Our Young Ambassador, Alana, tells us what it’s like to live with a mental health problem and how she used our programme to take control of her future.  

I can’t do this anymore. I’m done. What’s the point of trying, I’m going to fail, I will let my family down, and I have no friends to seek advice from. I’m unemployed, struggling for money and that voice in my head won’t stop. My head hurts, I’m not sleeping and I have NO motivation. I’m in that black hole. 

For about four years, I knew something had changed in me but could never figure out what it was. I just felt alone and extremely down all the time. It wasn’t until I lost my job in August 2015, due to two slipped discs in my back, that depression really crept in and took over my life. 

After months of physio sessions and gaining strength in my back again, I had to push myself to find a job. Money was becoming an issue. My family were pushing me to change. My partner and I were arguing. I wanted to block out the world. I set up an appointment at the job centre and locked myself in my room, with the voice inside my head telling me I was worthless.  

Do I really need to get up and go to this appointment? I’ve done this before. I just want to stay in my bed. You are not going to get anywhere Alana. But the job centre advisor suggested I try The Prince’s Trust and I couldn’t stop thinking about it all the way home.

I didn’t really know much about The Prince’s Trust. All I knew was that it had something to do with Prince Charles, I actually thought he worked there (ha-ha!). I searched for them online and straight away the Get into Retail programme grabbed my attention. I had a look and noticed that it was with House of Fraser. Um, what?! I couldn’t click the apply button quick enough. Details filled out and SEND!

It’s the next day and surprise surprise, I’m wrapped up in my bed throw, still with last night’s pj’s, that’s my standard outfit these days. My phone goes, it’s a woman from The Prince’s Trust. 

The big day has arrived to start the course. And yes, you guessed it, I’m struggling to get out of bed, to get ready and attend.  Why have I bothered to do this? This is pointless. You might be thinking, you are just lazy Alana. Unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma around mental health problems, but unless you have suffered from it, crippling is the only way I can describe it. 

Eventually, after a bit of small hope from the old me, I get ready and put my face on. Try and act normal Alana. Sweaty hands, butterflies in my stomach, don’t know if you can tell but I was nervous as hell! As I approached House of Fraser, I won’t lie, I was scared. I looked at all the other people and all I could think was they are better dressed, they are so pretty and I have no chance.

Two weeks on the course and it was going well. Until I relapsed with my depression. How could this happen...AGAIN?! My course adviser was great and so was our trainer from House of Fraser. And without knowing what I was going through, the others in the group were a massive support. We become the “H.O.F Fam”, a close group of friends there for each other no matter what! 

Training complete and we prepared our Graduation Presentation which we performed in front of friends,  and House of Fraser staff including the store managers (yep, it was nerve racking!)

As I spoke, the lump in my throat increased in size, the tears slowly started to leave my eyes. After I finished, I looked up to see people crying. To be honest, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders a little. This is what I needed. To tell someone.  

On the bus journey home, I got a phone call from The Prince’s Trust to say I had been offered a job. What the... I DID IT! I am good enough. I’m an employee of House of Fraser. How did I do that?

Now here we are. It’s been almost four months later. Although I had a rough time over Christmas, I’m finally feeling like the old Alana. This time I feel genuinely happy. I don’t have to pretend anymore. I’m still going to have days where I struggle, and I’m not “signed off my depression” – if only it was that simple! But being part of The Prince’s Trust has given me control of my future, to take one step at time. 

I’m loving working for House of Fraser, it has given me a sense of purpose. My future is looking bright. I have job opportunities waiting for me when I’m ready, my personal life has improved, and I have a positive mind. 

I can do this, and you can too.  I remember sitting in your position listening to other folk say the same and thinking easy for them to say. Don’t let that black hole take over your life. YOU CAN DO THIS.  Take control by getting help. You’re not alone in this. Never. 

What helps you #TakeControl of the challenges in your life? Share your thoughts with us on social media with #TakeControl.