Sarah Westbrook is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the founder of Westbrook Counseling Services and Daisy Girl Communications. As a trauma survivor, she shares her story of growing up with personality-disordered parents and working through c-PTSD with the hope of helping others develop the courage to speak their truth and have their voices heard. In her spare time, she loves creating content with her husband and co-host Mason, entertaining her children, and hiding in her closet so she doesn’t have to share her chocolate or caramel popcorn with anyone else.
You can buy Trauma Bonded here.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I knew I had to write my memoir after I read Tara Westover’s book Educated. Our cultural upbringing was so similar, the emotional neglect and brainwashing familiar, and yet, the long-term impact felt vastly different. I knew that if Tara could share her story with the world and inspire others to reach for the stars, so could I. I wanted trauma survivors to know that the odds are just statistics and that with the right support in place, they too could rise above their circumstances and become their best, most authentic selves.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I taught the Batterer Intervention and Prevention curriculum during my internship with The Center Against Family Violence in El Paso Texas. It was part of my undergraduate degree requirements, and I fell in love with teaching and counseling the perpetrator. It was an empowering position to hold the men and women who caused so much harm accountable for their actions and to give them the tools to change their behavioral patterns. It was when I learned that hurt people, hurt people. As I approached them with compassion and understanding for the chronic abuse they had endured as children, I got a front-row seat at watching them heal their own trauma, and break the cycle of generational abuse and violence.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
At first, I didn’t want a subtitle, because I couldn’t find the right combination of words to encapsulate my book that would actually fit on the cover. When the moment came to figure it out or skip it altogether, I climbed into my ginormous bathtub with a glass of Moscato and a chocolate brownie. I told my husband that I felt like my trauma scars had been forged on my brain, so the word “forged” came first. As I continued to marinate in brownie crumbs, vetoing all of my husband’s suggestions, other words came together that I would shout out to him as necessary. Navigating came second, but navigating what exactly? Then it hit me, my trauma showed up in all of my relationships and interfered with my ability to form secure attachments. The bathwater had gone cold, and the rest is history.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
I was given four covers to choose from. I HATED the first three I looked at because they were too busy or the wrong color and kinda over-the-top-sappy-romantic. I mean, my cover designers had listened to my thoughts and created these monstrosities from my own suggestions…and they had done a brilliant job of it. Let’s face it, my ideas were the disasters of book covers EVERYWHERE! Then the last one was tossed in as a “what do you think, but don’t be mad about its lack of color and simplicity.” I was stunned. I loved it. I embrace anything simple, and my book cover was no different. The rope represented the bondage I had felt during my darkest moments, the fray of trauma’s complexity, and the lack of color to understate the irony of events described in my book thus entrapping the hyperbole of the gaslighting I had endured. It was perfection.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
“Bohemian Rhapsody” for sure, the utter chaos and cacophony of sounds to match what my past has been followed by Ed Sheeran’s “Save Myself” to demonstrate that I had to take care of myself first, to love myself first in order to rise as a phoenix and conquer my demons.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
I see my readers laugh with me and fall in love with little Sarah, then scream in agony at their helplessness to protect her just in time to hate the young adult Sarah who can’t stop the inevitable of self-sabotage. Then, just when they see a sliver of hope, that Sarah will finally do what is right and take charge of her life, they will realize that they have been reading their own story, and the person they loved and wanted to protect was themselves as a child victim, the anger at their own abuser, the understanding of their own dysfunction and the ability they have to speak their vulnerability and reclaim their true authentic self.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
Reading the reviews across book-buying platforms. My Narcissistic father says I am a liar, and reading over and over again that my story was brutally honest, raw, and inspiring has brought me so much joy. I want my readers to know that personal growth comes from being honest with themselves first. Only then will they have the power and energy to overcome what is holding them back, and face the reality of what is needed to go from surviving to thriving after chronic and complex trauma.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I am working on the Unpacking Trauma Bonded Workbook, which will delve deeper into the self-help side of working through trauma. Access to behavioral and mental health is limited across every nation and continent. I hope to bring the first 12-16 weeks of my clinical interventions to people everywhere in an easy-to-understand and apply yet entertaining manner where we can laugh and life’s irony and embrace our own quirkiness with unconditional love and acceptance.
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.