Today, we are so lucky to have Terra Newell, of the Newell family from Dirty John (LA Times podcast and TV’s Bravo), with us. If you don’t know this part of her story, you can find some background here. Terra recently celebrated her life, the anniversary of when her life was spared when she killed her mother’s husband in self-defense. Terra speaks to us about PTSD, trauma, her favorite things, and the role her faith has played in her resilience. I hope this incredible warrior’s story is a blessing to all of you. Please don’t forget to share it with someone who may need the encouragement. It’s so important for us to remember and know that we are not alone in our struggles and healing.
Thank you, Terra, for sharing your incredible and uniquely resilient journey.
[Image by Nikki Ryan Photography]
MW: Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood:
TN: Growing up, I lived in Orange County, California. My mother was an Interior Designer and my Father was working in [the] building industry. They got divorced when I was seven years old, and after that, my mom would share custody with my dad. I had a lot of nannies because my mom and dad worked a lot, but my mom did make time for a couple vacations that were always in great places. Overall, it was a great childhood. My mother would also take us to church every Sunday.
MW: When did you first encounter God, and how did you encounter Him?
TN: I always grew up in the church. My family would go to church every Sunday. The day I accepted Jesus into my heart, I was six years old. It was at the Harvest Festival held in Orange County, at the Angels Stadium. I had listened to the sermon, and they asked people if they wanted to accept Jesus into their heart. I went down on the field, and then someone prayed with me. My mom had walked me down to the stairs, and then I walked down [and] prayed with a random person from there.
MW: People know a part of your story through the Dirty John podcast and show, which is based on your discernment regarding a man your mother was dating. This was a man who was continuously trying to inflict harm on your family and cause division, and ultimately, death. I don’t want this to be the focus of the entire interview, as this is just a piece of your story, but I was wondering if you could share with us: What advice would you give young women who are perhaps observing red flags in someone’s relationship or in their own?
TN: If you’re a lady and noticing red flags in your relationship, if it’s early on you need to leave. If you have been with someone for a while, you need to be smart about how you leave. Do your research, always confide in a friend. Leaving later on isn’t easy.
“If you have been with someone for a while, you need to be smart about how you leave.”
MW: Why do you think it’s important to share stories of abuse?
TN: I believe that it’s important to share your story because someone can always take something and learn from it. It’s always important to share to create awareness, and I also find it therapeutic. It’s not good holding stuff in– especially a trauma.
“It’s not good holding stuff in– especially a trauma.”
MW: I remember listening to an interview you did with The Skinny Confidential, where you were discussing your experience in this particular season of your life, and you mentioned God had prepared you through dreams. Can you tell us more about that and share in what other ways God has spoken into your life or prepared you for something that was to come?
TN: Yes, so before the attack, I had had some dreams that I was stabbing John. I felt like having those dreams were a way to prepare me for my attack that was to come. I also just prayed about doing the podcast and wondered whether I should even do it. I prayed and just had a clear message saying that I should do it, and it would help others.
MW: What captivates me the most about your story is your resilience. What does resilience mean to you?
TN: Resilience means to evolve and transform from what happened to me. To change the effects of my trauma on my brain and grow into a new person.
“Resilience means to evolve and transform from what happened to me.”
[Image by Nikki Ryan Photography]
MW: I know I have heard you say that you love country music, animals and hiking. What other things bring you joy?
TN: I really enjoy the beach and the ocean; it brings me so much peace. I love going to comedy shows lately, it’s so great to laugh. I also just really enjoy watching tv shows like The Bachelor, Walking Dead, and lately, Veronica Mars.
MW: Who is your favorite country artist?
TN: I love Jason Aldean, although lately, I have been listening to a lot of Marren Morris.
MW: In your interviews and on your site, you are very vocal about therapy. What are some practical tips for dealing with PTSD?
TN: Some practical tips for PTSD is knowing your triggers, it’s very important to first be aware of that. Then, it’s how your triggers affect you and finding ways to cope with them.
MW: What biblical passage is inspiring you, in this season?
TN: I just am always a fan of Psalm 23. It just lets me know that God is always with me, and He will protect me.
MW: If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be?
TN: Hmmm I honestly don’t know. I would have to think about that for days.
MW: What has helped you grow spiritually in this season?
TN: Honestly, lots of therapy and meditation. I have been really focusing on therapy and healing, lately.
MW: Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?):
TN: I honestly haven’t read anything in a good six months. I’ve just been writing for my blog and reading the occasional Facebook article.
MW: What role has faith played in your healing and journey?
TN: About six months after my attack, I went to Austin, Texas and linked up with a Christian EMDR specialist. I also got really involved in the church and felt a great deal of growth during that time.
MW: Who is your favorite person in scripture?
TN: I really like David; it took a lot of courage to take down Goliath.
MW: What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you?
TN: Just to love one another and to have compassion.
MW: What question will you ask when you get to heaven?
TN: I don’t think any because I should be perfectly content.
MW: What does your morning routine consist of?
TN: I usually wake up, take out my dogs right away, and then start working either on emails or responding on Instagram.
MW: What is on your nightstand?
TN: I have a night lamp, some Minnie Mouse ears, a gondola, the grey hat, and different gems.
MW: Define Christianity in a sentence:
TN: Christianity to me should be a group love [that] loves unconditionally and believes Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
[Image by Nikki Ryan Photography]
For more Terra:
Podcast: Time Out With Terra
Until next time, keep witnessing!