Katie’s answers to some frequently asked questions… This is Katie’s personal experience, this cannot be taken as medical or professional advice.
How did people react towards you in the beginning and how did you deal with it?
People were cruel. They judged me on my appearance, which made me feel like less of a person. I felt really bad so I hid away and cried. The first few times really knocked me back and I didn’t want to leave the house because I took it personally.
How do people initially react to you now?
People are sometimes shocked, sometimes they’re inquisitive.
What would you tell someone in that situation now?
I would tell them that most of the time those people are not intentionally cruel, they’re uneducated and they’re seeing something they aren’t used to seeing because there isn’t enough awareness. This Foundation is going to change that. And sometimes as hard as it is, you have to reach inside yourself and turn around and smile at those people. If they don’t smile back it doesn’t matter. There is no point in fighting unkindness with more unkindness. Try and make them see you are a person and you do have feelings.
How did you view beauty before the attack and how do you view it now?
For me, beauty used to be about the best figure and looking the prettiest when I walked into a room. Now I’ve realised that is only surface beauty. I feel more beautiful and confident by surrounding myself with people that believe in me and encourage me. That rubs off on you and so you begin to believe in yourself again. Now when I feel down, I tell myself I have loads going for me and I feel attractive.
Do you still feel down, do you still have bad days?
Yes I still have bad days when I feel unconfident. When I do, I tell myself it’s normal because everyone has bad days!
Other than the scar management clinic, what was your routine?
Everybody’s skin and scars are different but everybody can be committed. I made sure I massaged my affected areas four times a day, every day, for an hour each time.
Aside from your psychologist, what practical things did you do to help you mentally?
I kept two diaries: a photographic one and a written one. The photographic diary helped me remember where I’d come from and how much progress I’d made. The written one was where I wrote about how I was feeling. Writing things down was cathartic. It really helped me to process my emotions and put things in perspective.
How much did you wear the pressure garments and was it worth it?
When I first found out I had to wear the pressure garments for two years, I was devastated because it sounded like an eternity. But I decided I wanted to do everything I could to heal my scars, so I wore them every single day for 24 hours a day, only removing them to massage. Believe it or not, I got use to them quite quickly and I actually found them really comfortable. They also made sleeping easier! Wearing the pressure garments really paid off, and I would definitely recommend sticking with them as long as you are prescribed to.
What kind of skin products did you use?
I made sure I only used non-perfumed products that were heavy in moisture, even to shower. That way my skin didn’t dry out or have any bad reactions. I also used scar gel 4 times a day after massaging along with silicone sheets under the pressure garments.
Can you sunbathe?
I used to be really into tanning but now I stay out of the sun as much as I can and I never sunbathe. Nothing is more important to me than staying healthy and looking after my skin, and we all know sunbathing is dangerous. Now I always wear factor 50 when I leave the house.
Were you able to wear makeup?
I wanted to keep the mask on as much as possible to get the best results so I was really strict and I didn’t wear any makeup until the very end of my mask wearing period, when parts of my face had stabilised. Even then it was only for special occasions.
What makeup products do you use now?
When I stopped wearing the mask I experimented with nearly every different kind of camouflage makeup and regular makeup brands. My skin and face is constantly changing so I change my makeup and face products a lot.
Is it different putting makeup on now?
Yes. At first I was rubbish at doing my makeup and I found it really hard not to get disheartened when I messed it up. But it’s like anything; the more I practiced the better I got and I like to think I’m pretty good now.
What did you do to feel better when you couldn’t face yourself?
When I lost a lot of my hair I wore hair pieces and pretty clips to help me feel more confident. When I couldn’t put any makeup or products on my face I would wear my favourite nail polish instead or put on a bright pair of shoes to lift my mood. Clothes became my way of expressing myself even more than before.
There were times when I hated parts of myself. I hated the scars and the loss of the control over how I looked. But I always tried to keep positive and work on the parts I could control, to accentuate my best bits. We all have parts of ourselves that we like more than others, whether it’s your hair, your great sense of humour or your long legs. I tried to look at what still I had and not what I had lost.
Did you find psychological counselling helpful?
At first I felt angry and stupid and I hated seeing someone. But I had a lot of psychological help from a great burns psychologist called Lisa at my hospital. I saw her regularly and she was a really important part of my recovery. Talking really helped me: not just with coming to terms with my disfigurement but also with the rape and with other issues like feeling unable to leave the house.
What did you do to keep yourself occupied when you could’n’t leave the house?
I was very lucky with my family because I was able to talk to them a lot and sometimes shout at them! They stuck with me and we all helped each other. We used to watch a lot of DVD comedy box sets, it helped lift our spirits and things always felt better when we were laughing. Don’t get me wrong, there were days when I would sit and look at my old modelling book and cry, but I soon stopped that and realised I was a person who wanted to move forward, not mourn the loss of something that was never going to return. Watching TV was hard for me as I was unable to watch or hear anybody shouting without panicking and crying and absolutely couldn’t watch any sex or violent scenes, so I prefer to watch DVDs as what the content would be. I also read a lot of books, and when I did start to leave the house I started going to church – it’s a personal choice, but I found that having a faith really helped me.