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