Crocodile in a dress.

Self-concept is everything.

A few nights ago I found myself sharing a meme on Facebook. One that hit a bit harder than others.

What is with these memes about fitting in with other girls that cuts me to the core?

This one was pretty light-hearted. I actually laughed out loud at it at first.

Until I let it sink in that this is my reality:

blend in

I have some pretty amazing people that commented back with encouraging words.

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-03 at 9.43.15 PM

But ultimately these words didn’t change my self-concept. It didn’t puncture a hole in the ever-growing belief I have that I don’t fit in.

I’m that crocodile.

I wish I could view myself through the lens of those who commented. You are all so kind.

However, I have never taken compliments well.

How could I when I continue moving the bar of what will be good enough.

This recovering perfectionist has fallen off the wagon.

I live in this belief that I’ll never, ever be a girl in a squad.

And sometimes that is okay.

Sometimes it is gut-wrenching.

Growing up I never had steady friends. A short-lived connection here and there. Fizzled out after a few months. Maybe a year.

I always said I was too busy for friends.

Pageants. 4.0 GPA. Volunteering. Cheerleading. Track. Church. Family. Boyfriends.

But those were walls.

Guarded walls that protected me from the risk.

The risk of feeling like that crocodile.

I still do it today.

I think to myself some Saturday’s that I’m too busy for friends.

Too many jobs. Too much responsibility. Endless school.

But those, again, are my tried and true walls of protection.

Because I believe that I am that crocodile.

And who wants to take ballet with an outcast in tights?

Who wants to invest in someone damaged like me?

Recently I thought I was obsessed with an Ariana Grande lyric that says,

“Been through some bad shit, I should be a sad bitch
Who woulda thought it’d turn me to a savage?”

Until I told my therapist about it (yes- even a therapist can see a therapist) and he looked me square in the eyes and said,

“Do you really want to be a savage?”

No.

I don’t.

It’s all protection. Guarded walls.

These walls stem from how I view myself.

An impersonator in a dress.

A bruised-up, broken, damaged girl in a cardigan.

I’m working on this.

I’m not that girl anymore.

I truly, in this moment, feel as if I am not that girl anymore.

Becoming an adult can be freeing for a girl with a traumatic childhood.

But sometimes that little girl with bruised hips and an empty fridge shows herself to this strong, confident woman I’ve become.

And who would have thought a meme could trigger it?

Although I will now forever imagine myself as that crocodile in a dress I am wondering if somehow, someway, someone out there would like to be friends with an outcast in tights?

Because i’m sick of not believing I’m enough.

I. Am. Enough.

Scattered. Bruised. Strong. Resilient. Hopeful.

If you’re that crocodile in a dress too- try to read the comments. Try to believe the people around you telling you otherwise. Challenge yourself. Take risks.

And ultimately, be vulnerable.

It’s the best.

Thanks for reading- my thoughts were just sort of going tonight.

 

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Un-human.

perfect

I am a recovering perfectionist.

I basically have a gold medal in perfectionism.

Not that I’ve ever came close to being perfect, but I had an internal program that told me I should be.

My quest for perfection didn’t make me perfect, but it did bring me a whole lot of misery.

I recognize that I am not alone in this. Perfectionism is rampant in our image-obsessed, achievement-driven society. I have nothing against self-improvement, but when we don’t deprogram ourselves from perfectionism, it doesn’t matter how many improvements we make. It will never be enough.

Because perfect is not only impossible, it’s un-human.

Not only does perfectionism make us miserable on the inside, it also it makes it hard to live life on the outside.

How satisfying is it to be a student when nothing below an A is acceptable?

How hard is it to enjoy a hobby when nothing less than a perfect outcome will do?

And how hard is it to be in relationships when we are unable to receive feedback without crumbling or getting defensive?

Perfectionism only brings us misery, discomfort, constant feelings of inadequacy or incompetence. However, while our culture, families, teachers, or coaches might instill in us the need to be perfect, it is within our power to let go of that need. We hold the key.

You are good enough.

Let good enough be the new perfect.

