Thirteen years ago, Emily King was a confident woman who ran a successful wedding car business across Wessex. She was married and lived in Cirencester. However, when a dog attack scared her to go outside, Emily began to suffer from PTSD, which would change her life forever.
Two dogs attacked Emily, who now lives in Swansea, while she was in a horse drawn carriage. They chased her for four miles.
“The whole time I thought I was going to die and be thrown out of a car,” Emily said.
“I was very stressed out, traveling down a country road and being chased by dogs, obviously not knowing if there would be frontal traffic with two horses galloping at full speed with the carriage – luckily no bride or groom.
Emily, 45, managed to turn the horses into a barnyard, but ran into a closed door with the dogs still chasing them. She was thrown from the car and then attacked by one of the dogs, while the other attacked the horses.
Fortunately, a farmer came to Emily’s aid and managed to throw the two dogs into a barn.
After the attack, Emily said she went into an emotional crisis. Within months, she began to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“You suddenly become someone else overnight,” she says.
“Because there was no diagnosis at the time, people didn’t really understand what was going on. People will shut you down, not because they are cruel, but simply because they cannot understand why you are becoming like you.
“Eventually you are so low and at such a critical point that you ask for help, and when you seek that help you begin to realize that you are not going crazy. You haven’t got lost, you just have this thing and there is a long, hard road out of this deep dark forest. But it’s there and it’s going to take time. You can reach out and once you empower yourself to do so, you take back control. “
Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is a mental health disorder that people can develop after experiencing a traumatic event. A range of traumatic experiences can cause PTSD, but the condition was first recognized in veterans. It has had different names in the past, such as “shell shock”.
“It’s like having a dark passenger. It’s another version of yourself waiting in the background and can almost knock you out of normal, ”Emily said.
“You know the little passenger is sitting on you and giving you that feeling of depression, that feeling of anxiety, of not feeling able or that the worst is going to happen.
“You just feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. Sometimes when you pick up a cup you drop it because you’re in that cycle and it all has a ripple effect. “
Emily said she found it hard to accept that the trauma she was suffering from was not the real her.
She said, “When I first started with PTSD I kept saying, ‘I have to find the real me’.”
After starting to suffer from PTSD, Emily said she found it difficult to function in a normal relationship. She separated from her husband at the time and abandoned her business.
She said she felt depressed and suffered from anxiety.
“I couldn’t go out other than a few places and it was without being escorted by someone. I was agoraphobic, I had nocturnal hollows, where I would wake up screaming and trying to climb out of the bedroom window.
Although she never drank regularly, Emily found herself having a glass of wine or two a day, which she said was not out of her character.
“I really got into fight or flight mode. I felt I had to run away, that I had to go find myself, and that’s why it was so hard for everyone to figure out, because for a lot of people I had the perfect, idyllic, in control life. .
“I just couldn’t be that, so I literally left everything behind and had to start over.”
Emily’s case went to civil court against the wedding venue that owned the dogs. A subsequent criminal prosecution was also heard due to injuries sustained by Emily and the horses.
Funds were released for Emily to have private medical evaluations, where doctors assessed Emily for PTSD and helped her seek appropriate treatment. She said she received tapping therapy, which helped her transfer memories and gave her tools to cope with PTSD.
She said, “When you have post-traumatic stress, it never really goes away and like an old injury, bone or ligament in your body, your brain is no different. It’s sensitive, if not more, and when we have this scarring or emotional damage, you never recover 100%.
“It’s something I have to be very aware of, it’s there all the time and can break out just like any other condition.”
Three years after the attack, Emily moved to Swansea. She found refuge in stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP.
“Having a huge fear of being outside and being around dogs, I was recommended to surf because dogs don’t really go out in the waves.”
She then switched to paddle boarding.
“It really challenged me. I eventually had something that tied me back – it was conscious, it pushed me away from post-traumatic stress and I was living in the moment, ”she said.
The sport involves participants using an oar to propel themselves forward while standing on a paddle board, and has become one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Courses and clubs are available all over Wales and beyond.
Emily said: “I suddenly realized that I could empower myself and that challenged me and put me in situations where I was scared, but I was able to take control and I was coming out of. the other side.”
The ongoing pandemic has been very difficult for almost everyone and, unsurprisingly, has led some people to see an impact on their mental health and well-being.
The Samaritans established a series of tips for taking care of your mental health for now, with their experts suggesting the following strategies:
- Make time for something you love – whether it’s settling in with your favorite movie, heading to your local park, or participating in any of your hobbies or interests
- Take a break from news and social media to let go of screens and devices
- Set realistic goals for the day or week ahead and eventually break down the things you need to do into a smaller to-do list
- Try relaxation exercises like controlled breathing or muscle relaxation
- Enjoying nature, whether it is leaving the house or opening curtains and blinds to let in natural light. Plants and flowers can also help
- Exercise Can Help Reduce Anxiety
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member about how you are feeling
There is help available if you need it
Cymru spirit the infoline is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. To contact them, call 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans offers a 24-hour listening service at 116 123 (in the UK and Republic of Ireland this number is FREE and will not appear on your phone bill).
CALL (Community Advice & Listening Line) offers emotional support and information / literature on mental health and related issues to residents of Wales and can be contacted on 0800 132 737 or through the website.
The NHS offers help and advice via its 111 service.
Emily quickly transitioned from training to racing and has always been one of SUP’s top athletes, consistently winning iconic elite races and UK national racing series. She is currently the British SUP Technical Series Grand Champion in a 12’6 size paddle board.
“You suddenly find yourself in that moment where you’re like ‘Wow, look at this – this is my life.’ ‘
In February of this year, Emily started a SUP club in Swansea with friends she met through the sport.
“Now I really came back to who I was and that pushed me to bigger things, becoming a top surfer.
“Nothing is really important in life except you and being the best version of yourself.”
Emily says she still has days when she struggles, for example, if she sees the breed of dog that attacked her. However, she says she has emotional tools that are helping her get through these days.
The athlete has raced at the elite level in the UK and internationally, qualifying as the British SUP Technical Series Grand Racing Champion last year. She also took the Welsh team to international competitions.
Emily is now a multidisciplinary paddler competing in the ocean, coasts, lakes, rivers and White Water Rapids.
She believes that sport is not only good for physical health, but also for mental health.
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“It’s really great to be aware of the environment you find yourself in, to interpret that environment and to be in this noise of nature.
“It’s also a great way for people to engage with each other. We see groups of people coming together, reaching out and forming friendships. “
Mental Health Awareness Week took place May 10-16. Emily believes that any way to raise awareness about mental health is a good thing.
“Knowing that you are not alone and that there is help is sometimes enough for people to take that first step to help themselves, but also if they need that help, there is is really important to find ways to find this help. “