NC Deep Dive

From Trauma to Triumph: Sarah Hummell's Journey of Healing and Personal Growth

August 13, 2023 Amanda Lunn Season 2 Episode 2
NC Deep Dive
From Trauma to Triumph: Sarah Hummell's Journey of Healing and Personal Growth
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What if you had the resilience to turn your life around, from surviving abuse to thriving as a successful author and hospitality consultant? We invite you to a heartfelt conversation with Sarah Hummell, former owner of Sip Bistro in Holly Springs, who impressively transformed her life. Sarah recounts the chilling details of her past abusive relationship and her courageous journey to healing, providing a beacon of hope for those who might be silently suffering and showing that one can rise from the ashes.

Sarah's intense story extends beyond her personal struggles. She opens up about her journey of personal growth, her inspirations, and the importance of setting boundaries. She also delves into her experiences navigating the complex court system during her divorce, shielding her children from manipulation, and the significance of self-care, and mental health strategies. Most importantly, she emphasizes the power of breathing and how it can reset the amygdala and one's fight, flight, fright, or fawn system.

The conversation with Sarah is not all struggle and pain; it's also about the rewards of resilience and personal growth. We explore her complicated relationships, the effects of trauma and abuse for all involved, and her current love interest. Listen in as Sarah shares her experience of overcoming the manipulation of her ex-partner, her relationship with her parents, and the importance of having a robust support system. Grab a cup of coffee and join us in exploring Sarah's powerful journey and her valuable insights on setting healthy boundaries.


Get your copy of Entangled in Blue by Sarah Hummell here:
https://www.amazon.com/Entangled-Blue-untangled-multigenerational-something-ebook/dp/B0CB1QN57F

Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Interact: Their mission is dedicated to ending the cycle of domestic and sexual violence in Wake County, InterAct saves lives, rebuilds lives, and secures safer futures for victims and survivors and their families.

Interact's 24 HOUR CRISIS LINES
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
919-828-7740
866-291-0855 toll-free

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866-291-0854 toll-free

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Now, let's dive in!

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Hello friends, you are listening to the Holly Springs Deep Dive podcast, soon to be called the North Carolina Deep Dive podcast. I am your host, Amanda Benbow Lunn, and today I will be speaking with Sarah Hummell. Sarah is a mother of two and a Manhattan based hospitality consultant. She holds her bachelor's and master's degrees in hotel restaurant management and received training at a hotel school in Switzerland that's been ranked number one in the world. She's been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and is the author of two books Perfect Coffee at Home and her latest that was just released, Entangled in Blue, showcasing how she untangled the knots of multi-generational trauma and turned it into something beautiful. Those of you listening may recognize Sarah as the owner of Sip Bistro, a local wine and coffee bar serving tapas and charcuterie that graced Holly Springs from 2013 to 2017. Today, we will be diving into her latest book, Entangled in Blue. I will include the Amazon link in the show notes so that you can find there. J ust as a generalized trigger warning. The book and this conversation will be covering some of the abuse that she has endured. If this subject hits too close to home and or it will be too triggering for you to hear it right now, this podcast will always be here when you feel you are at a place to listen. Without further ado, friends, let's dive in. All right, so uh, Sarah, what was the process l ike to write it? Did you start it recently? Or like, how did that timeline go for you?

Sarah Hummell:

Very good question. So when we first moved to North Carolina, which was Winston Salem for some reason, when I own the coffee shop, Cafe Roche, I just one slow day opened I mean, maybe it was right around the purchase of my MacBook, which might have been its ease of use, might have a lot to do with it but I just started writing and I just, I mean, I started with like the beginning of my life and kind of went from there and as I was writing, I kind of was able to piece certain things together. But, um and and it's funny because like none of what I wrote when I wrote at the coffee shop is in this book but I just kind of felt like my life was kind of interesting and I just started writing and I realized that was kind of therapeutic for me. And then an incident happened in 2017, which became the focal point of this book. As I was reeling with that, I guess, to answer your question I felt like I was still in the questions stage of grief and writing became a tool for me to kind of try to figure out and unravel the answers to those questions. And while I was in this whole process, I found another podcast called The Place We Find Ourselves, and that kind of talks about the power of your story and how you can, in your writing, take a look back and try to put together pieces and patterns and kind of make some sense of the senseless.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Mm-hmm, finding meaning in all the things. Now, when writing the book did you start kind of chronological order from page one to the end, or was it time order? How did you put that together?

Sarah Hummell:

No, so I actually kind of pieced it all back together. So if you are to read it, I tried to make it go in some sort of chronological order, but, as you're aware, after reading it it does kind of bounce back and forth a little bit.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And did you self publish? What was that process like?

Sarah Hummell:

Yes, that was interesting too, because this whole publishing business I've come to learn a whole lot from as well, and so what I found is there's a traditional publisher and there's a hybrid version. So as I was putting my book out there, a lot of hybrid people contacted me and they're like hey, we can do all of this for you, if you pay us I think the going rate right now is $6,000 and really the value of it is the marketing, or you can get in front of a traditional publisher. But good luck getting your book in front of a traditional publisher. You basically have to know someone, and unfortunately I don't. So I just decided to suck it up and do it myself, and even if I have to pay a little bit for marketing, then it'd be less than what I would have to pay a hybrid.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Well, very cool, congrats on writing this book, and this is your second book that you've published, correct?

