Sea swimming healing hidden wounds from surviving the Manchester Arena terror attack

  • Watch Katie Cole's report

A survivor of the terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena says swimming in the North Sea is helping her heal and feel joy again.

Billie Heppell, from Cramlington, Northumberland, suffered PTSD following the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in 2017 which killed 22 people.

Even though she escaped physically unharmed, Billie's life would never be the same again.

"After that [night], my whole life changed," she told ITV Tyne Tees. "My brain was completely rewired and I feel like I lost a lot of myself. I was living in a shell of myself, really.

"I suffered very badly with survivor's guilt, especially with a lot of the people who didn't make it through that evening being children.

"It completely took everything away from me. I didn't leave the house for months and I struggled to get back to work. I couldn't escape it with sleep paralysis and night terrors. It was just 24-7."

Billie braves the sea at Whitley Bay in subzero temperatures on Sunday 3 December

Six years on and the 28-year-old has found a passion which is helping her recover from that night.

Billie braved the waters off the North Tyneside coast for the first time in the summer after seeing an advert for Dip Club in Tynemouth.

She now dips every week, with people who have become friends, and has found the experience has been "healing".

'I'm no longer just my trauma or my anxiety or my pain'

"Coming down with Dip Club and going in the sea, it creates that same experience that I had that night of that fight or flight and it helps my body start to manage that stress response," continued Billie.

"This has helped me massively, but it will always be a part of me because of dipping and Dip Club, I'm no longer just my trauma or my anxiety or my pain."

Billie Heppell has found a community in Dip Club. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Others at the Dip Club have been inspired by Billie's courage and have been pleased the water seems to be helping.

One swimmer said: "Billie's got an amazing story. She's such a strong woman. It's just amazing to hear stories like that from the community, from people that have really benefitted from cold water therapy."

So much was taken from Billie six years ago, but this little community, and the North Sea, are helping to bring peace and joy to her life again.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...