Surviving A Pandemic With Mental Illnesses | A Life I Deserve

As humans, it seems that we are rarely willing to agree on anything. The one thing we CAN all agree on, is that 2020 has been a rough year, especially for those battling with mental illness.

I haven’t smoked cigarettes in almost 2.5 years, yet I spend 85% of my day convincing myself not to smoke them. Each day is getting increasingly more difficult to convince myself not to pick that habit back up.

I haven’t used heroin in over 7.5 years, yet this year I have found myself fantasizing over the idea of making all of my physical + mental pain go away. Logically, I know that won’t work for long & it will only be a matter of time before I have all my current problems, plus a whole new set of them, which is what holds me back. When you know better, you do better. Getting and staying off heroin was far easier than 2020 for me.

Then the suicidal thoughts. Its a strange place to find yourself when you don’t want to live, but not ready to die, yet. It’s a lonely place to be. I have so much to be thankful for, yet I want to throw it all away so someone much kinder, happier, and more deserving can take my place. Someone who is more patient, someone more still. Someone who doesn’t have the long list of mental illnesses that I live with. Someone who isn’t set off over the simplest of things. Someone who won’t show them what the dark side of mental illness looks like. Someone who is nothing like me.

But in the midst of my latest stress-induced meltdown, I realized something really big that stopped me in my tracks.

I have 4 girls nearly 24/7.

4 girls who I have been isolated with inside a tiny house for the better half of a year.

4 girls who fight. & scream. & cry. & shriek. & yell. Usually all at the same time.

A newborn, turned infant, who is now running. Who has been attached to my hip since birth with no breaks.

An extremely high-strung, dangerously-fearless, independent, messy, busy toddler.

A half-day preschooler who we have to pile in a car (if you’ve ever watched this ordeal, you understand) to drop off, only to pile in a car again to pick up almost two hours later.

A very hyper-active 1st grader who I am now homeschooling 3 days a week. Who I can rarely bring into public due to behavioral reasons, especially without another adult present.

3 days at home, means 2 days at school. 2 days that start 30 minutes of each other, who because of covid cannot be dropped off together. With a baby & toddler who cry every time they sit in a parked car for any length of time. 2 days in a classroom with 6 other children with a teacher who doesn’t believe me that she displays every symptom of ADHD, and an ADHD test which is based entirely on what unrelated adults around her believe to be true.

Speech therapy appointments for my toddler.

Behavioral therapy appointments for my 1st grader.

Parent coaching appointments for myself.

Doctor appointments for all. Trying to find a dentist in our network that specializes in Pediatrics.

With not one break.

Not one single one.

I’m stretched far, far beyond what I can mentally handle. Yes, having so many children WAS my decision; but neither I, nor anyone else, planned for a global pandemic when planning for a family.

Nobody planned for this.

I am not alone in my struggle, but that does not make it easier.

When you live in a constant state of manic-depression, it is very hard to remember to be kind to yourself. It is difficult to see your worth and hold on to your will to live, if you can even find it.

I wrote this list of things I deserve in life, even if I don’t believe it yet. Someday I might.

And who knows, it may be exactly what someone needs to hear today.

We are all in this together ❤

  • I deserve to be built up.
  • I deserve to share my feelings without feeling weak.
  • I deserve to be loved despite my imperfections.
  • I deserve respect.
  • I deserve to be happy.
  • I deserve adventure.
  • I deserve to plan for the best.
  • I deserve to feel beautiful.
  • I deserve help. I NEED help.
  • I deserve a break.
  • I deserve kindness, compassion, & grace.
  • I deserve mental health days.
  • I deserve to feel stressed.
  • I deserve to embrace progress over perfection.
  • I deserve to relax.
  • I deserve to stand up for myself.
  • I deserve to be heard.
  • I deserve to live.

And so do you. ❤

Top 5 Mom Must Have Items From a Mom of 5

It’s been awhile!

My oldest baby just turned TEN years old on July 31st. I cannot believe that I have already been a mom for a whole decade! It really does fly by! He will be an adult before I know it!

Over the last ten years, I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks especially when it comes to mega motherhood!!!! I wanted to share my FIVE favorite items that have gotten me through the last ten years & mega motherhood a lot more smoothly.

1 • Itzy Ritzy Purse

New moms, this one is for you. I have some eye opening news for you. You have too much stuff.