Perfectionism is just an endless quest for the worst parts of ourselves.

It’s the part that keeps telling us that nothing we do will ever be good enough and we need to keep trying and trying and trying without ever reaching what we believe will make us good enough.

Perfectionism keeps moving the goal further and further away.

In The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brené Brown says,

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”

Perfection is a moving target. It’s an illusion.

Perfection is weighing us down.

Free yourself from perfectionism.

You are good enough.

Hi, I’m Brandy and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

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New year, new me: Align.

images

I recently shared a brag post on Facebook about having a 4.0 in my doctorate program. I am extremely proud that I have managed good grades while juggling the different aspects of my life (3 jobs, husband, son, house chores, budgeting, meal planning, volunteering, key spouse duties, community initiatives, etc *this list could go on and on*) so I shared the post without hesitation. A friend of the family commented something along the lines of how amazed she was at how I juggled so many things. And just like that WHAM- I realized how pretty my life looks from the outside looking in. From the outside I am truly the woman I always hoped to be- the one who can do it all. She is a go-getter. She is doting towards her family. She can seamlessly handle and master the various roles she has placed herself into.

But this isn’t always accurate. 

When you’re outside looking in everything can look polished. Perfect. Amazing.

But when you’re inside things are not always pretty. They can be messy.

Especially when the woman who can do it all has suffered with depression and anxiety throughout her lifetime.

This year, 2018, I made it my resolution to say yes to life.

And I did.

I was sick and tired of sitting on the sidelines and being too afraid to say yes to life.

So I went for it.

2018 brought several new, wonderful things into my life.

However, saying yes to life proved to be a bit overwhelming.

You should see my day planner.

It’s exhausting.

Saying yes to life made my life look pretty looking outside in.

But it made things difficult.

Feeling overwhelmed is never a happy place to be.

I somehow took in this mindset that I needed to be busy every single day to be successful. To be worthy. To be happy.

For 2019, I want to say yes to life but also say no.

I want to say I can’t.

I want to say this is not healthy for me.

I want to say I am barely hanging on.

I want to be vulnerable.

I want to say I know this is confusing but some nights I cry myself to sleep. Some nights I feel like I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do everything anymore. I need help.

I want to say that if you’re outside looking in and you feel amazed at how well I juggle things please know that this is not always accurate.

Picture perfect.

Status perfect.

Brag post perfect.

These are not accurate.

For 2019 I want to rest.

I want to recover.

I want to reflect.

So, new year, new me: say yes to life but also say no.

I want to “destroy the idea that you have to be constantly working or grinding in order to be successful”.

I want to “embrace the concept that rest, recovery, and reflection are essential parts of the progress towards a successful and ultimately happy life.”- anonymous

HUSTLE 

ALIGN

 

 

 

We are survivors and we will survive.

Today is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.

I have the great honor of sharing my testimony at a candlelight vigil today at 2 PM.

But I wanted to take it step further so that I could reach more people with my testimony…

So here I am, posting my story on my blog- in hopes that someone who is hurting and feels all alone can know that I am standing with them. We are survivors and we will survive.

So here it goes:

Anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, knows that it forever changes your life. It rocks your world in a way that no other death can. It can leave you feeling helpless, hopeless, and completely lost. The emotions can be overwhelming and the “whys” and “what if’s” can consume you. You can become overcome with anger as you question how the person you loved could have left you here. Grief after a suicide is complicated.

It has been 15 years since my father died by suicide. I was 15 years old when he hooked up a hose to the exhaust of his truck and connected the hose to his bedroom window. His truck ran all night as he fell asleep in a bedroom filled with carbon monoxide. I was a young, naive teenager when I became a suicide survivor. Losing a father to suicide quickly began to define who I was. I was filled with turmoil and unanswered questions  and I quickly began turning to the wrong comforts. I dabbled with alcohol and drug use for a few years of my early 20’s while living with the heavy weight of depression. I seemed to have forgotten the man my father was during my childhood and defined him by his suicide. I was quick to call him selfish. A coward. A disappointing father. I was hurt and not coping well. I think this pattern of self-hatred, guilt, and shame is easy to get wrapped up in when you’re a survivor of suicide.

