Stephanie’s struggles started when she was a teenager, but it reached its peak in high school where she was bullied relentlessly. Due to the bullying, her parents withdrew her from school and moved the family from Maryland to Florida. While she was in Florida, she entered an abusive relationship with a man who started out possessive, leaving hickies on her as a way to “mark” her, which progressed into physical abuse where he would grab her and smack her, leaving marks on her that she tried to ignore until her friends pointed them out to her. During college she started dating, and then moved in with a man who was fresh out of the military, who once he realized how comfortable she was becoming with his family began to relentlessly bully her about her weight. During that time she moved back home and developed anorexia and bulimia as a result of his constant harassment. When they broke up she didn’t eat for days, which spiraled her eating disorders even more and those symptoms continued for two years. After college she moved back to Maryland and began to volunteer at the fire department. She was eventually hired full time after 3 years of volunteering.
Two years later she met her boyfriend and they got pregnant 6 months later. Twenty weeks into the pregnancy they discovered that their unborn child had congenital problems and she was induced at 37 weeks. Her son was immediately taken to a children’s hospital where he was in the NICU for a month. During that time she developed postpartum anxiety and depression. When talking about that time she explained that she “became a shell of a person.” She was estranged from her boyfriend for several months as her PPA and PPD turned into postpartum rage. “I wouldn’t let myself feel anything because I had to be strong for my son.” She also said that she lost herself during this time. When her son was 3 months old her parents came to visit and suggested that she get help. She was attempting to breastfeed her son so she was unable to be medicated for her symptoms, but began to see a therapist twice a week. After a year she was able to start medications that helped alleviate her symptoms. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic she was often sleeping in her basement after work since her young son is immunocompromised and she didn’t want to risk him getting sick because she was working with so many people with covid. Between a high stress job and having to worry about her son’s health she felt that she always had to keep her composure and hold her emotions in. While she is both a firefighter and paramedic, she is the primary caregiver on the days that she is home. She says she “lives on coffee and a prayer” and currently sees her therapist once a week. She finds relief in her coping skills, one of which is working on her garden.