Leanne was lacking confidence and ‘trapped in her own bubble’ before she found Venture Scotland. She completed the course five years ago. This is her story…
Before I came to Venture Scotland, I didn’t really have any confidence. I had no trust in people and no sense of belonging. I couldn’t see a future for myself.
I was trapped in my own bubble and didn’t let anybody in, because my bubble was my safe space. I was always brushed off by others because of my epilepsy.
I was diagnosed when I was 14. I got bullied a lot at school and fell behind. I was a hassle to people.
I never really accepted my epilepsy. You go from thinking you can do anything to being told ‘You can’t do this’; ‘You can’t do that’; ‘It is not safe to do that’. Now, if somebody tells me ‘You can’t do that’, I just say ‘You watch me’.
But back then it was hard. I was at college, studying animal care, but didn’t complete my course. The college made things really difficult for me.
My epilepsy wasn’t so well controlled at the time. Mostly I got a warning it was going to happen so I could usually tell someone or get myself somewhere safe. At the time it didn’t feel such a big issue, but it was getting other people to realise that. With epilepsy there is a major lack of understanding from people who don’t have any close-up experience of it.
I was going to a support group in Glasgow called Epilepsy Connections, who told me about Venture Scotland. I was nervous at the thought of it, but I have always liked trying something new. Even if I am nervous, there has always been a part of me that likes proving people wrong.
Two other people from the group came along with me so I wasn’t alone, which made that first step a bit easier. But I was still terrified on that first day at Venture Scotland. I don’t think I said anything. I just sat and listened.
It was really calming though. The staff were very relaxed and when we talked about doing outdoor activities, with my epilepsy, it wasn’t about saying ‘no’ straight away. It was more, ‘We are going to look at how we can make things work’. So that eased my nerves and gave me some reassurance.
The annoying thing about my epilepsy is that my memory is not the greatest; I sometime struggle to remember the detail of things. But one thing that sticks out is going canoeing.
I was absolutely terrified of even getting into a canoe to start with. I don’t know why; I’m not scared of water – my dad was a fisherman, so I was used to being around boats. I stood at the side. It was an age before I could even sit in it. Eventually I got in the canoe of Chris, the course leader, and just about held on for dear life!
Even then, every time the canoe moved, I was thinking ‘I don’t like this’. But afterwards there was a sense of achievement that I even attempted it. I could easily have just stood and watched.
I have spent a lot of time in hospitals and just being outdoors took away that feeling I used to have of being trapped.
It was hard to interact with others to start off with. I just did not have that trust in people. But ours was a small group and as I got to know people and we were out doing activities together, my confidence improved.
Venture Scotland changed my outlook on life. I’m a very different person now. I can look ahead and see a future for myself. I don’t see it from the dark side anymore. I always try to find a positive.
Before, nobody gave me a chance to see what I could do. But doing the VS programme allowed me to participate and interact with others. It allowed me to gain confidence in a group. Having that routine of attending every week built up your sense of belonging, because you are part of that team.
I started to think ‘If this is possible, and people are giving me a chance, then maybe going to college is possible now’. So that feeling of ‘no hope for the future’ was soon scored out. There was now a possible future.
If it wasn’t for Venture Scotland, I would never have had the courage and confidence to apply for college after I finished. When I got accepted, that represented a complete turnaround, from no-hope to hope.
I always wanted to do engineering and having learned so much from working with Chris, I went on to study for a National Certificate in agricultural engineering. It was tough but I managed it.
At the end of the course, I started doing some security work. Unfortunately, while I was working at a festival, I got sunstroke which led to a prolonged seizure and caused some damage to my brain, leaving me with a weakness down my left-hand side.
Since then I have done a lot of volunteering work, which I am quite happy with. I work with Free Wheel North, a cycling development charity in Glasgow, and in the summer of 2018, I started volunteering for Venture Scotland.
I wanted to give something back, to recognise how much VS changed my life. Last year I was on the committee that helped arrange a volunteer development weekend and that was a massive boost for me. So even volunteering continues to help improve my confidence.
During lockdown, I’ve been cycling at home on my turbo trainer, doing around 50 miles a week to raise funds for Venture Scotland. It gives me a routine and keeps me motivated. Even though it has been tough, I have stuck at it. It feels good to know you are helping others.