A Comedians Podcast

Hello. Yesterday evening I took part in a podcast with several of my stand up partners in crime. It was World Mental Health Day of course and the podcast was part of a series of online events that one of my places I volunteer for had running yesterday.

We discussed coping strategies, what keeps us well and why comedy helps us to stay creative during these very difficult times. Mental illness should be talked about everyday, not just one day every October. It was an excellent group and the podcast worked extremely well, save for a few minutes at the end when I experienced some sound problems and everyone sounded like they’d ingested some helium!

People tuned in across various social media platforms and we had comments from people during the live podcast. If we could help just one person feel better about their day, then we were doing our job. It’s such a shame that we all would have been involved more socially but for this Covid pandemic.

That’s why, during this Covid dictated time, that we all take time out to check our own mental health and of those around us. It was a delight to be involved yesterday, and I look forward to more podcasts and interaction around mental health. We comedians can be serious too!

Yours in comedy,

Ian L. Fullbrook

World Mental Health Day….Saturday 10th October 2020

www.instagram.com/tv/CGKFp4RHgGU/

It’s important in this quite extraordinary year, to talk about mental health and to help each other. I’ve asked two of my friends, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, to speak to the nation regarding this great event.

Remember to make that first step and talk to someone, be it a friend, family member or a professional. No one should suffer in silence.

Yours in comedy and mental health,

Ian L. Fullbrook

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

Mental Health Awareness Week

This current week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the image above reflects the fact that not enough attention has been paid to the mental health of us all during these very tough times.

Certainly, I’ve been struggling over the last two months, with the correlation between mental and physical health never more striking. I’ve had copious amounts of headaches, an attack of vertigo at the weekend and more than a fair share of really gloomy days.

So we all need to seek help. The mental health system in the UK may well start to get overwhelmed with people wanting to express how they feel in this extraordinary situation. Now with the slight easing of restrictions, those of us who have been cooped up can now at least spend some longer time out of doors and the weather is staying remarkably good here in the UK too. So it might be some time to do a spot of sunbathing and to get some much needed fresh air.

Normally, I would be talking about the stand up comedy world but I’ve been out of action like most of my colleagues for the last two months. I’ve been occasionally impersonating the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on video and putting that online. I’m itching to get back on stage and try out a few more comedy ideas. Got some ideas lined up and I hope to inflict those on unsuspecting audiences when we return to action.

As ever, stay safe and get that help if you’re struggling.

Yours in comedy

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

Farewell to a cricket legend…thanks for the memories Tres

This is Marcus Trescothick, former England and Somerset cricketer who retired from the game yesterday, aged 43.

Trescothick was a superb left handed opening batsman who reduced opposing bowlers to a quivering wreck. His aggressive approach garnered him a huge amount of success at the top level and he had a run of six years at the top of the England batting.

What secures Trescothick’s place as a legend in my eyes was his admission, around 2006, that he was suffering from anxiety and depression. He made it ok to talk about mental illness. His story is documented in his superb autobiography, Coming Back to Me, where his daily battles melted the hardest of hearts with it’s honesty and candour.

I remember watching Trescothick playing for Somerset, soon after his admission of mental illness, in a game versus Surrey at The Oval. He scored a great century and the crowd rose as one to applaud not only the innings, but the man as well. Trescothick comes over well on TV as a decent, honest, pleasant human being who gave great service to the game of cricket.

Yesterday, as my home county, Essex, were nearing the County Championship title at Taunton versus Somerset, Trescothick came on as a substitute on his valedictory farewell appearance. He was applauded all the way to the centre, was applauded all the way off and both sides honoured his superb contribution to the game of cricket. It’s something I believe that cricket does well, saying thank you and farewell to it’s great servants and heroes down the years.

But above all, Trescothick brought home the reality that sportsmen are not robots, but human beings with frailties and qualities. He made it ok for other cricketers like Mike Yardy, Andrew Flintoff, Monty Panesar, Sarah Taylor and Jonathan Trott to speak out about their private battles.

Marcus Trescothick, a true legend of cricket, goodbye and thanks for the memories, especially beating the Australians in 2005!!

A.S.D Brooks

Scaling the heights……

Here’s where I was today:-

The Orbit structure at London’s Olympic Park. How did I end up here? Because a staff member at SANE, the UK mental health charity I volunteer for, asked me to support her in cheering on some employees from UK company Roche, who are one of SANE’s biggest fundraisers.

The employees did some abseiling from the very top of the structure, which is about 80-100 feet above ground. There were some very nervous people but they all said that they enjoyed the experience.

Me? Foolishly, I decided to take the lift up to the very top to watch the abseiling in action. One thing I didn’t consider – the speed of the lift. It zooms to the top in 34 seconds and it felt like a very long 34 seconds. I had a bit of a panic as the climb is very steep and the lift speed caught me very unawares. So I took the lift straight back down again! If I can’t even manage a lift, then there’s little chance of me abseiling. I’m ok with heights most of the time, except here!

Wonderful day. The weather was excellent and the company great. You would have to pay me a lot of money to do what the Roche employees did but it was all for a great cause, raising money for mental health awareness. September is rivalling March as one of my favourite months. And that was the first time I visited the Olympic Park. Next summer I shall pay a visit, because there’s plenty of green space, a river and opportunities for a walk and fresh air. And it’s only 8 miles from my area.

It’s been a good week so far. More soon….

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

Birthday reflections…..

