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This is a story about volunteering written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular stories on my site since February 2015. The purpose of her writing is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m hoping her stories will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the stories I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the stories she’s shared on this site, check out Tiffany’s Story. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

I can’t work full-time or even part-time right now because my Schizoaffective disorder, anxiety and other mental health conditions do not allow me to. I get overwhelmed and shut down if things are not in an exact order. Work is usually not in an exact order. I get overwhelmed, don’t get enough sleep and in the past have always quit the job I had. Usually I thought that other workers were plotting against me. That is why my current situation is a perfect reason to volunteer. I volunteer so I can be productive and help people at the same time.

A few of the volunteer jobs I’ve had are college writing tutor, tour guide at the University of Minnesota in Duluth (UMD), emergency room communications, public relations intern, street team efforts for a well-known music company, television news room volunteer and Vice President for my daughter’s Head Start program. I’d like to share a few of my volunteer experiences with you and explain how those opportunities led me to be the person I am now.

One of my degrees in college was Professional Writing. I took a number of courses in writing, and was referred by the Communications department to be a writing tutor. I was a writing tutor for a couple years. I was honored to be a tutor, and had a great time working with various students. There were many times that I’d have to ask other tutors for help or I’d look in my writing manual. Being a writing tutor gave me the confidence I needed to use writing skills in future jobs.

During college, I was also a volunteer tour guide. I gave tours to prospective students who were looking at UMD. I usually talked the entire time during the tours, and pointed out areas of significance at the University. I surprised myself during the tours because I knew more than I thought I did. I really enjoyed that volunteer job. The volunteer tour guide job helped my confidence as an individual.

I was a busy girl during college. For one of my courses, I had to select from a few volunteer opportunities. I chose to volunteer in the emergency room in Duluth, Minnesota. I would visit with the patients that came into the emergency room, and I led them to where they needed to be. I would often hang out with children. I also noticed a high number of homeless people who would come in for shelter, especially during the chilly winter months. This particular volunteer experience sparked my love for helping people in crisis. Being a volunteer in the emergency room was one of my favorite volunteer experiences during college!

One of my college courses also involved volunteering for a communications job. At the time, I was working for a television station as a News Producer. I also wanted to explore working for a public relations agency, so I volunteered for a well-known public relations firm in town. I worked on various projects they needed help with, and really got to explore what public relations was all about. This particular volunteer job led me to work for a public relations firm in Minneapolis after I graduated from college. I was starting to show severe symptoms of mental health issues, and only stayed at that job for a couple years because of my move to Los Angeles. But working in the public relations industry was very rewarding.

I lived in the Minneapolis area on and off for a couple years. Almost daily, I would go to the local coffee shop that had computers to explore volunteer and job opportunities. I came across a music company called V2 who were looking for street team volunteers. Due to my experience, I started volunteering for V2 shortly after my communications with them. They would send me hundreds of posters to hang and CDs to give out on the street. Some of the musicians I worked for were the White Stripes, Moby and Zap Mamma. I was also in charge of picking the musicians up from the airport if they had events in town. One day I spent the day with Zap Mamma. Do you know who she is? I picked her up from the airport, went to a radio show with her and attended her concert. I LOVED getting the Moby merchandise because he’s always been my favorite musician. During this experience, my mental health was getting worse. I would sit and read books for days, thinking they were speaking to me. I was told to pick up Moby from the airport and to get him to locations he needed to be at. I unfortunately missed meeting Moby because I was doing horribly mentally. I had to cancel this volunteer opportunity because I was so messed up. I still think about this opportunity and regret my decision to cancel. Working as a V2 volunteer ended when I decided to move to a new town. The opportunity was amazing, and I often wish I lived in a bigger city to do something like that again.

My daughter was involved in Head Start during preschool. I volunteered to be Vice President while she was in that program. Once again, I surprised myself with what I could accomplish. I ran several meetings alone because the President was not there. I chose to do this volunteer job because I wanted to reassure myself that I could accomplish volunteer jobs that would lead me to future opportunities.

The most recent volunteer job that I had for a very short time was in the local newsroom in the city I currently live in. As I stated earlier, I was a news producer in my early 20s. I knew how to run most of the newsroom operations, but I was not familiar with many things, including camera operations. I gave up on the newsroom volunteer opportunity because I did not have the confidence I needed to succeed.