For suicide survivors, after the initial shock of learning of the death, the “whys” begin- terrible, unending “whys” that we play over and over in our head. The first being “why did he do it?” followed by “why did I not see this coming”. They can spiral from there to “What if’s”- “What if I had called him” … “What if I had seen the signs?”

I currently work as a grief counselor and recently worked with a young girl whose father died by suicide. When the topic of “whys” came up she had a particularly brilliant answer. She said “you know, all we have is our best guess, and our best guess might be wrong”. Our best guess might be wrong- yet; we spend such a great deal of time pondering over these questions. If only we could approach it like this 9-year-old girl.

I spent about a year in counseling working through the shame and guilt I had taken on. I had to work through an abundance of negative self-talk including things like “no one will love me- not even my Dad did” and “I’ll never be good enough- my Dad didn’t think I was worth living for”. I worked through the “What if’s”. Like the self-blame I internalized for not calling him the night he killed himself. The night my Dad killed himself I had picked up the phone with the intention of telling him about me ordering my class ring that day. However, when I picked up the phone my boyfriend was there. The phone didn’t ring. Just coincidence. Remember how that could happen with landlines? I forgot to call my Dad back and the next day I found out he was dead.

I never imagined that I would be standing here- telling my story 15 years later. At some points of my life I wasn’t sure that I would even exist 15 years later.

Now, I can stand proudly and share my story of being a suicide survivor. For I no longer feel ashamed that I am the daughter of a man who killed himself. I now have a new understanding of suicidal ideation and mental illness. I have my master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and have worked as a grief counselor for the last few years. I now know that those who die by suicide are not selfish, nor a coward. They are amazing, wonderfully loved people who see no other way. They are sick and hopeless. When I explain suicide to a young child I may tell them that suicide happens because of a brain attack- much like a heart attack. It’s very physical. The brain is very, very sick and can not see any other way to survive.

My father had a brain attack. He was a warm, funny man who was an amazing Dad. His name was Buddy and he was only 35 years young when he died by suicide. I’ve had time to reflect on the amazing father he was since healing through my grief journey. We would sing karaoke together in my brother’s bedroom. We played hide and go seek and shot a bb gun in the woods behind our house. He scratched my back when I was sick and held my hand when I was scared. He was quick-witted and made me laugh until I cried. He was very intelligent and worked as an electrical engineer. He had a wonderful set of parents and a brother and a sister who loved him dearly. He didn’t live a charmed life by any means. He was divorced three times and suffered from chronic pain for most of his adult life. I don’t remember him being depressed. I was shocked by the suicide and still am to this day. There were no signs we could have seen. There was nothing I could have done.

Unless you have lost someone to suicide, you have no idea what survivors are going through. The degree of hurt, abandonment, betrayal, and confusion we are left with is indescribable. For me, going to counseling and talking about my feelings and hurts and disappointments helped me heal.

Another way I have found healing through my grief journey is by turning my pain into a purpose. I use my struggles to help others however I can. I can’t go back in time and save my Daddy but I can do everything in my power to let other people know that it is okay to ask for help. This outreach ranges from me posting bits of my personal journey on social networking sites to presenting at conferences to help other counselors know how to best work with suicide survivors. I find that my personal experiences have fueled my passion for suicide prevention and awareness and will continue forward with my efforts for as long as I’m able. I encourage you to find a way to turn your pain into a purpose. I’ve known people who do this through blogging, through checking in on friends, or just sharing a suicide hotline on their social media sites. You can do this by smiling at strangers or giving a meal to homeless person. The ways you can utilize your struggles is endless. I also encourage you to tell your story. Memorialize the person that is no longer with us today. Tell stories about them. Don’t let the shame, guilt, and unanswered questions stop you from remembering what you loved about the person. I believe we suicide survivors are strong.

