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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.

 

 

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 was drowning in my grief rather than sitting in it.

More and more each day I am realizing that our society is the cheer up society.

cheer up

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.

smile

However, I want to challenge you today to consider the idea that being sad isn’t bad.

It’s love.

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.

Exhausted.

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.

 

 

Up, up, and Away

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.

No excuses.

I decided to follow the Books-A-Million Book Club list for the non-fiction and literary selections.

bam

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?

That time I cried in Panda Express’s parking lot

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.”

Cringe.

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.

tears

bug

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.

mask

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.

 

 

 

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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.

No longer nsync

I recently had to sing my own rendition of “Bye, Bye, Bye” when my husband left for his most recent deployment. No puppet strings. No boy band. No killer dance sequence.

Just me. Watching my husband hug our ten-month old son goodbye for 180+ days. And then it was my turn.

bye daddy

Saying goodbye isn’t exactly what got me out of sync. However, it is what inspired me to start this blog. To help me therapeutically find the write balance.