Firstly, I want to introduce myself, I am James, 36 years old from Stoke on Trent. I have been running for 15 months now. I want tell you my story about my struggles with mental health, hopefully it will not make you sleepy and help you understand me.
I have always considered myself to be little different and sometimes feel I don’t belong in a crowd or certain groups of people, I still have this feeling and losing it and believing in myself is easier said than done".
From my early teenage years, I struggled at home, I’m not strong enough to disclose the whys but as a result I had to live with my uncle to enable to me to finish school. I never really was able to form friendships that would last in life. At just turned 18 an opportunity came for me to start a fresh and move to Buxton to work and live.
In that moment I had no idea the effects of my younger life would have on me going forward mentally, mental health was unknown and not spoken of then!
I had many ups and downs throughout my time there, I met some amazing people and worked with many people. I had a few promotions, bad days and I tried the relationship thing there too, however the latter wasn’t meant to be. Looking back now I know the reason why; I just was not ready to open up and trust them with my true emotions inside and was still looking for answers.
In 2011 I decided it was time to return home to Stoke, I left behind some amazing, some not so good memories and friendships, now I can call them character building times. Over the next couple of years I discovered that being alone was not fun, I even managed to burn some friendships along the because of bad choices and I regret that but if I had only talked and explained what was going on things would have been different.
In 2013 my life as I knew it would change, I rekindled a friendship with a lady who I first met at 16 and from there a leap of faith was needed, in 2015 I proposed in Edinburgh, she said yes and then 2017 it was I do. Throughout them 4 years I became stronger and more confident as a person, although I still held back and did silly things I connected with a new purpose in life and was accepted into a family again. I met new people and new friendships through people.
In 2018 my wife lost her father to cancer, this hit the family hard and throughout the previous year seeing the deterioration was so tough for everybody. He left behind a wife, 4 loving children and a lasting legacy. I have one regret, that was not telling him in person that he was like a father to me and I was grateful for everything he taught me and how he built my confidence up again. He knows now, my reservations and not opening up to people didn’t help then.
Seeing how this affected the family, my mother in law, wife and her siblings really was hard to see and I started to relapse inside and was not happy within myself, putting on a positive face only went so far.
In 2019 I decided on the back of a bet that I would do something stupid... run a half marathon! The potters arf is known for its amazing support and a few hilly downward sections. I had a challenge ahead, so I decided to raise money in memory of Alan Woodcock, my father in law. My friend Dave motivated me to get started and pointed me in the right direction.
On the way to crossing the line in 2:25 I came across a group of people that as a collective called themselves Go Team Running Club, a not for profit club with all monies raised being donated to North Staffs Mind Charity. Led by a top man and a good friend now called Ashley Wilkes of AW Running fitness this club and its committee really embraced me as one of their own and helped me believe I could do it! The inclusive nature and support are unrivalled.
I have since embraced the running and throughout 2019 and into 2020 set about improving and with the help of them and Ash I achieved a level I never imagined.
2020 has brought challenges for us all as a society and across the world, personally myself and Vicky my wife welcomed our son Henry in February to the world. He was diagnosed with a heart condition and at 6 days old had his first major operation, open heart surgery. At the time of writing this we have been at Birmingham children’s hospital for 9 weeks and neither of us have seen home since, with another operation due within the next month we need to stay here still.
This has played into the hands of emotion, stress and our mental states. I am so grateful to our family, friends, Go Team, AW, and you the running community who have been a massive support network for us. The journey continues and for us all as one we will get through it.
I’m going to finish here; I hope that this has not been a bore to read. The picture is there, for me to open up like this publicly has been tough but without the love of my wife, the strength of my son, friends and family and the running community, my life would be a different story today. As I’ve grown I’ve learned to accept my past and it will always be there but the future is what I make it.
Mental health matters and I’m now not afraid to say out loud “This is Me"
Thank you and enjoy your running. The final picture is my boy and he is our world and we are fighting for him.
#MilesForMind #MentalHealthMatters #runr