Back in March, I made a short trip home to Australia. It had been a while since I had been home, except for quick fly in fly out things that weren’t a lot of fun.
Australia didn’t feel like home anymore. It was a place where I had grown up, but I didn’t have the most normal childhood, or the most enjoyable one. When I moved to Texas, at first it felt foreign, but I started to feel at home. I started to let myself live my own life, where nobody knew my past. Nobody judged me as being some has been former child star. I was just Sarah.
Right as I was really starting to form a new life here, and I was slowly working on moving back to being comfortable with cameras, I had found a passion in making a new series, Going Down, I was contacted about coming back to Australia and talking about my old life.
At first I said no. I thought I was moving forward. I didn’t want to go back. A few months later, I was asked again. I said no, again.
Then I was teaching acting classes, and I had a mother ask me questions about the industry. There was an incident with her daughter. Hearing the story made me so mad. Matt said he had never seen me so angry. It was like every piece of anger and hurt that I had buried from my childhood came bubbling up, all at once.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to fix it. But this time when I was contacted about talking about my past, I thought even if I have to go back, even if it means letting down the facade of being “just Sarah” something had to be done. Somebody had to stand up and say something. Somebody had to be willing to stand up and tell people what the industry is really like.
Now, I really didn’t expect what happened next to happen. I had spent years in Australia being told I was a nobody now. Just another washed up has been former child star off some sucky sitcom from the 80’s. I honestly thought it would be a miracle if anybody read the story. I hoped a couple stage parents might see it and think twice about letting their kids in the industry. I purposely didn’t name who it was, because I didn’t want it to be about me and him. I wanted it to be a story about what can happen to ANY child in the industry.
Well, I miscalculated. Apparently people read the story. Then all hell broke loose. It became bigger than me, and I wasn’t in control of it. All of a sudden there was people at my house, then I was on a flight to Australia. It all happened so fast. I was being pushed and pulled. I was once again being told what to do. It seemed like everyone was talking about it. It was on the news, in magazines, the in flight newscast. Basically, it was insane.
It also made Australia seem like a scary place again. Everybody there was judging me. They all knew who I was again, and everybody had an opinion. Most people didn’t have a nice one either. Everyone seemed to think I had some kind of ulterior motive; That I only spoke out to revive my career, or make some money. I’ve since noticed that happens anytime someone speaks out. Nobody wants to think that maybe there really are Pedophiles out there, and it’s easier to knock the victim, than admit bad things happen.
After all the media hoopla, and my life was completely changed, and I didn’t know who I was anymore, I thought about the few people who had actually taken my side during the ordeal.
There was Hetty Johnston and Bravehearts. There was several people behind the scenes. Then there was Liz Mullinar. She had been the casting director for Hey Dad, and she had been on TV several times to talk about what she knew.
I hadn’t seen or communicated with Liz since I was a teenager. But I felt the need to write everyone a letter and thank them for standing by me over the last two years.
I wrote to Liz, and she wrote back. She asked me if I would accept her invitation to come to Heal For Life. She knew how hard this journey was, and wanted to make sure I was going to be OK. I had read about Heal For Life. It seemed like an awesome place, and I had wished I was in Australia to attend it. There was several programs to choose from. Liz invited me to the private retreat, or the regular healing week. Something told me this was something I really needed to do. You know how the little voice inside you just screams sometimes? So, I worked out when I could get leave. I knew I had enough frequent flyer miles to do the trip. I just had to work out when there was a healing week and flights….
So in March I finally made it back to Australia. Funnily enough, it was the one week of the year that Liz wasn’t at Heal For Life. She was on a cruise with her sister, but it was still amazing.
My brother drove me up a long winding road out into the Hunter Valley. There was trees, and birds, and a whole lot of quiet. It was far away from the city, and any potential of anybody seeing me. I didn’t have to worry about any rogue photographers, or ending up in the paper.
Heal For Life was the most amazing thing I have ever done for myself. I arrived on Sunday afternoon, not knowing what to expect, and I left the following Friday as a completely different person.
Every morning we were greeted by kangaroos and wild birds. We got up and made breakfast, before starting our day of healing. There was a group of ten of us at that week. We were all apprehensive, and then we opened up. We realized we all had own own issues, and nobody else was going to judge us. It wasn’t like a group therapy session, where everyone spent an hour talking, and then had to go back to their normal life. This wasn’t like talking to a shrink, who just sits there and writes in a book, and doesn’t understand what you’re really going through.
All of the carers at Heal For Life are survivors themselves. They’ve been through the journey. They don’t judge, or give you a simple pat on the back and say “there, there, it’ll all be ok”. Instead, this was completely the opposite. You were encouraged to scream, shout, cry, talk, punch things. Do whatever you needed to do to let the pain out. We learnt about triggers, and what happens when we are triggered, and how to de-trigger. We learnt how what we went through as kids can affect our decisions as an adult.
I knew I was working stuff out when I decided to go swimming in the pond. Even though I scuba, I’m actually quite terrified of water. I’m fine with the air tank, once I’m under water, but fresh water, and being on the surface freak me out. By Wednesday, I was swimming around in the pond….
I’m not a crier, or an emotional person. I’ve always just pushed it all deep down inside. I learnt to cry at Heal For Life. I learnt to let my emotions out, instead of just bottling it all up. Even my masseuse has noticed the difference. I no longer have giant knots in my back.
When my brother picked me up, we had a long hard talk. We talked about things I never would have talked about before. And I was fine. I had already worked out so many issues, I could handle our conversation.
Before Heal For Life, I wasn’t sure if I could handle coming back to Australia again. Now I miss it. It feels like home again, like it no longer only holds bad memories. It also made me realize I was strong enough to get through the next year, and going to court. I know there will be bad days, but now I know how to respond to those moments, and move past them.
Heal For Life made me a better person. It made me strong, it made me happy again. I wish everyone who had been through some kind of childhood trauma could go there.
I can never thank Liz Mullinar enough for creating Heal For Life, and for inviting me to come down and experience it. It has completely changed my life.
I encourage anyone who needs to heal to look into attending a healing week. It seems scary, but it really will be an amazing thing to do for yourself.