When I had my son, I had this giant diaper bag that was heavier than he was stuffed to the brim with all of the things that the baby books told me I needed with adorable little travel size everything, safety kit with every size bandaid imaginable, bubbles, chalk, lipgloss, a small grooming set, tampons, pads, vomit bags, kroger bags, lysol, advil, bibs, toilet seat covers, grocery cart covers, multiple outfit changes, a blanket, winter gear, books, toys, activity packs, snacks, etc. I was ready for anything.

As I added kids, this bag became the bag of car essentials that I stopped bringing in because it was so heavy and so stuffed, it was just added stress. Plus, I hardly ever actually needed anything from it. I began carrying a smaller bag of the essentials while also carrying a purse.

Then I found this hands free crossbody Itzy Ritzy purse which is absolutely needed as a mom with young children. The back section is your purse, the front section is your diaper bag. You can now combine everything into one small, adorable bag.

In the diaper bag section, there is a pocket for your wipes and a small changing mat that is included. There is also room to hold diapers and a pacifier. That is literally all you need on a daily basis for outings. All of the extra stuff is just over-stimulating you and making it feel stressful to leave with kids when it doesn’t have to be.

In my purse section, I keep my wallet and a few small items. It keeps me from cluttering up my purse and it only takes a few seconds to clean out. Keep the essentials with you, and leave the rest at home (or at least in a secondary bag in the car if it makes you more comfortable). You don’t need it.

I clip my keys onto the outside so they are easy to grab and I don’t have to fumble around for them with children in a parking lot.

When you have multiple kids, you cannot be weighed down with things that you may need one day. You need your arms and eyes free at all times. This Itzy Ritzy cross body bag allows you to fashionably have everything that you need.

2 • Sit and Stand Stroller

I have tried several double strollers and this Sit and Stand Stroller by Baby Trend is by far my favorite.

It is lightweight enough that I can carry it to and from the car by myself which means that getting it in and out of your vehicle is not a struggle. It also folds up well so that it will be able to fit into any vehicle.

I place my toddler in the front seat, and my baby in her car seat in the back portion so that we are facing each other, but it is very versatile for moving children around and allowing older children to ride as well. Each side has a handle bar on it where I have my older girls hold onto while we are out so that they are all safely in one place in front of me.

3 • Cloth Diapers

I highly recommend cloth diapers. In fact, so much that I wrote an entire article about them! If you are planning on having more than one child, these are a MUST!

Cloth diapers grow with baby from newborn to potty training which saves you from buying a LOT of diapers, especially since you can then reuse them with future babies, or even save for your grand babies.

Cloth diapers saved us during this 2020 pandemic! When all of the stores ran out of diapers, we had our trusty cloth diapers already! We never had to worry once that we would run out. I highly recommend buying at least one pack of cloth diapers to have in the off chance that there is another emergency since the world saw how fast and unexpectedly that can and will happen. Being prepared is key to motherhood. It would be a great gift for a new mother at a baby shower as well! 😉

4 • Built-in Potty Seat

We live in a very tiny starter home with four young ladies. It was originally a very tiny one-bathroom home until we added a second one on the upstairs floor to create a master suite. A tiny bathroom with a crowd full of tiny ladies runs out of room really quick, leaving us very little space to have a separate potty chair.

We installed a built-in potty seat onto our toilet so that we could still have a potty seat, but not lose any necessary space or add clutter to our floors which is vital when you have crawling tots!

5 • Bumbo

This portable seat called a Bumbo is so important! It is easy to carry with you so you are able to bring it from room to room or on-the-go.

● You can keep a supported-sitter with you while doing your housework.

● You can bring it to older siblings sporting events.

● You can bring it with you on a picnic, or to a restaurant so your baby doesn’t need to sit in a dirty high chair that is covered in germs (I have worked in enough restaurants to know how unclean restaurants are in general 🤢). You can add-on this Bumbo Play Tray to turn it into a portable highchair anywhere!

● You can bring it with you while traveling for hotels that may not have high chair recommendations. Make sure to add on the Bumbo Play Tray!

● With the Bumbo Play Tray, you can create a minimal mess space for your baby to engage in messy play such as finger-painting or shaving cream play.

There are so many uses for the Bumbo! You cannot go wrong with getting one of these! It minimizes messes and is extremely easy to clean. I have had the same Bumbo for the last 10 years, it has made it through 5 kids, and is still in the excellent condition! It is definitely built to last and worth every penny!

Ella holding Vera, Mia, & Sasha
Athena (Thea)
Kaden

I hope that these tips helped you for yourself or with finding a baby shower gift idea! Best wishes to the new mama-to-be! The best start to motherhood is being prepared not for one stage for one child, but for all stages for all children. 😘 Have a beautiful rest of your day.