Sarah Hummell:

It is yes. So I, during COVID, was getting a lot of texts from people saying you've ruined me, I can't drink coffee from home anymore. I'm so used to going to your place or other places like independent coffee shops to get my coffee, and now I can't do that because of COVID. So how do I make coffee from home? And I decided there is a market for that and created the book Perfect Coffee from Home, where I lay out the steps of what it takes to make a perfect cup of coffee at home.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

So you kind of delved into it just a little bit. But why in your words did you write this book? And this book again is called Entangled in Blue.

Sarah Hummell:

Why I wrote it, like I said before, was for me to figure out how I got myself into this situation in the first place and how I was going to get myself out of it. And that kind of became my journey. The writing actually helped me get out of it, and then I actually wrote a little bit about how I got out of it. But there's a big difference between writing and actually publishing this very personal story, and the reason why I ultimately ended up deciding to publish it was because I realized there were so many people that suffer in silence and they literally don't have a roadmap of how to get out, and they've been told for so many years that their feelings don't matter and that what they're going through there's no way out, and they're basically in a life sentence of misery. And I decided if I can help one person by sharing my story, then what I went through was not in vain?

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Absolutely. I share some of that same philosophy that if we at least speak about it, bring it out into the open, then there's that chance for somebody to grasp onto that knowledge and either say, hey, this resonates, or this wholly doesn't resonate, because not everything's going to work for everybody. But it gets you to that starting point. In Entangled in Blue, you talk about your story of trauma and abuse. So what are some things to be cognizant of to recognize abuse?

Sarah Hummell:

In a section for the middle of the book there's a part where I talk to the fireman's chaplain and basically he just asks me how'd you guys meet and what brought you to North Carolina and how'd you get to where you're at right now. And you know I explained that's a very long story and he had the time he was on a 24-hour shift. So I realized that in that conversation, as I was writing about the conversation, that I pointed out every single red flag.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Mm-hmm.

Sarah Hummell:

But in that conversation I had no idea, and when I was living it I had absolutely no idea. But when I wrote it out it was also clear.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Mm-hmm.

Sarah Hummell:

Right from the second we met all the way up until that incident.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Mm-hmm.

Sarah Hummell:

It was so eye-opening and, like I said, if I can just share this, you know, like the things that I missed, and if someone and, by the way, when it was happening, there were antennas going up saying wait a minute, that's not right. But as time went on, I ignored my intuition, I explained it all away, I rationalized it all away, and so if I can encourage one person to listen to their own body, to their own intuition, to their own gut instincts, like something is not right here and at least have confidence in that feeling and, yes, give the benefit of the doubt, but still like really trust your judgment on this. And perhaps they won't end up being in a violent, dangerous situation like I was at.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Mm-hmm, and so part of the deep dive for me. Like one, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts in the book because like it's fascinating to see how somebody else's mind works and like the thoughts they were having, because even when you're together with someone, you see the situation through a lens and they're seeing it through their own lens, and sometimes those lenses may be similar, but quite often they're not, because our lens is shaped through our experiences, our education, our own histories of trauma and abuse and how we cope with that, whether we're building walls or boundaries in the hopes that we see problems again in the future before they escalate to what we've prior experienced. So you talk about your dad in this book and some of the abuse that happened to your mom, and so like that is the one piece. And then how you met Justin. So I'm going to paraphrase from my memory, because I've read this just a couple weeks ago now, so you can correct me if I'm wrong, but you met Justin in a bar. You were there with a friend, and you were facing the bartender area, and he came behind you, kind of ripped off your jacket.

Sarah Hummell:

So I actually turned around and they said excuse me. And he said, oh sorry, just checking to see if you have an ass. I guess you don't.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Oh, so as I'm reading that, let me just step back a little bit. Yeah, my husband and I were going to Carolina Beach a couple of weekends ago and I, like your book had just come in, and so on trips we often listened to audio books. But I was like, well, I have this book that I'm going to read. And so then I look at him and I feel bad because now what's he going to? So I'm like do you want me to read this book out loud? So I read the book out loud on our way to Carolina Beach and back, and then when we got back he was like well, are you going to finish the book now? So not only am I reading it, but I'm like reading it out loud. So I hear the voice in my head and verbally, and I'm seeing Michael's response as well as I'm reading it. So, that scene. Obviously our reaction was like that's not okay, it's not okay to put your hands on a stranger, it's not okay to say those things. And by your reaction, you also felt that it was not okay. Because he was like, are you going to let him talk to you, like that? And then you went and you confronted him a little bit, absolutely, and then your friend was like, okay, let's go. And then what did you say? As you all were leaving?

Sarah Hummell:

So there was a lot that went on during that interaction and ultimately, I had to wait to get my credit card back. It was such a debacle and so, finally, I was free to leave and I don't know what came over me, but I looked her straight in the eyes and she was like I can't believe that you gave your number to that jerk and I was like I am going to marry him.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And so for me like all the red flags were like shooting off all over the place, but I'm like, okay, so in your mind, in that moment you saw them too, but..

Sarah Hummell:

I knew, and there's nothing I could do about it. I really honestly thought that, like that, I had no choice, there was no control. I knew that I was hooked at that moment and it was so bizarre that, even if I did not entertain this relationship at all, that it would just end up happening.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Now the way I process that, like we're all trying to make meaning out of every little thing, right, whether I'm right or wrong, we're just trying to make meaning. So I look at that and like, well, how could she have that response after that situation? And so all I could come back to was you grew up with your mom and dad. That was your vision of what love was. And so what I feel like you saw in Justin, like your mind just clicked this is love, because that is what had been established prior.

