Written by Emma Wynne
Paralympian Jessica Smith was born without her left hand and forearm, suffered a serious burns injury as a small child, developed anorexia in her teens, and is now using her experiences to help others.
"I'm probably someone who has seen and done quite a lot in a relatively short amount of time," Ms Smith, now aged 30, told Geoff Hutchison on 720 ABC Perth.
Born in country New South Wales, her parents were advised to get her a prosthetic limb as soon as possible.
But when she was just 18 months old, Ms Smith was reaching for some biscuits on the kitchen counter and knocked over a kettle of boiling water with her prosthetic, suffering third-degree burns to 15 per cent of her body.
"At that age it was hard to get used to this new attachment," she recalled.
"In those days they were quite hideous contraptions, not like the technology we have today.
"I was rushed to Sydney Children's Hospital; I had blood transfusions and skin grafts and the whole recovery process went on for years."
Her missing arm and burns injuries left her feeling different from a young age, and she recalled many times being told what she couldn't do by adults.
Highs and lows in the pool
But Ms Smith's life changed when she took up swimming.
"At my first school swimming competition when I was 10, I remember beating all the boys and girls who had two hands," she said.
"Everyone, even me, was surprised and for the first time there was this sense of exhilaration and self-confidence that I hadn't had before."
Ms Smith became serious about swimming and in 2000, aged just 14, she competed in trials for the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney.
Despite being one of the best 100-metre butterfly swimmers in the world, she missed out on selection for the team by 1/100th of a second.
"It was devastating," she said.
"I went back to being ordinary Jess, with one arm and a burns injury.
"I felt like everything I had been working towards came crashing down. If I didn't have swimming, who was I?"
She turned away from the pool and began to focus on physical perfection through dieting, a process that quickly spiralled to suffering from anorexia and bulimia nervosa.
"Because I perceived myself to be less than ordinary, I convinced myself that if I could be perfect in every other way, then people would look past the imperfections," she said.
Ms Smith returned to swimming and was selected for the 2004 Paralympics in Athens but when she returned without winning a medal her depression quickly returned.
"Being there and just being a contender wasn't what I had trained to do," she recalled.
"I wanted to be that Paralympian that changed the way people thought about disability.
"When Athens came along and I didn't swim as well as I should have I just wanted to curl up and die, because I was embarrassed and I didn't want pity."
Going into treatment
The turning point came when she entered rehab for her eating disorder.
"I started to understand that I had developed an eating disorder as a coping mechanism for what had happened in my childhood," she said.
Following rehab, she completed a degree in public health, moved to Perth and began working at the Cancer Council. Then she found herself being asked to speak about her life.
"It was so nerve wracking and I couldn't really understand why people would want to listen to what I had to say," she said of the first speeches she gave.
Ms Smith has since gone on to become a positive body image advocate for the Butterfly Foundation, a national charity representing those affected by eating disorders and negative body image.
She has also written a children's book titled Little Miss Jessica Goes To School.
"It's based on me and it's about a little girl with one hand on her first day of school and what she experiences through being different," she said.
"It was a way that I could get a complex message out in a simple way, out to a younger audience."
For Ms Smith, the tough times now seem far behind her, and she is expecting her first child later this year.
"I am so much more content and at ease and so far away from where I used to be," she said.
Hear Jessica Smith's full interview with 720 ABC Perth's Geoff Hutchison on Soundcloud.