We want to acknowledge some amazing work that’s been done by one of our rising Peer Mentor stars! Elli Peltola is a dedicated, and enthusiastic young woman. She has been working with us for some time now, and tells a wonderful story of her battle with self-harm and how she learned to love herself. We had the time to ask Elli a few questions, and here’s what we got.
Elli, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am 19 years old and was adopted from Belo Horizonte, Brazil into a great, loving family. Ever since I can remember, I have been blessed to be able to travel the world with my family, even living in Malaysia for a period of time. Traveling is my favorite thing to do, but I also like long drives with my friends, coloring in adult coloring books, and lots of sleep!
What are you up to these days, Elli?
Currently, I work as a gymnastics coach/parkour teacher (for the boys) to people of all different ages. I am taking a gap year from school, but will be starting community college in the fall to expand my career in mental health. Working for The NAN Project has been a significant experience over the last year that has helped shaped me into the person I now am.
Tell us a bit more about your experience with The NAN Project…
When I started, I wasn’t as confident with myself as I am now. I didn’t realize the impact my story could have on other people. Then one day, after presenting my Comeback Story, a girl approached me with tears in her eyes telling me how happy she was for me and how much my story spoke to her. It was a big eye opener because I never thought I could relate to someone so closely. I love working with the NAN project. It helps me emotionally and it’s helping increase my confidence, which is something I needed. I am so thankful to have found this job.
How did you get involved with The NAN Project?
I heard about The NAN Project through my DMH worker. We were looking for trainings I could do to better educate myself in the mental health field. When I was told that The NAN Project would help you craft your comeback story and share it with others to inspire hope, I thought it would be the perfect job for me.
Growing up I struggled to find hope in myself. I never thought I was important….until I started with The NAN Project. I had low self esteem and didn’t think my story could impact others but I was so wrong. I do have a purpose in this world and I am important. It’s hard to think you’re special when your world seems to be crashing down but there is ALWAYS someone out there who loves you and believes in you.
What do you use to cope with your own mental health challenges these days?The biggest resource I have found is just reaching out to others. Back when I was really struggling, this was something I’d NEVER do because I never wanted help. I didn’t want people to “help” me. It’s crazy how much a person can change over the years. A lot of my friends/loved ones/my providers know that when I’m upset, I think irrationally and react impulsively. I am very grateful to have these supports who understand how I think and do their best to not have me react without thinking. One big thing that many of them do with me, is distract me from the negative situation and thoughts that are going through my head. For some reason, it tends to work most of the time. I’m also grateful I have people in my life who are willing to help and support me when I’m in need and they know how to react/respond when I need to reach out.
Can you suggest any other coping strategies for other PMs?
Self care was something I didn’t really know/want to do for myself while I was really struggling. Now, I realize that I am the only one who can take the best care of myself. For example, I actually love taking showers, keeping clean and moisturized because I feel the most beautiful that way. I love taking long showers, LOVE LOVE LOVE face masks, lighting candles in my room or even listening to soft music in the background.
A year ago I didn’t think I’d ever be able cope in the healthy ways I do today. But, with time, things did work out because I worked hard to live my life to the fullest and keep myself safe.