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Art of Being ME presents Stephanie's Story

Stephanie was an adult when she sought treatment for her eating disorder. She now leads Burrell's RecoverED program to help others find their own recovery.

Stephanies Story

Eating disorders are real, complex conditions that can have serious consequences for physical and mental health, as well as relationships. Burrell Behavioral Health is proud to serve and support those who are recovering from eating disorders with our RecoverED program, which has impacted – and saved – numerous lives since its start in 2020.

To raise awareness about eating disorders, as well as other mental health conditions and diagnoses, the Burrell Foundation has collaborated with artist Randy Bacon and his 7 Billion Ones series. Featuring more than 20 Burrell Behavioral Health clients and staff, the Art of Being ME exhibit will showcase personal stories through portraits, motion portraits and videos.

Burrell is honored to share two of those stories, as a preview to the exhibit's launch, in recognition of National Eating Disorders Awareness week. Stephanie Robbins came face-to-face with her eating disorder as a young adult and sought treatment several years later. She is now the Outpatient Program Coordinator for RecoverED. Here is her story:

"I grew up in a very chaotic environment throughout childhood. There was lots of exposure to abuse and this resulted in having very high anxiety. I have always carried my anxiety symptoms in my stomach, which ultimately became a very easy transition into having an eating disorder. When your stomach hurts constantly from anxiety, it makes it very easy to go without eating. My eating disorder initially hit a breaking point when I was a senior in high school. I was on my school’s drum and bugle corps and began passing out at performances. After several months of this happening my coaches and school counselor required me to go see a therapist. That therapist recommended a higher level of care, but I would have to go to Kansas City to receive that care. I was in the last semester of high school so I decided I didn’t want to be 3 hours away from home (Springfield) and miss my prom/graduation/special events. Because I had just turned 18, I was able to make that decision on my own, and never even shared the recommendation with my family.

I was able to keep myself stable for a long time with my eating disorder. It didn’t flare up again until I was married with two children. As a trauma survivor I didn’t realize that seeing my children at the ages I was when I have memories of abuse could trigger the mental health issues I had struggled with previously. The eating disorder became a prominent issue in my life and I wasn’t functioning very well. I entered therapy for the first time in my life other than the one or two visits I had in high school. I pretty quickly realized that I needed a higher level of care to treat the disorder, but again didn’t want to have to go three hours away to receive this care. I tried to get things under control through individual therapy for over a year, but eventually I had no other option but to go to treatment. Once I finally made that extremely difficult decision I found out that my insurance wouldn’t cover the treatment. I ended up having to spend countless hours advocating for myself with my insurance company so that I could secure a single-case agreement for the treatment to be covered. This was incredibly difficult because I did not want to have to go to treatment, but still had to become a fierce advocate for myself during a time when I felt the most weak and vulnerable. I did end up going to treatment and realized that was going to be my only shot at reclaiming my life.

As I became stronger I knew that I needed to do something to help others so that they would not have to go through the struggles I went through to receive care for an eating disorder. As soon as I was able I went back to school and finished the degrees necessary to become a therapist. Since the moment I stepped back onto a college campus, I was laser-focused on eating disorder research and education. As soon as I graduated I jumped into doing individual therapy and groups with clients who had eating disorders. I worked hard to develop a program that offers outpatient and intensive outpatient services for eating disorders, which is currently up and running. We are making significant progress toward being able to provide higher levels of care locally for eating disorders, and I think that is very exciting.

My journey to recovery has allowed me to find my voice and use that voice to help others find theirs. I’m happy to say that I have fully recovered from my eating disorder. Finding my voice and my passion for helping others has helped me achieve and maintain that recovery. The advice I would give (and do all the time) to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder is to find your purpose, your passion. What motivates you? What keeps you moving forward on days when you don’t feel like you can take another step? Work with someone who can help you find that passion, and don’t ever let anything stop you. You CAN do it. YOU MATTER!"

Watch the video above to hear more of Stephanie's story.

The Art of Being ME exhibit will launch in the spring of 2022 and will travel across the state in the following months. More information is to come.


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