Friday, June 23, 2017

ONE [WON] YEAR LATER

SURVIVOR noun
a person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have [or would have] died
a person who copes well with difficulties in their life

SURVIVE [SURVIVING] verb
to remain alive or in existence
to continue to function or prosper 
continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship

Lovelies... can you believe H E R E W E S T A N D one year later?
It's a miracle.
I am a miracle.
You are a miracle.
This is proof of miracles.
To those of you just tuning in,
One year ago today on a seemingly normal sunny day on June 23, 2016, I attempted suicide via gun.
I shot myself twice . . . and died. 
It wasn't my time so with God and tireless work from the trauma team, I was brought back to life and survived.
What a year it's been...

I am A L I V E
{more than that}
I am L I V I N G
&&
L O V I N G

Today I have been pondering the difference between being a "survivor" and "surviving".
For the record, I am both.

Yes I survived a GSW (gunshot wound). Two actually, And the wreckage, carnage, and blood loss they inflicted on my body,
I survived rape.
I survived unspeakable domestic violence.
I survived adultery.
I survived a nightmare disguised as a fairytale. 
I survived darkness that would make you shutter.
I survived the loss of my ability to have children at the tender age of twenty three.
I've survived scrutiny, judgment, harsh words thrown like stones, looks that could kill, and bullying.
I've survived dozens of surgeries.
I've survived pain that couldn't be measured on the standard pain scale.
I've survived loss and tragedy and broken homes and hopelessness and obliterated dreams. 

None of the above defines me.
Lets get that clear.

I don't wear the word survivor as a metal for all to bask and cheer and celebrate me. I don't wear that word as an adjective to describe me. 

Yes, I survived.
But, I am still surviving

I am surviving. As long as I am alive--heart beating, head dreaming, soul feeling, lungs breathing--I will be surviving. It's a verb I use every second of every day. I am surviving all of those things and more. I am surviving depression, loneliness, trials, bumps in the road, hell, fear, every-day-run-of-the-mill-human-issues, insecurity, body image, etc every day. I am surviving. 
I WILL NOT STOP.
That is what makes all the difference.

The comeback is always stronger than the setback.
To celebrate this, to celebrate me surviving, my gorgeous-in-every-damn-way, STRONG, surviving, friend was the photographer to my model last night. We had an epic, fun, sunset, bonding, photoshoot. I have to give a BIG shout out to Cheyenne Ryan Hebert. She is such an inspiration to me. All the credit of these beautiful images goes to that lovely woman.



our scars remind us that the past is real & the future is worth it
"The wound is the place where the light enters you."
-rumi


She's the type of girl that can have anybody but she can't be had. Like a number with a missing digit, or a story unwritten. And she left her impression on you, like lipstick on a napkin, and in an old song's chorus you'd always know the words to. Go for the girl that's always been around, who's seen the way the world crumbles but also knows how to piece it back together. She's not the easy route or smooth sailing. She's a hailstorm in an open field. A back alley tsunami. A mirage, an uncut diamond, the perfect mistake, and a million other impossibilities. Understand rarity doesn't exist under every stone, or around each corner. She's selective, not from a level of superiority. It's a self worth thing. Think twice, move swiftly, kiss deeply, and don't back down. She can be proven--right or wrong. That's up to you.


I dare disturb the universe. 


"Look through the pain, the heartache, or the waiting and see, for the first time all that lies beyond."
-Tyler Knott Gregson


"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to find the place where all the beauty came from."
-C.S. Lewis


"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy."
-Anne Frank


I don't pay attention to the
world ending,
it has ended for me
many times
and began again in the morning.


You don't find happiness from living your life looking ahead of back... You find it when you look around.


the beauty of a girl cannot be mimicked, fabricated, or created by human means it only occurs naturally


say you'll remember me, standing in a nice dress staring at the sunset, babe. 
red lips and rosy cheeks, say you'll remember me even if it's just in your wildest dreams.


"The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don't meet finally somewhere. They're in each other all along."
-rumi


I'm going to make everything around me beautiful--that will be my life.


Know if depression is the verse then hope is the chorus.


I know sometimes you wonder about me.


when i was drowning, that's when i could finally breathe


she always had that about her, that look of otherness, of eyes that see things much too far, and of thought that wander off the edge of the world.


"I think the tiniest little thing can change the course of your day, which can change the course of your day, which can change the course of your year, which can change who you are."
-Taylor Alison Swift


some walks you have to take alone.