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Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links in which I will make a commission, at no expense to you! Thank you for supporting a mama with a dream! 😘

My Instagram Growth Tips

I came back to social media, mainly Instagram (who was then purchased by Facebook), after a serious mental break down, to tell my story to the world with the hope of helping at least one person.

Although this time I have made amazing friends, had gifts sent to my children and I, and have had many women (and a few men) ask for guidance or simply tell me that I am making a huge difference and saving lives, sadly, being on social media destroys me. It once again proved to be way too much for me to be able to consume. I felt as if I were beginning to spread much more hate than love, and that is not the kind of person or parent that I want to be.

I’m no longer using Instagram as a platform to share my writing

It hurts me to see fake woman, selling fake happiness while there are real issues going on in the world that need to be talked about and fought. It hurts me that they have very clearly chosen profits over people. That is not something I want to stand by and witness or partake in.

It hurts me that people care about social injustice because it is currently “trending,” but won’t care enough to keep fighting until its “trendy.” It hurts me because no matter how many times this happens, we end up back in the same “who me? Couldn’t be” place of magically “forgetting” about history, even only last year. Watching “influencers” choose to stay silent so they don’t offend any of their internet friends. You who stayed silent spoke louder than any of us.

It hurts me to see how many people don’t care about this Earth or the people in it. It hurts me because I don’t know how to make people care for more than a week. It hurts me that grown adults don’t “believe” in climate change, as if it’s the Easter bunny or something. It hurts me to watch people sell and promote products that are harmful to our earth and our people. They “greenwash” you just to make a quick buck.

It’s NOT real

NONE of it. It’s the new-world equivalent of a popularity contest. My followers are a collection of various acquaintances & accounts picked up along the way in “follow loops.”

Follow loops work a few ways, but the short story is there are “ghost spots” (you buy friends), and “regular spots” (you work for friends).

“Ghost spots” pay real money to collect friends without having to follow them. Since I would never pay money to collect fake friends on the internet, I chose the “regular spot” route.

“Regular spots” are free, but have the requirement of following typically 100-200 people at a time and hope that at least most of them follow you back, make a feed post promoting said follow loop, leave it up for 24 hours and then comment “Hi my name is” on at least 10 peoples posts within the first hour of posting. It takes any kind of entertainment out of social media, and you end up with a ton of accounts you are following only out of obligation and fear that if you unfollow them, they may in turn unfollow you.

You end up following a bunch of people who either didn’t follow you back, you don’t want to follow, or a bunch of “fitness” moms pushing weight loss products on you.

Then, you have to find yourself some “engagement” groups where you will spend a majority of your time liking and commenting on other people’s posts in exchange for them liking and commenting on yours.

The engagment groups that I was in, took an average of 20-40 minutes each sitting and liking around 500 photos in a row, in order to then get a portion of those likes back. They allowed 2 photos per day, so I would use that days photo and the photo from the previous day to increase likes. It’s a very “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of game.

You can also pay real money to promote your posts which, again, I refuse to do. Some people pay for likes, followers, and comments. I suggest you check the first posted photos of your favorite “influncers,” as it’s pretty easy to spot. The signs are all around you.

Instagram gives you a certain amount of characters, so I would spend hours perfecting everything I needed to say into 2500 characters. My story deserves more time than that, so does yours.

With only 2500 and a lot to say, I ended up having to break stories into multiple posts and I would end up losing my train of thought and never making it to the point. This left people a bit confused.

I do not support a platform that condones censorship. Shadow-banning, removing hashtags, “instagram jail” are all forms of censorship. Not being allowed to promote certain products is a form of censorship. Your algorithm is a form of censorship. I cannot support a platform that not only supports, but highly pushes censorship.

When I had my mental breakdown, the first thing I noticed when I found the will to live again, was nature. I noticed the trees and the pictures in them. I noticed how beautiful the Earth was, something I was no longer seeing because my mind was so busy and full of hatred. Getting off of social media gave me a will to live again.

My Son’s Father, 2015

I believe that social media has a major part to play in my son’s fathers suicide. I believe that social media is an extremely dangerous place for those who struggle with mental illness or depression. I believe that social media is an addiction. Only when you get away from it will you truly realize how much it is negatively affecting every aspect of your life.

I came back because I wanted to tell my story, but I found that social media is not where I want to do that. I watched as the influencers stayed silent over matters of social injustice as to not lose their following. I watched as they said things such as, “its sad, but…..” I watched as people pushed products on others that they don’t even use themselves. I watched the people, and I once again, fell back down the mental breakdown hole. Our brains are not meant for social media. The entire thing terrifies me.

