Sammy Thrives with Supportive Employment with WDEA Works Warrnambool
Timboon woman Sammy Mitchell doesn’t want people to think she’s an inspiration. To most people, Sammy appears to be a happy and healthy 30-year-old woman, a proud and dedicated mum of two and wife to her high school sweetheart. She loves playing netball for the Timboon Demons, having weekends away and spending time with her family at the beach .
Sammy experiences Ulcerative Colitis, a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. The exact cause of Ulcerative Colitis remains unknown. She also suffers from severe (stage 4) endometriosis, multiple deep implants on your pelvic lining and ovaries, large cysts on one or both ovaries. Both conditions cause chronic pain and impact her work and personal life. Sammy knows it’s tempting to call her inspiring, but she’s keen to break that stigma.
“Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean that every little thing I do is inspiring, it just means I’m doing what I have to do for myself and my family, just like everyone else. It just so happens that I have a disability and they don’t,” she said.
In 2019, Sammy got a job as an Employment Consultant at WDEA Works Warrnambool.
“I got the job and was just shocked. I do not think I have ever been so excited to get a job, as I just knew this was my calling. I didn’t want just a job, I wanted a career,” said Sammy.
As part of her role, Sammy works with some of the communities most vulnerable jobseekers, helping them gain the confidence and skills they need for employment and disability employment training.
“I honestly believe I have the best job in the world. Yes, it can be extremely challenging but it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done” she said.
Having experienced the two debilitating conditions all her life, Sammy is no stranger to the challenges of finding employment with a disability.
“In previous roles, I was constantly questioned about it and asked directly are you really sick, or are you just wanting to get out of work? I cannot even count how many times I have spent the whole weekend bed ridden just so I can get to work on the Monday.”
WDEA Works Warrnambool Team Leader Chris Bellman said they were determined to help Sammy out in any way.
“When she first started working, we had to convince her it was ok to take things a little slower and to take time to look after herself. She’s a wonderful employment consultant whose enthusiasm is unmatched! She is dedicated to helping her clients and a valued part of our team. I think once Sammy realised that we valued and supported her as she was, she really shone,” said Chris .
Experiencing a supportive workplace has improved Sammy’s quality of life and created a sense of security.
“I actually getting a bit emotional thinking about it. Finding an employer that understood me and did not just see me as a number and a burden to their business. They see me for me not for my disabilities and that is something I have fought so hard for. I just want people to see me as who I am not just a person with more than one disability,” she said.
There is no cure for either of Sammy’s conditions, but she manages the symptoms through medication, surgeries, procedures and supportive care. Flare-ups and medication side-effects can leave Sammy bed-ridden in pain for days, weeks or months.
“You have no control over your body at all. Having a disability is not a choice and it is not something that just goes away. It is a lifelong struggle. They are both invisible illness and are very complicated to describe. I honestly feel like there is not enough information about them,” said Sammy.
Sammy channels her experience and passion into advocating for her clients.
“Although I love many things about my job, if I had to pick just one it would be advocating for clients who have barriers. I know exactly what it’s like to be them, which helps makes me the most qualified to advocate for them. I’ve been in their shoes and been seen only for my disabilities and my barriers, not me as a whole.”
Sammy has a few words of advice for people who can relate to her struggle.
“Accept who you are. Don’t try to fight it, or hide the fact you have a disability. You are worth fighting for and you will find where you belong. You will find your team and trust me when you do, it is a feeling I cannot even describe. It takes a special kind of someone to be able to go through what we do every day and live with chronic pain and illness. So hold your head high and show the world who you really are because trust me, the world needs people like us.”