Stephanie Browitt relives her “worst nightmare” on the 9th of each month.
That was the day her life changed forever and she lost half her family when the White Island volcano erupted in New Zealand.
The 23-year-old, who finally returned to her Melbourne home last month, suffered third-degree burns to 70 per cent of her body and lost parts of her fingers in the eruption off the coast of Whakatāne on December 9.
She was one of 38 people on the island, along with her father Paul and 21-year-old sister Krystal, who both died.
Ms Browitt’s mother Marie had remained on board the cruise ship the family had been on.
Now six months on Ms Browitt has shared what her pain is like.
“Honestly, every time it’s the 9th of each month I can feel my heart racing and my body tense as the memory of it floods back in my mind,” she wrote on Instagram alongside a photo from the volcano.
“I get anxious. I hate it so much, it does not get easier.
“It just hurts more and more when I think about how much time has passed since I was last with my dad and sister.”
Ms Browitt said it felt like the tragedy happened just yesterday.
“I keep wishing I could go back in time and have looked for them in the mess so I could’ve sat with them, been with them,” she continued.
“My heart hurts and aches for them everyday.
“Time feels weird now. I just hope every other victim and myself ‘manage’, because that’s all we can do.
“We’re just picking up the pieces of our new lives and doing the best that we can do.
“I just want to thank everyone for your kindness, compassion and constant support. You guys manage to put a smile on my face, even if just for a second.”
Ms Browitt was welcomed home by a crowd of people last month but could only hug her mum because of her fragile skin.
Originally published as White Island victim’s constant struggle