Rylee for Stampede Stigma 2020
Hi there, my name’s Rylee and I’m here to tell you a little about my story and how a stigma-free workplace can benefit us all.
I’m 33 years old and my husband and I are expecting our first baby in January 2021!
When I was 20 years old I developed a serious alcohol and drug addiction, and as a result, I developed anxiety and depression.
After six years I ended up alone, traumatised, homeless and broken.
The mental anguish I was in daily was catastrophic and I didn’t think there was any way out.
I eventually had a spiritual experience which gave me a new life. One of strength and understanding.
This is why I’m sharing my story.
But I’ve also experienced discrimination for my past. Discrimination that left me feeling disappointed, hopeless, and ashamed.
I’ve always wanted to work with young people, and so five years of being free from addiction I interviewed for my dream job.
I explained my past and how that drives the desire in me to support others.
Only to be told that I would be a risk to the youth. My abilities, my life skills and the work that I have done, was reduced to my past, and that was devastating.
But then I began to remember who I am; I am resilient, I have overcome mental illness and drug addiction and I can do anything.
Now, passionate about speaking out around the negative effects of stigma in peoples lives.
I have heard fleeting comments in workplaces about people being “Just drug addicts”. I have seen the horrendous treatment of people because of their mental illness or addiction, and it just minimizes people to their struggle, not who they are.
So, I began to make sure that I always stamp out stigma when I hear it or see it.
Families and communities are impacted everywhere, and many are too afraid to speak out.
I encourage everyone to learn about mental health and be aware of the words you use – because language is so powerful!
This is why I began working at a life skills program, where I could use my experiences to help others.
My team and I accepted one another for who we were. It was the type of environment where workers and residents alike flourished. The culture was so intentional, that even in the breakdowns of life, people would listen, understand and empathise with each other.
Having such a connection and people all around that were using future based language, allowed us to do great work, knowing that we were accepted and empowered in ourselves, which ultimately spreads to wider community transformation.
People are amazing – we can overcome obstacles and contribute using our lived experiences to help change our culture. This is powerful.
And, I speak to you today as living proof; That respect goes a long way.