If you are listening to me talk today and wondering how it is possible that I am all better after losing my Dad- let me clear things up. I’m not cured. I am better. But I will always grieve. Grief is not an event in time. Grief is like love. It is a life-long, ever-changing experience. It evolves. It expands. It changes in depth. Volume. Intensity. But it never fades. It changes us. My grief will always be a part of me. Because grief is love. Someone I love died and my life will always be different because of it. But my grief looks different now. My grief encourages me to help others. I have decided to allow my grief to encourage me. What will you do with your grief? It’s up to you.

“Bad things happen. How I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have: life itself”

-Walter Anderson

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Embrace the wait.

success

I want it all.

Don’t you?

The Pinterest home.

The career others envy.

The title of Doctor.

A lifelong marriage.

An award-winning novel.

To be known as the woman who can do it all.

But I want it now.

I don’t want to wait.

Success and accomplishment often accompany waiting.

The dreaded wait.

One foot in front of the other. Day in and day out.

You know what they say- easy come, easy go.

And I don’t know about you but I don’t want the easy go- I want real, lasting results.

And lasting results take perseverance.

We must persevere through the tough and mundane days to receive lasting results.

Endless paperwork to secure a dream job.

Late nights of research and coffee and writing papers to earn that degree.

The monotonous work weeks that builds routine in a marriage.

The circling and crossing out of book ideas.

Those are the kind of things we must persevere through to gain the success.

To truly have it all we must endure.

There is no quick fix.

Easy route.

Rainbow trail or gumdrop pass.

There’s just through.

Perseverance can be such an ugly word.

It is accompanied by patience, fortitude, and forbearance.

Gross.

We don’t want the setbacks.

The failures.

The monotony.

We want it now.

But maybe struggle and setbacks don’t have to drain your motivation.

Maybe we just need the right mindset.

Embrace the struggle.

Learn from our setbacks.

Own your story.

Persevere.

Brene Brown puts it beautifully:

“When we have the courage to walk into our story and own it, we get to write the ending. And when we don’t own our stories of failure, setbacks, and hurt- they own us.”

When we hear about successful people we often hear about their achievements.

Their wins.

Their accomplishments.

Not about the mistakes they made or the setbacks they encountered.

However, history shows us that people who succeed have lots of failures.

But they have the right mindset.

Failure isn’t a stumbling block.

It’s a stepping stone.

If you want it all- you’ll have the wait.

Embrace the wait.

Good vibrations.

energy

Like energy attracts like energy.

It’s physics.

What are you attracting?

I’ve spent an upwards of thirty years combating compliments, feeding myself doubt, and allowing myself to attract unwanted circumstances.

Like energy attracts like energy.

My negativity.

My depression.

My anger.

That energy I possessed attracted like energy.

I attracted people who pulled me deeper under.

I flunked out of classes even though I had all of the potential in the universe.

I had no future.

My car would break down.

My bills would be past due.

My energy attracted like energy.

And I just spiraled from there.

What are you attracting?

What is your vibrational energy level?

Mine has heightened.

My energy attracts like energy.

I succeed in school.

My mind is clearer.

I attract good, trustworthy friends.

My bills are paid on time. With extra tucked away.

I have a future.

People who are happy have good lives.

The vibration of your thoughts help create your life.

What are you feeding yourself?

How are you fueling your energy?

Are you exercising? Are you doing things you love? Are you keeping your house clean? Are you drinking water? Are you grateful for life?

Or are you angry? Depressed? Talking ugly to yourself?

Take care of yourself.

Put out good energy into the world.

Like energy attracts like energy.

It’s physics.

What are you attracting?

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Grief is not an event in time

me and dad

Today marks 14 years since my father died by suicide. It seems like an eternity ago and as if it were yesterday at the same time. This is the tricky thing about grief. It bobs along in the past and guts you in the present. No matter how much time passes by these notions still ring true.

Grief is not an event in time.

Grief is like love.

It is a life-long, ever-changing experience.

It evolves.

It expands.

It changes in depth.

Volume.

Intensity.

But it never fades.

It changes us.

For always.

Forever.

