Ryan Markley is a Peer Consultant for the COE
“I am a single mom, artist, and consumer of a broken mental healthcare system for over 40 years. Most of my life, I struggled with extreme emotional states, severe mood fluctuations, suicidal thoughts, unusual experiences, and the side effects of a myriad of psychiatric medications. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the resulting trauma from exposure to various unwelcomed behavioral interventions, treatments and medications, exacerbated my emotional struggles throughout my adolescence and into adulthood. I endured the loss of loved ones to suicide, experienced physical and emotional abuse, isolation, abandonment, natural disasters, and discrimination based on who I loved. These traumatic experiences were the activators of my mental health challenges.
I was introduced to the peer support movement four years ago when I attended my first meeting at the Central Mass Recovery Learning Community and Kiva Center – a peer-run, trauma-informed community that offers group and 1:1 mutual support, community resources, networking and training. I was unwell, recovering from an addiction to opiates and attempting to stop taking an SSRI medication I had been on for over 20 years. My daughter and I were facing homelessness and I had little hope. At the Central Mass RLC, I found warm, compassionate people instilled with empathy and wisdom, working together as a whole community for change within themselves and in the mental healthcare system.
I soon learned that my lived experience created a valuable opportunity to help others. I was trained to facilitate Hearing Voices, addiction, art, garden and open discussion peer support groups and was soon accepted into the Massachusetts Certified Peer Specialist Training. This education precipitated much growth, imbuing my life with meaning and purpose. I learned person-centered language and realized that aligning with my diagnosis only drove me deeper into darkness. My “symptoms” stemmed from what happened to me rather than something psychologically or medically wrong with me. My diagnostic labels were obstacles to my peace, serenity, and a strong sense of self-worth. Taking a recovery-based, non-clinical approach to my own wellness helped me evolve beyond the education I gained from my B.A. in Psychology, graduate-level clinical studies, and countless mental health and self-help recovery programs.
“…My diagnostic labels were obstacles to my peace, serenity, and a strong sense of self-worth. Taking a recovery-based, non-clinical approach to my own wellness helped me evolve…”
By participating in mutual peer support, I acknowledged my lifelong struggle with trauma. I have moved into a successful career in the peer workforce as a Certified Peer Specialist for Open Sky Community Services and a Peer Researcher for the MGH Center of Excellence. I am no longer stuck and stagnant, as my life has taken on much forward motion and growth. Due to my lived experience, I am able to support those who are struggling in a way most mental health professionals cannot. My vulnerability in sharing my experiences with others is my strength in this field. I still struggle sometimes, but there has been much healing due to my exposure to peer support and my continued involvement in our movement. I have owned my story and found my passion to help others again.”
Ryan Markley, CPS
Open Sky Community Services
Peer Consultant, MGH COE