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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.

 

 

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The shit had to stop: the day I stopped trying to kill myself.

When I was 22 years old I tried to kill myself.

I was crying on my knees in a communal bathroom and remember breaking a razor and slicing my wrists. There was a lot of blood. Sometimes in my dreams I still see the red pools on the floor around me. I remember shaking in shock that this time I had actually done it. After years of toying with the idea and overdosing on tylenol or swerving my car recklessly, I had actually done it. I felt panicked but was glued to the floor. I thought of no one. And things went dark.

I woke up in a hospital room the following day. Alive.

Let me back up a bit.

As a child, things were no walk in the park. My family was dirt poor and broken. There was violence in the home I grew up in. For many years I was ashamed to discuss this because I was dealing with years of family secrets and shame. I didn’t want anyone to think of me as less than. I was hurt as a child. However, I was also loved. It’s not fair for me to gloss over the good in my childhood. I loved singing in pageants and spending Saturday’s at my MaMa’s house. But there were days I feared my Mom would be killed. Or things even worse would happen to me.

Things improved around middle school despite my frizzy hair and constant awkwardness of my life.

Then, my Daddy killed himself my sophomore year of high school.

Feelings of blame, shame, anger, hatred, disgust, abandonment, insecurity, and guilt consumed me.

I became overwhelmingly depressed for years to come.

I battled with depression. Long and hard.

I also had good days. Days I smiled. Days I thought I could do this. Days I moved forward.

But the bad days. They hung heavy. They became me.

I was unfocused.

I was barely existing.

I was more insecure than I feel that words could ever justify.

My existence depended on other people.

If they loved me enough. If they cared about me enough. If they texted me. Then I would live. If they didn’t I would swallow as many pills as I could get my hands on and try to sleep. Hoping for a long, dark sleep.

And then I hit rock bottom.

I joined the military to escape everything. I was shipped off to basic training and 9 days later I slit my wrists in a bathroom with blue walls. This is the day that changed everything for me.

I spent 23 days in the hospital. TWENTY THREE.

I got on medication.

Resisted treatment. Then began to open up.

I let myself feel all the emotions I had pushed aside all those years.

I began to heal.

And I decided I needed a change. I wanted to live. I deserved to live.

Much like an addict, I decided this shit has got to stop.

The self-destruction.

The victim act.

The poor me spectacle.

The shit had to stop.

And it did. I became determined.

Even though I hid my suicide from most of the people in my life (who so graciously believed my lies surrounding my medical discharge from the military), I was empowered. I knew I needed to work in mental health. I knew I had a purpose in life.

And..

Seven short years later and my life is far from perfect but it is absolutely perfect to me. Perfectly imperfect.

I am married to the love of my life. The only person who knows every, single secret that I spent years hiding and loves me anyways.

I have the most wonderful son. With the brightest blue eyes in the world. He is so worthy of life.

I have my work. Where I’m able to empathize to great lengths. I’m able to use my experience to truly understand how shitty life can be but also know how beautiful it can be.

So, if you’re like 22 year old me. Know you’re not alone. LIFE IS HARD,

but it can also be beautiful.

So, so, so, so beautiful.

I thank God daily for my second chance. Not everyone gets that.

I wonder if we had found my Daddy earlier what would things be like. What if we had barreled down his bedroom door and released all the poisonous gas that would fill his body and take him from us. Would he feel the same way? Would he say THANK GOD I FAILED AT THAT. THANK GOD I GET A SECOND CHANCE.

I like to think he would.

Because we could have proven him wrong. He would have held a grandchild in the future. One with big, bright blue eyes who giggles with all the joy of the world.

Don’t do it.

A second chance isn’t guaranteed.

Call 1-800-273-8255 if you need someone to talk to.

No one else can play your part.

no one else

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Why do we always give generic praise and specific criticism?

I’ve been thinking. 

About how we communicate with others.

How we interact relationally and make meaning.

And it got me here:

why do we give generic praise and specific criticism? 

Have you noticed that?

We are quick to give real meaty and specific criticism because there is something that we don’t like and we want it different. Criticism focuses on what’s wrong. Why don’t we focus on what’s right?