14 years ago when I heard the words fumble from my Mom’s mouth that my Daddy was dead, I was forever tied to this grief.

Anchored to its weight.

Bounded by its presence.

For always.

Forever.

It is both the past and the present.

Moments of gut-wrenching intensity bring me to inconsolable tears even 14 years later.

Today consisted of a few of those moments.

Seeing his photo grace my social media timeline today (even though he didn’t live to see Facebook- or Instagram- or my blog) brought me to tears.

His brown eyes reflecting back at me in the mirror brought me to tears.

Even though I see these eyes every day.

Explaining to an audience full of grievers that my son’s middle name carries on my Dad’s legacy brought me to a drive home with tear-streaked cheeks.

Grief is in the present.

It is the now.

Grief is for always.

Forever.

Grief is the price we pay for love.

These gut-wrenching moments are because I love my Dad.

Because I hurt that he hurt so badly and no one rescued him.

Because I didn’t rescue him.

Because I love him.

No matter the years that pass by my grief will never be in the past.

Not completely.

This grief. This love. Is a part of me.

It’s who I am.

It’s the best of me.

The worst of me.

My brightest light of hope.

My darkest depression.

This grief is me.

This grief is present.

For always.

Forever.

If you are missing someone you love and wondering why your grief is in the present and not the past- don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong.

Because you aren’t.

Grief is not an event in time.

It is the present and the past.

It is a lifelong, ever-changing experience.

Just take it one day at a time.

For always.

Forever.

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Guarded by a Fortress.

locks

I’ve been told I’m difficult to get to know more times than I can count.

I wish I could give better first impressions.

But the real me is guarded.

Protected.

Locked up tight.

The keys to my castle are hidden in the depths of my mind.

He who shall enter be warned.

It isn’t always pretty.

I put on a good show.

Hair, makeup, nails, clothes, education, employment, dinner, dessert.

But it’s all a show.

Who am I?

He who shall enter be warned.

It isn’t always pretty.

When I was in fifth grade some girls in my class cornered me. They made fun of my beat up gym shoes and my frizzy strands. They bestowed upon me the presidential title for the IBTC. All fellow girls cringe at that committee. No one wants to be President. But what those girls didn’t know is I didn’t care. My walls were higher than their words could go.

Before fifth grade I built my castle walls. In the streetlight lit room of my childhood I built a fortress around myself.

I realized at a young age the importance of protecting myself. From the monsters. From the mean girls. From the frigid air of our unheated home.

Protecting myself meant that no one could hurt me. It gave me power. Control. Safety.

All the things I didn’t have as a girl who grew up in chaos.

Taller and taller the walls went following each night in my pale pink room filled with snow made of baby powder.

All I needed was a key and I swallowed it whole.

Although this fortress protected me over the years, I’m afraid that I’ve blocked out too much.

Too much possibility. Too much hope. Too much Brandy.

I want to let her shine but I fear the mean girls.

I fear the rejection

I don’t fear the monster because I could take him down if I wanted to.

I don’t fear the chaos because I now have power. Control. Safety.

Should I remove a brick?

Will you remove a brick?

Will you know me?

I swallowed the key. Can you find it?

He who shall enter be warned.

It isn’t always pretty.

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I slaughtered her.

Do you ever scroll through old Facebook updates and cringe at the utter embarrassment you used to be?

Because I have.

On a daily basis I am able to capture a narrow glimpse at the person I used to be.

you've changed

It’s no wonder I don’t have lifelong friends.

I changed.

I grew.

I stood on that alternate Brandy’s shoulders and claimed the territory.

I slaughtered her.

I grew anew.

Updates like a lost car that was never lost or declarations of being on house arrest because of my troublesome behavior and my parents attempting to salvage my reputation and mental health are plastered across my memory page on Facebook.

In the past I allowed myself to cringe.

But not anymore. I have new eyes to see these updates with.

Although it is still slightly embarrassing to remember the person I used to be….

It’s actually reassuring at the same time.

It assures me of the capability and possibility of change in each and every human.