Sarah Hummell:

I saw, and I just want to add this there was something about his eyes that I just could not ignore, and I didn't know what that something was, but I knew I had to figure it out. And I didn't need to figure it out, Like I could have gone on with my life, but I could tell you, even if I did go on with my life, that whatever that was in his eyes would have been pulling at me for the rest of my life.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And so it was that y'all ended up getting married.

Sarah Hummell:

And my friend on our wedding day she stood up next to me. I have goosebumps telling you this. She's like Sarah. You told me you were going to marry him and I didn't believe you and I thought you were insane. And here we are today.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Life has jokes sometimes, right? So the book starts with your Restaurant Impossible experience. So you owned SiP here in Holly Springs and they just surprised you. And to be honest, I also live in my own bubble. Like I vaguely knew that Restaurant Impossible was here, like I vaguely knew that that was going on, but I really was out of the loop in all the things and so I didn't see the episode when it aired. But reading your words it seemed as though you just opened up. Like what is the name of the guy on Restaurant Impossible?

Sarah Hummell:

Robert Irvine.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Yeah. So he pointed out some things that he thought were red flags in the way that Justin was treating you, and in that moment you were honest. You didn't hide what was going on, and so that surprised me a little.

Sarah Hummell:

Especially after what happened that morning. It was all so raw and when he pointed it out I was like, oh yeah, absolutely, that's what this is. But I still didn't identify as being in this whole toxic situation. I just identified that as an issue that we need to resolve before going, and exactly what he said: He's like I can fix this restaurant, but if this is what's going on between you two and how you communicate with each other, then you know the restaurant, all this stuff doesn't matter unless we fix this and so and that was that was exactly 100% right. But I still I recognize that as an issue just to overcome, but not what, the entirety of what it really was.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And so I think, sometimes, when people are processing their traumas or abuse, when we're in the moment, as we are trying to rationalize all the things and with Justin, you experienced some physical abuse, yes. You experienced emotional, mental abuse, yes, but he wasn't abusive 100% of the time. So you try to measure like, well, we had 10 good days and then 10 minutes of not okay. And so that is where it gets really hard to weigh, changing your entire life Trying to find the next place, especially when some of your role models are in support of him, because your dad was very much in support of Justin. be fair, he was a charming soul.

Sarah Hummell:

And my dad was the father that Justin had.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And so there was an incident where Justin fired his weapon in your home that your children witnessed. They were in the room and in that moment he was trying to figure out whether he was committing suicide or not.

Sarah Hummell:

And when I talk about the grief and the questions, I still don't, I still, to this day, do not know his true intentions.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And when he did fire the gun, he aimed towards the floor. And what you didn't realize until after the situation, when the police were walking you through the scene, that bullet actually landed a few inches from where you were standing downstairs.

Sarah Hummell:

Correct. And I, and then this is what's so bizarre in that moment, all I cared about was the safety of my kids and I did not process that I could have died. It took four years to process that. And it was actually while writing it that something clicked.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And so that is where it is tough. I see it with people battling addiction too, right, like we can tell them all the time this isn't healthy, you should do something different. But until you hit that rock bottom, that defining moment where in your brain it clicks as this is not okay, this is where my absolute boundary has to be and something has to change.

Sarah Hummell:

Yeah, and going back to where you're saying you would have years where there wasn't really an incident and then, like you said, just minutes. But all of a sudden, when something like that happens, a split second could mean life and death.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And mental health is hard. I can't know, nobody can know where Justin was in that moment, where he was, I believe, sitting on the y'all's bed weighing whether or not he was committing suicide or manipulating a situation. Your children had rushed into the room to check on him. They were concerned and, like as a mom one, you're worried about your husband. What's going on? Two, you're worried about your children. He has a loaded weapon. He's a firefighter, he works with the EMS type deal. He has a lot of connections in the police force, like it adds an extra variable, because when you say something, people automatically give him this credit of doubt because of his standing in the community or in those communities and so, but as a mom, you don't know. Is he going to shoot my child, our child? Is he going to shoot himself? Are my children going to have to deal with the trauma of seeing him shoot himself, or a sibling or me? Are they going to be okay? What are the long term ramifications of all of this? Sarah Hummell (Guest): I'll tell you, the most horrible thing about it was after the gunshot went off was the silence of knowing my two children are still in that room and I didn't hear a cry, I didn't hear a scream, I didn't hear anything and I had no idea what I was going to find in that room and that walk upstairs was the longest walk that I've ever had to make in my entire life, because I didn't know what I was going to find. Amanda Benbow Lunn (Host): That is so heavy and so tough, something I think, as we talk about mental health and you've talked about it a little bit as you were writing this is your path to healing. You're trying to make sense of the senseless and as people do that in their work or not, I tend to see that hurt people hurt people, whether or not it's intentional, and Justin obviously had his own things. I am not privy to his past, but I would presume he probably has a history of abuse somewhere in history as well. How do our actions lead to the way others see us or interpret. One of the interesting pieces of your book that I was not expecting, like if you would have asked me a million things, seeing my words and print in your book, was not one of them. I was like, am I now a published author too? So I was part of the BNI group that met up at SiP every Thursday morning, and so you mentioned a little bit about that in there. I was like, oh my gosh, I knew a lot of the people that were in your book and. I'm like, technically, in it, too, so I'm like family. I bring that up to say, we were meeting there and at some point, like groups do, groups or just human dynamics you have your ebbs and your flows, moments of high energy and productivity, moments of low energy and not so much productivity. We go through that with our group just on the regular really. And at that point that you were talking about in the book, we were at a low level of engagement. I was just reading the room. So I'm an empath. I often can feel the emotions of people. At that point, you know, I was reading my group, I was also reading you a little bit, with the knowledge that I know nothing that's going on in your life. I knew that the restaurant was having some changes, some difficulties, but I didn't know anything about the abuse you experienced from Justin, I didn't know anything about the mission impossible, gosh, Restaurant Impossible. And so the vibe that I got was because y'all had just recently changed your hours, I feel like for a while we would meet there at 8am and then, somewhat shortly-ish thereafter, y'all would open for a breakfast or brunch, lunch type of deal. And then at some point and like reading through the book, I was like, oh, this is when she did it, and this is why your hours changed a bit, and so y'all weren't opening until later in the afternoon, or like one o'clock or something. And so at that point, like reading your energy or whoever else was there, it was, you know, I don't know that we're really bringing in a ton of money, because I don't think we were paying you an extravagant amount, but I'm like I don't know, like are we being a burden on them at this point? And they're just too nice to say, hey, y'all like we need to mix this up? And so, with the low productivity or just energy of our group, one of the things on the table was well, maybe we're potentially looking for someplace else to meet, maybe that will shake up the energy, and so, as it, went, I was like oh my gosh. I never knew this was going on with Sarah.