Do your realize what giving a genuine compliment does for the person you give it to?

You can completely make someones day by a genuine gesture.

What about what giving a genuine compliment can do you for?

Focusing on the good in the world- what’s right with the world- can improve your mood immediately.

Also- giving a genuine compliment can further a conversation or strengthen a bond.

So here it goes- instead of criticism I choose praise.

good job and well done

Anonymous compliments to those I love (because directed ones may not belong in a blog post):

I am grateful for the way you make me feel appreciated, loved, and worthy. I recognize the effort you put forth in making me feel this way. I have never felt so at ease with another person. You are my safe place.

Your trust means everything to me. I have let you down time and time again and you continuously believe in me. That’s courage! (and unconditional love that only a Mother could have)

Life dealt you some rough cards but you really showed her!

You were brave to get your divorce and be true to who you are. Your bravery does not go unnoticed. And I love the REAL you.

I have never known someone with such a love for life as you. You make everyone around you feel good and energized about life.

I value the moments of true friendship we shared. You helped me become who I am today.

You are so caring. No matter what, you ask me how my day is and that does not go unnoticed. The effort you put into our friendship is meaningful.

You are the definition of strength.

You have changed in all the best ways. You have worked so hard to be the person you are today and your dedication to being your best self is admirable.

You loved me when I didn’t love myself and that’s praiseworthy.

I challenge you- GIVE SPECIFIC PRAISE.

Give compliments.

Shower those around you with positivity.

Focus on what’s right with someone.

 

We all have baggage.

suitcase

Since starting this blog I have received messages from those close to me and from those I wasn’t sure knew I existed, concerning the content of blog posts, personal experiences they have had, and even outcries of hopelessness.

It was never exactly my intention to help others through my writing. More so, an outlet for me to become more transparent and process my own life.

However, it has ended up accomplishing both.

One of the messages I received came from a girl I barely knew in my high school years. We continued being connected on social media but hadn’t spoke at all for the ten + years since we walked the same hallways of our youth.

The message she sent me eloquently explained that she always assumed there were two types of people in the world: people who needed help and then those who had it all together. She was honestly shocked to see someone self-proclaim themselves as a “counselor with a counselor”.

And here I am- weeks later- stuck on the idea that people truly believe this notion. You either have it together- or you don’t.

Everyone has baggage.

Everyone, from the most broken to the most obviously successful, has baggage.

However, our society STILL encourages people to hide their crazy.

In a training I attended today, the speaker discussed how we should not post on social media things we wouldn’t post as a banner on our homes. She gave the examples of relational problems and financial struggles.

It took everything inside of me not to interrupt. Not to scream. Not to rush to the front of the room and say BUT WHY.

Why must we hide our crazy?

Why must we be one or the other- needing help or having it all together?

Why must we continue the facade of our lives on social media?

We don’t have to.

We can have it together but need help sometimes, too.

We can blast our crazy.

We can become transparent.

We can work to stop the isolation that the facade of social media creates.

You are not alone.

Social media is our highlight reel. Not reality.

We all have baggage.

I have baggage.

Years of abuse.

A traumatic loss.

A fractured family.

Suicide attempts.

Chronic mental illness.

But I am not ashamed.

For, you can have it together but sometimes not.

My baggage is packed nicely. Neatly. Its contents organized and previously examined. I’ve thrown some things out over the years. The bag is zipped tight. Stored under my bed.

You can have baggage and still get your life together. Trust me.

Tomorrow I’ll make my banner: “Counselor with a Counselor”. I’ll hang it above my garage. Because everything I share on social media can be shown to the world. I am human. I have baggage. And so do you. Stop hiding it.

Be real. Be vulnerable. Be brave.

 

Don’t let an outcry go unanswered

Six years ago I was clinically depressed.

I was self-harming. I hated myself. And I had almost no hope for the future. I can remember questioning my purpose and spiraling deeper and deeper into oblivion.

On October 7, 2011 this was a post I posted on social media:

why

And it received 0 comments.

Depression can make you uncomfortable. I get it.

