Rebecca and Phil Britten have each been through difficult times. (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni )
Phil Britten remembers the Bali bombings like it was yesterday.
“The smell was the worst — and the sound,” he said.
“The noise of the fire was just incredible, it was raging, it was ferocious.”
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On October 12, 2002, the then 22-year-old footballer was in Bali celebrating a grand final win with his teammates from the Kingsley Football Club.
He was deep inside a packed Kuta nightclub when two explosions rang out — one detonated by a suicide bomber and the other from a parked van packed with more than a tonne of explosives.
The blasts killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
“I lost seven friends, I got burns to 60 per cent of my body, and life was turned upside down,” Mr Britten told Gillian O’Shaughnessy on ABC Radio Perth.
“I went into a shell.”
Phil Britten sustained burns to 60 per cent of his body in the Bali bombing. (Supplied: Phil Britten)
But reflecting on the tragedy during Mental Health Week, Mr Britten said he felt happy and accomplished.
“I think you mould yourself into the person you are, and what moulds you is all the experiences you’ve had in the past.”
Now 38, Mr Britten is married, has two children and owns several successful martial arts studios around Perth.
“It’s not until your back is against the wall that you have a different perspective on life,” he said.
“Now I just want to live the best life that I can and create memories for me and my children.
“I want to climb that mountain, jump out of that plane.
“I don’t want to just be the same old person doing the same old thing.”
Phil Britten decided the bombing wasn’t going to let him stop living life to the fullest. (Supplied: Phil Britten)
A long road to recovery
Mr Britten admits he was in a dark place for a long time and it took him years to feel comfortable enough to share his story.
“It wasn’t until my grandmother slapped me in the face basically and forced me to share my story and speak about it,” he said.
“I spoke in front of 12 people in a Rotary Club and something really amazing happened.
“The room of 12 wrinkly old faces, they rose and clapped louder than 1,000.
“I just remember feeling this feeling: maybe this is why I survived, maybe this is why I’m here, to share this experience on how I survived?”
Overcoming trauma together
Phil’s wife of eight years, Rebecca, also understands how trauma can shatter a life.
At age 16, she was involved in a severe car accident that sent her spiralling into a dark depression.
“Everyone has a story – everyone has some kind of hardship or some kind of challenge that they’ve faced – no one has had an easy path,” she said.
“I faced depression, I realised I suffered from anxiety and I just got caught up through those hard years.
“I held on to that anger which then turned into motivation and drive that [my life] was being taken away.
“So I felt I needed to take back control.”
Rebecca and Phil Britten have overcome deep trauma to become happy and successful. (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni)
Mr Britten said he knew people still battling with the unbelievable anguish they experienced that night in Bali 16 years ago.
He said he found the key to recovery in being open and willing to try new experiences.
“It’s quite easy to stay within the barriers — put the rails up in the bowling alley and take the easy route.
“But for those that do step up, the rewards are amazing both as a human, in business, lifestyle and even financial as well.
“It’s a moment in time that definitely changed my life – but what has been more important is the moments after.”