On and off for 12 years, Chely says she carried on a secret affair with a woman she calls "Julia," the love of her life. The two women even lived together for a short time, but few people knew the truth about their relationship.
"We worked very hard to hide our relationship. We didn't allow many people to visit our home, but those who did enjoyed seeing her bedroom and my bedroom," Chely says. "It was insane. If it looked crazy, it's because it was."
In 12 years, Chely says only five people knew she and her partner were more than friends. Chely even kept her best friend and family in the dark. "When you start telling people, it puts people in the position to lie for you, and I knew that. So I just didn't tell people," she says. "I wasn't just in the closet. I was behind the sheet rock in the closet. The duality of my existence was so much work."
When their relationship ended in 2006, Chely says she was heartbroken and left without anyone to confide in. This is when Chely's breakdown began. "I couldn't find a way to get the pieces of my life to fit, and [I thought]: 'I'm trapped. I can't come out because there's never been an openly gay country music singer,''' she says. "I decided on that night I was done. I was tired. I couldn't do it anymore."
Chely says she took out her 9mm gun and put it in her mouth. "I said a prayer to God to forgive me for what I was about to do, and I began to cry," she says. Thankfully, she didn't pull the trigger.
Looking back, Chely says years of shame, self-loathing and fear brought her to her knees that night. "There was not a cataclysmic event that had led me to that night," she says. "It was layers of a lifetime of hiding and lying. ... [I thought], 'I'm a successful country music singer, and I'm a lesbian.' Those two things had historically never co-existed, and I had painted myself into this corner."