My name is Sarah Lovell. I am 43 years old, and a survivor of many traumas, including rape and domestic violence.
I was sexually abused as a child, severely abused by partners, and others I met while homeless, living in the street.
I formed ways of surviving in the “real world”, but in my mind I was a stranger, always feeling separated and different from everyone else. I was always getting a terrible twisted feeling in my belly when things would happen. Sometimes even good things. I later discovered that this was anxiety as well as panic disorder from the terrible experiences in my past. It took years before I began to recognize it. It destroyed me in many ways before I even knew it was there. I couldn’t trust anyone, not lover or friend.
I was in therapy for two years at age 40 when I was able to open my eyes to it. It felt good to know that it wasn’t my fault that I felt this way, that I sometimes couldn’t be rational, and that most of my decisions were made on emotion rather than careful thinking. It was pointed out to me that when I was still innocent, I saw the world in a certain way. When I experienced my first trauma, that view was shattered. I picked up the pieces and and reshaped it the way that it would work for me. In a way that would allow me to function.
I began to numb myself with drinking and drugs use. But that only made my life worse and caused more problems. I used drugs for many years and during those years, I was retraumatized over and over by abusers, and the life I had to live to survive the street. Even after I got clean and sober over ten years ago, the panic and anxiety remained. I still have those attacks sometimes, and every once in a while I shake from panic, and wake up in the middle of the night unable to sleep. Although it has diminished over time, I still get incredible fear from time to time at night, and have to check every door and window in my home, before being able to lie down in my bed and sleep.
I’ve learned to breath my way through panic attacks, and life, every day. I know how strong I am, and feel that no matter what things come my way, because I survived such terrible things, I can surely survive anything that happens now.
One thing that helps me is helping others that I see are suffering. Keeping my struggles to myself was killing me, and speaking out about it is not only helping me live, but it is helping others get through the same. I hope that when they hear the horrors I have lived through, they will know that they can also survive their own.
Another thing that keeps me sane is intense exercise. I love to work out, and push myself to the limit. It releases anger and stress that comes with being a trauma survivor and dealing with everyday life. It would be very easy to lie down, stay depressed, and never move forward. I’m sure that people would understand if i did, after all, look at everything I have been through. But no. I think I will continue to be amazing, and fight for my life, and the lives of other survivors.
The most important thing I can say to anyone who has had something terrible happen, is that it isn’t your fault. It also isn’t your fault that you have out of the ordinary reactions to things. It is the fault of whoever did this to you. Our minds and bodies react when they have been hurt. Also know that you can lessen the intensity of these feelings that make you feel like you’re crazy. Please talk to someone, and if that someone doesn’t listen, find someone else. Even me, I’ll listen!
Recently, Sarah has founded a non-profit organization called One Body Alliance, designed to support victims of sexual and physical abuse, as well as bullying.
Sarah's book, One Body: My Story of Trauma and Survival can be purchased on Amazon.