KATIE PIPER

Women's Health (UK) - - STRENGTH IN NUMBERS -

34, PHI­LAN­THROPIST

‘Each of us has a lit­tle pocket of light but you have to look for it’ ‘When my post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD) was at its height (after the 2008 sul­phuric acid at­tack that left Katie scarred and blind in one eye), I was so iso­lated I didn’t want to leave my par­ents’ house. It took my mum drop­ping me off at church to help me get what I needed at that time: con­nec­tion with oth­ers, free from judg­ment. I’d found my safe space – but it will be dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one.

Nine years on, I am so much more than what hap­pened to me. I’m a mother and a busi­ness­woman; I run a char­ity that sup­ports oth­ers over­com­ing ad­ver­sity; and, most im­por­tantly, I’m happy. But I want peo­ple to un­der­stand how dif­fi­cult a process get­ting well has been, so that they might look on their own re­cov­ery with a lit­tle more kind­ness. I’m not go­ing to tell you: “I had PTSD and anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion but now ev­ery­thing is great.” Peo­ple don’t go through trau­matic events and just be­come emo­tion­ally strong.

I still have dif­fi­cult days when I lose hours to anx­i­ety, feel­ing my throat swell and my mind race with para­noid thoughts. But – thanks in part to on­go­ing ther­apy – they’re hap­pen­ing less and less.

Mind­set is im­por­tant – but it’s not re­al­is­tic to ex­pect peo­ple to sim­ply re­place ‘bad’ thoughts with good ones. I’m a pos­i­tive person, but some­one telling me to just “cheer up” when I’m strug­gling won’t help. I fo­cus on build­ing re­silience – which to me means hav­ing a sense that, yes, some­times things aren’t go­ing to be okay, but ac­cept­ing that.

Jour­nal­ing reg­u­larly helps me un­der­stand my trig­gers, and an evening run is bril­liant for clear­ing the day’s crap from my mind. But no one thing – book, pod­cast, on­line com­mu­nity, fit­ness or healthy meal plan – alone is go­ing to make any­one strong and happy. They all help, sure, but tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for your re­cov­ery is the most im­por­tant thing.

My ad­vice? Look for that lit­tle pocket of light in the dark­ness. It could be a sup­port­ive person, a mantra, or even the feel­ing you get when you’re work­ing up a sweat. It’ll be there some­where – you just have to look for it.’ Katie Piper tours in the spring with her live show What’s In My

Head; katiepiperandyou.co.uk

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