"I have found my purpose in life and not even my mental health can stop that."

Severe Tourette's Syndrome rendered Ryan Stevens incapable of completing university and made his long term dream of being a television presenter almost impossible to reach.

But the 22-year-old from Bracknell defied the odds by taking his disease head on and making a life for himself when it seemed most unlikely. 

Ryan's childhood was full of animals. His days were taken up by trips to the countryside with his mum to watch wildlife. When he was not out adventuring, Ryan recalls sitting at the feet of his grandmother, gazing up in awe and indulging in the numerous animal stories she would tell. His sister later became a veterinary nurse. 

Tourettes was a thorn in his side and he says his depression was devastating, but it was his two pet turtles that turned out to be the unlikely key to what is nothing short of an extraordinary turnaround.  

"I wanted to bring about change in one way or another, and I just knew that helping something else would be what helped me", he said.

"I loved my turtles and being able to provide for them, because they needed me, was everything that brought me happiness."

He contacted Bracknell Forest Council, who gave him permission to rescue the turtles dumped in South Hill Park by former owners who no longer wanted them. He became their provider.

He set up a turtle rescue and rehabilitation centre in his home.

Bracknell News:

Ryan went from deep depression and not having a direction in life, to people around the world following his work online, daily calls and messages asking for turtle advice and people coming to him to re-home their waterborn pets.

Although his mental health at times leaves him unable to partake in everyday tasks, looking after and caring for the turtles has kept Ryan going. 

"Back in the day, children had the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles effect'," he said. "Everyone wanted a turtle, but when they realised that these turtles were not animals that fought in the subways they lost interest and left them in ponds around the country.

"People didn't realise that these animals need to be fed everyday, need enough space to move around, live in the right temperature and have adequate lighting.

"I am here to pick up after peoples mistakes, and to make sure the next person doesn't do the same."

At the last count Ryan had re-homed more than 100 turtles to loving owners around the UK.

"I want people to know that turtles are not toys, that they are real living creatures that need love and care," he continued.

"There are people out there who will just buy a pet for the sake of owning one but we search for people who will give the utmost care to their turtle.

"Would you buy a dog and two months later decide you are bored of it?"

Ryan one day hopes to expand his business to bigger premises, to host school visits for children and to inspire others to develop a love for animals like he has and show that mental health is no barrier to success.

Although Tourettes prevented him from being in the public eye for long periods, Ryan was determined to bring about change and to do something good for the community.

"People have laughed at me and mocked me for my disease but I never let that stop me. It doesn't matter that I could not follow my dream of being on television because I have found my place in the community bringing care to these animals.

"There have been times in my life when I have looked for other people for support and care, and setting up this business and caring for the turtles has meant people can come to me for help. 

"Never let your mental health be the reason you don't follow a dream, because I promise you it is possible."