Katie's story: I'm reaching for a better place

Katie* went on her Skills for Life Award last summer (2018), when she was 17 years old. She is now doing an apprenticeship in personal development. This is what she had to say about her experience.

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Before the course

When I was 13, I did a 7-day Outward Bound course through Young Carers and I absolutely loved it. I got a scholarship to do the Skills for Life Award but then I was in hospital for a long time with mental health problems, so my mum rang up and asked if I could do it the following year and they said they would keep it open for me until I was 19 years old. It was really good because it gave me something to work towards when I was in hospital.

I had a few other mental health issues going on, I got to the point where I didn’t want to get better, so my mum came up with different goals for me to work towards, one of them was the Skills for Life Award. I got back in touch with Outward Bound and we got offered extra funding. It meant we could afford it because we were struggling for money, but the extra funding meant it was much better.

Building resilience and developing self-confidence

When I started the course, I didn’t think I would be strong enough physically and mentally, but I was. When I finished it, I realised I was a lot stronger than I thought, that gave me a big confidence boost, it gave me more confidence in myself. Before, I just thought that I wouldn’t have been able to do anything like it.

When I finished it, I realised I was a lot stronger than I thought, that gave me a big confidence boost, it gave me more confidence in myself.

It also built up on my resilience, there were times when I was struggling mentally but kept going anyway. During the day is when I normally struggle with my mental health and it happened on the course, but I just kept working through it, I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but I did. My instructors gave me the extra support when I needed it, they told me ‘you’ve got this, you can do it’ and then I did, it was really good.

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Feeling free and independent

I loved the expeditions, they were very adventurous. I loved walking up the mountains and backpacking in the middle of nowhere, everything is down to you and looking after yourself, it made me feel more independent because in hospital everything was out of my control. I was in there for a year and to come out and be able to control myself, be independent and take on life it was really good. In hospital everything was like you can’t do that and you’re not allowed to do this, very strict, so to just go outside and to be free and be able to do things without someone watching you all of the time was amazing - you can just breathe when you are out there walking.

Support to achieve goals

I found my instructors to be a big inspiration, they told me that they had been through hard times, but they had worked through them. They said, ‘if you can work through your past it will make you stronger’. This really helped me because I was letting problems in my past consume me, but it made me think that actually its part of my life and I can’t let it predict my future, they helped me realise that. One of the goals I set with my instructors was to do with the scars on my arms from self-harming, I was always very ashamed of them and think  ‘I can’t show them to people’, but one of the goals I set with my instructor was to not be as worried or anxious about them, and I realised that people don’t actually mind and by the end of the course I was walking around the centre with a short sleeve top and shorts on – that was a big thing for me.

The future

To just go outside and to be free and be able to do things without someone watching you all of the time was amazing - you can just breathe when you are out there walking.

The 12-month action plan made me think about the future more – my life was a mess, so I wanted to get it back on track, improve my fitness and to get some sort of education or work. Since returning from the course, I have been accepted on to an apprenticeship for personal training and teaching swimming. For my presentation at the interview I based it on my experience on the Skills for Life Award. We had to give a presentation explaining different skills and how you could apply them to the work and job. I went through Coveys 7 habits and talked about how I would use them at work. To improve my fitness, I decided to take up swimming more, I like swimming in the sea and outside. I’ve just qualified as a swimming teacher, I love teaching the little kids to swim.

I want other people to know about my story, to use my experience to help them to get to a better place.

*We have changed names to protect anonymity.

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