Sarah Hummell:

Sarah.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And now, like I see how your perception of it all, you know, I sent the email saying thank you so much for hosting us.

Sarah Hummell:

It was eloquently written.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

I will say, as I was reading, I was like oh my gosh, like, how did I write that email? I'm like, okay, good, I'm in the clear, it's all good, it was a nice email. But it gave me insight because, like I know exactly what was going on in that moment from my perspective and our perspective as a group and so, like that helped me to see, oh wow, like I wasn't communicating well enough with her and I didn't know what was going on with her. So it's the whole be kind to others because you don't know what battles they're going through is very true, and so it just gave some insight of you know, we all have our lens that we see through. So I was looking through this lens that was all about me and us, and I was just making sense, like I was making y'all fit our story, if you will, and you are also looking through your lens and all that you are going through and making us fit your story. And so it leads me to question or ponder you know, when we go through something, there's no rule book. And quite often I think most people are doing the best they can with what they have, what they know, what support they're given, and not to give Justin a pass here because he's obviously crossed some boundaries like way crossed them, putting your hands on somebody, physically and emotionally abusing somebody, and doing it on purpose, like those are all hard no's, but as experiences happen to us, we also react, and sometimes the way we react can escalate a situation or keep us in the cycle. And sometimes it's hard to just step away or to know how is best to react, because there is no rule book and so the best we can do is to hopefully recognize the situation and put proper boundaries in place, and I like to define boundaries as what you need to put in place so that you can love that other person and yourself simultaneously, and sometimes that does mean I love you so much that I need to leave. I need to put this connection on hold, I need to back up, because if we continue, there's going to be negativity, there's going to be resentment, there's going to be anger, there's going to be words maybe violence. It can escalate. However when we create those boundaries or walls, the other person is still human. They're going to react however they feel led to react in that moment, which may be good or bad. So I think it's just interesting because we can we can talk about some of these incidents but like, how does that change us? So how do you think Justin's violence or abuse, like how did that change you?

Sarah Hummell:

Yeah, what I'm still working on as we speak right now is setting those healthy boundaries, recognizing those difficult situations, and I think what really changed me was I don't have to be around mean people. I realized that I've been around mean people all my life and I don't need to. I don't have to. I don't owe this person my attention. I don't owe this person my company if they're mean, and I guess that's kind of like. Really, the first step. Surround yourself with like-minded people has been the best advice that I've ever been given, because I don't need to be around those people anymore, I don't need to put up with it. I've gone through enough that I just don't have to. And even in the career world like I don't need to be in this abusive dynamic anymore. I moved halfway across the country to not have to deal with this, so I'll just keep moving on to other employers until I find a home, and so that's kind of how that's changed me.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

I think maybe this is a good moment. I'm going to kind of break it up a little bit. I'm going to ask you some questions, just kind of like a lightning round. Whatever comes to mind first can be your answer. Right, Definitely no right or wrongs here. So what is your favorite book?

Sarah Hummell:

Ooh, The Various Flavors of Coffee, and it's not an actual coffee book. It's a great historical fiction novel and there's so many different elements to th .

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Interesting. I like historical novels. Who is someone that you look up to and use as a role model?

Sarah Hummell:

Ooh, I mentioned her briefly in the book, Kylina Felzon. Shout out to Kylina, if she's listening. She is a brilliant businesswoman who owns a bunch of restaurants in Crested Butte, Colorado, but she was actually the cause. She's from Buffalo. She's the Clarence Center Coffee Shop original owner, which kind of set me on my journey in this whole career path that I've been on. Her passion for coffee was contagious and I caught the bug. Amanda Benbow Lunn (Host): That's awesome. What's your favorite way to relax and let go? Sarah Hummell (Guest): Most recently. It doesn't sound very relaxing, but live music. Going to concerts has been my way to just kind of disconnect with reality and just move with the music.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

I love it. What's one thing that fills your heart with joy? Sarah Hummell (Guest): My kids. Amanda Benbow Lunn (Host): What would you say your greatest weakness is?