Volunteering makes me feel good about myself. I’ve also learned that many people have problems as bad as mine or worse. I am not currently volunteering, so I hope I can find other volunteer opportunities in the near future. I need to find opportunities that fit well with my mental health issues and being a mother of two young children. Volunteer opportunities can be awesome if you can find the right fit for your lifestyle!


This is a story about motherhood written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular stories on my site since February 2015. The purpose of her writing is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m hoping her stories will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the stories I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the stories she’s shared on this site, check out Tiffany’s Story. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

As a mother, sacrifices are made, but rewards are received.

My independence and freedom as an individual has changed since having two kids. To name just a few, I have sacrificed chill time, sleeping, food, travel and money. Because of these sacrifices, I have become a more well rounded and happy individual. Many times, I spin around in circles, pacing the floor, thinking “what’s next?!” My responsibility as a parent is to keep these kids alive, healthy and happy. Sometimes we do things we don’t necessarily want to do because we are making sacrifices for our kids. To most, the sacrifices we make as mothers are worth it. I have been praised for my parenting skills and how I’m raising my children, but I am terrified almost every day that I’m failing at my lifelong job.

As most of you know, I attempt to manage my mental health issues on a daily basis. Sometimes I just want to give up, run away from life and everything involved with it. Sometimes people can really pull at our hearts and impact the way in which we see life. I was in the waiting room at my psychiatrist’s office, and a friendly guy in a wheelchair passed me. I think he noticed me smiling at him, so he came back to talk. He told me that he was very happy because he recently lost 50 or more pounds. He told me about his mom who has schizophrenia. He proceeded to tell me that she gave him up for adoption because she always thought he was going to die. That mother made a sacrifice because she was doing what she felt was best for her child. He was one happy dude, despite everything he has experienced and is dealing with in life. As mothers, our priorities become what is best for our children. We sacrifice a lot, but always seem to be rewarded in the end.

Let’s talk more about managing the sacrifices we make as mothers.


I used to really enjoy “chill time” with friends and by myself. That chill time does not happen very often anymore. If I want to chill, I find myself needing to find someone to watch the kids. So chill time is more of a dream to me now. Sometimes the kids and I have chiIl time together. I used to have too much chill time to myself back in the days. Now, when my friends and I chill, we usually bring the kids along with us. It’s just not the same as being alone, but the rewards are amazing. My six-year-old daughter has often wished I would be more of a hands-on mother, playing with her. I have found that playing simple games with her, like see how many skittles fall out of the containers, works! I have learned to chill with my kids. I still appreciate the time away from them, when that happens. But I am rewarded with every little kiss, smile, hug and I love you.

Chill Time Advice for Moms: Chill for a while. Just walk away from the mess for a day or two. The mess’ll still be there to take care of at a later time. Take advantage of people who say they want to help out with the kids. Chill time is needed! Breathe when you can.


As a mother, I also sacrifice sleeping time, which kind of goes along with chill time. Before I had children, I would lay in my bed sometimes for days. As mothers, that is no longer an option. The sacrifice I have made by not laying around all day has really helped me emotionally. I am usually productive in some way, each and every day. My kids also have sleeping issues. They started crawling out of their cribs around age 1 1/2, so I was scared of leaving them alone in their room. Now we all usually sleep in the same room. We sleep where we can sleep. I hope to break them of that habit.

Sleep Advice for Moms: Sleep when you can. Make sure the kids are tired out and don’t have sugar or caffeine in them at bedtime. Sleep while they sleep.


As mothers, we often sacrifice food so our children can eat. Sometimes I don’t eat because I want the kids to be fed and happy. I’m not the best cook, nor does our family have a lot of extra money. I often tend to take the easy route and go out for meals when we can, but I try to choose healthy options for my children. We are working on some issues at our house like appropriate foods to eat! We are helped out with food when we are running low. We get food from a place called WIC. They help us with essentials, like milk. I was told at my son’s last check up with WIC that he needed more healthy, calorie-filled foods like avocado. There are also food events around our area for people who want to get large amounts of food for an inexpensive price. At one of those events, a family gets a large box of food for around $15. Another option is the food shelf, which we don’t visit often. The line and the wait time is very long. My mom is a wonderful cook, so she cooks food for my family often, too.

Food Advice for Moms: Look for sales at the grocery store, buy in bulk, and be aware of free and inexpensive food events in your area.