My hope for humanity is, oftentimes, restored amongst the feelings of shame buried deep inside of me.

For who we are now took a journey.

And on my journey to myself I’ve been so many people.

Along the way I have nurtured my soul.

I have attempted to the best of my abilities to feed and fuel myself with grace and care.

Although the slaughtered alternate Brandy still lives somewhere deep inside of me. She is kept at bay. She is the roots of this Brandy. The very beginning of her transformation begins with a drunk night and a lost car. With declarations of being on house arrest after a night full of secrets.

Do not cringe at who you once were.

Remember your roots began there.

Fuel your soul. Allow yourself grace.

Water your roots, for they may grow into flowers.

 

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Shame on me.

brandy

I grew up in a rickety house on Jackson Store Rd. in the middle of no where.

I didn’t come from money.

There were days I can remember eating a mayonnaise sandwich for dinner and longing to get to school the next day for breakfast.

The constant fear I lived in was sometimes overshadowed by my MaMa’s sweet tea or my Mom’s frozen grin as I sung on stage during a beauty pageant.

I used to hide in my closet in the dark until the shouting would stop.

Well into my adulthood, these memories sometimes flood me like a tidal wave.

I find myself thinking of the way things used to be and then the next thing I know I’m bobbing along a turbulent sea. Struggling to keep my head up above the water. Stopping myself from blurting out some narrative about a pageant interview where I talked about the dogs I used to have and how they were punished when they wouldn’t stop barking or if they got out of their cages. Stopping myself from telling people the cringeworthy shit of my childhood. The dark, black, nasty stories that no one wants to hear. The stories that bring me such great shame and embarrassment that I wish I couldn’t remember them.

Not long ago, I wouldn’t have considered writing about the shame and ugliness of my childhood.

I didn’t want anyone to know.

To judge me.

To judge my Mom.

To automatically slap a label on my family that would no longer be accurate.

To allow people to gossip about “why didn’t she leave”.

Shame is a corrosive emotion.

Oftentimes, we give shame too much power.

Brene Brown, researcher and social worker by trade, describes shame as:

“the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

No wonder we don’t want to talk about shame.

However, I feel that the less we talk about it the more power we give it.

Telling my story- my ugliness- my flawed self- allows me to have the power- I’m in control of this narrative.

So here it goes-

My name is Brandy Leigh Chalmers and I’ve spent upwards of 20 years feeling humiliated and embarrassed of my childhood.

I come from a broken family.

A broken home.

A large chunk of my childhood memories involve physical and emotional abuse.

I’m not ready to talk about the other kind.

We struggled financially and used a kerosene heater for warmth.

I can remember big sheets hanging to try and keep the warmth in around the doors in our home.

I mainly owned hand me downs from my friend, Polly. And I weaved in and out of feeling ashamed to wear them to ecstatic to own the newest barbie doll threads.

Not everything was dark and ugly.

I had a skating rink birthday party that was one of the greatest days of my life.

I was good at pageants. I loved being on stage.

I owned a sky dancer, an easy bake oven, and a polaroid camera.

I moved away from the violence when I turned 11.

Things really, really changed then.

For the better.

But then my Dad killed himself and I was back at square one.

My experiences left me, for a long time, feeling unworthy of love.

They led to self sabotaging behaviors and constant searching for additional experiences to validate that I, in fact, was unlovable.

But I’m done with that. I’m done with the shame.

I was seven years old the first time I realized my life at home was not normal. I had a sleepover at a friends house and it was magical. There was no shouting. There was no empty beer bottles. There was no tear streaked eyes. There was just love.

I was a child.

I didn’t ask for this baggage.

I didn’t ask for any of it.

But you know what I did do?

I allowed myself to feel ashamed. Unlovable. Not good enough.

For many, many years this is what I carried.

Embarrassment.

Humiliation.

Family secrets.

No more. I’m not doing it anymore. I’m not the same seven year old that begged to not come home after a sleepover. I’m a grown woman who chooses her future. I am in control of my own narrative.

Are you?

Don’t let shame hold you back. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Be you.