My name is Laine Esperanzate, I am 17 and a creative laid-back free spirit. Having a history of low self-esteem, trust issues and identity issues led me into episodes of depression, constant panic attacks, self-harm and suicide attempts. But looking back, I've realised that mental health isn't a burden.
I left school at 15 because of the pressure of exams and wanting to be liked by my peers drove my anxiety and depression over the roof. I was constantly trying to impress people hoping that it would prove something about my self-worth but I was only enforcing the negative thoughts I had about my body. I developed an eating disorder which triggered my admission to an inpatient psychiatric unit, and my nine month stay was far from therapeutic.
I refused to engage in any activities, isolated myself from the other young people on the unit and disrespected the staff. I saw my admission as a punishment and convinced myself that my family, doctors and teachers were trying to get rid of me. I saw myself as unwanted, useless and abandoned which distorted my outlook on life making me believe that I was alone and everyone was against me. In my mind, at that time, nobody understood and I was never going to be happy again.
During the end of my stay at the unit, I began to realise that mental health is just a term used to describe the condition of your psychological and emotional well-being, and just like your physical health, you need to look after it and nurture yourself to keep it healthy. Once I felt comfortable with opening up about my emotions, I began to accept the love and support that was being given to me. I started to build healthy relationships, cope with suicidal thoughts and resist urges to self-harm.
I was nervous about change and reluctant to accept my struggles at first, and even though I was improving, I didn't feel as if it was good enough. My previous issues with wanting to be perfect gave me expectations that weren't possible, so by the time I was discharged to an outpatient service, I expected the overwhelming support from the psychiatric unit to continue. I went back into mainstream education feeling lost as my peers were going off to college and starting work. Not knowing about my options, I followed the crowd and applied for colleges in subjects I had no interest in. I hated feeling left behind and I was so unsatisfied with what I was doing, I decided to leave college and look for other options.
For obvious reasons I was terrified about finding my independence. All I knew was that I wanted to learn about myself and have the same support that was given to me in the unit. When I found The Prince's Trust online, I had made the conscious decision that I wanted to improve my mental health and put my energy into something productive. I signed up to their Team programme, which gave me the skills I needed to feel comfortable in social situations, and the confidence I needed to share my ideas and thoughts. My team leaders encouraged me to continue expressing my emotions in positive ways through drawing and writing spoken word. As the programme went on, I began to dress and look the way I wanted whilst feeling comfortable in my own skin. My team noticed a drastic improvement and continued to believe in me even when I couldn't see the difference.
My experience with The Trust helped me discover interests, ambitions and talents that I never knew I had. It gave me the motivation to apply for an apprenticeship in digital marketing and I secured my place at a small SEO marketing firm in June 2015. I was nominated for the HSBC Breakthrough Award - which recognises young people's progress in overcoming barriers and developing new skills - at The Trust's Celebrate Success Awards, and I won the award earlier this year, which was an amazing feeling.
From there I began to talk about my experience with mental illness and received positive feedback for something I felt so ashamed about. I became aware that I wasn't in fact alone, there were so many people still going through what I had overcome. With my new found confidence and positive mindset, I made it my aim to be the mentor I wish I had when I was struggling.
Fast forward to today and I am happy and healthy. I don't regret anything I have been through. Instead I have learned to use my experience as inspiration for other people to
open up about their struggles and practice good mental health.
There are three things that I want people to take away from my story:
1. Any situation is not permanent. Change is a good thing and dwelling in the past is not going to help you create a better present.
2. People often only accept the love they think they deserve. By opening up to help, you will start to attract the right support and positive energy.
3. There are ways to channel your emotions. The best way to release stress and negative emotions is to create something beautiful or to do something productive.
For more information about The Prince's Trust, visit princes-trust.org.uk or call 0800 842 842.
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