Stephanie Coe had forgotten laughing was allowed at work, until she changed careers.
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The Dubbo resident, originally from Condobolin, has a big, hearty laugh - but it was difficult for her to feel a zest for life when she was wondering where some of her casework kids were going to sleep at night.
This was a daily occurrence, and one she didn't realise had affected her so much until she decided to change careers.
Now she has swapped casework for car seat covers - and she's never been happier.
"[In my previous job] we were all head down, bum up, and we don't talk. Out here, they're having conversations about their weekends, their children, they're all ranges of different personalities. I'm not used to that," Ms Coe told the Daily Liberal.
When Ms Coe realised her former job was affecting her head space, she turned to not-for-profit employment services provider, VERTO, and was signed-up to the Australian Government's Workforce Australia program.
Her consultant could see she was burnt-out and casework had left her emotionally and socially drained at the end of each day.
Ms Coe was encouraged to undertake a range of different short courses, including the RSA, RCG and barista training.
She was trialling a job with Allied Seating Group Dubbo, when the people there helped make up her mind to stay.
"I was used to keeping my personal life to myself on the other job. But here, they were laughing and stuff. People were opening up - I wasn't used to it. It was the atmosphere, and the genuine people," Ms Coe said.
She has learnt new skills, and uses an industrial sewing machine to put together the body and the hood of the car seat covers.
"It's like being back at school, doing your little projects. I think I've got idle hands, so it helps," she said.
Ms Coe said it took her a while to realise that "not everyone has trauma".
"You get desensitised on the job and you just switch off ... But I can go out and have fun now. That's sad, how much we switch off, to protect ourselves and our identity," she said.
She said it was "nice to put on the breaks" and not have to bring work home with her.
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"My head switches off when I go home now - I'm not making any more car seats, I can pick it up at work and drop it off at work," she said.
"I feel free to be honest. It's nice not worrying about the KPIs and going to the cop shop and being on call at night."
Ms Coe said she's not sure what the future holds, but upholstery has been the career break she needed from the demands of stressful child protection caseloads.
"I might return to child protection in a few years once I've had a break. Or I might decide that I love my new job and turn that into a new career," she said.
VERTO Workforce Australia Regional Manager, Aimee McMillan, commended Stephanie for having the courage to change careers and seek out help when she needed it.
"Stephanie knew she needed to make changes in her work life and was open to trying new things, which demonstrated to us that she was a committed and enthusiastic job seeker," Ms McMillan said.
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