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Steph's story: a secret battle

For years, Stephanie had a secret she didn’t tell anyone about. 

She suffered from an eating disorder.

“I didn’t really want to disclose it with anyone. I didn’t want anyone to find out,” she explains.

While Stephanie is unable to pinpoint the moment her downward spiral began, she admits that as a teenager she struggled from a desire to live the perfect life, and began changing her eating habits in her late teens.

“For me perception is a big thing… and everything has to be perfect. I guess I kind of used food as a way of control… My life was consumed with food and how I looked and my body image.”

Stephanie’s eating habits soon began to seriously affect her health. While Stephanie knew she needed to make a change, at first she was reluctant to seek help.

“It was really scary. My eating disorder was the way I coped with life and… I didn’t want to lose that because I didn’t know how else I would manage,” she admits.

After seeking initial help from her GP, at 24, Stephanie was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and admitted as an inpatient at Wesley Hospital Ashfield. It was here Stephanie’s journey of recovery began. Across the course of a few years, Stephanie stayed at Wesley Hospital Ashfield over four separate occasions as part of her recovery.

“The staff were really amazing. At first I was really apprehensive about getting treatment at all but it was just their approach and the way they spoke to me. It made me feel like it wasn’t my fault and they were really comforting. It felt like I was finally in an environment where people understood what I was going through,” she says.

Since being discharged from Wesley Hospital Ashfield earlier this year, Stephanie has continued her recovery journey with the help of Wesley Mission. Every week Stephanie attends a Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) program, run by Wesley Hospital Ashfield, which focuses on helping Stephanie manage her emotions.

“It’s really impacted on my life by letting me know it can better. I guess by sticking it out, I’ve had glimpse of where I want to be. At the moment I’m just moving through recovery. “When you are all consumed with your eating disorder, you kind of lose what’s important to you… I now feel more hopeful about the future.”

Carol, Wesley Hospital Ashfield DBT Therapy Coordinator and Group Facilitator and key influencer in Stephanie’s recovery journey adds:

“Stephanie has developed a great resilience—probably more than she realises in this recovery journey and what I have seen over the past six months, while in the DBT program. I am watching her week to week come out of her shell and step in to many discomfort zones and simply push through, because she simply knows that she must keep striving in order to maintain recovery and stay on track.”

Giving back to others is now a major life focus for Stephanie. Currently studying a social work degree at Western Sydney University, Stephanie is eager to work for an organisation like Wesley Mission that offers support to young people leaving foster care through the Wesley Take Charge of Your Life program. Stephanie also has a passion to help eradicate misconceptions about eating disorders.

“I do want to raise awareness about eating disorders as well because there so many misconceptions about it… [that] it’s all a lifestyle choice. I hate all that because it’s totally not a choice. It’s a real illness like any physical illness.”

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