Is your thinking faulty? Go to war.

Have you ever felt like the Cheshire Cat?

Fading away.

Slipping away.

Until you are no more.

Lately I’ve felt like the disappearing cat from a beloved children’s book. Fading, fading, gone.

Does anyone notice?

Can you still see me?

I feel as if I’m floating.

Barely here.

Barely there.

Stretched so thin that I’m now Gumby.

At what point will I snap?

Am I as indestructible as I hope to be?

Nothing can kill me.

Not even myself.

Pull. Pull. Pull.

You grab one arm.

You grab the other.

My stretchy, indestructible green arms will let you pull and pull but they will not snap.

I will reappear.

My grin wider.

More present.

I am reinventing myself.

Will you like me?

Can you recognize me?

My costume is the same.

Blonde hair.

Spray tanned skin.

Hooped earrings.

But I am not the same.

The strength and indestructibility I feel growing within me is superhuman.

You can’t break me.

He didn’t break me.

Nothing can break me.

Pull and pull with all your might.

This little girl can put up a fight.

Lately I’ve been battling demons.

Calling myself names.

Damaged.

Worthless.

Never. Good. Enough.

But I’ve won the fight. I’ve knocked down the demons. Changed my language.

Vulnerable.

Raw.

Trying.

The. Best. I. Can. Be.

Are you battling demons?

Fading into the background?

Until you’re nothing?

Being stretched every which way?

Me too.

What can you do about it?

Try what I did.

Change your language.

Fight the demons.

Reframe your negative thoughts.

CHALLENGE YOUR THINKING.

Ask yourself- is this true?

How accurate is this thought?

Because I may be damaged but I’m trying.

I am not worthless.

I am hopeful.

I am not always good enough but I am good enough for the people who love me.

Fight the demons.

We are at war.

I am at war with myself. But I’m winning.

I am resurrected and stronger than ever.

I’ll try again.

70E250EC-4692-4B65-9517-0D16F2E4EDA3

I feel as if I never really got better.

The depression will always hang heavy over me.

My limbs have been fighting against it for as long as I remember.

Lifting it up.

Pushing against its weight.

I couldn’t hold it up forever.

It’s as if I painted myself with gold paint.

For so long I was shiny and new.

Reborn.

Strong.

Sparkly from the outside.

But the paint was a thin layer.

That’s peeling at the edges.

Underneath is nasty.

Black.

Decayed.

Fucked up.

Paint doesn’t last forever. Over time it begins to discolor or chip in places and then what was once there is exposed for the world to see.

What I’m wondering is how I fooled everyone with this shiny layer? 

Could they not see my darkness peeking through? 

Did they think I truly changed?

Healed? 

Grew?

I didn’t. 

I’ll always be broken. 

Dingy.

Decayed.

Fucked up.

The moment that monster crawled on top of me.

The moment she turned on that dryer. 

The moment I heard our dogs yelp in agony. 

The moment my Dad fell asleep in a room filled with carbon monoxide.

The moment I cut my wrists on that bathroom floor.

The moment I said I do.

The moment my son was born.

The depression has always been there. Growing. Lingering. Forming. In remission.

I’ve been broken.

Through everything.

The good and the bad.

The paint is peeling.

I don’t know what to do. 

I feel like giving up. 

Throwing in the towel.

Dropping the act.

I feel so ugly.

Decayed.

Fucked up.

Broken.

I don’t want to do this anymore. 

How can I expect someone to paint on another coat? 

It will just peel again.

Or discolor.

I am unfixable.

I came off the manufacturer line fucked up from the beginning.

They should of threw me away. 

Why won’t I give in to the darkness?

Who I really am? 

Why do I keep getting myself repainted only to find the paint peeling in the future?

I am throwing away my used paint brush.

Will you throw me away?

It’s for your own good. 

Just let me go. 

The weight of this darkness, this depression, reminds me of the monsters body. Heavy. Suffocating. Never ending. 

I want to be done. 

But here I am…

Purchasing a new paint brush. And a sander. 

Sand me.

Buffer out my darkness.

Smooth out my flaws.

Then paint me up.

Make me new.

Help me heal.

Take my hand. 

Pull me out of this darkness.

Make me shine.

Or maybe I should paint myself this time.

This darkness is not your burden.

You are not a hired hand.

It is not your job to fix me.

It’s mine.

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.

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.

 

 

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 attempt 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

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.

 

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.