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.
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.
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.
It’s no wonder I don’t have lifelong friends.
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.
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 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.
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.
More and more each day I am realizing that our society is the cheer up society.
The idea of sadness terrifies us.
Sadness is a hallmark symptom of grief. It is the ultimate consequence of losing something or someone we care about. I consider sadness and love ultimately linked.
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hallow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” -Jamie Anderson
Grief is love.
But yet, we spend a significant amount of time trying to cheer people up.
Because we consider that being sad is bad.
However, I want to challenge you today to consider the idea that being sad isn’t bad.
I spent the first seven years of my grief drowning.
I was in the middle of an ocean of grief- desperately trying to keep my head above water.
My legs were concrete. My arms were large rocks.
I was tired.
Consumed with my struggle.
I was drowning in my grief rather than sitting in it.
Everyone around me tried to comfort me. Tried to save me. Tried to cheer me up.
“He’s in a better place,”
“God will never give you more than you can handle,”
“He wouldn’t want you to be sad.”
These attempts to comfort me failed miserably. I didn’t need to be comforted. I needed to sit in my grief. I needed the permission to feel sad. I needed permission to feel.
In this clip from Inside Out you see Bing Bong lose something he loved.
Joy attempts to cheer him up. And fails.
Sadness sits with him. Sits with his grief. She empathizes with him.
This is what I needed. When I was drowning. I needed to sit in my grief.
If you know someone who has lost someone or something they love. Maybe something in their life has changed, sit with them. Sit with them even through the uncomfortableness of sadness. Encourage them to feel. Give them the permission they may need.
And remember- you are loved. And sad is not bad.
Grief is love with no place to go.
Grief lasts as long as love lasts- forever.
Somehow, I hope that love becomes light in all of our darknesses of grief.
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.
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!
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?!
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?
As a child, I was the kid in class with the highest Accelerated Reader (AR) points. My star on the bulletin board far surpassing all the other children in my class. I was also that nerdy girl who competed on a Battle of the Books team and read every single book on the list. Reading was one of the greatest joys of my childhood.
Reading transported me to another world.
A world far away from the violent screams of my ex-stepfather.
Far away from the home I lived in that was heated by a measly kerosene heater and sheets hung up in the doorways to keep every last bit of warmth from escaping.
Far away from my hand-me-down clothes from the girls I went to school with.
Far away from the nightmares that plagued me by day.
Far away from the panicked pleas of my mother to please not hurt her.
Far away from the world where my father took his own life.
Books were my escape.
In a different sense, they still are. Reading is my own version of self-care. When I want to make time for myself all I picture is a good read and a beverage (coffee or green tea preferred). As a new mother, reading time is scarce. Between my regular work and my two side jobs I stay busy, add my coursework in the mix and reading time is almost nonexistent. However, I know as well as anyone- you make time for the things you want to make time for.
So here I am, in 2018, making time for reading.
I decided to follow the Books-A-Million Book Club list for the non-fiction and literary selections.
I started a bit late so I’m wrapping up January’s pick for the non-fiction category and will shortly be moving along to February’s selections. If you need a review just let me know and I will try to get to you.
This is one of my self-care strategies for Randy’s deployment and just for life in general.
Although I am no longer that 2nd grader with a time traveling machine that transported me as soon as I turned the page- I am a 29 year old woman who enjoys diving into another world.
Trauma may have been what facilitated my love of reading; but escaping reality is what maintained it.
Books help balance me. They ground me. They saved me as a child and they delight me as an adult.
What’s your escape?
There are some nice perks to being a military spouse- great health insurance, a stable income, and even discounts on subs from Firehouse. But there are unique struggles that those of us who share our lives with a military member.
Go ahead, say what you’re thinking: “you signed up for it.”
Okay, in a sense one may have an idea of what their life will resemble when you marry a military member. Deployments, separation from family and loved ones, the unavoidable moves.
Except there are moments you can not possibly prepare for.
Like crying in your car during your lunch break because you imagine your son eating “adult food” like a champ and your husband missing it. Missing it all. His inevitable first steps. First real words. Major developmental milestones.
Yes. I knew what I “signed up for” in a sense. But I couldn’t possibly see the hurt and pain and heartache I would struggle with in the future.
I thought military spouses were supposed to be strong. Resilient. Unbreakable.
I was wrong.
Some days I do feel strong. I push forward. I treat myself to face masks and happily work my side job editing papers after putting my son to sleep.
Other nights, I cry myself to sleep.
And that’s okay.
With all this said, just remember that on your lunch break when the tears flow freely and your heart feels heavy and achy- this isn’t the end. You might wake up the following day renewed and ready to take on the world. You might do a face mask and binge watch Gossip Girl. You’ll never know if you don’t try.
Keep pushing through the tough days- the sun will rise tomorrow.