Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom from Slavery

By Michael Kile-Rasmussen

June 19,1865, was the original Juneteenth celebration. It originated from the date on which the last slaves found out they were free – following the Civil War, in Galveston Texas. June 19th is the Emancipation Day after 400 years of slavery in the southern states. Slavery was the institution which made the United States a rich county. In the northern states, slavery did not exist, but it was segregated freedom, similar to Jim Crow in the south.

Traditionally, Juneteenth is a summer cookout with food, music and fun celebrating the culture of the African American community.  We remember the heritage of our ancestors, the blood, sweat and tears that they put into cultivating and working a land that was not theirs and they did not own. I have so much gratitude and respect for their strength. I cannot image what it would have been like to be alive then.

I am proud of where I come from, that I have African heritage and that while my family members of 5 generations ago were in bondage, this day we are fee in society to show up and participate. To have a voice in the community and influence in today’s society is a major goal of mine.  To live a full, meaningful life without common threat of current harm each day is why I am proud to live in America.

Happy Juneteenth! Happy Freedom Day!

Maintaining a life in recovery: Celebrating 13 years

By Kurt Stapleton

When someone asks me “How did you do it?” I have 1 answer for them. “I was out of options.” I was facing 20 years in prison and losing everything I had. There was no other option. I had to stop using drugs.

Due to my poor choices made up that point on May 12th 2009, I was going to prison. My substance use disorder had led me to this. I was newly married, out of a job, no money saved, no future plans. I was merely existing and I was miserable.

When I was arrested and sitting in the back of the cop car I was doing the most reflecting I’ve ever done. My thoughts weren’t on “how am I going to get out of this?”, or “what are people going to say when they hear this?” My thoughts were “I’m going to lose my wife.” and “this is where my choices have led me, and I need to change.” That day was the last day I abused drugs. Period. I had no other options. I either stopped abusing and work on myself, or I lose everything I had, which was my wife. She was all I had left and I was no going to let that happen if I could.

So, I started my recovery journey in the back of that cop car. From there I started looking into different programs and meetings and took what I needed and left the rest for others. I chose to work on myself while incarcerated so that I could go home to my wife with a new attitude and outlook on life. By utilizing the self-help books that I had access to, attending AA meetings, and working with an AODA counselor in prison, I was able to see where things started going wrong and address the underlying issues. There were a lot of childhood traumas that went unchecked for many years and the drugs only acted as a Band-Aid over them. It wasn’t until I finally addressed each trauma, one by one, that I was able to finally heal, release the pain and guilt I held inside, and move forward with my inner child. Doing this internal work is what set me free from the pain I held inside and I noticed I was looking at life in a more positive view. I had hopes and dreams for the first time in a long time.

As the years go by, I reflect on those moments and what was going through my head. I was so fixated on getting the drug that I had no concept of consequences. It had no meaning to me at that point. Today I live a life that I had only dreamt of 13 years ago. I did not think this was possible and I’m proving myself worthy every day.

I chose to become a peer support specialist so I can help others who are in the moment that I had been in only 13 years ago. Trying to help them find hope and inspiration so they don’t go blind to the consequences or give up.

Today, I reflect on my past and I see how far I’ve come in my journey. I look back at all of the people who were there to help me along the way and share with me their advice, tips, stories of hope and inspiration.

Today, I am maintaining my life with recovery because of the knowledge everyone shared with me. And for that, I thank you and I will continue to pass that knowledge on to others.

Chrysalis Organizational Transformation & Tree

By Dani Rischall

With an agency name like “Chrysalis” it is no surprise that there is a large emphasis placed on supporting growth, transformation, and change throughout the organization. This value is mirrored in the work we do in the community, and the important role we have in walking alongside people in their vocational, mental health, and wellness journeys. Over the past 40 years Chrysalis has experienced significant transformation. 

In the last decade alone the organization has grown from five employees to 20, from supporting just over 75 people to supporting nearly 300 people! The practice of centering those that we serve, and valuing lived experience, have been critical to the growth of Chrysalis.

