Stefan Tegelj is a peer mentor with Eating Disorders Victoria.
After losing over 20kg and getting to his goal weight, Stefan still thought he was fat - what he saw in the mirror did not reflect his reality. He sought help. and with the support of a counsellor and specific body dysmorphia health service, Stefan started to get to help he needed.
Today, he is a passionate advocate for others suffering Eating Disorder through the peer mentoring program which was recently funded for another two years.
You look at what's happening in the mirror and it does not reflect what is actually happening in real life. So I had lost 20 plus kilos, gotten to my goal weight and I looked in the mirror and I still saw fat.
That sort of became a concern for people because they could see I was quite thin. People would come and be like, ‘Oh you don't need to lose anymore weight’ but I'd be like, ‘What are you talking about? You're just trying to make me fat again’.
I had been bullied my entire high school life um about my sexuality um, like anything from head to toe about my body like I had been bullied about that so I was extremely self-conscious. I thought no one liked me, I didn't trust anyone.
I thought if I ate too much in one day, I would literally gain all the weight back so
I mean, like literally like 20 kilos, I thought… like that's how distorted my view of myself was.
A friend of mine, I was talking to her about what I was feeling and everything and she recommended to see a counsellor at the University, which I did, and they recommended to be referred to a body image and a sort of recovery service at St Vincent's. I was first diagnosed there with anorexia, anxiety, depression and body dysmorphia.
The financial burden of trying to recover meant that I couldn't recover in an effective way and I said this even to my psychologist at one point. I actually can't afford to recover and I started crying because like it was true.
I was suicidal, I was self-harming. I was extremely depressed and wasn't leaving the house. I wasn't showering I wasn't doing anything and I was reaching out from help from friends who also had lived experiences with mental illness and eating disorders and a couple of them recommended an LGBTI-friendly clinic who … also they said was quite helpful in terms of navigating the healthcare system in order to get the care that I needed.
The barriers that were within the system itself exacerbated the mental illness in me. That also affects people you can see that all the time because they can't financially cope.
You can't just look at somebody and think, like, ‘Oh yeah, they’ve got an eating disorder’.
This idea of being like middle-class, white teenage girl … which is not true.
Like, a lot of people can look quite like athletic, they can be bigger, they can be smaller they can be any weight range. That doesn't actually determine whether or not you have an eating disorder which is in the same way that mental illness is like you cannot actually just see at face value that someone has a mental illness.
I was just so sick of it, and I just wanted to be able to eat properly, exercise enough, see people and go to uni, do work and like be able to function normally.
You can recover um but also understand that like it's a difficult journey and like there's going to be bumps in the road.
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