A lockdown blog post….and how it’s impacted on my mental health

www.sane.org.uk/how_you_can_help/blogging/show_blog/2353

Would be delighted if you gave this a read….

Ian L. Fullbrook

Time to speak up….

Everyone has a story. Everyone should be heard. Let’s talk about mental health on World Mental Health Day 2019. Wherever you are, let’s help each other.

A.S.D Brooks

A 25 second video….to this!

There’s little old me, after speaking at a mental health event in South London this morning. The lovely lady pictured, Siobhan, hosted and organised the event that brought together some local people to discuss how we perceive people with mental illness.

And this all started with a 25 second video on Instagram around September last year, and here I am invited to speak at some mental health events. Considering that I used to run away from anything to do with public speaking, this is quite a transformation. Knowledge is power. It’s ok to stand there and talk, but better if you have knowledge of your subject. And people like honesty and realism.

There were two other powerful speakers who shared their experiences and a lot of what they said resonated with me. We all did a clever activity where we were given an envelope with a person’s face on it. We were asked how old they might be, what job they do and what kind of mental health struggles they may endure. Then we opened each envelope and read a sentence describing their struggles. Very ingenious idea that got everyone talking and I explained about the stock phrases that people use. Say a person is struggling with mental illness but smiles. A person that doesn’t know might say “He/she is happy. He/she looks normal!”. What I’m saying is that mental illness is invisible, unlike a broken arm.

Then it was me. I had a script to follow, because as the years advance, my memory isn’t what it was! But I hope it was well received and I networked with some other members of the audience and I hope to do more of this, at a later date.

I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling particularly enthusiastic about going. I felt weighed down with all the stuff that is going on and the pressure to perform. But I got up there and dismissed those anxieties and spoke. It gave me a little bit of a lift. Back home now, and the anxieties return of course.

It was a superbly organised event and Siobhan seems a driven and likeable individual who wants to make sure others have a good and fulfilling life. It was her first event organising and though she was worried and a little nervous, it went off smoothly and I hope this is the start of a career of running such events in the future.

Nice day. They’ve been few and far between this year, but when they do come along, they’re worth holding onto. So as I said to begin with, a short video and here we are. You never know what is around that corner, and that is the beauty of life.

A.S.D Brooks

Not my best….but it was good enough

The A.S.D Brooks Mental Health speaking tour continues……ha ha. Yesterday I was invited to do a talk in front of people from mental health charities and such from the North London area.

The main theme of the afternoon was suicide awareness. Now as we know, suicide is a serious and heavy subject. My reason for being there was to talk about my recovery journey and my autism diagnosis.

When I got up to speak, I was quite nervous. It wasn’t the best performance I’ve given, but the audience seemed to enjoy it. It was stuff from the heart and with plenty of reality and honesty. I’ve been to the brink a few times in the past and “my story” was an example that we can fight back and do things we enjoy.

Got some positive feedback and some applause, which was nice. That gratifies me. Being heard and giving the audience something to think about. The lady who organised the event wants me to come back and do a few more talks in the future.

The week I’ve had, where I’ve spent it in the company of some great people, keeps me in the moment and stops me from heading downward. I feel very lucky that I have that support network, otherwise I would be…..well the outcome would be too sad to contemplate, let’s put it that way.

More progress….and who knows that speaking tour could take off? Lot of work to do yet.

A.S.D Brooks

How’s my hair looking?

To complete what has been a very good and rewarding day, I’ve been attending a mental health meeting in London. And yours truly had to do a piece to camera. That was in aid of doing a short film to tell the world at large what improves our well being, and what things we like doing.

I was asked four fairly rapid fire questions and I had to talk for 20 seconds or so (long enough some may say) on the above subjects. A few others did the same and our film will be shown at a mental health event in London in October. But one thing, there was no one to do my hair or make up! I could be in line for a BAFTA, you never know….

Seriously speaking, it would be nice for people to listen to others and what keeps them well in times of difficulty. I hope my little vox pop of around 2 minutes will resonate with some members of the public.

Just waiting for that acting contract to come through the post now……

A.S.D Brooks

Welcome back….to stress

Afternoon. A quiet weekend should have put me in a good frame of mind for today. I attended an event for Suicide Prevention Awareness Day, where local businesses and charities set up table tops to advertise their wares for the local community.

I set off in plenty of time, hopefully with no need to rush about. Famous last words. The buses in the local area were screwed, to put it mildly. I was at various bus stops waiting and waiting and waiting for any bus to turn up. As you can imagine, my temper was getting shorter by the minute and I was getting progressively angrier as each minute ticked by.

Eventually, I dashed into the office, collected the stuff and made my breathless way to the venue. To add to the sense of frustration, my phone runs out of power extremely quickly when not on charge, so I was uncontactable. I had to sit and suffer, basically.

I still made it with 15 minutes to spare, but my colleague was unaware of what was happening, so she was relieved when I arrived. I then proceeded to frighten the life out of the room when the company’s banner crashed to the floor with a resounding thud. Thankfully I got some help and that problem was solved.

