As a successful community health advocate, broadcaster and public speaker, people could be forgiven for thinking Katherine Houareau has lived a charmed life.
But after surviving five suicide attempts, years of sexual and emotional abuse and attempted murder at the hands of her former husband, the vivacious mother of two knows exactly how tough life can be.
“Good management of bad experiences is what the journey to recovery is all about and that has to start inside ourselves.”
Now, at aged 49, Kat has found her happy place. She is one of Ruah’s first domestic violence advocates and is making her mark as a champion for mental health and suicide prevention.
“I share my story because I want people to know that you can come through tough times. Things do change and life can get better even if you can’t see that right now,” she said.
“Like abuse, the COVID-19 pandemic is a trauma and many people are feeling scared. They are going through the cycle of grief and we need to understand that and surround ourselves with positive energy to ward off those feelings of despair or hopelessness.
Kat has a rigorous daily routine that starts at 4:30am with an hour of meditation, before she rushes off to organise her two children and start work for the day. Today, that work includes podcasting, a weekly radio show and lots of community conversations on social media from her desk at home.
“In my spare time I love to cook or read things that give me inspiration and hope. Sometimes I soak in the bath and listen to relaxing music.
“Everyone can do that even if it is just sitting in the bathroom being calm and peaceful and practising gratitude. Domestic violence is just a situation, like a dark cloud moving over us right now. Even when things are bad we can all find something to be grateful for.
“If you can’t spend time in nature, spend time with animals or in the garden. Kick your shoes off. It helps keep you grounded and brings about a sense of calm.
“Staying calm is really important. When people are stressed and anxious that is when arguments accelerate.
“It is also important to try and eliminate the toxic things in your life that make you feel bad or less worthy. That might mean avoiding some people – even conversations on social media. News on TV and radio generates lots of negative energy so I try not to get too caught up in all of that.
“If you are experiencing family violence right now, the most important thing is to find safety. You need to reach out and ask for help.
“For people on the road to recovery, it is important to learn to forgive yourself before you can forgive others. Through being vulnerable and learning to like myself and being my own best friend, I have been able to accept the things that have happened in my life and move on.”