Flattery?

Everybody that has met up with me in recent weeks have said one of two things. One – “You’re looking well” or “You’ve got a good suntan”.

Looking well for me can cover a multitude of sins. It’s what’s on the inside that matters. This time, since I achieved that wellness or “suntan”, things are looking ok, as it goes. That holiday to Portugal seems to have done me the world of good, in mind as well as body. Remember I alluded to the fact that laying on the sunbed on the beach, saw all the stresses and strains ebb away from me and out into the vast expanse of the Atlantic? Well, I do seem to be a bit more relaxed and hopeful of better times around the corner.

Of course, there will be the odd bump in the road. Today being a case in point. I had a volunteering stint at SANE to do and I dragged myself out of bed and out of the door. It was a little bit more of an effort than has been the case over the last fortnight. The weather here in the UK has helped, warm Autumn days and clear blue skies. But I needed that push today. And I did the volunteering and feel better for it.

So I’m impressed by the flattering remarks, but it doesn’t always hold true that looking well means a good mindset. But I’m back to doing some stuff around mental health, volunteering, peer support and maybe some presentations….I feel relaxed and able to approach this with more confidence. That’s good for the mind, too, and I like networking with like minded people.

Anyway, this suntan will turn to rust in a few weeks when Autumn turns into Winter. Glad to have some backup Vitamin D to help me on those short and drab days. Also planning another trip away next Spring too. So onwards and upwards….

A.S.D Brooks

World Suicide Prevention Day…

As this is a very emotive subject, please exercise caution when reading this piece…

Today, I attended a meeting at City Hall, London for World Suicide Prevention Day. There were about 100 attendees with some impressive keynote speakers on duty, including the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, whose initiative it was to set up Thrive LDN and a new training programme to spot the signs of suicide and help prevent it.

Suicide is a difficult subject. Hearing first hand experiences of this makes you sit up and take notice and can melt the hardest of hearts. There was a collective desire in the room to aim for a Zero Suicide target across London. A difficult target but one that can be achieved.

How do we help prevent it? By talking, by getting professional, medical help and attending groups where you can share your experiences. Nothing is worth ending your own life for, despite all what is thrown at us by the environment, financial hardship, discrimination and stigma and the ambivalence of some parts of society to these dreadful events.

We heard about what some employers are doing to help by making more of their workers “aware” of mental ill health and to create a better working environment. I can only say from bitter experience that most of the companies I worked for couldn’t have cared less if I took time off for “mental ill health”. They would have rushed me back to work and had no compunction in putting me on stage warnings for sick absence. I’m glad to say that attitudes are changing, but only slowly. Lots more work needs to be done across society as a whole.

In a sense I’m glad I’ve gone and are still going through the bad experiences because it gives me a chance to be involved, at a more humble level, admittedly, and a chance to meet and network with so many other great people who share a common bond – to make other people’s lives better and richer, spiritually and emotionally.

It was a pleasure to be in the audience and to hear power from the speakers because it’s something they believe passionately in. So do I. I have had the occasional, fleeting glimpses this year into a dark side of me that doesn’t bear thinking about. We all want to get better, so let’s start now!

A.S.D Brooks

Reflection….

Just going to share a few more thoughts from the mental health summit I attended yesterday.

Though these days, I have few problems with public speaking, I must admit to feeling somewhat overcome with nerves the night before. Why? Because there was a large audience in attendance and it’s for a major organisation. I didn’t want to speak and make a fool of myself. These thoughts were making my stomach turn cartwheels.

Next on the panic list was the travelling to the venue. I live ten miles out of the city of London, and getting around this great place is difficult at the best of times. I was out early to be at City Hall by 9 a.m. With the failure of the phone network, I had no idea of when the bus might show up (I have an app that tells me). I waited, and I waited, for 20 minutes. The hands on the watch were travelling rather too quick for my liking.

I had to make a decision. I decided to walk to the nearest rail station (15 minutes away). Cursing the lack of buses, I set off. I got round the corner when I noticed two buses show up together. Too late. I walked at a brisk pace (rare for me) to make it just in time for the train. Being 8 a.m., the station was a seething mass of humanity.

I got to London Bridge around 8.45 and set off for City Hall. The mass of humanity seemed to get more prolific as I walked the ten minutes from station to venue. Being an unusually warm December day, I was sweating profusely, thinking I would be late. Luckily, I wasn’t.

