Written by: Tim Rickson (Email: [email protected])
When his professional boxing career was abruptly ripped away from him, devastated fighter Andy Gatenby focused on his well-being and mental health to make it through the hardest time of his life.
Rising film star Andy Gatenby has had to go through a lot of changes in the past few years of his life.
The 34-year-old from Portsmouth was an undefeated professional boxer about to fight for his first title until disaster struck in the form of an eye injury that caused his immediate retirement from boxing, literally overnight.
Instead of heading into an extensive training camp, back in 2014, Andy was being delivered life-changing news that he had failed his medical exam ahead of an English championship contest, meaning the Portsmouth puncher had to hang up his gloves for good, after decades of hard work building up to this point.
The blow was hard to take but he instantly switched his focus to another fight – he found a new love in acting.
He decided to make it his new fight to train as an actor to land bigger and better roles in film and TV, which has allowed the married father of two to concentrate fully on that dream instead of dwelling on what could have been.
Using the power of positive thinking, the aspiring actor attended workshops and threw himself into his new profession with everything he had.
And it paid off! His most recent role was alongside award-winning actor Billy Murray in British thriller film, ‘Nemesis’, and he’s back on set again already, working on his next film, ‘Renegades’.
We talk to the rising star about how he managed to keep his mind positive despite the heartbreaking medical advice that left his dreams shattered in pieces.
Here’s what he had to say:
What does the phrase well-being mean to you?
“The phrase well-being, to me, means taking care and looking after yourself to feel good.
“I say it all the time, that you can’t help other people before you make sure you’re ok yourself. If you’re not good to yourself, then you can’t help other people effectively. When you’re feeling good internally, it’s a lot easier to pass that positivity on and make people around you feel good about themselves too.
“I see people often just helping others and not caring enough for themselves. But I feel there’s no longevity in living like that because when you need help yourself, there’s no guarantee that the people you’ve been putting all your effort into making feel good will be there for you. And if you’re already not feeling good, this could impact you hugely.”
How important is it in our everyday lives?
“I think it’s more important than ever to keep on top of your well-being, especially after the past year and what we have all had to go through – losing loved ones and not being able to see each other.
“I always maintain that the best way to keep positive and healthy in mind is to speak about things that are bothering you. A problem shared is a problem halved, in my view. I really believe that works.
“I also always make sure to get lots of fresh air and exercise throughout the week. Nature has a calming and wholesome effect on you, plus the endorphins after training make you feel awesome!”
What advice would you offer to someone to achieve health and well-being?
“If I could offer any advice to someone to achieve good well-being it would be this: Never ignore your problems and allow them build up.
“I was once given this exact advice and it changed my life. I would often have a blurry head when it came to dealing with problems and I would barely touch the surface of each one; be it money; bills; family; friends; arguments; anything, but just never really dealing with it completely.
“Someone once told me, if you have a problem, no matter how big or how small, to always deal with it head on and give it 100 per cent of your concentration. Don’t put it off, attack it with all that you have. Once that one problem has gone, you move on, and before you know, it all your problems are completely gone!
“Since I’ve adapted to this method of thinking, it’s turned me into a problem-solver and has made life so much easier. You will be surprised how quickly a big problem can disappear when you deal with it directly with everything you’ve got.”
Have you suffered with mental health difficulties yourself and how did you overcome it?
“Yes, I really have! Obviously, when my career as a professional boxer ended, it was a dark time for me, but throwing myself into acting solved that before it became a mental health issue. It’s very common for a fighter to fall into depression once their career is over, it’s an issue for all athletes for that matter.
“I’m proud to be an ambassador for the Amelia Mae Foundation, which helps children fighting Neuroblastoma, which is a horrible, very aggressive cancer that only affects children.
“Since working with the charity, I have seen many young children pass away and it’s broken my heart and affected me mentally over the years.
“My son is three now, but I couldn’t bond with him fully for the first year and a half because I kept thinking bad thoughts that he was going to become ill, like the children I was trying to help, and it really got me down.
“I kept it bottled up for a long while, but one night I told my wife exactly how I was feeling, and it made me feel a lot better.
“It’s ok to feel bad sometimes when you’ve been affected by things, and I truly believe the more you speak about them, the better it can become for you.”
Do you have support in achieving your well-being?
“I have great support with my well-being on a day-to-day basis because I surround myself with good people.
“It’s taken a little while to get to where I am, but if someone is extremely negative or has bad traits, I try to limit my time with them as much as possible.
“I have a lot of time for everyone, and I hope that some of my positivity can rub off on them, but I do find it’s a shame sometimes when it’s the friends you have known for a long time that are dragging you down, but if they’re making you feel that way every single time you see them, then you have to restrict that time, in my view.
“I have a great group of people that I see most days that make me smile and laugh all the time and it’s better than any medicine you can get!”