"I want to believe in it all again... fate and love, and I want to believe that I've made the right choices, and I'm still on the right path, and there's still time to fix some mistakes. I guess I want hope."
-Peyton Sawyer


Don't walk through your toughest day alone. We're in this together.


God knows you perfectly. He loves you perfectly. He knows what your future holds.


perhaps you were born for such a time as this


there is nothing beautiful
about the wreckage of a human being
there is nothing pretty
about damage
about pain
about heartache
what is beautiful is
their strength,
their resilience,
their fortitude,
as they display an ocean of courage
when they pick through the wreckage of their life
to build something beautiful brand new,
against every odd
that is stacked against them.


time will break all of the old habits and create new ones for you, and in the process, you will try to handle this immense pain with dignity.


In the end, she became more than what she expected. She became the journey, and like all journeys, she did not end, she simply changed directions, and kept going.


heavy is the crown and yet she wears it as if it were a feather. there is a strength in her heart. determination in her eyes and the will to survive resides within her soul. she is you, a warrior, a champion, a fighter, a queen [a badass princess].


it's all going to be okay. none of us know how our lives are going to turn out. and i think it's best that way.


"That was the way I decided to go on with my life. Not looking for anything, not necessarily being open to anything, and only being open to the idea that, if I found someone who would never try to change me, that would be the only person I could fall in love with. Because, you know, I was in love with my life."
-Taylor Alison Swift

we
will
survive
lovelies
because
we
are
worth
it
and
our
dreams
are
NOT
impossible.
xoxo
-C

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Scarlet Letter[s]


video






Scarlet Letters

Definition: A visible symbol of something you have done and regretted, or a stigma of past mistake you made that follows you.
A stigma someone bears for a misdeed he or she has committed (sometimes against their will). The term refers to an ongoing, public shame forced upon a person as a means of ostracizing him or her. 

"She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom."
-Nathanial Hawthorne

"Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see? Under the shadow of our steeples. With all the lost and lonely people searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me. If judgment looms under every steeple. If lofty glances from lofty people who can't see past her scarlet letter. And never even meet her."

"We show off our different scarlet letters.
Trust me mine is better.
Cause baby I could build a castle out of all the bricks they threw at me.
And everyday is like a battle.
Baby we're the n e w r o m a n t i c s. 
Come on, come along with me.
Heartbreak is the national anthem.
We sing it proudly.
Please take my hand &
please take me dancing.
It's so romantic."
-Taylor Swift, New Romantics

video

Don't let who you were talk you out of who you are becoming.

"Our flaws almost make us greater."
-Harry Potter and the Cursed Child



 When I was in therapy, my therapist made me do a "Masks Assignment" that reminded me of the Scarlet Letters we bear like weights nearly suffocating whether people assign us with them or we perceive them as such. These were my masks and my explanations...
The "Not Enough"/Scarlet Letters-Labels Mask
This mask seems permanent. It scares me. It represents all of the negative labels I carry in my heart to describe myself or how others see me. These labels spread through my blood like poison. It feels like these labels are tattooed all over my head, face, and body making it impossible for anyone to see the real Charley. The good. The strong badass princess. Labels like "Not good enough", "Not pretty enough", "Divorced", "Unable to have kids", "Depressed", "Failure", "Survivor of a Suicide Attempt", etc. This entails beating myself up so badly that if someone else tries to it won't hurt as much. It's been a game where I'm my own judge, jury, and executioner... over and over. It's involved putting up walls around me and my heart so tall they nearly reach the stars. I keep people out. I'm quiet because I fear rejection and ridicule. I use this mask like a safety blanket. I use to think it helping me by shutting people out to avoid more heartache. Now I know it's not true. This mask does way more harm than good. It causes me and my glimmer of self worth to decrease rather than increase. Scarlet letters like a noose.

The Conformity People Pleasing Mask
This mask stems from a fear of rejection and conflict. It's like I want everyone to like me and think good things about me even though you can't control other people's thoughts, feelings, and opinions. I'm not fake, but I am rarely completely real unless you're family or a close friend. While this mask has helped me avoid drama and contention, it's kept me from fully experiencing my true emotions and thoughts and expressing them. I've tended to put others needs before my own. I don't give in to peer pressure or things that go against my values. I feel like I have to be like and agree with other people in order for them to like and accept me. I am working on being my full authentic self, unapologetic, because I want people in my life who love me for me.