I had no notes prepared. But I had a blank sheet of paper. While the chap who invited me spoke, I scribbled down some cogent thoughts. I showed him the result of said scribbling, and he was impressed.

Up in the lift now, right to the 9th floor of the building. The room was airy, with excellent views of the River Thames and Tower Bridge. I watched people file in….gradually the room was filled with roughly 100 people. Me and another lady who was due to speak joined the others as we filed up to the top table, adorned with microphones.

I was calm by this stage. And when it came to my piece, I was ready. I was prompted with a question and it was time to open my mouth. And it went well. I even threw in a quote and a little witty aside that seemed to go down well. The mind was relaxed, as though I was on a beach. What was all the fuss and panic about?

The chap who had invited me to speak sat to my left and simply and sincerely said “Well done” when I’d finished. That was all the confirmation I wanted.

So that’s an insight into the mind of A.S.D Brooks. Autistic and able to say it’ll be alright on the night too. A little preparation goes a long way. Someone said I didn’t refer to my notes. I didn’t actually – they were like an aide memoire. I knew what to say and to keep it brief. Learning at this game all the time.

I just wonder in 2007 if my life took a better path that I wouldn’t be doing this. It took a wrong turn but I love speaking about mental health and to give something back to others facing their own struggles. All that experience of my own demons and good days to throw in the mix. Speaking at events like this are spiritually and emotionally rewarding, and I hope to continue speaking until people get fed up with listening.

A.S.D Brooks

Communication Breakdown and speaking on mental health….

Odd day to say the least. At 6.30 am today, I had to be up and about to venture to City Hall in London for an event held by Thrive LDN, centring around improving the lives of Londoners who have mental illness. I was invited to speak for a minute or so (some say a minute too long!) about the work I do around mental health.

But a major problem beset me and 25 million others. The o2 mobile network

had a major meltdown and the whole of the UK had no mobile internet, no data and little communication. Horror of horrors, people were actually talking to each other today! That once forgotten art of conversing.

So it was a bit of a race against time to get to City Hall. But I made it, just. I scribbled down what I had to say and when it was time to speak, I did so. I just spoke about what makes a Thrive LDN champion and the talks I give on mental health. No nerves, despite the fact there were 100 people in the room!

It was a good event, and it was an opportunity before year end to showcase all what is good about looking out for others. It also gives us an opportunity to network, to hook up with others so we can all sing from the same hymn sheet.

On that note, I’ve managed to line up another possible speaking engagement. One chap said I had “presence and gravitas”. How could he tell that in 60 seconds. I must have made a good impression. However the stars of the show were two young ladies who spoke about mental health in a forthright and clear style, sounding much like rap artists. Now I’m not into that style of music but their performance was breathtaking and knocked into a cocked hat the 60 second effort from me.

(A really good day and great to network with a few people!)

So a strange day. The mobile network has made a partial reappearance this evening so I’m able to type this blog post. The people I met this morning were typically lovely and it’s a part of my life that brings much reward (spiritually) and great enjoyment. But I don’t think I could do rush hour travelling too often. Too cramped and too many people buzzing around like hornets. But this is London. Like it or lump it.

Bye.

A.S.D Brooks

Improving all the time….

It’s been a good week so far, in all truth. Monday saw me do some umpire tutoring for the first time this winter and very enjoyable it was too.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BphqVwGHGY9/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=10tdvmhzeglyu

The above link is a nice surprise! I’ve now been converted to another social media platform – Instagram. And if you click on the link, you will find me talking at a meeting about 6 weeks ago. It was all about what I do to maintain good mental health. That has been under strain in the last few weeks but things are looking up again. The video was broadcast on the site for Thrive LDN and I’ve got some likes and good comments. If someone can listen to the video and it makes a difference to them, then I’m pleased.

What is Thrive LDN? It’s a campaign run by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in collaboration with NHS England, to improve the well being of all Londoners with mental health issues. I’m glad to do my bit and hopefully, someone will benefit.

Someone was sufficiently impressed (can’t think why – must have been the posh voice!) for them to invite me to speak at an upcoming event for men’s mental health. Such a contrast to years ago, where I would have run away and hid from the prospect of public speaking. Now I’m a lot better at it and with more confidence. Who knows what may come of it? Allen Brooks on a speaking tour? We shall see. Baby steps.