I left your world to stay home and find peace, then y’all came home and invaded my space. Now, I’m leaving this world to go back into the outside world. At least until the world opens again.

I will continue to share my story through my blog. I may never get famous, but my words will be remembered like books. And as long as it helps at least one other person, I’ve done what I came to accomplish.

My Biggest Instagram Growth Tip

There is no growth on Instagram. Real growth begins when you live for yourself. Go get on with your real lives.

I Wish I Waited to Have Sex

📷: Circa 2013

This is a photo of me a few weeks before I had sex for the first time 😳

I was still a child. I wasn’t ready. I was blamed. I was punished for it by my school, he was not. I was sent to confession by my school, he was not.

The Catholic religion believes that Eve (women) brought “sin” into this world, so ALL women are to blame for “lust” (this word makes me want to vomit 🤢), “deceit,” and “sin” in this world. So all of the blame fell on my shoulders.

I felt abandoned by every adult and person in my life. My parents, my teachers, my peers and every one of their parents, my babysitter who had her own struggles going on with the premature birth of her first-born who lost her fight, my friends, and him.

This one single event changed the entire trajectory of my life and I developed an “attachment deficit.”

There was no romance. No specialness. No beautiful story. He took me out into the woods like an animal. He broke up with me for another girl after. I learned that sex was nothing more than sex. I learned that I was not enough.

The children were no longer allowed to hang out with me, but the boys were quick to lie to their parents and meet up with me in “the field of happiness” to persuade me to show them my naked body. Some were pushy, some were not. They had no respect for me, and I had no respect for myself.

They asked me to be their “girlfriend” as a joke, then would call me on three/multiple-way calling later that evening with all friends listening to “break up with me.” I learned to build up a very tall wall that I have only let one person truly enter to the other side. Some of them have come back as married adults, asking me to send them “nudes” and make sure I won’t tell their wives they asked. 🙄

Once I got to high-school, I was taught by peers that the way to get over one boy, was to have sex with another one. So I tried it. And it worked. I learned and created an extremely unhealthy coping mechanism.

In high-school, I had one of the most traumatic sexual experiences I’ve ever encountered to date. I was drunk on Southern Comfort. It was rape. I did not know it at the time. Everyone was talking and joking about this event. They drew pictures of this event in art class. I was traumatized. I was ruined. I turned immediately to drugs and used humor to cope. It wasn’t until this year, 15 years later, than I realized that I never gave consent to this event. None of it. For 15 years I have told this story. I have mastered the art of telling this story with hilarity while hiding the immeasurable amount of pain inside. Not once in 15 years did anyone ever suggest I was raped.

When I began dating my son’s father, we created an agreement. Exploring under this agreement was acceptable, exploring outside of this agreement was cheating. I loved him so much that I desperately wanted him to be happy. I found heroin and I became addicted to the numbness it gave me. I became addicted to letting go of jealousy. I became addicted to letting go of pain. I became addicted to letting go of any feelings of hurt. He had his fun, I had heroin. It didn’t matter that I was not enough, because heroin was enough for me. I learned to put others happiness above my own. I learned that love meant silently suffering. I was reassured that I was not enough.

As an addict, I used sex as a way to support my addictions. I was raped on multiple occasions and I learned that “it comes with the territory” and that you just have to chalk it as a loss, like a robbery. I did not feel that I deserved to call it rape because of my past and profession.

When I announced my pregnancy with Sasha (my 4th earth-side baby), I received hate messages via Facebook Messengar by a newly created, photoless profile under the name “Grace,” letting me know how much of a dirty slut I am for having 4 (now 5) children before I hit 30 and that I strongly need sex therapy. I have no idea who “Grace” really was, but I have my theories. I learned that even as a married women to the father of 4/5 children, my past cannot escape me, I am whoever they say I am.

I learned that I wish I would have waited.

I wish I was old enough to be able to comprehend what sex truly meant. I wish I knew what clear consent truly meant.

I wish my mom talked to me about sex and respect and consent, instead of jumping directly to birth control.

I wish I knew I would lose my dad that day. Physically he’s here, but mentally, he checked out the day the school called him. I wish I knew I would lose my best friend. I wish I knew what “daddy issues” were before I had them.

I wish I knew that I would see my body as damaged. I wish I knew I would feel ashamed of my body. I wish I knew that for the rest of my life I would have flashbacks of sexual trauma. I wish that I knew I would be extremely uncomfortable and tense up any time I am touched for the rest of my life, even with my own husband.