However, this was clearly an outcry. I was begging someone to tell me the purpose to life. Pleading for a reason to live. But no one commented. My outcry went unanswered and I continued to cut.

The posts surrounding this one was some nail design (I used to be super into doing my nails for whatever reason) and a song lyric. Both of these posts had comments. “Luv that song girl” and “Cute nails”. But 0 comments on my what’s the point post.

About 80% of people who complete suicide send out warning signs.

Look for them. Be a detective. Search for the hurting and the lonely. Give them a reason to live.

Answer their pleading “why’s”.

Don’t let their outcry go unanswered.

Warning signs that a person may be in acute danger and may urgently need help:

Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself;

Looking for a way to kill oneself;

Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose;

Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain;

Talking about being a burden to others;

Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs;

Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless;

Sleeping too little or too much;

Withdrawing or feeling isolated;

Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and

Displaying extreme mood swings.

{DISCLAIMER: Okay, clearly no one expects everyone to comment on every depressing post. No one is to blame for the 0 comments. However, if you see someone post something out of the ordinary or that makes you worry-reach out to them.}

 

 

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I let my racing thoughts at 1 AM consume me.

Recently I shared a meme on Facebook.

It got a few likes, a share, a couple of comments. It was lighthearted. It made me laugh when I saw it. I shared it with no second thoughts.

Except last night, late at night, they crept in.

“You have no friends.”

“No one texts you.”

“No one asks how your day is.”

“No one likes you.”

These terrible, awful things I said to myself hurt.

I let my racing thoughts at 1 AM consume me. 

All because of this meme:

friends

I’ve never had many friends.

Growing up, I always felt like an outsider. I kept myself locked up because I was afraid of being rejected. Afraid of being made fun of. Afraid of people finding out what life was like at my house. The fighting. The screaming. The violence.

When I moved away from my old life- to another city- another school. I had the chance to be the real me. The me people would love.

But they didn’t. I was still so guarded. And my guard put up a really good front.

A “I don’t need you” front.

A “I’m better than you” front.

And this kind of continued into my adulthood.

I can not even count how many people have told me, “I thought you were stuck up when I met you.”

Well, I’m not.

How could I possibly be stuck up when half of the time I’m not certain if I even like myself? When I’m down, I’m

D

O

W

N.

I’m just guarded. Afraid. Terrified of being rejected. Petrified of being vulnerable.

This is something I have worked HARD on the past 4-5 years. Trying to show the real me. The genuine me. The me who cares and loves so deeply. The me who has hid for far too long. The me who has made mistakes. And has tried to right them.

The me who could be an amazing friend if you gave me the chance.

However, change doesn’t happen overnight. It also doesn’t always happen in 4-5 years… no matter how hard we try.

I am still guarded.

My walls around myself are so high that they may not be worth climbing.

But that doesn’t mean I need to take the negative self-talk. The terrible, ugly things I say to myself late at night. The LIES my mind tells me. The lies that leave me in tears.

“You have no friends.”

“No one texts you.”

“No one asks how your day is.”

“No one likes you.”

These are not truths. 

I do have friends. Not many- not many that I talk to on a regular basis- but they exist.

People do text me. My husband and I text each and every day. And he ALWAYS asks how my day is going.

I’m sure someone likes me? My husband loves me. My mom thinks I’m cool. Doesn’t that count?

I’m done talking so ugly to myself. Why do we do this to ourselves? We feed ourselves inaccurate information that we absolutely accept as truth without challenging it.

I want to challenge you: combat the negative self-talk you may say to yourself. Ask yourself- “Is this actually true?” instead of accepting it as fact.

And never give up on goals you set for yourself. This blog is the gateway to a more transparent me. A less guarded me. A vulnerable me. A me that is hopeful for the future. And worthy of being loved.

 

 

When I’m a Mom, I’ll never…

Three years ago I was seriously contemplating not having children.

I was thrilled with my work, my marriage, and my free time to do things I enjoyed. And then we had Greyson. Our 99th percentile baby boy.

Becoming a parent changes you. Your priorities change. And before you know it, you’re doing every single thing you SWORE you’d never do.

