Today we’re sharing the Journey of one of our 2023 graduates, Elle, who graduated from the fourth and final stage of the Journey Programme – Leadership – in October 2023. This is their VS story.
When I first joined Venture Scotland, I was hesitant to say the least. I had just decided to take a break from Uni as my mental health was at an all-time low. I knew I couldn’t continue the way that I was, but I also couldn’t quite grasp just how bad it had gotten. I could barely leave the house by myself, but I did when necessary and I was still kind of functioning, so I can’t be doing that badly, surely? And leaving Uni was all I needed to fix myself.
So when my mum and Jo (former Ambassador for VS) suggested that I give Venture Scotland a go, I’m pretty sure I said no, quite firmly. I’m just not an outdoorsy person, I don’t do exercise and I definitely don’t do walking, that was more Jo’s thing. If there’s one thing I was known for, it was being lazy.
But with a little persuasion and talks with my family and friends, I decided to at least email Sophia for a chat. The first introduction to Venture Scotland was daunting, to say the least when I was being told about all of the different stages of the course and all that it entailed. In my head, it felt impossible for me to take part in, all of the stages, such as Leadership? Planning an Expedition? Talking in front of people? Could never be me. But Challenge felt more achievable, so I told myself that if I at least did Challenge, I could tell my family that I gave it a go, and they’d stop bothering me to get outside and I could just get a job and continue to live my miserable life.
The first day of Challenge I was still kind of apprehensive. I can’t pinpoint the moment in that week that I decided that I was staying until the end, come hell or high water, but I think it started on the second day. The classic rock-climbing day. The surprise and elation that I felt in getting to the top of the quarry was unlike anything I had felt before. When I came down, Mo congratulated me, saying how impressed she was that I managed to get to the top with apparent ease, especially considering how scared I was about it at the beginning of Challenge. Just to have that tiny moment of recognition, that sense of accomplishment and achievement and pride that I felt was something that I don’t remember ever feeling before.
Leadership allowed me to reflect on how much Venture Scotland has done and still continues to do, for me. When I started, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think I wanted to get better. I didn’t see just how bad my mental health was, and how long it had been that way. Blaming Covid was easy, but it wasn’t until I started VS and saw what it was like to want to try and be happy, to try and live. That life didn’t have to be something that just happened to me unwillingly. It wasn’t until then that I realised just how much, and for how long, that I wanted to die. And that in order to overcome it I needed to play an active part in trying to want to be better, to improve myself and my quality of life, and actually feel like I deserve to be happy.
Venture Scotland has been there for me in ways that I didn’t know I needed. Since day one, I have put my life in Venture Scotland’s hands, and I can now say with confidence that you have saved me. I know I would not be the person that I am today without it. Having these revelations about how my brain works has allowed me to be more patient and kinder to myself and is allowing me to heal the years of wondering what was wrong with me and why I struggle where other people don’t.
It makes me think of the logo with the two people holding hands, and how accurate it is in showing what VS has been for me. They have been there gently guiding me, supporting me. Giving me confidence and allowing the space for self-improvement. They have shown me that even on days when I am really not doing good, when I’m struggling to function at the most basic level, that I can still push past it and climb to the top of the highest wall.