In our most recent Strategic Planning process (Summer of 2021) it was clear that we would need to strengthen our focus on organizational structure as we continue the expansion of our services, and our team. Being an organization that focuses on meaningful work, and the restorative benefits of a supportive work environment, it is incredibly important that Chrysalis as an organization is also taking steps to put these values into practice. The value of pay equity, strong benefits (health, PTO, retirement, etc.), training, support, office space, and workplace wellness have all been, and will continue to be, a large part of our organizational growth.

The “Organizational Tree” pictured above is a visual representation of some of this organization transformation. We continue to prioritize, center, and keep focus on the reason we are in the community doing this important work. It is first and foremost for the individuals we serve, in partnership with our employer network, and greater community. As you can see we don’t have one specific way of referring to the people we support at Chrysalis. We understand that people, staff, and programs have preferences, and we do our best to honor that. 

Direct Service Providers are the incredible people who are out there in the community doing the work. They are Employment Specialists, Vocational Peer Specialists, Chrysalis Clubhouse Staff, and in Chrysalis Pops. These are individuals who are walking alongside people as they explore their dreams, share challenges, and support people as they discover and build strengths, skills, and their voice. Chrysalis staff are talking with local employers about the value of inclusion, and about ways to support a diverse workforce. This team truly understands the value of purpose and belonging in mental health and substance use recovery. This team is there for one another in ways that help to mitigate the very real effects of burnout, and truly fosters collaboration, shared learning, and humility.  

Program Supervisors, Managers, and Leads hold the role of both supporting staff and those that we serve at Chrysalis. This role comes with unique opportunities, challenges, and many hats. As our team grows it is critical that Supervisors have a deep understanding of the work, the systems, and are able to show-up for staff when and where there is a need. This is the first time in the history of the organization that there has been a group of Supervisors functioning in this way. While some Supervisors are relatively new within their role it is extremely exciting to see how this structure will continue to support our team, and strengthen our services. 

Towards the bottom of the Organization Tree is what is known internally as ROOTS. This group of organizational leaders focus on support from a unique lens including financial sustainability, advocacy efforts, operations, outcomes, professional development, partnerships, and payroll, just to name a few. We have recently restructured this team with a couple position title changes and the addition of a Director of Programming.  

Our current Human Resources Director, Amy Holste, has transitioned to Director of HR and Workplace Wellness to emphasize this value and ensure time is regularly allotted to this practice. Alysha Clark, previous Assistant Director, has transitioned to Director of Advocacy and Operations. This shift recognizes the expanded operational needs as the agency continues to grow. Alysha is also taking the lead on many of our efforts that reduce the stigma associated with mental health and substance use. Alysha brings her own lived experience to the role, and as a Certified Peer Specialist, is supporting the larger behavioral health community to expand and intentionally support Certified Peer Specialists.

The newest addition to the ROOTS team is the Director of Programming, Amy Yonker. Amy has been working at Chrysalis for over seven years and played a huge role in the development and ongoing success of both the IPS and Chrysalis Pops programs. As Director of Programming Amy will utilize her strengths and skills to support all programs at Chrysalis with a focus on cross-agency collaborations and community partnerships. 

My role as Executive Director has shifted and changed as many positions do alongside the organizational growth we have seen at Chrysalis. I continue to hold our strategic priorities close, and balance program expansion and fiscal sustainability. I am beyond grateful to be able to do this work alongside so many incredible human beings and want to also acknowledge the support of the Chrysalis Board of Directors as critical members of this team. 

As we continue to grow within this Organizational Tree, and take steps to increase access to our services, we will continue to lead with our values. We will foster collective leadership, and amplify our message that having purpose, meaning, and community is essential, and key to recovery! 

We appreciate the important role all of our supporters play in the growth of Chrysalis. If you are interested in supporting our work I listed a few ways to do so below; 

If you have other ideas on ways to support Chrysalis or questions please feel free to reach out to me Dani, Executive Director, at rischall@workwithchrysalis.org

Thanks so much!

