Katie, a self-confessed survivor and thriver (despite being the physical victim of a brutal assault and acid attack in 2008, with the multiple traumas and stages of physical and psychological recovery that follow from that) was very quick to challenge the language of the question asked and turn it on its head. Instead of complaining about being ‘stuck at home’, she was quick to show her gratitude for being ‘safe at home’. Katie’s awareness of the power of language and thought is, I believe, a crucial aspect of her resilience and recovery. She is now an ambassador for burns survivors, has a charitable foundation to help others who experienced similar things to her, is a wife, a mother of two little girls, an author of various biographies of different stages of her recovery journey, and of self help and encouragement books. She has her own beauty product range, has hosted various television documentaries looking at the lives of people who suffer from being stigmatised by society for being ‘different’ in some way, and has also had a stint training with the Police for another television programme she was involved in. She has been on the television programme ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ in the UK, and has run marathons for charity, and continues to push through the negative attitudes of a society that still judges people based on appearance. Recently after an eye operation which was required because of ongoing injuries due to the acid attack, Katie was ‘trolled’ on social media by people abusing her verbally because of the damage done to her face. Personally I and many others think she is a beautiful and brave human being and she continues to speak out and raise awareness about social stigmas and the way we should treat each other. She has another speaking tour planned for 2021, obviously depending on how things are with the pandemic, but at the age of just 37 years old she is a formidable force of recovery and positivity.
I’m currently re-reading a book of hers that I read earlier this year. It’s called ‘Things get better’ and it starts out with Katie describing her ‘rock bottom’ after her attacks and awakening from a coma, so marred by the acid that she was barely recognisable to her own parents, and she longed for death. In severe psychological and physical trauma, the prognosis for her by most of the experts was extremely bleak. She was not expected to walk properly or be able to live independently and it was considered hugely likely that her mother would have to be her full time carer for life. Now just look at her go!
Katie, despite being desperately crushed and broken by her experiences, found a way to challenge her thinking patterns from victim to survivor (and in my opinion to an overcoming thriver, if not ‘superstar’ 🙂 ).
How can we look at things differently?
I wonder if you and I can take something from this incredible example? I think as a starting point it’s good to be honest with ourselves with where we are in how we are thinking and feeling about things in this pandemic. But let that be a starting point rather than an end result.
Maybe we’ll find we have some things in common with what we are being challenged to overcome.
- I haven’t properly been outside the house for a long time. I’m missing nature, the fresh air, being in parks or by the beach, and I’m struggling with the low light levels of winter. Maybe you have similar feelings of being cooped up, restricted or ‘stuck’ or feeling ‘down’ in some ways.
How can we look at this differently? Well, for a start, I am thankful that I have windows from which I can look at the outside world from. I’m thankful that in this cold and somewhat bleak winter season in Scotland I am safe and cosy indoors, that I have a home, and I can enjoy fresh air if I want by opening the door and stepping outside, even if not to go ‘out out’. I am thankful that I have been gifted with an imagination and a memory, and that I also have photographs that can prompt me of reminders of enjoyable times. I can think of times spent at the coast, of sunsets at the beach, I can remember the glistening of sunlight on water, and I can remind myself of walks in the park, and of travel adventures that I was blessed to go on in times past. I can choose to enjoy the cosy things that being indoors can afford me such as daydreaming about such times, imagining a positive future, or watching something inspiring, reading, spending time with family (now that I am blessed to no longer be in complete isolation as I was for the first half of the year), writing my novel, writing my blog, emailing my friends, drawing, colouring, playing my violin, spending time with God, and so the list goes on….
(not to forget getting cosy and watching Christmas movies! 🙂 ).
From what appears at first to be a negative, we can draw out so many positives by looking at things differently, and choosing to keep doing so!
2. I’ve been struggling with my mental health a bit, and I’m sure you can probably relate to this somewhat.
What positives can I / we draw from this? I’m appreciative of the time to think things through, to process, to read inspirational books and to help other people through my blog as I seek answers myself. The extra time being at home gives me a chance to do some of that deeper psychological work to build mental resilience and mental fitness that will help me and other people going forwards from here.
What positives can you draw from your challenges? Have you found opportunities opening up with other people to talk about mental health issues, which are extremely common in society, but not talked about enough? Have you been able to challenge stigmas or assumptions in yourself or others regarding issues with mental health? Are you able to talk about things more freely or with as much openness as you would a physical condition such as a broken leg, something which society does not stigmatise, or are you able to see the need to move further towards such open and honest conversations for the good of everyone involved?
Have you been able to reach out and ask for help, or are you able to provide some support to someone else? Have you grown in awareness of something you might not have been so aware of before, because of some of the issues that have come to light through the course of the pandemic? These can all be positive stepping stones individually and societally.
3. Missing people:
For the first half of the year I was in almost total isolation, and I am proud of myself for managing as well as I did, and for writing to encourage other people through that season of aloneness. I built up my own resilience, and showed concern for others, and made it through the more difficult days positively and having achieved various goals. I’m with family now, but I am missing my friends.
I wonder if you can relate to any of this? Do you live alone? Are you with people but feeling stressed or lonely? Are you missing friends or family that you would have wanted to see this Christmas or holiday season?
Can you reframe your thinking about this?
Can you identify ways in which you have shown resilience, compassion or grown in character or understanding? Have you grown in awareness of the needs of those around you and of more vulnerable members of society? Could you grow in gratitude for the special times you have had with other people, or have you become wiser in the company you keep and where you spend your time in terms of relationships and friendships with other people so that they become more deep and meaningful and so that you make wise decisions about people who may be ‘toxic’ or draining influences?
If you are happy and flourishing at home with your family, could you spare a thought and commit to an action of kindness for someone who is not? There is so much suffering out there, maybe you could add one small act of kindness towards alleviating that for someone?
If you are struggling are there positives you can find, or are there people you can connect with remotely, or are there other things such as skills you can use your time alone to build?
Sometimes it can seem very hard to find a positive from a negative situation or feeling, yet if we learn to see things as challenges rather than obstacles, we can grow in resilience, in fortitude, in positivity, in character, and we can learn to lead the ways as encouragers for those around us.
And remember that it is perfectly ok for you and I to start small. We may be inspired by people but we shouldn’t feel overshadowed by them. Our lives and our choices matter, even the smallest of choices. Personally I know that it is only by God’s Grace and the Sustaining Power of The Risen Lord Jesus Christ that I can do anything, and I am grateful each day for His mercies new every morning and His renewing strength at work in my life. It is a Strength that allows me to be weak, to be honest, to be vulnerable and also that gives me the grace to persevere knowing that I am never alone, and it is not all up to me.
What are you struggling with today? Be honest with yourself. Is there a way that you can change your obstacle into a challenge to be overcome, triumphantly? A thought may seem like a little thing, the smallest of steps forward, but it is incredibly powerful, and it is well within your grasp to choose how you will think about your issue at hand.
Stay safe, be strong, live this day with renewed hope. xx