The Fake Smile, Always Positive, Pretend Everything's Perfect Mask
This mask began in childhood when my parents got divorced. As the oldest child, I felt I was the one who had to stay strong even when everything was going wrong. By repressing the bad emotions, you also suppress the good, the happiness. I have to fake smile. I feel like I always have had to pretend everything is just perfect and force positivity or they assume I'm not okay. This has been the most challenging mask to shed. 

No Mask
I am happy I am now the real and genuine Charley--no masks!  


This is the hardest, most difficult thing I've ever I've ever been through. It's the worst kind of trial, but I'm also realizing that this is the best kind of blessing. He [my ex husband] almost ended my life. . . and I saved it. 
This marriage would've never ended in happily ever after.
In the midst of this, I've felt feelings of utter worthlessness. I've felt like I am such a stupid girl. I've felt like I ruined my life. I've told myself no on will ever love me again. I'll be branded with the letter "D" carried around my neck for all to see; the divorced girl whose marriage lasted less than a year. Of "F"  for failure. A million other similar words. People are going to think what they want. The only judge that matters is Heavenly Father and the Savior. They, like me, know the truth. 
I know the truth sets you free.
No matter how many lies you try to bury it with, you can never hide the truth.
Truth is still absolute. Believe that. Know it. Even when the truth is hard and cold and more painful that you've ever imagined. And even when truth is more cruel that any lie. One letter I'll never bear is "G" for guilty.
I am not perfect.

I've never claimed to be. 
I am honest and innocent though;
with a perfect brightness of hope
I feel a responsibility to do what's upstanding and right.
I've heard whispers and people pointing out my flaws like I don't already see them.
Here's the thing... I refuse to let anything, anyone, and/or any situation take my progress away from me. When I just took my life back and made it mine. Who I was will never be who I am. My recovery and hard work, dreams and dedication to rebuilt a life worth living come first. Until you help yourself, you're no good to others. I am full of unconditional love, forgiveness, and support for all of my family and friends and you lovelies all of the time. However, I have to protect the positivity and light within me from any negativity and darkness caused by poor, careless decisions, actions, and words of others. 
I can't change others nor can you.
I am changing myself every day and trying to set a good example. 
While I am unable to change others (as much as I wish I could), I hope my story of my triumphs, rising above tragedies, overcoming trials, strengthening testimony, and transformation can inspire the world to change. 
There are so many things that amaze me such as life in general--the fragility, the possibility, the wonder, the beauty, the potential--that to list them all would be an impossible task like counting every single star in the galaxy. 
I have found love again that defies the past, the imperfections, the loneliness, the unfairness, the mistakes, the heartbreak, the hate, hurt, and negativity of others around me trying to destroy me and rob me of all the hope, happiness, love, light, progress, and positivity inside me, the fears that haunt me, and the excruciating, soul crippling, unbearable physical pain that was killing me second by waking second.
I am in love with myself.
The girl I've become and the girl I'm becoming. I love me. I love life. I love my life, this new blank canvas of a life I am living, building, and creating day by day, moment by moment.
Depression blinds you to the beauty of life and the miracle and purpose of it all.
It makes you forget how much you love life--even when it's bad, sad, confusing, and downright tragic.
Apathy takes over your heart. Fear hijacks your mind. Despair and misery slowly suck the life right out of you. This is just a basic description of what depression feels like.
My point is with the gospel, God, therapy, positive coping skills, good habits, time, and support from family and friends, I've conquered my depression, chose happiness, and took my life back.
Hope is always there and waiting to be found.
You may be lost, but hope never is.
The key is faith. Fear is the opposite of faith. Sometimes we hide behind our fears because we're afraid of change or failure. The truth is that faith is stronger than the whole world's fears combined. If we have faith, we need not fear. I choose faith. I have faith. In the words of Dieter F. Uchtdorf: "Faith is trust--trust that God sees what we cannot and that He knows what we do not. The purpose of faith is not to change God's will but to empower us to act on God's will. In the end everything will make sense. Faith comes to the humble, the diligent, the enduring. It comes to those who pay the price of faithfulness."

I AM NOT REPAIRED.
I AM NEW.