After I cooled down from the stress, the event was excellently organised and well attended. There were some guest speakers who were very good at describing their recovery journey, and the journeys were poignant and hard hitting. All in all, all’s well that ends well. And not only that, one of the people running the event remembered me from a previous event where I stood up and spoke about my autism diagnosis. A guy today did the same and was very eloquent and amusing.

So stress to begin, but ok to end. I don’t like Mondays…….think there’s a song about that isn’t there?

A.S.D Brooks

Check out my WEIRD review….

I’ve written a review of the play WEIRD on SANE’s website. Check it out by clicking on the link:- http://www.sane.org.uk/howyoucanhelp/blogging/show_blog/1864

I’ll be grateful if you could check it out!

Many thanks

A.S.D Brooks

Celebrating difference….

This was a clever piece of marketing merchandise from the play WEIRD I saw the other day at the Edinburgh Fringe.

At school, anyone that was slightly different to others was labelled weird, or a freak. Certainly I had those insults levelled at me quite a few times. Unaware of any form of mental illness at the time, though my life was made a bit miserable at times, I had to get on with life. I wasn’t that good at sports or practical subjects (same still true today), and though I was good at academic subjects like Maths and English, that lack of practicality rendered me different.

And I wasn’t a great mixer either. I kept myself to myself. Partially true these days too. The childhood can colour your adult life. But I blissfully carried on with the insults still ringing in my ears.

Those insults have more or less stopped now and like most others with a mental illness of some form, my difference or weirdness is now more accepted, if not celebrated. Autism wasn’t heard of back in 1983, but it is now. There is a spectrum and people are on it, whether they like it or not.

And the same can be said of OCD. Again, nobody had heard of OCD back in 1983. But through the hearts and minds of people who suffer this very debilitating illness, we are all much more aware. And it’s striking that some people still link OCD to cleanliness. Not so. It’s an illness where rigid routine is adhered to to give the sufferer relief. It’s like an electrical circuit. The thought process goes round and round until something breaks the circuit and some kind of normality returns.

I’ve had to stand there and explain what OCD is to groups of schoolchildren at some of the presentations I do. They have great knowledge, but that link of tidiness and cleanliness is still with them. So I have to explain to them what I’ve written in the last few paragraphs.

OCD is a part of all that all encompassing weirdness. But it’s ok to be weird. It’s ok to be autistic. It’s ok to have OCD. It’s ok to have bipolar or schizophrenia. There was a correlation years ago between mental illness and being thought of as mad. All mental illness sufferers can go and live decent and productive lives. That doesn’t mean that sufferers are stupid or retarded. The quicker we get away from mental illness equals stupidity or madness the better.

Celebrate and embrace weirdness. It’s fine to be different, not to conform to certain patterns of behaviour. So go on, enjoy being WEIRD!!

A.S.D Brooks

A double dose of WEIRD….

Tired but happy. It’s been a long day and am on a (late) train back to London from Edinburgh. That today was a wonderful experience.

Standing outside the venue was the writer, Lucy Burke, with a handful of flyers ready to hand out to the mass of humanity milling outside the many venues at the Edinburgh Fringe. I had a very good and convivial conversation with Lucy. Lucy is very personable and you can sense the enthusiasm within her for this project, called WEIRD, focusing on her own personal struggles with OCD.

The show started at 1.45 in a room no bigger than my living room. The attendance was a little bit smaller than I expected, but it made for an intimate atmosphere. The performer had changed from London. The marvellous Amy Doyle is taking a break, understandably from WEIRD as the show runs for a month at the Fringe. In her place was the equally skilled and equally top class Charlotte Whitaker. In fact if I closed my eyes, I could have sworn Amy was speaking. Though both are from Yorkshire, they perfect the Bolton accent extremely well.

Unfortunately though, a member of the audience left halfway through, and when the performance finished, she was visibly distressed. I’m not sure what it was that triggered her distress, but this world of mental illness can get to us all.

Performance wise? Strong and confident, and you can pick out the sad moments, especially at the end, when the character loses her best friend in a car accident. The humour is still there, raw and undiluted, just as it should be.

Then it was back to the cavernous Edinburgh Waverley station. It is positively enormous and overflowing with people. Whether south of the border or north of the border, the train services are just the same. Return journey late, by only a few minutes though.

I just had that warm glow today that I’ve seen WEIRD in a different setting. Just that change, a different environment and a great setting. I would like to see WEIRD play to vast audiences, because the team that produce it are exceptionally capable of taking it onto bigger stages. It deals with mental illness with honesty, feeling and depth. And you can’t go too far wrong with honesty in this world. Lucy Burke also spoke of WEIRD going on tour in certain parts of England. I would like to bring along some of my colleagues in the mental health volunteering field. They would love it, and they would love the people that produce it.

Surprisingly on three hours sleep, I don’t feel too bad, but I will be crashing into my pit later on tonight. It’s the weekend after all.

WEIRD – A play about OCD – written by Lucy Burke, produced by Peter Taylor. Starring Amy Doyle or Charlotte Whitaker as Yasmin and a host of other characters.

Take my advice. Go and watch it. It’s fab.

A.S.D Brooks