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

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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

Not the same man again….

My late father gave great service to the country, first of all as a soldier in the Second World War, and then as an employee of a local company for 31 years. He did shift work, and eventually became a senior manager. All was well in his world….

Until August 1981. The Royal Wedding celebrations had finished and we had come back from our holiday in Eastbourne. Then as we turned the key in the door of our maisonette and opened it, there was an envelope on the doormat. As we put our cases down, Dad picked up the envelope and opened it. There was silence for a few moments and then he announced “The company are relocating and are looking to make me redundant”. That dreaded word….redundant. Services no longer required.

It was at the time of economic stress and strain nationwide. The previous year, Dad’s company gave him a carriage clock for 30 years service. This was now the knife to the heart of a proud man. 55 years of age and still 10 years left of his working life. Thrown on the scrapheap.

We didn’t relocate, and Dad reluctantly took the redundancy and the financial package. From that point, his health and his mental well being, strong despite his cigarette habit, started to deteriorate quite rapidly. The man who had always religiously gone to work and did all the shifts, now started to become a shadow of his former self. The following year he had a minor stroke, and had to give up cigarettes, then he had to have a bypass performed in his stomach.

Dad fell apart quite quickly. Looking back, though he tried to never let on, his mental well being took a real hit, never to recover. 31 years of hard graft, ended very abruptly. Within 10 years, the mental and physical wear and tear finally ended his wonderful life. I didn’t understand too much about this at the time, but time allows me perspective and opportunity to look at reasons as to why he went downhill.

So 1981 was a momentous year in more ways than one, and the Brooks family had to deal with the fallout of that fateful August day, the envelope on the mat. It has stuck in my mind, and it will never go away.

Allen Brooks xx

Own initiative….

Another day, another day of volunteering at the new place. To keep up the good feeling about today, the volunteering went extremely well.

I seem to be settling in quite well now. The guy mentoring me seems to trust me and leave me to work on my own initiative, and I was working things out for myself. I completed the tasks without too much fuss and I’m enjoying doing something different to what I’m used to.

Not even London’s public transport could push me off the good feeling I had today. There’s delays and cancellations all over the place today, but I’ve kept my equilibrium and my temper. A very good day, the volunteering is something to look forward to during the long winter months.

Thanks for dropping by,

Allen Brooks xx

First taste of work experience….

January 1990. I was at college at the time, and for a project I was doing, I had to apply for work experience, mainly involving computers. I ended up at a local bank, and I was there for a week. A week too long, to be brutally honest. 

I was of course, nervous and anxious to do well. The work was unpaid as well, but I was in for an extremely rough ride. It so happened that in the team was a former form member at school. I never spoke to her very much while at school, she never spoke very much in return, but she sure made up for it here.

In cahoots with this former school colleague was a supervisor who was rather unfriendly, to put it mildly. She had ideas above her station and was slightly power mad. She also had her mind made up that I was fair game to be endlessly criticised and talked down to. 

It wasn’t a happy experience, the rest of the staff and management were very unhelpful, and I was pleased when it all ended. Very uncomfortable and nasty. But I had one more parting shot at the two people previously spoken about. After one unhappy day, I said “I’m so glad that I’m finishing in a few days time, because you sure don’t know how to treat people very well!” The reply was predictable and unrepeatable.

I remember being set up by the staff to accept a phone call from a “manager” at another branch. Being naive and gullible, I was sucked in to the trap and given a volley of abuse down the phone. I reported the event to the branch manager, who was as effective as a chocolate teapot. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the manager was in on the “joke”.

So this was my first experience of staff hostility, nastiness and vindictiveness a regular experience throughout the week. Sadly, at some other places I worked at, this was also the case. I’m so glad I work and volunteer in mental health now, working with people with manners and empathy is a world away from most of my working existence. Sometimes it takes being ill and being to hell and back to give something back to society. 

I’ll always remember January 1990, and not with affection. Can’t stand work politics and the ability of people to walk over others to climb the greasy pole. Sad really, but that says more about them than me. 

Allen Brooks xx 

Warehouse woes….

2010 again. I found myself a job in a warehouse, helping to prepare shopping orders to go out to the general public. It was a job that I actually quite enjoyed for a while, the staff were very friendly and I was able to concentrate on something pleasant for a change.

Then, as so often happens, it all started to go wrong. My car had stopped working altogether one night, leaving me without a decent mode of transport. So I had to get three trains and a taxi cab to the warehouse from my home, costing me a fair amount of money each time.

Also, I was in deep debt, left over from the failed marriage. Money was coming in, but with the debts totalling up to a £1,000, I couldn’t pay off the debts and keep myself going properly. I was disappearing down a black hole once again.

One night, I was busying myself in the warehouse. A song was being played over the radio, I can’t remember which one, but it brought the emotions to the surface. I carried on, and I don’t know how I didn’t break down in front of everyone. Call it devotion to duty I suppose. But it was a near thing.

In the end, I had to leave the job. I started to go downhill again and I couldn’t give the company the commitment they demanded. Though they were sympathetic, I had no choice but to depart. I felt I was working 40 odd hours a week but with no end product, tangible money in my account. I was living a lie. The debts needed to be paid off. It was a horrible time.

The result? I did pay off the debts, eventually, but I haven’t had a full time job since. I doubt whether I could hold down a steady job now, especially with all the ups and downs of my autism. One day, though, it might all change. But for the moment, full time work is out of the question.

Wasn’t 2010 a great year? Not!

Allen Brooks xx

Going round and round in circles…

Another vivid dream last night. I used to work as a postman for around 5 years. The dream transported me back into the sorting office I used to work at. I was put on this round and was collecting the work to be sorted.

I was walking round collecting the work, and around and around the office I went. More work was building up and I was struggling to get the work into the frames. Then the lady manager (no name) said that there were loads of packets to collect, so I did that. I was getting more exasperated and frustrated (as I used to do in reality) as the work piled up with no end in sight. The other manager was there, observing and generally being a nuisance. 

Then all of a sudden, my morning alarm went off and the dream ended. What did it tell me? The busy spell last month with loads of stuff going on causing some tiredness and fatigue could be the waking reality. Sometimes the dreams reflect my conscious state of mind. But one thing from the dream was very apparent. Loads of work to do and so little time to do it. That’s why the job was very stressful, towards the end. I’m glad I’m out of it. I don’t miss the early mornings and the long walks with the heavy workload. But one good thing did come out of it, I’m great mates with a chap who worked with me for a while at the old office.

Dreams, aren’t they bizarre at times?

Allen Brooks xx