Sarah Hummell:

Ooh, found a lot of them along the way in this book and, like I said, I'm still kind of working on those healthy boundaries. I guess I really lay it out into the last few pages of the book that this is what I've learned. But this is what I'm still working on.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And aren't we all always learning?

Sarah Hummell:

Of course

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Because if we're not, you mentioned the word narcissist in the book, part of how I take that in, of who is a narcissist is because I think sometimes we do overuse that word, but it is somebody who feels like or part of it is, somebody who feels like they always have the right answers, that they are always right. There's no space that they could not be right. So kudos to you for recognizing that there are still places to grow. What was one thing you wished for as a kid?

Sarah Hummell:

I mean, as a kid, you wish for a lot of things, but what's so amazing is I would have these visions of living in Manhattan. I would actually see the New York skyline, and I talk a little bit about it in my book. While I was daydreaming in class and I was sitting on the bus, I looked out the window and I was, oh, it'd be so amazing if I just. I just can't wait to get out of this hell of middle school and just to be like living in an important life and just killing it in Manhattan. And I think that's what was so magical about how all of this happened.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And for those who haven't read the book yet, where are you now at?

Sarah Hummell:

Manhattan, killing it.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

What is something on your bucket list?

Sarah Hummell:

You know what? I have a Pinterest page, if you guys are curious and you want to check it out. It's a board. It's called Bucket List. I'd love to visit Asia and there's an island in Indonesia called Flores and if anybody has especially the customers from Cafe Roche they know my little affection with the island of Flores. I served coffee from there and wrote some blog posts about it and it's this really cool island with a tricolor lake that changes colors because of the volcanic gases and it's home to the Komodo Dragon and there's some really cool skeletons from the original pre-evolution they're what are known as the hobbits. So it's just a really cool island and if I ever get to go there, I'd be blessed.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And last question what is your favorite thing about yourself?

Sarah Hummell:

Oh, that's a hard one. My favorite thing about myself oh, I don't know I guess when I write this book and I talk about how I just really conquered all these really difficult things. And I still have bad days. It's hard living in Manhattan and trying to in the most expensive city in the world and wondering how I'm going to make my rent payment the next day and things like that. But I can definitely tell you, when I have my hard days I look back at how far I've come and that's what reminds me about what I love, about, I guess, myself and my accomplishments, of what I did, and those lights on my lifeline.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Awesome. We talked about it just a little bit, kind of, the intersectionality of everybody being their own person, having their own history of trauma and or abuse and how they've coped with that, and I think you were talking about trying to set up healthy boundaries, and I think some of the things people have difficulty with that are people like me, I'm a people pleaser. People aren't happy, then I feel like I have to fix the situation, and so part of my journey has been learning that I don't have to please anybody. But I will say with that there's a caveat that I also shouldn't be mean to other people just because I can. Sarah Hummell (Guest): R ight, like there are boundaries. Amanda Benbow Lunn (Host): We may be the villain in somebody else's story.

Sarah Hummell:

Yeah.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And that's okay!

Sarah Hummell:

Well, I was the villain in Justin's story.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

I know they're all well, and not one of us is perfect. We all have our good qualities, our bad qualities. I would dare to say that we all have some narcissistic qualities in and of ourselves. It means that we should be aware of those qualities and make sure that we're using them to our benefit and not to the detriment of other people. And just finding that balance of opinions of others are none of our business. Opinions of others about us are none of our business. They're allowed to think and feel whatever they want. However, I think it's important when we're hearing feedback, that we do take it in, right? If it's one person who says this, that's just their opinion, it's fine. But if you're getting 100 people saying the same thing, that is one key for us to do a deep dive on our own selves to see what truth is there in that. What are they seeing? Because if it's just one person, that's just an outlier, but if it's several people saying it, then that's an indication that, whether we mean to or not, we are setting forth something that they're reading.

Sarah Hummell:

You still have to be careful with that too, and I'll just play double's advocate on that one.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Sure, I love it.

Sarah Hummell:

I do mention the bandwagon effect, which is basically where, in this situation, the abuser is trying to orchestrate a really well thought out smear campaign against the victim and gets everybody on board and literally convinces them of their idea that they want to portray. And that's where it gets very difficult for someone who is in the middle of this very toxic situation, because they really feel like wait, this isn't right, I need to get out of this. But they have 100 people, like I refer to as flying monkeys in the book, that are telling them something else. That's where that psychological abuse gets very scary, because they're in the middle of this and they don't know how to get out. Is it me? Am I the one that's at the issue? You end up having these questions and as years go on and more and more people are turned against you because of this campaign that is happening which I lay out very clear of what happened with me it's very hard for you to understand what reality is and who's right, especially when 100 people are telling me that he's right.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

So let's go into that a little bit, because my perception, my lens, is a little different. I've never suffered that form of abuse, so it's hard for me to see it through that. So I think it's very important that you've mentioned this, because it is absolutely 100% true. So I think when I say that you take it in, I don't think that I'm saying take it in and believe it. I think I'm saying take it in and process it against your instincts, your values, your morals. Do you personally feel like it resonates with you that it is something about you and are you willing to make a change? So when I'm seeing it, I'm seeing maybe a character flaw, maybe and that's a moment for you to decide you know I do that, but I do it for X,Y and Z. I have my reasons for doing it. I stand by it. It's something that's important to me versus maybe I didn't realize that I was coming across like that. That was not my intention. Can I still do something that resonates with me, but change maybe how I present myself in that way? That's still true to me but still conveys differently.