I said I would never let my living room become the play area. MY child would keep their toys in their room. Neat. Tidy. Orderly.

living room

Yet, this is how my living room looks daily. We seem to reset it 100 times a day, only to let Greyson bring us back to this.

I said I would never let my child get messy for meals. MY child would be civilized and I would teach him to eat properly (go ahead and laugh at that one). He would also NEVER eat fatty foods like bread and pasta. And he would certainly NEVER have mac n’ cheese, HA!

messy

However, we now just go ahead and strip him for meals because the mess is inevitable plus it’s part of the fun (sensory development, am I right?).

I also said I would keep a clean house. A child keep me from cleaning? What?!

blog

Yet now I don’t even bother sweeping up his crumbs because I have learned the pasta (that he would NEVER eat) will get dried up and easier to sweep in the morning.

This list of “the things I would never let MY child do” could go on and on and on but you get the point, right?

All these things do is bring on the Mom guilt.

There’s always some Mom doing things better than you.

Their kid only eats vegetables. Their kid uses a spoon at 7 months. Their kid only plays in their room. Their kids sleeps all night. Their kid shows no sign of teething. Their kid naps on a schedule and always, always lets them catch up on their shows. Their kid absolutely does not bite them with their newly developed teeth.

All of these things bring the guilt on.

It can make you feel CRAZY.

And I’ve been there. I went a little crazy for a bit.

I tried, relentlessly, to keep our house clean. To keep Greyson on the world’s most perfect schedule.

But it didn’t work. I continuously fell short because I kept doing all the things I said I would never do. And all the things other Mom’s said they were not doing.

And I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. The diagnosis I said I would never get because I would be the best Mom. The most researched Mom. The do-it-all Mom.

But I got help. I got on medication. I handled business.

Some days are still tough. I feel overwhelmed. I cry in parking lots. I’m only human. But some days I feel like SUPER MOM. I vacuum the house. I do my homework. I get Greyson to giggle for 5 minutes straight. I “do-it-all”.

And I’m done saying never. Who knows what I’ll be letting Greyson do next month. It changes daily- for survival. Can I get an Amen?

 

Counselor with a Counselor

Four years ago my anxiety was at an all time high. I was suffering from irritability and excessive worries. I was also having worrisome palpitations and insomnia that made me feel as if I were dying. During this time I penned a poem to help process my symptoms.

Right on the Brink

My heart beats quickly,

my mind moves slow.

These feelings, lately,

I’ve come to know.

My palms feel sticky,

my hands are shaking.

I’m falling deeper and deeper

in the chaos I’m making.

I’m barely treading water;

I slowly start to sink.

I’m on the edge of tears,

I’m right on the brink.

I start wishing that I

could take a step back.

Out of my mind

and this panic attack.

I was crying myself to sleep at night and filling my head with self-doubt and negative self-talk a plenty. I was falling apart.

However, these were the photos I was posting on social media:

Big, happy smiles were plastered across my face. The front I showed the world covered my hurt and pain. Randy was deployed at the time and I was doing everything in my power to appear strong. I put up a strong front but inside I was falling apart.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Keep the facade.

Save face.

Build tall walls around ourselves.

Because we are scared. Vulnerability is terrifying.

Processing my anxiety and my instability through a poem gave me clarity. It allowed me to admit to myself how I was feeling at the time.

So here I am- 3 years later doing the same thing. Feeling as if I’m slipping into a funk and processing it through writing.

Except this time I’m not faking it. This time I’m telling a different narrative.

doctor

This time I’m telling the truth.

Yesterday I had an appointment with my psychiatrist who manages my medication that helps me survive and thrive despite my depression and anxiety.

It was a good appointment; just a check-in. The selfie above is me waiting in his office. However, I did decide to schedule a counseling appointment. It’s been years since I’ve been in counseling but here I am- needing a refresher.

We don’t have to pretend to be perfect. It’s unhelpful and exhausting.

Be your true self.

Don’t save face.

It isn’t worth it. And it’s lonely.

I challenge you: be vulnerable. It helps keep things in balance; the right balance.