I wish I knew that I would never be able to give myself to my husband because I have already given it all. I wish I knew how hard it would be having someone be my “last” instead of “my first.” I wish I knew how much it would hurt my husband to know that my first love and twin-flame was not him.

I wish I knew how hard parenting outside of marriage would be. I wish I knew that in marriage, a woman’s body and choices are no longer fully hers. I wish I knew how awful custody issues are. I wish someone taught me this instead of teaching me that I would go to “hell.” I wish I knew that babies don’t always change people or make relationships last. I wish I knew that for the rest of my life I would fell incomplete and always have a huge hole in my heart from my son being adopted by my parents. I wish I knew that I would never feel whole again after losing my son’s father. I wish I knew how difficult it would be to parent with someone who sees the world entirely different than you. I wish I knew how complicated having children made relationships. I wish I knew how difficult it would be to make decisions when children were involved. I love my children, and I do not regret them in any way.

I didn’t know then, but I know now for my own children. I can’t make the choice for them, but I can share my experiences and guide them to making better choices than I did. I will not teach them that “boys will be boys” because I don’t agree with excusing the behavior. I will not allow people to say disgusting, sexist comments like “with a boy you worry about one penis, with a girl you worry about all the penises,” when talking about my children. I will teach them to respect EVERY body, especially their own.

After opening up about my sexual trauma history, many women have opened up to my about theirs. The amount of women who have experienced sexual trauma and didn’t know, didn’t feel they could tell, pretend it didn’t happen, etc. is truly sickening. We live in a world filled with the promotion of rape culture and we feed into it every day in even the simplest ways.

For example, my in-laws have a rule regarding no two piece bathing suits because “it could cause the boys to wonder.” That is teaching my children that if my children are raped, it is THEIR fault because they wore clothing that was “too provocative” which is a VERY common excuse of rapists.

Our children deserve much better. Use your voice and be loud. Our children are the future. Our children can change the world. Teach them how to do.

Freedom of Speech

“Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say anything they like, but if anyone says anything bad, that is an outrage” – Winston Churchill

My fight against the government began when I was 7 years old and I learned the term “parental advisory.”

The pure hypocrisy of teaching children about “freedom of speech” while turning around and telling those say children that they are “not allowed” to use “bad words” is something that I will never understand.

• What even is a “bad word?”
• Who gets to decide which words are “bad” words?
• Are YOU actually “offended” by a “bad” word, or have you been spewing nonsense about “bad words” because that was what you were conditioned to believe?
• Have you ever actually thought about whether you are even offended or not?
• Do you use any “bad words?”
• If you answered yes, were also conditioned to “do as I say, not as I do?”

You either HAVE freedom of speech, or you DON’T. There is no inbetween. Pick and stick, don’t be a hypocrite.

HAVING freedom of speech and CHOOSING to use “bad words” are two entirely different things.

Give your child the right to use their freedom of speech AND guide them to choose to use kind words because kindness matters.

Give your child freedom of speech AND explain that what they say cannot be forgotten, only forgiven, and to choose their words wisely.

Give your children freedom of speech AND explain why others could be offended by “bad words.”

Give your children freedom of speech AND explain that “bad” is not a fair characterist of words. Words can be hateful. Words can be hurtful. Words can be offensive. Words can be kind. Words can be healing. Words can be misunderstood. Words can be powerful. Words can be persuasive. Words can be uncomfortable. Words can be out of ignorance. Words can be many things, but “bad” is not one of them.

Freedom of speech is a basic human right that ALL deserve, adults & children alike. Showing them how they use their words kindly & wisely is your job as a parent. Just because they have the right to use “bad words,” doesn’t mean they will. But don’t teach them that they have freedom of speech if you aren’t willing to give them that.

Celebrating 7 Years

Me • February 2020

“Every cell in our entire body is destroyed and replaced every seven years. How comforting it is to know one day I will have a body you will have never touched.”

While the science behind it isn’t exactly accurate, it’s still a really cool idea, and I found it extremely fitting for today.

Today I have seven years opiate-free. Today is the day that I would have a new body that heroin has never touched.

Not only is it a new body, but a new decade for both the world and myself as I close the chapter on my 20s this year. How is that for awesome coincidental timing?

Even though it isn’t accurate, I’m going to look at it as if it were. So today I am beginning my new life, in my new body. I’m going to start looking towards the future and stop trying to hold onto the past.

I’m going to forgive myself, give myself grace, and move on. I’m going to stop thinking and speaking so negatively about myself. I’m going to let go of all of the self-hatred I have been carrying for so long. Those cells are gone, no need to hate them anymore.

Hi, I’m Madison. Nice to meet you.

Me • February 2013