Sarah Hummell:

Like I said, it could get very tricky. I'll just use the example. He had a very well orchestrated campaign against me, wanting full custody of the kids, and if anyone, after reading my book, thinks that he had any right to have custody, I think they should take a good look at themselves first. I am all for Father's rights. I get that the court goes for the mother all the time, but in this particular situation most of those people had no idea what me and the kids were living through.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Sarah Hummell:

There's a lot of things in the book that I could go on forever. I could wallpaper the world with some of the things and basically my plan was to outline the pattern to help people. But I had over 100 people telling me that I am using the kids against him and that I am keeping him from his kids and he has a right to his kids. They didn't have to sit through the forced visitation with them and hear him try to convince them that their memory is wrong. That what they remember didn't happen, when we all know what happened. And, worst of all, try and convince Christian that he's the one that actually shot the gun. I'm sorry so all those 100 people that are like oh, you're a horrible mother for keeping your kids from their dad

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Life is very complex at the best of times, but with something like that, yeah, as a mom, you have to do whatever you can to try to protect your children, right or wrong.

Sarah Hummell:

And they actually acted like I had a choice. I mean, I signed a CPS order stating that I will keep him away from them. And it's just mind boggling that there were court orders I could not violate them and the court is the one that ended up ultimately deciding and he did all sorts of things that didn't go in his favor that I didn't do. So it's just mind boggling.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And it's always interesting how people make those perceptions because maybe he didn't perceive them the same way and he just felt his rights were violated and, of course, because that was his lens, that was the lens he shared with all of those people. And you know, there are always many sides to a story: your side, my side, the truth somewhere in the middle. But because they weren't privy to that information, they didn't have the ability to make informed choices. They were just acting on what they knew which, as you were writing in your book, they didn't know all of the things. Sarah Hummell (Guest): It makes me very curious about how someone can judge someone's life decisions. Amanda Benbow Lunn (Host): I guess mine is just the life philosophy right, like people are always doing the best they can with what they have and what they know, and I can judge them for it. But it doesn't mean that I am any more right or wrong because I don't know all the variables that have brought them to that very moment. All I can do is set up my healthy boundaries and decide where I can be safe enough to be me and feel comfortable, and if that means, you know, creating the distance. And that gets really tricky when you're married to somebody and you have children with them, because then your children had to go through all of this. And that's where it gets really, really difficult because you, at that point, the law, the court system, gets to decide those boundaries based on what they know. What would you say are some healthy coping mechanisms?

Sarah Hummell:

It sounds so simple but it's so hard when you're in the thick of it and it's just to breathe and I still, I still struggle with that. And you know I didn't really mention in the book but the kids, they will always suffer. I mean they have PTSD because of this. I mean, Jocelyn, just walking down the street she'll smell someone with the same cologne as Justin and she'll have a panic attack and I just I just breathe, just breathe, take a deep breath, and what I've learned, the science of that is it actually resets your amygdala, which is kind of your fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response when you are triggered in trauma. And there are certain ways that you can breathe that will actually reset that and it's very powerful. And I completely underestimated its power but I'm learning as I'm trying to help the kids that I can find myself.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Yeah, that reminds me of a continuing education class that I had. So I'm a massage therapist. Our continuing education is the best, I would presume. I don't know, culinary might be another best, because you get to eat the products, but for mine, you know, half the time you're giving massage or receiving some sort of massage or body work. There was a class that I took, actually probably in like 2017. So, probably in the mix of all of this, it was a retreat, a breath, body and sound retreat, and so I was going through some things at that point and I was like, oh yes, sign me up for that. They're going to feed me. There's like a bed. I have a place to sleep. I don't have to take care of the kids. Like nobody will need me in that moment and all I have to do is lay there and breathe.

Sarah Hummell:

Amazing.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

It was fantastic, and so I also underestimated the effects of breathing. Right, I know it's important to breathe and to get oxygen, yada, yada. But as I was laying there, the instructor was playing music and some of the songs. One of the songs that was going off was I'm so blessed, I'm so grateful, and things with those types of words always make me cry. And so they speak to me, and I'm generally a busy person so I don't have time to think about things at that kind of level, and so I'm like well, I have to lay here and breathe for 45 minutes. I might as well think about why does that make me cry? And all of a sudden it came to me. So my youngest daughter went through a battle of cancer, and those words always make me cry, because I'm kind of stuck in that middle, if I feel like if I'm not grateful enough, something else bad might happen. And then there's the survivor's guilt. My child lived, but so many children do not, and those parents have to deal with that grief and so like how can I hold space for them and how tragic their situation was, without being I don't know, just saying how great our journey has been, even though it's had its downspots. But during that moment I had a vision and like I don't have visions often and so it was kind of wild. All of a sudden, like this black yuck was coming out of my chest and my right hand. And so this is a large room, there were probably 20 therapists laying on the ground, breathing, listening to this music and the instructors. And so, you know, this negative, dark energy came out of my chest and my right hand and swirled up like a cyclone and it was just swirling and swirling and in my mind at the time I was like whoa, that's different. Like what kind of effect is that going to have on everybody else's session? And so it was like this dark, chaotic energy. And then all of a sudden the scene changed and it was a grassy hillside, the sun was shining down and there was this little girl who was just spinning and you could just see the joy, the smile, and I was like, oh my gosh. In the moment you can either see life as this chaotic, negative whirlwind or you can be like the little girl and find joy in the spinning, and that has been such a profound moment for me and that, no matter what we're going through, there's always something to be grateful for, some way to look in and find the beauty that is life, even if we're surrounded by all this yuck. And all that happened because of breathing. Looking back, do you regret marrying Justin?

