hopefully to volunteer for.

It was an opportunity to shadow a current volunteer on the charity’s helpline. There are several charities in the U.K. that run helplines for people with mental illnesses, and it was certainly an eye opening experience, to say the very least.

The volunteer took six calls, and the variation in the nature of the calls indicates what a distressing existence it can be to have a mental illness, or even to contemplate something life ending. For obvious reasons, I will not elaborate on the callers or the nature of their calls. 

Helplines are a lifeline, quite literally. It’s like throwing somebody an aid to save them from drowning. I am used to dealing with real issues at the weekly Peer Support group, but tonight was here and now, mental distress in the raw.

I honestly don’t know how the volunteers on the helpline keep their distance, their boundaries or their patience. The guy I was shadowing was magnificent. Professional, polite and patient. He was a real credit to the organisation and we got on well. He also valued my comments about the individual calls too, which was nice. 

I must say, the helpline volunteering is not for me. If I didn’t have my own issues, then dealing with distress wouldn’t be a problem, but with all that has happened the last seven years, dealing with extreme stuff probably is a bit beyond my capabilities. The Peer Support group is different, because anyone in crisis in the group is referred straightaway to clinical services, and wouldn’t be allowed in the group. There is an informal vetting procedure, something that doesn’t happen with helplines.

I am up for moderating an online forum and doing some admin work with the new charity. Just going to keep my head down and make my contribution, in my own way.

An enlightening evening, and I have great admiration for anyone working on helplines. Mental illness is something to be taken very seriously, and these helplines perform a crucial outlet for those in need. Long may they continue.

Allen Brooks xx

High Anxiety….

Hello there. Well Thursday hasn’t been very kind to me at all. Last night, I didn’t sleep very well, the precursor to that was an anxious feeling with some difficult breathing. Some kind of panic attack I suppose.

Woke up this morning and the feeling hadn’t gone away. I struggled my way to the Peer Support group, for all the good I was feeling, I should have been indoors, and in bed, hiding away from the world.

I made it back home, and the lack of sleep has caught up with me, to the extent that I’ve been catnapping throughout the afternoon. Any triggers for this “anxiety” attack? None whatsoever. I just felt that way last night and nearly 24 hours later, not much change. Not a good day and one to forget.

Allen Brooks xx

Times they are a changing…

Hi. There are a few events this month to do with mental health that my company are running. However, after that, times they are a changing, as Bob Dylan once intoned.

When I joined the company back in 2014, it was the second year of a five year project to involve local businesses, schools and colleges in dealing with spreading the gospel of mental health. This has been, by and large, a huge success, especially the schools presentations. They have been a complete and utter joy to be involved with. If we got one pupil to disclose a problem with us, we felt we were getting our message across. 

All very laudable and well intentioned, and hugely enjoyable as I say. But the five years is up. And the future is uncertain. The presentations will be lessened in number, with the future emphasis on including younger people to take up the mantle of improving the lives of others, with our input at first.

Like with everything else, this is reliant on money. I can’t comment at this stage on whether the above task will be undertaken. All I can say is that what I was doing is being drastically reduced, for example, opportunities to get out there in schools and local businesses will no longer be a core principle of our work, and that is very sad. 

But like with other things, it is time to move on. I’m trying to find other opportunities in volunteering locally, whether in mental health or otherwise. It is a long winter season coming up, and I need to keep busy. I’m busying myself in keeping my ear to the ground, seeing if anyone will be interested.

I do have skills to offer, like Peer Support (which I’m glad to say is still continuing), admin and presentations amongst other things. The final goal would be to get a paid job and to finally come off benefits. But that is a long way off, and won’t be done overnight. I still have relapses and I have a disability, namely Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Plenty of ground work needs to be done before I can consider myself work ready, and age isn’t on my side either. But we’ll see what the future holds. 

Allen Brooks xx

Start the week…

It’s been a busy Monday. First of all, I had some money to deposit at the bank. Also, I handed in a mislaid debit card that I found on the train the other day. It is surprising that people can be so careless, it’s a good job I’m honest and handed it in. Honesty is always the best policy.