I was fortunate to travel around the country with my family when I was younger. Now I am bound to my children. I can no longer hop in the car and take off because my kids need and deserve consistency. They need me to be present too. That’s what being a good parent is about! Traveling can be expensive and is tough with two kids. Travel time is limited for my family of three, but I’m satisfied with the travel we do for now. A few years ago we went with my parents to Myrtle Beach and stayed there for a couple months. We go to Minneapolis a few times a year, and Duluth is not far away! In town, we have visited the wildlife park, bounce house, play area at the mall, and local parks. Many of the parks around here are full of beauty! My kids really enjoy getting out of the house!

Travel Advice for Moms: Appreciate the sites in your area. We went to our local state park and enjoyed the time a lot. History in the making!


Lack of money is a sacrifice I have made since having children. I now have to budget money in order for us to survive on a weekly basis. I don’t get to shop for what I want all the time, but we survive. We work with the money we have! A number of my friends and I switch clothes once in a while. I also watch what I am spending on a daily basis, including my coffee intake! Going to local coffee shops makes me happy, and I enjoy when the kids come with. I get necessities for my kids right when I get paid. Money is tight, but we get by every month! My kids seem to think I have money to buy them anything they want. I guess that happens in a number of families, no matter how much money they have.

Money Advice for Moms: Budget and know your limits! A little bit of money can go a long way. Look for items on sale and products you can afford.

Despite the sacrifices I make on a daily basis for my children, I would not trade them for the world! I have evolved as a person and now consider myself beneficial to society. Whether you have children or not, we all seem to sacrifice something in order to be rewarded.


This is a story about mental health and self-care written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular stories on my site since February 2015. The purpose of her writing is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m hoping her stories will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the stories I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the stories she’s shared on the site, check out Tiffany’s Story. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

My weight has fluctuated over the years. People have said that I’ve gone from too skinny years ago, to a healthy size now. The truth is that I’m not completely happy with my current weight and the way I feel. I need to start eating better, exercising more and improving my overall well being. I feel strongly that being in good physical health helps with one’s mental health!

When I first lived in Los Angeles in my early to mid 20s, I was told that I was at an unhealthy weight. I never weighed myself during those times, but I’m guessing I weighed around 115-120? I ate Clif bars for almost every meal and spent the day drinking Gatorade. I was getting the necessary calories I needed to survive the day. I lived in Venice Beach, so I’d walk up and down the beach and around different zip codes all day, including Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Culver City. I may have looked alright, but my mental health was slipping down during that stage in my life. I was not feeling good mentally at all. I remember a couple times I went to parties with models. A few of the girls attempted to get me to fly to other countries to do modeling. I was in no place mentally to take that venture. I had opportunities, but I figured out a way to destroy them all. As you can tell in the pictures from Los Angeles, I did not have a sparkle in my eyes like I sometimes do. I was also sucking in my cheeks because I did not feel skinny enough. During the “skinny” time in my life, I would look in the mirror and see an overweight girl. I saw myself as a girl who was not good enough. I was a girl who needed to lose more weight so I was like the other girls. Yes, I compared myself to them.

There were times when I chose to live on the streets. I could not sleep, so why not be outside? I was slipping. I had prescriptions for anti-psychotic medications, but I was not taking them the prescribed way. I was medicating my body in unhealthy ways. Trips back and forth from Minnesota to Los Angeles ultimately landed me back in Minnesota with the proper self-care I needed and was looking for. I was not treating my body as a temple. I was not only polluting my body but also my soul.

As I previously stated, my body weight has fluctuated over the years. When I was in high school, a few of my friends had eating disorders. Those girls were some of the most beautiful girls in my high school class. But shhh, it’s not okay to be sick. That’s what our society tells us. To be honest with you, I often took on some of the responsibility for their disorders. I did not want to be one of the girls whom they were comparing themselves to. I felt an extreme guilt during high school because I did not know how to help my friends. I’ve never had an eating disorder, but I was struggling during that time too. I have compared myself to the “skinny” girls. When people share about how much weight they have lost, it’s hard not to compare. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized why. I, along with them, was trying to look NOT SICK in a SICK world. Everyone is hurting in some way. We are all at different stages of acceptance, but we have to accept who we are today.

When I started to be more concerned with my mental health, I was on a cocktail of different medications. Many of those medications caused bloating and weight gain. A couple years ago, I was at my ideal weight of around 132 pounds. The fact is that I was not mentally stable at that time. My dad was getting sicker and sicker every day, and I was grieving over a boyfriend who was dealing with his own issues. I felt pretty good physically, but I was torn apart inside.

