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Meet Trailblazer Taylor Wesley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Taylor Wesley.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
From a very young age, I was diagnosed as having a mental illness. The word “Illness” to me communicates that someone is sick or not normal. Anxiety disorder, OCD, PTSD, you name it, I was diagnosed with it. I constantly was trying to “fix” myself. I decided to cope with this in other ways that made me feel normal instantly, and that’s when I met my cure – alcohol. I drank until I couldn’t feel anymore. I drank until I blacked out. I drank alone. I drank every day. I drank to feel normal.

I woke up on May 16, 2014, in a hospital bed, both of my parents crying over me. Was I dreaming? Was I dead? Reality struck me when I learned that I was .02 BAC away from my brain completely shutting down from alcohol. On that day, I admitted that I had a problem, and that was the first step in a long journey ahead.

As a 20-year-old college dropout, I flew out with one suitcase to a treatment center in the middle of nowhere. I felt as though I had failed everyone in my life and that no one would be able to help. But I soon came to learn that this wasn’t the case. That millions of people from all different backgrounds struggle with this same thing. In order to get sober, we had to work as a community and lift one another up to a life of recovery.

I also learned that there was, in fact, nothing to fix, that this was a part of who I am, and it’s what I did with it that mattered. So, instead, I fought for my life, I embraced my brokenness and lost my anonymity in the process. I returned to school and made it a goal to start an open conversation about mental health. The more people I told I was an addict, the more people reciprocated and opened up about their personal connection to mental illness.

One by one, this continued to happen, until I began my own platform called “Spread Wellness with Wesley.” This is when I discovered the power of the word “WE” and the power of community around the topic of mental health. If you take the “I” out of Mental Illness and replace it with “We” it creates Mental Wellness. I held the very first sobriety chip I picked up when I was standing in front of the entire student body and was named Miss Homecoming. I realized they all knew my flaws, my brokenness, but accepted me for who I was because they related in some shape or form.

Today, I have made it my goal to spread this message in every way that I can, and that has transformed into a career in public speaking. When I am speaking to an audience, I am reminded that if just one person resonates with my message, then I have done my job. I am thankful, I am far from perfect. I am thankful for the people who help me every day with this second chance at life. I am thankful for my diagnosis because I have been able to connect with others through it. Today, I am thankful to be sober, one day at a time.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I believe that with any accomplishment, there are obstacles, and it is how you handle them and what you can learn from them that truly matters. A big obstacle along the way for me has been a vulnerability. When I speak, I am telling an entire audience all of my darkest secrets, my biggest struggles, and how I got through them. But I am human and I am not perfect and by no means have I “overcome” recovery. I have to work on my recovery each morning that I get up and make the decision to be sober. Sometimes, I wonder if I should hold back, and I find myself falling into the trap of being a public figure and acting like I have it all together. But who would want to relate to that, and how are people going to be encouraged to open up about their mental health? My biggest advice to a young woman starting their journey is that once you have found that thing you are passionate about and are working towards a goal, always stay honest, vulnerable, and true to yourself, and never be afraid to admit when you are struggling and might need help.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about your business – what should we know?
I never decided to be a Public Speaker. It honestly started with sharing my story at one event, and people seemed to relate to it and wanted their friends, co-workers, family members to hear it too. Almost like a chain reaction of vulnerability. That’s why my main branding is “Changing the “I” in Mental Illness to “WE” to create Mental Wellness. When I speak, it isn’t about me, but about what WE can do as a community to open up the conversation about mental health. My audiences vary from high school students to college campuses, to company employees, to public safety officers, to like-minded mental health advocates.

Finding a mentor and building a network are often cited in studies as a major factor impacting one’s success. Do you have any advice or lessons to share regarding finding a mentor or networking in general?
I would not be where I am today without the amazing mentors that have helped me along this journey. Never be afraid to reach out for help or ask for advice from someone who you look up to. You can learn the most valuable lessons that will guide you to success just by simply sending an email, shooting a text, making a phone call, grabbing a cup of coffee with someone you want to learn from. I did a lot of my networking over even blind LinkedIn messaging. I joined organizations that consisted of popular speakers and mental health providers. Sometimes, you will get ignored or turned down, but that is part of the process and makes the ones who truly help you that much more valuable.

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Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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