The people who brand us with these flaming, burning, searing scarlet letters are hurt people.
Hurt people hurt people.
That's how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation after generation.
Break the chain today.
Meet anger with sympathy,
contempt with compassion,
cruelty with kindness.
Greet grimaces with smiles.
Forgive and forget about finding fault.
Love is the weapon of the future.




"Let someone love you just the way you are--as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as unaccomplished as you think you are. To believe that you must hide all the parts of you that are "broken", out of fear that someone else is incapable of loving what is less than perfect, is to believe that sunlight is incapable of entering a broken window and illuminating a dark room."
-Mark Hack

"You need to learn to let go of whatever it is that makes you think you're not good enough. Because that's how you're gonna beat this. When you learn that you matter."
-One Tree Hill

THIS: "Tell me every terrible thing you ever did, and let me love you anyway."
-Sade Andria Zabala

"God's love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there."
-Thomas S. Monson

"Dismiss whatever insults your own soul."
-Walt Whitman

"There is no statute of limitations on starting over. Re-invent yourself every day. Be the girl who walks barefoot and listens to the blues. Tomorrow, wear a trench coat and speak fierce truths. Be a phoenix. Be ashes. Burn down. Resurrect. Let go of the idea that you must always be who you have always been."

"Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud."

"Who you are is who you choose to be. Whispers behind your back don't define you. You are the one who gets to decide what you will be remembered for."
-TAYLOR SWIFT <3


 "You are good enough and God does care.
Love everyone. Including yourself.
Because when He thinks of you, He smiles.
Because you are OH SO beautiful in the eyes of God."
-Al Fox Carraway

 "The future holds everything for you."
-AFC

 "Isn't life the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?! It is enchanting and sad and lovely and breathtaking. It's what you make it. It's everything and more. I love life. I can't wait for the day when I find the right man to love and share it with."
-Me

THE BEST THING YOU CAN BE IS YOURSELF.

 "The happiest people I know are always evaluating and improving themselves. The unhappy people are usually evaluating and judging others."

 "It's really not good for your happiness or your state of mind to care so much about what people, who do not care about you, think about you."
-Taylor Swift




The only person who defines you is YOU.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Semicolon Mormon; (and more!)

There are no words that can fully do justice for the day I am about to share with you.
My absence from this Nation was spent finding myself and finding the words to share the story of the miraculous. Me. My miracle. 
The tragedy & the triumph.
Nearly a year has passed since the day I died and was miraculously saved and brought back to life.
I had chosen to keep this private until now, shared only with family and close friends, because it's sacred. It's spiritual. Now the Spirit is prompting me to be vulnerable and write it down to help and inspire others. This is for you. Friends, girls, and staff I met in treatment afterwards have made these comments: "You are a waking miracle."

"You are living proof of God's existence."

"Your story made me believe in God again."

I post their feedback here not as praise for me, but rather praise to Heavenly Father and His unconditional love and perfect plan for every single one of us.
This is a story of miracles made possible only by Him.
This is a story about how even when we couldn't feel further away from him at times, He is actually closer than He's ever been.
This is a story of being broken to be rebuild stronger.
This is a story of redemption through the Atonement of our Savior and His infinite grace.
This is a story of finding eternal, lasting happiness in the midst of our most intense trials and despair.
This is a story triumphing over adversity with His help.
This is a story of finding the light that's been inside of you all along.
This is a story of endurance--how we will never be put through more than we can handle.
This is a story about a life saved in order to save countless more.
This is a story of ending the stigma, silence, secrecy, and shame of mental illness, depression, and suicide.
I survived to share this story.
This is my story and now it's yours too.
On the eve of the eight month anniversary of that dark day, I present to you lovelies the prologue of the manuscript of the book I'm working on publishing. If my story can save one life it will have been worth the pain it took to get here. 
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one person dies of suicide every 40 seconds.
They predict that number to increase by the year 2020 to one every 20 seconds
This is an epidemic that needs to change. I'm always saying more needs to be done. Well now I am doing and becoming the "more" to end this cycle.
Don't Take Your Life; Take Your Life Back.

 The Other Tattooed Mormon.
The meaning of the semicolon is this: an author uses a semicolon when they choose not to end the sentence. You are the author and the sentence is your life, and your choosing to continue and move forward.


The Legacy Project I made.

