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Picking up the pieces after PTSD

Aug 05 2019
When her world was falling apart, Katie slowly started to build her confidence again by picking up all the pieces.

Katie speaks all over the world addressing the stigma of mental health.

Through her organisation “Picking Up the Peaces” she provides support, education and assistance to uniform service personnel and their families struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and associated mental health difficulties.

In 2011, she received a Winston Churchill Fellowship award. In 2013, she was an Australian of the Year awards finalist. In 2014, she received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her community work.

At the same time, she was experiencing stigma in the workplace for being married to someone with PTSD. She was told to stop doing what she loves: volunteer work.

But because integrity is everything to her, she ended up resigning.

“It was really difficult. It absolutely shattered me. I withdrew away from everybody,” she says.

“You don’t get blamed for having cancer, so you shouldn’t get blamed for having post trauma.”

Katie cares for her husband David, who was diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety in 2006, following a deployment overseas with the Australian Federal Police (AFP).They have been together since 1989.

“I knew even before he came home that something wasn’t right. He was definitely a completely changed man,” she says.

“My caring role can be quite demanding. It’s like a double edged sword.”

“Post-trauma changed our lives immensely, it turned it upside down. Because this is an injury that you can’t see, it brings a lot of scepticism and stigma.”

“Back in 2006 there was nothing and we felt so isolated. It was just unbelievable and very damaging to both of us.”

Katie runs her community work, manages all the housework, her husband’s medical appointments and medication, and looks after their three children.

She learned the importance of self-care the hard way.

“I tried to be the super wife, super human. I didn’t always take care of myself and I paid the price for that.”

It has been a challenging journey for her, also one with many lessons learnt.

“Post trauma doesn’t just affect the individual that has experienced the traumatic event. It affects the whole family. But I’ve been blessed. Adversity brought us together and I’ve learned so much.”

Katie is in a better place today. She focuses on her family and her work.

She shares her story and has partnered with her paramedic friend to start educating people about the stigma of mental health, while doing art therapy classes.

“I’m out of what was hurting me. I got to experience some amazing things. We’re coming out the other end of that and feeling really excited about the future and where we’re going.”