But it all adds up to a good week so far. Today I popped into SANE and chatted with the staff in there, who are very supportive of the struggles I’ve had in the last few weeks. That was a reassuring and pleasant experience.

Tomorrow – Peer Support in the morning and a meal with some umpiring friends in the evening. Just a decent week and the support network I have is coming up trumps. Even tonight on Halloween night, no one has knocked on the door for Trick or Treat. I’ve had a peaceful evening! In any case, I think the Trick or Treat callers would be more frightened of my face instead of the other way round. But I digress.

As a famous pop group once said around 1997, things can only get better. And they are.

A.S.D Brooks

Turbulence in the air and mentally too….

I liken the last couple of days to the journey back from Portugal last Wednesday. It was a smooth ride by and large, but there was moderate turbulence over France that caused the bumps and shakes.

This what it has been like over the last 48 hours. Smooth, then pow! Turbulent mind. Thoughts all over the place. Like the plane, I find that the turbulence will be uncomfortable for a while. My heart will race, my anxieties will heighten. When will it end? Like a plane that encounters turbulence, it has to move faster, accentuating the shakes and bumps. My mind will work faster, with a million thoughts, not all of them good.

Then it will be over. The mind slows down, the ride becomes more smooth, and I’m back to somewhere near normal.

So mental health issues such as mine can be compared to a plane or a ship sailing the ocean wave. Smooth, and then bump, shake, bump, shake. Goes on for a while and then all good. I’m finishing the day better than when I started. Less turbulent and intrusive thoughts. Less tired. I’ve always found anxiety can make me very tired. But I’ve had a good day with lots of good people. Righting that turbulent mind. You can’t believe how much of a difference those good people make to my life.

Tomorrow is another day…..

A.S.D Brooks

Peers, Vanuatu and Thriving in this mad world……

Afternoon. First of all, I would like to commence by saying that someone is viewing the blog from Vanuatu. Now where is Vanuatu, I hear you ask? Well, even with my decent grasp of geography, I had to check.

It’s in the Pacific Ocean, off the northeast coast of Australia. So somebody on a far away archipelago is viewing my everyday scribblings. I feel slightly chuffed that somebody is tuning in from some 11,000 miles away. If only more would tune in from the UK, then I would be making a real difference.

What else has been going on? Well, it was Peer Support today and disappointingly, we only had a small attendance. But we made do and mended, and discussed ways of improving our well being, not being too hard on ourselves and putting ourselves first, especially with our mental and physical health. A very fruitful and good discussion ensued over the following two hours. Enlightening and enriching.

Then I’ve been called into emergency action as a chairman of a local service user group meeting next Wednesday. The usual chairman has been otherwise indisposed, so I’ve been called in to step in to his not inconsiderable shoes, just for the evening. It’s not a meeting I attend very frequently, but it’s only for 90 minutes and it will fine tune my chairmanship skills for the umpires course which starts next month. All good practice.

Also, following on from the meeting at City Hall the other day, the organisation which runs the mental health campaign in London has retweeted and made some flattering comments about my blog post. All publicity is good publicity. As long as someone benefits from my input, in whatever sphere, than I’m happy. Money can’t buy that, and I’m glad to say I volunteer and am not worried about financial rewards at all. It’s the reward of seeing others benefit which is the greatest thing to take away.

So, busy busy. Cricket meeting tonight, and I’m just a minute taker. Be nice to see some of my umpiring colleagues and have a good chat. All good stuff.

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

Putting something back….

I’m on my way to a mental health meeting at City Hall in London. City Hall is the seat of London government and it sits alongside the River Thames and Tower Bridge.

I haven’t been to a meeting here for a while, for various reasons. But today I am. I normally have a meal in the local Thai restaurant, but due to a fault, it was shut. I had to look elsewhere for my dinner.

I ended up at a restaurant called Brigade. Nothing exceptional about the name you might think. But this is no ordinary restaurant. It takes on homeless people and trains them up as waiters, chefs and general staff. It’s just nice to see people who have been affected by great hardship being given a chance in life. The food and service has been first class, and I may well pay a return visit. Excellent.

A.S.D Brooks