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9 March 2018



I started working at The Big Issue two years ago. My first WSE shift was actually on my birthday. It was like a birthday present from my higher power. I'm glad that I took the chance, that I took the risk in putting myself back out there.

I'd worked before as an auto processing clerk, a factory hand, a waitress, as well as a receptionist. But I never succeeded at work or was very good at my job because I wasn't a very well person.

I came from a background of extreme childhood abuse and I started using drugs and alcohol as a child. I also suffer from depression, anxiety and had been anorexic from about the age of six 'til 29.

I was struck down with a major mental illness in 2001. I hadn't been able to work in a proper job since then.

The childhood abuse I suffered has affected my brain…intellectually. I don't use it to my full potential, because I can't. But I have improved through working with my mentor, being in a recovery program, and also therapy. I am getting there.

It's the thing that's keeping my life smaller than what it should be. It's the trauma that holds me back, but I keep trying one day at a time. I'm just trying to push through, to keep getting better and be a healthier person, mentally and emotionally. I have a lot of support.

Working at The Big Issue has helped me to come out of my depression to a significant degree. It has also helped my self-esteem, my confidence and my health by giving me something constructive to do.

It's opening up my life to new opportunities and experiences.

I found out about the Women's Subscription Enterprise by dropping into Lou's Place, a women's drop-in centre in Kings Cross. I was really hesitant. It's not easy getting back into the workforce, but The Big Issue and the people working here have been really patient and understanding. I'm really grateful for that, and they do that for everybody who is starting off here.

I'm just really grateful that I have a job, and to be working with the other WSE women. We all get along pretty well; we all know that we've come from a rough background. We don't need to really say anything to each other because we all know we've been through some things. We're all just trying to improve our lives for the better.

I'm hoping to save a lot of money this year. I just want to get ahead so that I can do things. I want to go to Mount Kosciuszko and the Great Barrier Reef, I've been wanting to do that since forever. And I want to be able to save for emergencies in case anything happens to my cat, or myself.

I started some volunteer work in Kings Cross at an office one day a week where I'm hoping to get more skills to maybe, at some point, work with animals at the Cat Protection Society or Guide Dogs. I would not have been able to do volunteer work if it were not for working at The Big Issue. It's making me feel like there is real hope for the future.

This article first appeared in 'Project Magda' edition #556 of The Big Issue.

Melissa works for the Women's Subscription Enterprise in Sydney. 

Photograph: Peter Holcroft

Interview by Sam Clark