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Never Give Up

Never Give Up

  1. Positive mental attitude
  2. Never give up - I have got a target to hit so let't hit it.

Two incredibly powerful pieces of self talk. Mantras that we can all use to improve how we take care of ourselves for the purposes of mental health and wellbeing - self care. Words that can help us achieve what we want to achieve from moment to moment, that lead to us achieving what we want to achieve from day to day. Words that help us build a collection of days when we achieve the goals that we want to achieve, that lead to the weeks and the months that provide us with the feeling that all human beings strive for. Happiness, satisfaction, contentment? Choose your own word which best describes for you your mindset when you achieve your feeling that you derive from a sense of purpose.

They are the words of Andrew Jones (@Andy_Jonesy) who I interviewed recently in Edinburgh. One of his targets for that day was to complete the Cramond five kilometre Park Run (@parkrunUK). This was part of his training for his longer term goal of completing a half marathon, which he is set to do in Chester this weekend (@chestermarathon), all part of his overall goal of maintaining successful self care and living healthily. He has been training hard, eating and hydrating well and the results were clear to see in the slim and healthy looking figure I saw before me as he reflected on another successful run to take his weekly total comfortably above thirty kilometres whilst finishing his falafel and salad wrap, washed down with some more water.

For Andrew (37), a successful businessman from Ellesmere Port, this was another normal week. However, just over nine months ago, his normal was very different. He was around three and a half stone heavier and was much more likely to have been eating chips or a kebab, washed down with some more beer. He 'could not run a kilometre without stopping', and most significantly of all - he has been diagnosed with a kidney function of less than 16%. Such was the state of his health, he had reached the point where his target at that point had come down to, in his words; 'longevity of life'.

For the father of two (Rosalie 9 and Danielle 11) and husband to Stacey (@Stace_Jonesy - also 37), his life had reached a cross roads. He was faced with a clear choice. He could keep walking the path that he was walking, and stumble towards a bleak future, or he could start to take steps in a different direction and begin to walk a different path. The choice may sound like an obvious one, but obvious does not mean easy.

He had lived with Kidney Disease for over 36 years at that point and by his own admission had 'buried his head in the sand' in regards to his self care needs. However, he now knew that if he continued to live the way he was living then he faced the imminent necessity of kidney dialysis and the impending prospect of a transplant. He explained to me that as he faced the reality in front of him, there were 'tears'.

Although tears can be painful, expressing emotion is extremely healthy. And it was at that moment that he found the clarity to enable him to chose the path that he wanted to walk, he had taken his first healthy steps towards a different future. What has followed has been moment after moment of living differently, which have added up to day after day and month after month of a very different reality, a much more healthy reality.

Naturally, that has involved some more tears at times and plenty of pain. Sometimes the pain has been so difficult that it has been difficult to carry on, 'there have been dark days', Andrew recalled. It has been in these moments when the importance of the relationships with the people around him have been crucial. They have helped him to stay on the path that he chose. They have empowered him with the confidence to do exactly what his wrist band says: 'Never Give Up'.

In particular the support from Stacey, who not only walks by his side metaphorically but literally runs by his side regularly on training runs and during the now regular Saturday morning Park Runs across the country which have become a family event that Rosalie and Danielle also enjoy. Andrew appreciates his fortune, 'I am lucky to have the support, if you don't, it doesn't mean you can't achieve things, but if the support is there then it makes it easier'.

Andrew's family deserve great credit, and so does he, because being open to accepting help, particularly for men, is not something that comes naturally. Indeed when I asked Andrew for suggestions for others looking to improve their self care, the first thing he said was 'If you ever need help don't be afraid to ask, talk to someone, and also listen to people, everyone has a story to tell'.

He went on to describe the importance of having people around that could listen to him, such as friends in work, 'they might not have any answers but just to be heard is really helpful'. Important advice indeed, whether we find ourselves in a position where we need to talk, or just as importantly when it looks as though others may need to talk. We may not have the answers, but it is allowing the space for people to connect with us and ask the questions that is crucial.

Even if a friend does not come and ask for help, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain from asking the question, 'do you want to talk'? The #GrowAPair initiative (for those of you that haven't seen this - it is relating to ears!) during this #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek is another very positive message on social media promoting this issue, with a particular regard to mental health in men. The words are not necessarily important, it is the process of talking and being heard, of listening and being there, that make the difference.

Andrew's other suggestions for successful self care, from his experience on his remarkable journey so far, are based around this seminal piece of self talk:

'We can't alter the past, we mustn't dwell on it, but we can learn from it, and we can't control what happens in the future, we can only ever control right now'.

He openly shares that he has regrets about the past, regrets are natural, regrets are human, but he reminds himself not to dwell on them. He also has concerns and worries about the future, which is also natural and very human, and he works hard not to think too far ahead, not to focus on anything other than today. 

It is an interesting anomaly of the human condition the we spend relatively little time focusing on the only thing that we can control, at the only time that we can control it, and that is our action - right now. However if we can become skilled, like Andrew has become, in finding a way - through effective self talk - to keep our self care actions focused on right now - then we can start walking the path that we really want to walk.

That path that has a clear goal that we really want to achieve at the end of it, and many targets along the road. A path that is a collection of moments, moments that add up to days, day to weeks and weeks to months. There will be 'dark days' and there will be 'tears', and standing at the crossroads before you get started is not easy. But stand at your cross roads, with 'positive mental attitude' and a willingness to 'never give up', choose your path and start walking it.

This is exactly what Andrew Jones did some 9 months ago. He closed the door on not being able to run a kilometre without stopping, he closed the door on the bleak future that lay ahead and chose the path to the future that he wanted, and now he is not only walking it but running it, including 21 kilometres without stopping this weekend. He is running, and with every step creating a new future for himself and his family. That future now not only contains the target of 'longevity of life', but quality of life. He is going to keep running, and never give up.

'The world is not a bad place - enjoy it'!

Cheers, to you - Andy! Lets drink (a water) to that.

A final word for Stacey, walking by her husband's side (and often running!) should never be taken for granted but could perhaps be said to be 'expected' in a happy relationship. What can certainly never be expected, and absolutely counts as 'running the extra mile' is that Stacey is currently taking the necessary steps to donate a kidney to Andrew when the time comes that a transplant is necessary (thanks to his self care efforts, it will not be quite as urgent as has previously appeared to have been the case but the time will come). Her support means that Andrew will be running many more kilometres in future.

If you would like to support Andrew, Stacey and their family, please share their story to raise awareness, send some feedback in support or if you can - donate to their fundraising efforts for Kidney Research UK (Kidney_Research) ahead of this weekend's half marathon: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andychesterhalf2019

#TeamKidney

 

You will be able to watch the interview in full on this website in the coming days.