From lost soul to aspiring youth worker – Lacie’s Story
As Lacie sat in the car outside Strood Youth Centre, she felt depressed and anxious. Lacking an understanding of herself, Lacie’s issues had been getting on top of her. She didn’t feel wanted and had been running away from home, resulting in worried parents and calls from the police.
Declining mental health had made Lacie feel unworthy of relationships with peers or her family. With concerns about her behaviour hurting those around her, she began to isolate herself:
“I didn’t feel like I could be at home or I could be with my friends. I felt like I needed to be away from it all and I felt like I had to distance myself from a lot of people. I didn’t want to hurt anybody in the process of how I was being, so it made me push myself away.”
Desperate to encourage Lacie to rebuild her self-esteem and relationships with others, her mother suggested giving a youth boxing session a try. After much hesitation, Lacie finally got out of the car and embarked on what would turn out to be a life-changing journey for her.
After some initial nervousness pulling on the gloves for the first time, boxing turned out to bee the key to combatting her mental health struggles, helping her to release tension and feeling she could “box her troubles away”.
“I thought it could get out the anger that I was holding against myself and that I needed to let it out in the right way,” she recalls.
Lacie had spent much of her childhood caring for her grandmother but when she passed Lacie felt she had to put on a brave face to support her parents and brother. She revealed that she couldn’t properly grieve for her nan for some time, due to her determination to rein in her emotions.
After a few months of boxing, Lacie grew in confidence, and began to see the youth club as a sanctuary. It was then that Dave Leece joined the sessions as youth leader and quickly became a significant influence in Lacie’s life.
“When I first met Lacie, she was too nervous to even come over and speak to me. I could tell she lacked confidence. There was a lot of anxiety there,” Dave remembers.
Dave began to slowly build a trusted relationship with Lacie at the weekly youth sessions, but realising that Lacie needed that extra bit of support, he also requested to do one-to-ones with her at school. This multi-angled approach gave him the opportunity to get to know her in different contexts and understand what challenges she was facing mentally.
Having got to know her better, Dave felt that a youth leadership role could be the catalyst to building Lacie’s self-belief:
“I saw the potential in her and suggested that she might like to help support other young people that had gone through similar things to her. Gradually giving her more responsibility and taking her outside her comfort zone really helped her believe in herself.”
We meet Lacie on a Friday night, where she is leading a session for younger locals. Her lived experience with mental health struggles means she exudes empathy and has way of relating to the young people that puts them at ease.
“My first volunteering session went well. I really enjoyed myself, although it was a bit of a struggle because there was [sic] a lot of children – we had about 45 children that would come in here on a Friday and a lot of them needed support with their behaviour and things, but I really enjoyed it and I’ve been here ever since,” Lucie explained.
Reflecting on her journey Lacie said:
“I’m probably the happiest I’ve been for ages, and I can feel like myself again. Being myself is a main priority and doing youth work and things that make me happy – it’s made me come really far.”
Lacie’s own experience has inspired her to become a youth worker herself.
“Youth work is brilliant. I love it, I love doing it, I love it all. And it just makes you realise that no matter what’s going on in your personal life, you can accomplish anything,” she explained.