Clubhouse WORKS

By Alysha Clark

The chatter had been circling the Chrysalis Clubhouse for months. Cody Vogel- a two year colleague of the Clubhouse wanted to race in the 11th Annual Moving for Mental Health along with 120 other people in the community. His dream was to get the fastest time. To prepare, Cody raced Chrysalis Clubhouse members- including Chrysalis Clubhouse Supervisor Kathy Ziegert, “KZ.”

But this isn’t KZ’s first time running- she has completed several triathlons and even an Ironman. Her other passion is supporting people with significant mental health challenges in finding community through the Clubhouse model. So combining her two passions of running and supporting Cody, a Clubhouse colleague- just made sense. 

On Sunday, May 1st, Cody was on the start line and KZ on a bike ready to lead the race and ensure everyone’s safety. But KZ saw another opportunity- coach Cody along the way as he ran this 5K. KZ reminded Cody to pace himself when he started, he had a long way to go. 

Moving for Mental Health is a beautiful route along the lake in Madison, Wisconsin but it also can have some confusing turns and with the slight rain showers, it can be slippery. KZ knew this all too well with her own training and she was in Cody’s ear the whole race, “slow down, your legs are turning to jelly, there isn’t anyone behind you”, “careful on the bridge it could be slippery.” Cody stayed focused, determined to prove to himself that he could do this. 

As Cody came over the bridge he was cheered on by Chrysalis staff, community members and Clubhouse colleagues, passing the finish line in first place. Cody’s smile was so big we could barely see his eyes. 

“I was moved to tears watching Cody reach his goal with KZ by his side encouraging him every step of the way. I was witnessing the transformation that can happen when someone is supported within a Clubhouse! If everyone with a significant mental health challenge could have people supporting them like KZ did that day- we would understand what community care really means.” -Alysha Clark, Certified Peer Specialist and Director of Advocacy and Operations at Chrysalis.


By Cody Vogel

An event that happens only once a year, which is held by Chrysalis, located at Tenney Park. This event is a Fundraiser to fight against mental stigma and is to bring our community together and cheer on those who participate in either a 1 Mile or a 5k(3 Mile)walk/run. For me, last year of 2021, it was my first time participating in this event, and I finished 5th in the 5k. This year I have been preparing myself to go all the way and finish 1st. So the question is not can I do it, but will I do it on May 1st in 2022. I Would suggest as many people come to this fundraiser event, support our community, cheer people on, or even participate in the run/walk. Chrysalis is a program all about helping people through their recovery and they have conquered that goal and have helped so many people. I’m one of those people who have been helped by Chrysalis at every angle and I want to thank all those apart of Chrysalis. So on May 1st, at Tenney Park, at 10am, come by and support the Chrysalis Community, and you may witness me, Cody Vogel, go all the way and finish 1st in the 5k. 


Date: May 1st, 2022

Location: Tenney Park

Registration Time: 9:30am

Start Time for walk/run: 10am

8 Ways to Support Yourself When You are Feeling Triggered

By Alysha Clark

For me it starts with tightness in my chest while feeling nauseous- it might lead to an out of body experience where I feel like I am observing what is happening rather than experiencing it.  All I want to do is leave the situation and curl up in a safe space.  Sometimes, this is followed by dreams of past traumas along with irritability and a low tolerance for stress.  This unfortunately would happen in some of the worst times, like in the community supporting someone in going to the food pantry or while having a discussion with my supervisor, or at a family event.  For many years, I was not aware of what was happening to me, but with some support, love and awareness, I have learned that I am experiencing a “trigger.”

The word trigger is used frequently and the experience is different for every person.   So I think it is important to describe what it is in a general sense.  Triggers are an emotional reaction to a certain situation, topic, smell, taste, sound, person, news article, social media post, ect.  While providing Peer Support services in the community and in everyday life, I started to learn what situations trigger me and what I can do to support myself in that situation.  It is important to note that when we are experiencing a trigger, sometimes it is no one’s “fault” but rather our bodies trying to identify danger and support us in avoiding it.

Here are some ways I have learned to support myself during a “triggering” time, they have helped tremendously.  