Then it was off to another CBT appointment. We discussed further the problems from years ago, and we also discussed forgiveness. Will I be able to forgive myself for all the mistakes that were made to led to all that upheaval in 2010. It’s going to be a long road to forgive and forget. Training the mind to do the same won’t be easy. 

Then I had to collect my anti depressant medication…except there was a slight problem. The doctor has put my dose back to 30mg, but hasn’t put it on the computer system at the practice. So I had two packets of 45mg tablets. No good, so I refused those and amended the prescription. All should be well tomorrow.

Spoke to one of my peer support colleagues as I haven’t been in touch recently, we had a good chat and sorted out some future scheduling. That was good.

I’ve got a local mental health event to attend on Wednesday. The borough where I live isn’t great on mental health events, so it will be interesting to see what it’s about. I need some more things to keep me busy. 

And finally, the company who cancelled the telephone interview last week got in touch today and the interview took place this afternoon. I was reasonably confident, gave good answers to the questions and had a good rapport with the interviewer. So much so that she asked me the same question twice. I joked that old age might be the problem, as I often forget things too. I hope my personality and enthusiasm came across well, and I hope to make it to the next stage. Fingers crossed.

So a busyish day. So much the better. I seem to be taking some element of control after the lows of the summer. Days like today certainly help in improving my mental state and my well being. 

Allen Brooks xx

I thought I was a goner…

Time:- Winter of 2009 (or thereabouts)

It was a cold, bright January morning. I had some trouble getting off to sleep due to pains in my stomach. I thought it was stomach cramps when I woke up, but the pains seemed to be getting worse.

I was sitting in the front room when the pains got stronger and stronger, so much so in fact, that I thought I was dying. I was rolling round the floor in agony. My ex-wife thought I was messing about. But when I called out that I wasn’t, and needed help, an ambulance was called. The pains were absolutely excruciating.

The ambulance arrived within five minutes, and I was escorted into the vehicle. The paramedic gave me some gas and air, which is what they give pregnant women. The ambulance roared off to the hospital at speed of sound, and I was soon in the A&E ward. The pains were so bad that I literally wanted to scream the place down.

A nurse thought it might be renal colic (pains caused by kidney stones). She gave me some pain reliever and the pain did subside for a while. I was wheeled off for an x-ray, I had dye run through me, and finally a doctor, who initially thought it was a strained back, gave me a small receptacle and asked me to pass some water in the cubicle.

When I passed the water, it wasn’t the usual yellowy colour. It was deep red, with a tinge of brown. I looked on horror and when the doctor took the receptacle away, he came back to confirm I had kidney stones.

The pains come and go, but the paramedic said there is one comparable pain with kidney stone pain, and that is childbirth. That didn’t make me feel much better, and after another flying visit to the hospital the following day, the pains came and went. Some days were agony, others not so bad. I had a great difficulty in going to the loo during this time.

I was booked in for a procedure at the hospital. I was shown a picture of the x-ray, and a small white dot was visible in one of my kidneys. That was the offending article; no bigger than a grain of sand. 

The procedure was cancelled, because after a second x-ray, the surgeon could find no evidence of the stone in the kidney. It had obviously been passed through on my painful and often visits to the loo. All this lasted about two months. But, believe me, that cold January morning I felt was my last. The pains were so intense that I thought my number was up. 

Being of a slightly dark nature, considering what went on over the next year, I think death would have been a painless release from what was turning into a very miserable existence. I’m still here, ups and downs that have been experienced, are still being experienced. If something doesn’t kill you, you will become stronger. I am strong on occasions, but not all the time. 

So that was my one very physically painful experience. Mentally, it was only the start.

Allen Brooks xx

Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

English romantic poet John Keats wrote about Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness, referring of course to Autumn. This Friday morning is a testament to that, a glorious morning, warm, mellow, with a hint of that autumnal freshness.

And that blue sky welcome has got me out of bed and off to a meeting. I’m on the bus, so far, so good. Everything crossed for an incident free journey. I’m in a better mood than yesterday, where frustration, anger and bitterness were my constant companions.

And they also say the first cup of tea of the day is also the best. That went down well. 9:45 am, and all is good, so far.

Allen Brooks xx