Currently, I look in the mirror and see a body that I do not want to accept. I see a woman who needs to feel better about her current size. Lately, I’ve weighed between 140-145. I work in the child care area at a health club and receive a free membership for the work I do. My dream is to start working out a few times a week and to definitely watch what I am eating. To burn off calories takes time and effort.

My prayer is to be happy with my overall physical and mental health. I’ll let you know when I am! I have found that no matter what your size, confidence is everything. We need to find a way to be comfortable with our body size, no matter what that may be. A lot of this may sound trivial in comparison to more important problems that we face in life. It is, but we have to feel good about ourselves in order to communicate properly with the people we surround ourselves with. You’ve got to like and love yourself before you can like and love others! For me, I have to take care of myself in order to be a better parent to my two kids.


This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular guest posts on my blog since February 2015. The purpose of her posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.


Being grateful can improve one’s health. As I reflect on the past year, I have so much to be thankful for! I have two kids who I would do anything for, a great support system of professionals, family and friends, the ability to help myself and seeing gains for my efforts. I have found more peace in myself now than I ever have before. To me, Thanksgiving has a new meaning this year. The good, the bad and the rest that doesn’t always make sense. These are all the pieces of my life that I’m thankful for.


My parents were out of town for over three months due to my dad’s lung transplant, but have been back now for a little over two weeks. My dad is home this Thanksgiving. I am grateful that my parents get to spend the holiday with us. My dad had some lung rejection issues, and he ended up in the hospital for ten days right before they came back home. His team of doctors will be checking his antibodies soon to see if the lung rejection is still happening. If his antibodies are bad, he will have to go back to the hospital for further procedures. The transition to them being back home has not necessarily been easy, but we are working on adjusting to accommodations that work for everyone. We are moving forward with my dad’s health with optimism. We are planning for a great future with him around.



I’m thankful that Raegan, my six-year-old daughter, is starting to understand my mental health issues. She likes to show her friends and people who stop by clips from when I was in movies, television shows and commercials in my 20s. I was in the movie Four Christmases. Raegan laughs pretty hard when she sees my hands up in the air in the background. She often asks me what happens when I don’t take my pills. I forgot them one morning, and she asked if I could drive alright without them. I told her that I would be fine, as long as I took them soon. Raegan is reading very well and with great expression. She loves math, her class and her teacher. She is very wise and kind as well. She has her temper tantrum moments. Xander, my two-year-old son, is loving life. He is pretty rambunctious and is an explorer. He is full of questions, loves school (Early Childhood Family Education) and is an extremely kind and loving son. He loves exploring so much that it’s difficult for him to sit still during ECFE reading time. During gym time, he’s been running around pretending he’s a dinosaur. The other kids don’t seem to know what to think. He is proud to call the other kids in the class his friends. My experience with Xander at school has been different because I feel more chill and comfortable about everything. I am thankful for my two children. They keep me going, even when I’d rather isolate myself from the world.


I need a support system to help me discipline and work with my kids. My parents, friends and a team of professionals help me with these issues. I take advice from each and every one of these people to help improve my situation. I am trying to help myself so I can be more independent of some of this help, as I have been over the past few months. I’m working with what I’ve been told, and am starting to figure out a parenting plan that I can do more independently. Now that my parents are home, it’s east to revert to dependence again. But I have gained confidence over the last three months as a parent. I am a parent who can prepare meals, stay organized and help with homework. I am thankful for all that I have been taught about parenting, and I plan on utilizing those skills throughout life.

Overall, I am very satisfied with how far I have come as a single parent. I am grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life, and am happy my mom and dad are now home, at least for now. My kids, support system, my ability to help myself and peoples’ responses to my gains have guided me towards more independence in life and with my children. I hope that over the years I become more confident in my myself and my skills. Every day is a new journey!


This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular guest posts on my blog since February 2015. The purpose of her posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.


It has been more than two months since my dad had his lung transplant. My parents have been staying in Minneapolis since the surgery. They usually live a few doors away from us. How has that time away from them been for me and my kids?

As you may know from previous posts, my parents are a major part of our support system. I have struggled, but I have also become the independent woman I know I am and can be. I’ve utilized my support system, accomplished tasks and handled situations I never thought possible. I have weeded people out of my life and have become closer to some. I continue to tell myself that I am a good mom, and continue to live my life in an honest and open way. I can’t honestly say that every day I am completely happy, but I am living with hope in my mind, body and soul. I have heard great feedback from the professionals I work with and family and friends about how I am doing while my parents are gone.