  1. Prepare for the meeting/situation:  Sometimes I know that a certain person or situation can trigger me easily- like intense arguments.  If I know this, I try to prepare myself for the meeting by doing some breathing and meditation beforehand.  I usually pick an affirmation to repeat to myself during the time such as “I am safe and I am loved.”  Or “this meeting does not define who I am.”
  2. Bring along love and support to the meeting:  Someone once suggested that I “bring my support system with me” theoretically when I go to the meeting. I will talk to a trusted person before the meeting and let them know I would appreciate their support.  Then I would meditate on that person being with me in the meeting and remind myself of that during the meeting.
  3. Have an object for comfort: Find an object that has emotional meaning to you, that you can touch, rub and hold.  I use rocks, essential oils, stress balls, bracelets, and rings.  When rubbing it, I remind myself of its emotional significance and the love that it holds.  I keep these in different places around my office, car, purse, and home to pull out when I need some extra support or would like the comfort.
  4. Take a break: It is okay to ask for a break if you are feeling triggered.  Sometimes though, I don’t want to tell others this so I might go to the bathroom.  While in the bathroom or on the way, I will again say positive affirmations and check in with my body, noticing where I might be tense and reflect on what is happening.  
  5. Change your environment: I thrive when I have sun and fresh air around me.  So I might ask if we can have the meeting outside or go for a walk.  I also do much better when I am taking notes during a meeting if I am feeling stressed.  So I might offer to be the note taker, or take notes for the person I am chatting with.  I also might change the way I am sitting.  Sometimes sitting in front of someone looking right at them can cause a transfer of their energy to me- so I might change the direction of my body diagonally or look right above their head.  
  6. Ask for what you need: Sometimes I am very open about what is happening in my body.  I have opened up to others about my past traumas, experiences and history.  If I am providing Peer Support services, I might explain a certain word or phrase and why it is triggering, ask them if they would use a different word in the future.   
  7. Leave if you need to: For whatever reason, you can leave if you need to.  If this is during work, explain that you need to pause.  Then talk to your Supervisor, HR Person, and/or a trusted coworker about the situation.  
  8. Engage in wellness afterwards: Sometimes I am fine through the really triggering situation but then afterward have a load of mental health challenges that pop up.  When the pandemic first came up, I was surprisingly calm but after a while, I started having some of the worst mental health challenges in my life.  So I have learned that engaging in wellness afterwards is extremely important to me.  For me, this looks like attending my therapy sessions, a Yin Yoga class, watching tv for a whole day in bed, crying it out, getting a massage, eating healthy, going for coffee/tea, sleeping and taking a hike.  But most importantly- I try to have RADICAL self compassion.  

Thank you for taking the time to read some way I have supported myself when I am triggered. While I have learned a lot over time, I still recognize that I change everyday and it is important to recognize what supported me before may not in the future.  It is critical that I continue to look for teachers of this work, listen for what has supported others and openly share to create dialogues that deepen my understanding. 

What are some ways you support yourself?

“The Day You Plant the Seed is Not the Day You Eat the Fruit”

“I often look to the natural world around me and find meaning and important metaphors that can help guide me in my own life. For me, this quote is a reminder that growth takes time, to be patient with myself in that process, and that in this journey I am learning and blossoming in my own way as I work towards my goals.” – By Ashley Staley

Holding Hope: Donate to The Big Share to support Chrysalis

By Chris Kittoe, Employment Specialist at Chrysalis

I couldn’t be more proud or grateful to be part of the Chrysalis community as an Employment Specialist.  As a newer member of the Chrysalis team, I can’t overstate how incredible it feels to have joined such a unique and diverse team that is so adherent to guiding principles and committed to a collective push toward societal change and improvement.  I am consistently inspired by the team and the community and feel a great sense of hope knowing that Chrysalis exists as it does. 

