Trigger warnings: bereavement, depression, sexual abuse, suicidal ideation

INTERVIEW BY KRYSTA MCKENZIE, IMAGE BY PEXELS

Sam Adams is a 56 year old Black queer woman from Brighton who was recently chosen to be featured as a guest on Fearne Cotton’s podcast, Happy Place. She has faced difficult struggles thoughout her life, including sexual abuse, depression, suicidal ideation and bereavement. Facing her trauma was a tough process, and now that she is on her healing journey, she hopes to inspire other survivors to reach out for support.

This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing Sam to get a deeper understanding of who she is.

DIVA: What inspired you to share your story on Happy Place?

Sam: Well firstly I guess because I’m a fan of the podcast, and get a lot of inspiration from it. It promotes wellbeing and I believed my story aligned with it’s ethos. As a life coach I kind of use my life as my message to inspire others, and I often share openly on socials so to go this one step further felt okay to me. Plus, I love helping others thrive and grow from adversity. We all deserve this despite what we might have been through or are going through.

If you’re comfortable to do so, could you tell us a little about your background?

I was sexually abused for years as a kid, being black and gay growing up in a white town I struggled with self loathing and internal pain. I wet the bed until I was 13 years old, I was scared to sleep at night and frightened of the dark! I was depressed and drinking a lot in my 20s, and sought therapy several times. I live near Brighton, and I absolutely love being a life coach. Helping people is my purpose.

In 2020 I had three things happen: my marriage broke down, my dad died and my dog died — all within 9 months. This spiralled my mental health and put me in a very dark place. So dark that I came extremely close to taking my own life… I even wrote six letters to my family. But three things happened that prevented that action: a random act of kindness from someone I barely knew, finding breathwork (which lead me to become a teacher), and in one desperate moment I managed to call the mental health emergency team.

In 2022 I had another triple… I got diagnosed with a heart problem (now fixed), blood pressure issues and a brain tumour. I’m now having to learn to live with this new reality, which involves regular scans and the anxiety that comes with this diagnosis.

What is breathwork, and how did you come across this practice?

There are hundreds of types of breathwork just like there are many types of fitness. I don’t really know how I came across it, I knew I need something different and I guess the universe provided it. I used Conscious Connected Breathwork. It’s a specific type of breathwork that involves breathing through the mouth in a circular pattern. All breathwork is a modern form of pranayama, a practice with a long history on the Indian subcontinent. In pranayama, the breath is used as a tool to calm the mind, regulate the body’s energy, and improve physical and mental wellbeing.

What was the moment that you knew you had to ask for support in dealing with your pain?

My Dad was dying and I just had a lot of thoughts about how terrible it would be for him to have me do this in the last months of his life. But I took myself off one day when the pain was unbearable and to be honest it was like I wasn’t even in my own body. Somehow I manages to called the Mental Health team in my desperate moment. I don’t consciously remember dialing the number, but I do remember speaking to them. I thought if they don’t help I’m done!

I know it can be taboo for our community, the Black queer community, to speak about mental health issues and trauma. Did this affect your healing journey?

I think many things affected it. I was brought up not to cry, to feel shame around being black and being queer made it all the more difficult. I remember when I was 16 years old going to the Caribbean where my mother originates from, and sensing some awful homophobia. When I came out my parents initially didn’t speak to me. My parents were a closed book not speaking about emotional things, and very much stiff upper lip kinda vibe! So yes I guess it did, as I thought I should be able to cope and also thought I was fricking weird for being queer!

What impact are you hoping that your story might have on survivors of abuse?

One of the most significant challenges survivors of abuse often face is a sense of isolation and self-doubt. By openly sharing my own journey, including the obstacles I’ve encountered and the steps I’ve taken toward healing and growth, I aim to provide validation to survivors. I hope that my story can help them realise they are not alone and that their experiences and emotions are valid. I hope it helps survivors to find their own strength and embrace their resilience. It’s so important for survivors of abuse to recognise that seeking support and professional help is vital.

Sadly, there is still a significant amount of stigma surrounding discussions about abuse and its impact! By openly sharing my story, I hope to contribute to breaking the silence surrounding this topic.

What would you say to people who are struggling to face their trauma?

Firstly you are not alone, reach out, I know it’s fricking hard but there’s support out there. Keep asking until you get it! There is no set time schedule to this… Be patient and compassionate with yourself. It can bring a lot of emotions, anger even guilt and shame, this is common so remind yourself you’re doing the best you can. Take care of your well-being by doing things you enjoy, that give you comfort and that feel safe. Facing trauma is courageous, remind yourself of that, and by facing it you will be taking a huge step to a freer version of yourself.

What are your aspirations for the future?

My primary aspiration is to reach and positively impact a larger number of individuals worldwide. By sharing my story, insights, and experiences, I hope to inspire others to seek support and begin their healing journeys earlier than I did. I aim to provide a guiding light for those who may feel lost or overwhelmed, encouraging them to take proactive steps toward their own well-being.

I want to empower people to embrace their true selves without fear or shame. Through my journey, I have come to understand the transformative power of self-acceptance and self-expression. I really aspire to create spaces where people feel safe to be their authentic selves, free from societal expectations and judgment.

Keep up with Sam on her website at sam-adams.com and on Instagram @samadamscoach.

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