Everyone has stories to tell about the best days of their life. I really have not had typical experiences. The best days of my life have not been normal. Yes, my kids’ births were pretty spectacular, but there were complications that made those days a bit horrifying. I was a single mom both times. My daughter had a CCAM, which was a large growth in one of her lungs she had removed a couple days after she was born. My son was born via c-section.



The day after my dad’s lung transplant turned out to be one of the best days of my life. My dad was sick for about 16 years before his transplant. For years, I was full of both worry and hope that his life could turn around. Hope for more time and years to spend with me and the kids. Nobody knew what was going to happen with his health. He was at the end of his life if something wasn’t done. When my dad got the call that a lung was ready for him, I was full of hope and excitement. This is going to work out, I told myself. The same type of feeling I had when my daughter was just days old and had a large lobe of one of her lungs removed.

I was SO happy that my kids and I could be at the hospital in Minneapolis for the procedure and be there when he woke up. I was the first person in my dad’s hospital room when he woke up from the surgery. I sat there with him as he nodded his head with big eyes open and a breathing tube in his mouth. I held back the tears as we experienced an emotional moment. That day was one of the best days of my life. We were feeling together that the hope was still alive. Seeing the excitement in my dad’s eyes, knowing the lung transplant finally happened and at that moment, my dad was going to be okay.




My family prepared for the lung transplant for months, even years. My dad was staying optimistic, as he is, yet preparing for both the best and worst that could happen. My family wanted to prepare me and the kids for the time that my parents would be away. I’m not a cook, or at least I thought I wasn’t before my dad’s transplant. I have felt pride letting my parents know that I have been cooking for myself, the kids and sometimes friends, while they have been away. One of my favorite meals I’ve made while they have been gone was Hawaiian marinated pork chops, white rice and vegetables. I am experimenting with the food that we have available to us. I hope to experiment more during the remainder of the time they are away. I am going to cook for my parents when they get back home. The plan is for them to come back in about a month if my dad’s health is stable.


Since my parents have been away, I have occasionally been attending church and a group called Celebrate Recovery. We sing, learn and are able to talk in a group setting. We go when we can and if the kids are not too tired. I listen and isolate myself at times, and focus on the voices in my head. My psychiatrist said that isolation is a way to end up back in the hospital. I enjoy talking in the group setting with people who are also experiencing life. It’s nice to actually express my feeling and thoughts to real people. We are often told to talk less and listen more. One of my friends recently told me that she feels like she is in an interview session with me. I guess I just like to learn about peoples’ lives. It’s pretty awesome when I get to express myself too, and when questions are asked of me.

Overall, some consistency is coming into my family’s life. Kids seem to thrive on consistency.



Since my parents have been away, I have really felt the social stigma about mental illness. I can pretty much guarantee that a few people reading this are scared of the mentally ill, or they just don’t know what to think about them. We are not all scary, no more than the normal population. Like it or not, I am an individual with the label of mentally ill. I admit, I used to feel the same about people with the label of mentally ill. My grandfather used to work at a state hospital in Jamestown, North Dakota. When I was young, I recall thinking of the mentally ill as being locked away, shut out from society, walking around with nowhere to go. Weird, strange, do not talk to them because they are dangerous, living a different life. Yet, I found them interesting and found some connection with their lives. Little did I know that I’d be one of them someday. These days, the mentally ill are usually given respect and people are talking out about their illness. We are able to thrive and live normal lives. I spent a lot of time in a state hospital years ago, and know how frustrating it can be to be shunned from society. I have met many people in different institutions that I have found much in common with. Many people who are just scared of being themselves. Some people who are just reaching out for someone to be there for them. I do not feel that I am scary, I just have a gigantic label placed on me. We are all unique and different.

I cherish friends, family and strangers who have accepted and allowed me to be the person I am meant to be. I am grateful that God blessed me with two kids who make my life worth living. I am more than just a face. I am single and talk often in my posts about finding love in any kind of relationship. Sometimes I have found a false love that I wanted to be there, to be real.

Recently, I met with my psychiatrist and let him know what was going on. I also told him that my dad was doing great! I told him that often I don’t know what to say while having a conversation. The rules we have as a society are tough. I’ve learned that people can either accept me or reject me. I have a strong support system either way!

My dad and my daughter have had major health issues with their lungs. Dealing with these life-threatening illnesses has made me a stronger individual. I have become much more realistic about what is important in life and what really doesn’t matter. In dealing with real-life trauma both in my life and others’ lives, I have become stronger and more focused on moving forward and not looking back.


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