Hope is a central component of all Chrysalis programs and to Chrysalis’ perspective in the community.  We know that hope is essential in life – in work, in recovery, in relationships, in growth, in dealing with setbacks, in pursuing dreams and achieving goals, in making change, in reflecting and in considering the future – in all aspects of life.  We at Chrysalis talk a lot about holding hope for those we support and those in our lives and community in general when hope proves difficult for them to find, feel, or maintain.  Chrysalis does a number of types of extremely impactful work with individuals and the community.  Holding hope stands alongside each of these as an immeasurably valuable action Chrysalis takes on behalf of those we support and and in support of our mission and values in the larger community.  Holding hope is like keeping a candle lit in a dark and drafty space.  The light is essential to seeing and navigating a path that leads out of the darkness and many factors could easily lead to its extinguishment.  The more factors there are to struggle against, the less one is able to put into keeping the candle lit and sometimes it is blown out and finding a way out through the darkness without it becomes the (much more daunting) task at hand.  It is during these times in life – when these factors feel stronger than ones grip on the light and ability to protect and nourish it – that having someone else to hold and care for that flame can make all the difference.  By holding hope when others may not feel or recognize it, we keep that candlelight alive and well, on the ready to shed its light and warmth when people are ready to take it back.  We do not cultivate or provide hope – we hold it.  We seek it and hold it and offer it and share it and celebrate it and keep it alive and well.   

By supporting Chrysalis in this fundraising effort, you are holding hope.  You are supplementing and strengthening our hopefulness and sharing light and warmth by allowing us to continue to provide services and offer programming which is not supported by government funding.  You are signaling that you are hopeful about the outcomes people and the community can achieve and about the role Chrysalis might play in those successes.  You are showing support and holding hope for the simple, human idea that everyone is worth it – that everyone deserves opportunity, choice, support, and – you guessed it – HOPE!

Thank you so much for holding and sharing hope by making a donation.  Your dollars will go directly to supplementing our efforts to support people in navigating their lives with purpose and hope!

My New Voice in the Mental Health World

Written by Amber Nelson, Consumer Advisory Committee Member

There is a big stigma about mental health in this world and it is very sad that people can’t accept that people have different challenges like past trauma, getting super anxious or struggling in many different ways. It is sad to see that a lot of people don’t accept it. It makes it harder for people to recover and be great members of society. They are like everyone else, they are humans as well. I wish people would accept it and treat us just like everyone else and accept that we have things going on and stop saying it’s just in our heads. 

So much of mental health also has to do with our physical health and overall well being. For Example if I don’t get out of bed or make food or drink something or take my meds or go for a walk I can definitely tell I’m not doing well not only physically but mentally as well. It is very important especially for people with mental health challenges to take care of not only our minds but also our bodies. It takes a lot for someone with mental health challenges to even do simple daily tasks especially when we aren’t doing well so if someone you see isn’t doing stuff and is just laying around maybe check in and see maybe if they are just mentally struggling not everyone is just lazy by choice some people are struggling. So please if anyone you know who has a mental health diagnosis please don’t tell them it’s in their head and try to understand and learn what they go through and learn ways to help them. Please lets stand together and end mental health stigma and stigma overall.

Winter Solstice

By Julia Slotnick

Last week, I walked by Tenney Park and noticed the wind off the lake at sunset, right after my work day, savored the light. I feel like the winter solstice is one of the most hopeful days of the year and yet the darkest. Life can be like that too, I guess. I feel like the weeks around the solstice allow me some introspection and really intentional space to practice gratitude and patience. For me, these days, that looks like naming the feelings I have when I look at the clock in the evening and reminding myself to think of something learned in the day or something simple that made a difference in the day. Somedays I feel like connecting with others about this practice, also give myself permission to be uncomfortable about winter….because it’s a season. 

Every year, members of the downtown Madison community host the Longest Night Memorial. I attended last year with a spiritual lens, and value the presence of everyone to bring awareness and dignity to the lives of individuals who have experienced homelessness in their last days. This memorial is simple and honors the light of individuals that have gifted this community, hope for a healthcare and justice all year.

I like to mess around with plants. Last year, I had basil flowering in the window all winter, a new record for me. My houseplants lean towards the window, cold as they may be. I guess we’re all kinda like that, leaning toward sun or whatever nourishes us. Chrysalis Pops crew gets excited about compost, messy and slow and stinky very important work… For some kinds of plants, the winter solstice is the start of buds, the marked time for the new start and wow–, it feels like a long time to wait for flowers…

I know you’ll find some ideas to support you this winter…and you can always call Chrysalis and think about going for a walk with us.