Stamford entrepreneur who survived terrorist attack tops Amazon bestselling book chart

Ali Smith with a copy of her bookAli Smith with a copy of her book
Ali Smith with a copy of her book

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A female entrepreneur from Stamford is celebrating becoming a bestselling author after she shared her story of overcoming trauma and PTSD following numerous traumatic events in her life.

‘When She Rises’ went straight in at Number 1 in the Business Reference & Education, Women’s Spirituality and Collections biographies. 

Supported by ITV’s Real Housewives of Cheshire Leanne Brown, all proceeds and royalties from the book are going to the global charity One Woman at a Time, dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls in parts of Kenya, India and the UK who are severely disadvantaged by social or economic circumstances.

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Ali Smith is a Pilates teacher, NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) coach, practitioner and speaker, with trauma resilience being her area of expertise.

She has also had many years of experience working in the health and wellness, nutrition and pharmaceutical industries.

In her book she tells of how trauma has been a part of her life since she was 10 years old when she was faced with the sudden and unexpected death of her mother. This was followed three years later by a motorbike accident in which her 19-year-old sister was killed. Years later, when she was in her twenties, she was involved in a terrorist attack in a church in Cape Town.

Ali said: “I have known for years that my purpose on this planet is to raise awareness around trauma and how it affects our lives, only it’s taken years for me to get to the place where I can fully own my story.”

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Ali’s story tells of how her post-traumatic stress journey began on July 25, 1993 when she and a friend were late for a church service at St James Church in Kenilworth, Cape Town.

She remembers that split second decision she took to enter the building through the back door - it was late and raining.

They ended up sitting towards the back, at the far left of the building. Midway through the service two young singers came up to the stage to start a duet. She recalls hearing the start of the song then somewhere in what seemed like the distance she remembers hearing a popping sound. She felt bewildered and at first she could not comprehend that shots were being fired. Suddenly, someone was yelling for everyone to get down and take cover.

Four masked gunmen yielding R4 assault rifles had burst through the front doors of the church and opened fire on the congregation of some 1,000 people. As Ali lay there, unable to move, she heard a loud explosion, followed shortly by another - two M26 hand grenades exploding.

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Eleven people died that night and 58 were injured. Some lost eyes, limbs and sustained other life-changing injuries. Some lost spouses and children that night. For Ali it was an experience that would truly shape her life forever.

She still cannot recall what she physically saw as she lay on the ground terrified. It was only days later when she began to emerge from her shock bubble that her body began to shiver and shake. She seemed to be in a constant state of hyperarousal. She was jumpy, irritable and tearful. She did not want to leave the house or be alone. Her descent into the hell that is post-traumatic stress had begun.

Ali went to psychotherapy sessions and later EMDR which helped her to reprocess the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, but it was studying NLP that was really the major turning point for her.

She said: “Awareness of the condition provided the missing key. Talking therapy is not always effective at treating the symptoms of PTSD. We need to work at the level of the heart brain not the thinking brain to allow the brain to reprocess the event.

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“Learning exactly how our brain works through NLP and why we respond the way we do was key for me in order to facilitate my own healing. I learnt so much about the unconscious mind and the mechanism of the stress response. I learned powerful tools - exercises and techniques that I could use to change my neurological state, calm my anxiety or master my emotions in the moment.”

Now, Ali is on a mission to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress, removing the stigma and shame often associated with the condition. As a NLP practitioner and coach Ali is passionate about drawing on her own experiences to help other people flourish after trauma. She added: “I believe that the brain has the ability to be rewired. We cannot change the past, however, we can reframe the meaning we give to these events so that they don’t continue to dominate our lives moving forwards.“

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