“I used art as therapy, that’s when I created my best pieces.”

– Shayla Ritchie

“I grew up in Penticton. My childhood was great, it was very family oriented.”

“Middle School was difficult. I guess you could say I was never the ‘popular’ one at school. In grade seven and eight some issues started to come out; I developed an eating disorder and depression. Mental illness was never talked about, so I tried to hide it and give-off a positive attitude.”

 

When was it at it’s worst?

“In my first or second year of University it really started to affect my relationships. I was never able to explain why I couldn’t get out of bed; I never wanted it to be an identity, but it consumed me,” recalls Shayla.

 

When did things start to get better?

“After I told my family,” says Shayla. “I started going to group therapy, and used my art to express myself. After five years I finally got my mental illness diagnosed; it’s nice to know I don’t have to be ashamed, and that there are others out there like me. I regret hiding it for so long; I still have trigger months though. November and December are the hardest.”

 

What are your main goals right now?

“I wanted to make art for galleries, but I’ve recently realized that I love teaching, so I want to be a professor and teach what I love. I’m an art history major right now and I love reading and constantly learning new things.”

 

Where do you hope to be in two years time?

“Well, two years ago I thought I would be in Sweden, so I’ve learned that you can’t plan that far ahead. I’m just going to keep working hard, opening doors, and see where life takes me.”

 

What would be the most important thing you’ve learned?

“To never give up. It sounds cliché, but find a passion, whether it be fashion, painting, photography, or even interviewing people, Cam; just always find a way to make something positive, no matter how negative the day is.”

 

I asked Shayla if she has any closing words.

“I’m incredibly grateful for how supportive my family has been; if my Mom is the only person who ever buys my art that would be fine by me.”

It was nice to be able to sit down and talk with somebody who feels the same way about creating things as I do. Every piece of art ever made has come from something, whether it be a memory, experience, or illness; it’s great to see Shayla accept her illness, work past it, and create something beautiful from it.