Sarah Hummell:

You know that's an interesting thing because I thought about it and even as I was like writing the book and like when I first met him, there's so many different turning points where I just I could have chosen a different path. And I don't know that I ever felt like I regretted marrying him. No, I wish I was a lot more confident in my own feelings and intuitions. And I regret not listening to those things right at the beginning, but had I not, I wouldn't have my two beautiful children. Those are things that I need to think about. So I mean, yeah, like have I asked myself that question? Yeah, and I don't know that the answer is no, it isn't. I haven't really felt that. Well, I do regret not listening to myself and I do regret I didn't realize how wise I was, and I was very wise and I was very socially, interpersonally, very intelligent and I did not utilize the power that I had and I saw the dynamic as it was unfolding and happening. Looking back, I had the power to leave and it would have been nowhere near the challenge that I had to go through in the end of leaving and it would have been so much easier. But I didn't have the courage and I'll tell you, a lot of people were like, oh, with you having the kids, it probably was a lot harder to leave. Having the kids and the actual logistics of leaving, yes, that complicated things, but my kids are what gave me the courage to leave. I could have left a long time ago on my own, but I did not have the courage. But the thought of the kids living that type of childhood is what gave me the courage to ultimately leave.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

So I've recently separated, divorced and remarried, and so part of you never know the right or wrong answers. But what I came back to is I don't want my girls to feel like this is what love is. I don't want this to continue a cycle where they are settling and they're not completely happy and they're not doing what their soul calls for. So I think that kind of brings it around. I think your dad I saw commented on your Amazon reviews and such, and so that was interesting for me to see that in his perspective he felt that you conveyed everything true to form and that there were things that he didn't know.

Sarah Hummell:

Yeah, he went through it right there with me, but he never recognized it.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Really interesting. What I did find interesting is it's not that you were mean to your dad in your book, right, but you called him out for his actions and your perceptions of his actions and you had to kind of cut those ties at one point because he was feeding Justin information and endangering you and the children.

Sarah Hummell:

Not knowing that he was putting us in danger and I could have explained it to him.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

But he wouldn't have gotten it because of his perception, and so it is interesting to see that even I presume he read your book to be able to make that review right. Sarah Hummell (Guest): He was probably one of the first people to read it too. Amanda Benbow Lunn (Host): Even reading it, he took it in as she's right. This is how it went down, and so for me that was a good moment, because we're all on our healing journeys, and for that I was like okay, he was able to see his actions in a different light and understanding, and it looks like he grew from your journey as well. So what's your relationship now with your parents?

Sarah Hummell:

I hold my parents at a safe distance. And I had that conversation with them and, very interestingly enough, they're back together after being divorced for a very long time.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Oh, interesting.

Sarah Hummell:

I want to be happy for them. I really do, and unfortunately that's where I am flawed because then here I am. Here I am, I can't and maybe it's because I'm an only child and I kind of was in the middle of that for so many years I can't be loving and supportive of their love, because it's so, the memories it just brings it all back up again. And that's where healthy boundaries come in and I have to make that very difficult choice to say, well, if you guys want to be together, that's great, but I can't. I can't have a front row seat anymore.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Well, I think I'm proud of you for being able to see that and recognize, like, where the limit of where you are okay and where you're not okay, because I think that's that's really, really important. And in your book I think you were mentioning like a new love interest. Y ou want to speak a little bit about that?

Sarah Hummell:

I'm respecting his wishes to remain anonymous. And I think it's another difficult situation too, because he took the risk of having a relationship with me while Justin was still alive and that could have been lethal for him too. Oh, cheering, I could not have gotten through the aftermath of this without him, and I totally credit him and I do in the book, and I guess even just looking back, his love for me has shown me that I have not loved myself. And actually, as we talk about it your question about regret. Did I regret marrying him? I didn't love myself enough to not marry him and it took finding what real love is to really fully understand that.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Some of the experiences that I've seen with other people and myself is that you can't love somebody enough to make them love themselves. You can be there for them, you can support them, but that has to be their own self journey and that's really difficult when we just want to help and fix. So what is your advice if people see people or feel like people are in a domestic abuse relationship?

Sarah Hummell:

I didn't mention her name, her real name, and I'm sure a lot of folks in Helly Springs know exactly who the Glinda character is. But I'll tell you one thing that she said to me was the wisest thing that anyone has ever said. I see what's happening to you. She said she's like Justin is going to kill you. And I was like you're crazy, you're overreacting, like no, no, there is going to come a point where you are going to be in fear of your life and I don't like what I see right now. I don't like the way he talks to you, I don't like the way he treats you and at some point you are going to need someone and you are going to need help. And she basically, at that moment, broke off our friendship. She said I can't be your friend anymore because watching how he treats you hurts. I have goosebumps saying this. But at some point you are going to realize that he is going to kill you or the kids and I want you to call me when that happens. That's exactly what I did. I called my dad first, hoping that I would get the emotional support that I needed, and I didn't. I called her. So that advice you're not going to force someone to leave a situation and it's so complicated that really it could be a very dangerous for them if they leave.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And so there was a post that I saw that when you see domestic violence type of situation and I'm sure there are boundaries too, right?!? Like if you see somebody beating somebody to a bloody pulp, absolutely call the cops, Like that is important, but like your situation where Glinda was telling you this and what she was seeing at that point would calling the cops have been a good idea?