Evening. Today I advanced another year, to 47. Getting closer to that half century. Every birthday, I reflect on the year past.

Ever since late November/early December 2018, it’s been traumatic to say the least. Suffice it to say that my health, mental and physical, has not been good. Of course, there have been some brighter moments, but these have been few and far between. It’s been a constant battle to stay afloat.

Last November, I went through one of these government ordered Work Capability Assessments, and as usual, the whole experience was cold, demeaning and hugely humiliating. But more of that in a minute.

A few weeks later, I attended a Christmas party at SANE, the UK mental health charity that I volunteer for. The whole evening I found a struggle, I felt claustrophobic and succumbing to a panic attack, I headed for home.

Christmas wasn’t that inspiring and then the start of 2019 was desperate. The Work Capability Assessment found me fit to work and removed one of my financial lifelines, in a trice. That sent me into a mental tailspin and thought dark, sinister thoughts about what the future might hold for me.

I appealed this decision via something called a Mandatory Reconsideration. The reply was best described as arrogant nonsense, as though I’m making up all my issues and I know precious little. I had no money for 2 months or so, and the little money I had saved was dwindling. I decided to go to my doctors to get him to help. I was paid some backdated money while the appeal was being considered, and I was provided some help in going to a tribunal.

For the previous few months, my brother in law was ill with cancer. He seemed to be making good progress until he became very unwell in February. This was putting an enormous strain on me and my sister’s immediate family, and all thoughts were with brother in law as a rapid deterioration started to set in. I made it to the hospital to see him for one last time in late February and it wasn’t good. That’s how I don’t want to remember him. A very distressing time.

Come March, which should be a time for hope and optimism, my brother in law passed away. Even now as I type, I can’t quite believe it. My sister has borne the brunt of the strain for a while and is the strongest person I know or am likely to know.

The funeral was delayed while I, reluctantly, took a few days away to gather my thoughts. When I returned, the problems were still there. Three brown envelopes on the doormat – YOUR MONEY HAS BEEN STOPPED. Crushed, I had to carry on and try and be strong for the family. An awful time for all of us.

Then cricket season came along in April. Typically it was cold and dank, reflecting my mood. All of a sudden, I started to settle into scoring and some umpiring, albeit on a limited basis via my club. But if there wasn’t enough issues casting this dark cloud over me, another one cropped up where I felt unappreciated and undervalued. There were some brighter moments but overall, I’ve just run out of energy and enthusiasm. The cricket I’ve done recently has been sporadic and some of the fun has gone out of it, because that’s what some people actually want it seems. Not interested I’m afraid.

And then to the appeal tribunal last Friday. My sister came with me, and the wait to defend myself was like waiting to face a firing squad. It would have been more humane. Armed with a wad of papers as big as an encyclopaedia, I had some help from a local advocacy service. The lady dealing with my caseload has written a powerful and informed letter.

I sat down, terribly anxious as one might expect. I answered the questions as truthfully as I could muster, and before I could say any more, the presiding judge announced “YOU HAVE WON YOUR APPEAL”. The original and factually incorrect initial decision had been reversed. When those words were uttered I broke down, partly in relief, but partly of upset and anger about the distress that has been part of my life for the last year.

I still cannot bring myself to feel elated or joyous. I feel it’s vindication and a confirmation of what my issues are and how they dominate my life. I also feel it’s justice. My sister said the initial decision was wrong and we stuck with the whole process until the bitter end. I could have given up and there were times when that was the better option. But I have amazing support and the tribunal judge and doctor were utterly fair and impartial, asking me relevant questions, not a standard tick box exercise to satisfy quotas and ideology. That advocacy letter swayed their decision and the judge recommended that I have a two year moratorium from being assessed. I know that this will crop up again in the future but for now, justice has been done and seen to be done.

And I have faith in the UK judicial system too. And that’s the second time I’ve won an appeal. The last time was in 2012. The weight of evidence was not dismissed out of hand as historical and irrelevant (the State’s words, not mine). It was carefully considered and the right outcome has been achieved.

So here we are today. 12th August 2019. I’m 47 years old, hoping the next twelve months will be a lot better. They can’t be a lot worse. One thing hasn’t changed however, the weather is rubbish and it hasn’t stopped raining for two weeks. But on the day of the tribunal appeal, the sun shone briefly for A.S.D Brooks. Hoping for more sunshine in the next year.

Thanks for listening.

A.S.D Brooks

Visit to the doctor….

As far as my own mental health is concerned, I haven’t been to my doctor for a good while. I haven’t seen the need, but yesterday I bit the bullet and went, accompanied by my sister.

I had to go. Things haven’t been good in 2019. Stoppage of one of my welfare benefits, my own living environment, and a family bereavement have contributed to a poor year. I was even in panic mode about this appointment yesterday, and this doctor has been our family GP for over 30 years now.

But he put my mind at rest. He understands me and understands what has gone on in the last few years. My sister also contributed to the conversation, and I wonder what I would do without her input. She fights for me and in the end, we are going to fight to get the benefit stoppage overturned. We are both in this for the long haul. Determined to see justice done.

Afterwards, I was glad that I went and saw the doctor. Being a typical man, I need cajoling and pushing into going to seeing him. But he will put the tools in place to help me along and it was good to let him know just what kind of existence I’ve had since December 2018. Maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel? Maybe. But it’s a good start to this fight back.

A.S.D Brooks