Untitled by @Charley Brooke Chriswell
(copywrited @IN)
Prologue
"Nothing good comes without loss and hardship and constant struggle. There is no 'riding off into the sunset' like I used to imagine. We are never out of the woods, because we are always going to be fighting for something. People can say whatever they want about me, but they can't make me lose my mind. I've learned how to shake things off. Who you are is who you choose to be."
-Taylor Allison Swift

"Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced... It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it's a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different."
-J. K. Rowling

"One of the greatest weaknesses in most of our lack of faith in ourselves. One of our common failings is to depreciate our tremendous worth."
-L. Tom Perry

"There may be some among you who feel darkness encroaching upon you. You may feel burdened by worry, fear, or doubt. To you and to all of us, I repeat a wonderful and certain truth: God's light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things. It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn."
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see."
-Hymn no. 220

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on Thursday June 23, 2016? Was it just another average day? Did it change your life forever?
My mornings I was most awake for were spelled with a "u" in them. This one was no exception. As my family and friends went about their just-another-days they didn't have the slightest idea how horror beyond their worst nightmares would take over their night. This would be my last day on earth.
There are things about that day I don't remember...
...And there are the things I will never forget.
Everything happened so fast that it almost didn't feel real.
The sound of gunshots sent my ears ringing that soon blocked out all sound include my screams. I've never screamed so loud in my life. The smell of gunpowder filled my nose. It hung heavy in the air threatening to drown me. 
The pain. The intensity of the pain surpassed all the pain I'd ever felt in my life combined and times a million. This coming from the girl who was no stranger to surgery and health problems. The girl who had been given Narcan after surgery because they'd given her too much pain medicine to try and combat her pain. I've felt what it's like to have been cut into right after surgery and it didn't come close to touching this pain. This was real pain. The pain of metal bullets burning, cutting, and shredding my insides leaving two gunshot wounds like holes in my body like ghosts. (Yes, bullets. Plural. Although I had no idea at the time that I'd been shot more than once). On the infamous pain scale from 1 (no pain) to 10 (the worst pain ever) I'd rate mine at a 100. 
As I bent over in pain, I noticed my shirt was drenched in a warm liquid. I glanced at my hands to see they were covered in blood. 
Yes, I am still haunted by what I will never forget.
It's what I will always remember that matters most.
I remember with all of me the moment immediately after the gun fired.
A voice spoke to me, not out loud, but to my soul. I knew with one hundred percent certainty and conviction that it was Heavenly Father. I could feel Him. I will never forget the words: "It's not your time, Charley. You aren't meant to die yet. Your words are going to save someone."
The rest is where things get hazy and out of focus as I was going into shock.
I had been on the phone with my dad who heard it all and called paramedics.
He got to me before they arrived and pushed a towel to the wounds to try and stop the bleeding.
I remember screaming even after the ambulance arrived and I was told to "Calm down" and "Breathe". Breathing felt hard like my lungs were collapsing. I still screamed in agony and fear. "I don't want to die!" I sobbed and meant it. I could tell by their faces that this was serious. They couldn't even lie to me and tell me everything would be fine. It was the furthest thing from fine.
"AmIgoingtodie?" I managed to get out. The paramedics words haunted me: "I don't know. Maybe."
 By the time I arrived at the hospital, I was less than a minute from bleeding out entirely. I remember arriving at the hospital and being in the ambulance bay. 
The trauma surgeon who was called for my code saw me and shouted: "Oh my gosh! I know her!"
And then everything f a d e d away.
6/23/16 20:48 Status post gunshot wound to abdomen x2. Female. 26. Tachycardia. Acute respiratory failure. Hemorrhagic shock.
74 minutes of life resuscitating critical care.
In 74 minutes you can fall in love... or you can fall apart.
*****

For anyone suffering, please never give up. Hope is always there. It took dying for me to come alive and realize I wanted to live. You are not alone. The world wouldn't be the same without you. And you're dead wrong if you think your friends and family would "get over" it if you died. (I survived and my family are still traumatized and not over it) Trust me, it gets better.
If you're thinking of suicide please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Talk to someone. 
Don't make a permanent decision based on temporary feelings.
I would like to send a huge shout out to you and my incredible family and friends. I am beyond blessed to have all of you in my life. My heart overflows with gratitude to my parents, step-parents, siblings, extended family, and close friends who never gave up on me and loved me unconditionally. Happiness comes from within & Time heals all are true. 
Exciting things are happening with turning my manuscript into a book!
Aspire to inspire, lovelies.
<W/L3 (with love),
Charley Brooke