Sarah Hummell:

No, that would have escalated. And why it would have when I say these incidents happen in frequency and severity it would trigger an violent incident and it might be something that person in that situation is in have the support system in place for them to act on it and it could ultimately end up with that other person being arrested. I've seen that several times where the abuser with their smear campaign and their ability to really charm law enforcement and ultimately, it ends up being the other person who ends up getting arrested.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

So if we we're to call law enforcement at that point where it's not a violent situation happening in front of us, because I think that is the boundary we're calling law enforcement.

Sarah Hummell:

I'll tell you. I walk down the street in New York. I see things all the time. I immediately call 911. I don't even hesitate. There's been times where I've seen some incidents happen and I walk right up to the person. Are you okay? Do you need me to call someone?

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Is there somebody that I could call for you, and I'm here for you. If you ever get to the point where you need me, I can be that person of support. Amanda Benbow Lunn (Host): And, to be fair with what Glinda was telling you, she had reached her boundary, her healthy boundary, and she spoke about it, but she also did that as you were saying it. I feel like it was a very firm kind of way of this is what I'm seeing.

Sarah Hummell:

It wasn't in a hateful tone at all. It was very much out of love, but it was like I said at that point there was no reasoning with me. I was so brainwashed like there's no way that she was going to convince me that that was the situation I was in because I was so far in right and people aren't ready until they're ready. Women who are involved in these things go back on an average of seven times. They either go back out of desperation, financial desperation, because they've exhausted all their resources and they have no choice but to go back, or they truly love that person and they can't imagine that it's so horrible. Even with the violence, they can't imagine living without that.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And we always have that seed, right? Well, maybe this time, if I do this, I can change them. They will change, they will see it differently and sometimes maybe that does work, but oftentimes it doesn't.

Sarah Hummell:

And what's so confusing? Because every single incident. If you read through the book, there's patterns there, but they're all different. There were all different situations and even when we have a conversation and I get the faux apology is what we call it with it, and apologizes. He never really truly repeated the exact same thing, it was just some other hurtful thing.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

And so that also makes it hard to see, because if it's the exact same thing over and over like, your brain recognizes that generally. But if it's different, you're like, oh well, I did this, so it must have been something I did. Maybe I was a fault, but he's back, he's growing.

Sarah Hummell:

He promised he wouldn't do this again. He didn't, but he did something else, even worse.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

All right, so an important part here trying to figure out our boundaries, and that takes a little bit of an awareness to understand what resonates with us, and what doesn't. Do you have anything that you would like to say before we wrap this up?

Sarah Hummell:

No, I think I said a lot.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

Well, kudos to you for writing Entangled in Blue, I guess, for the listeners, just because some might not be aware, especially if they're not reading the book. Justin did end up passing almost two years ago from COVID, which was its own big thing. So, yeah, I'll just end on that note that sometimes tragedies unfold in various ways, but I'm glad that you're safe and that the kids are okay and that you're still kind of going through the process of healing and finding what brings you joy.

Sarah Hummell:

Yeah, discovering that he went to the last court-ordered in-person visit infected with COVID and then ending up on a bed a little later, two weeks later on a ventilator, is something that we're all really struggling with still.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

That's also hard with the kids too. COVID really threw a wrench in everything. But to add that to all of this, so I am thankful that you guys were already separated and you were in Manhattan at the time, and so that at least alleviated something, because I know that there are probably listeners who may be going through their own abuse cycle or did through COVID, and that just added a whole other layer.

Sarah Hummell:

And you know what? Looking back now, thank goodness I left when I did, because I can't imagine having to navigate those differences of opinions still being in the same household.

Amanda Benbow Lunn:

The complexity of being human and dealing with other humans with their own thoughts and feelings and perceptions. Well, thank you so much, Sarah. I really appreciate you coming on the Holly Springs Deep Dive podcast and sharing your thoughts and, for everybody out there, I encourage you to get Entangled in Blue to kind of learn a little bit more about Sarah and what she's gone through and where that's taken her. So, thank you! And that brings the latest installment to the Holly Springs Deep Dive, soon to be called the NC Deep Dive, to a close. The power of our stories, our humanity, is so important to share and I am honored to help be a conduit. Thank you for listening and I encourage you to come back soon, as we will be diving into what it means to bring unity in the community, as well as touching base with each of our candidates running for the Holly Springs and Fuquay Varina Town Councils. Please make sure you check out the show notes, where I will list the Amazon link to Sarah's book Entangled in Blue, the Domestic Violence Hotline and other relevant links. If you have thoughts or topics you'd like to share, you may contact us at HollySpringsPodcast@ gmailcom or social media. A lways remember you are worthy. F ull Stop. You are the only you, and you have a brilliant light o nly you can shine. Until next time, my friends, namaste.

Entangled in Blue
Toxic Relationship, Trauma, and Healing
Impact of Abuse
Exploring Personal Growth and Boundaries
Custody Battle and Coping Mechanisms
Boundaries in Relationships and Domestic Abuse
The Power of Sharing Our Stories