Falling in Love with my ADHD Brain

adhd, Motherhood

For most of my life I struggled to fit in. Even though I was “successful” at a lot of different things, I was really hard on myself for not being able to stick it out any one thing. How was I ever going to be the best at anything if I eventually got bored and moved on to the next idea that sparked my interest?

I constantly told myself that I wasn’t enough. I silenced myself; therefore, it left a lot of room for miserable people in my life. I have recently met several females who were diagnosed with ADHD later in life. Even though I had a diagnosis pretty early on, I didn’t understand my brain.

Because I didn’t understand my brain, I stayed in the wrong relationships for for too long. I said yes so many times when I wanted to say no because I was scared of what other people would think of me. ADHD can be a beautiful thing. There are so many things that I am good at but often times we hyper-focus on the wrong things.

Almost 10 years ago I had a mini me who is so beautiful and smart. She’s creative. She’s kind. She’s the kind of person who puts others before herself and if we are being honest, that’s exactly what scares me the most. Being empathetic isn’t a bad thing and I wouldn’t trade the ability to feel so deeply for anything in the world. I’ve learned to look at it as a super power. But that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes empathy is extremely overwhelming.

Sometimes being overwhelmed causes us to lose sight of our vision. I can do this. I just told myself so many times that I couldn’t. I started to believe it. So I’m going to tell myself I told my daughter last night. It’s OK to stand out. It’s OK to be different. It’s OK to do things in your own way. I personally don’t think that codependency is always a bad thing. Just be careful who you depend on.

You are going to meet people who light your world on fire. There will be people who try to understand you that never can. That’s OK. Love them anyway! You inspire so many people just by being you. I know how frustrating it is to have a great idea that nobody can see but people will see it. You just have to show it to them in the right way and you’ll get there I promise. It takes all kinds of kinds.

I’ll let you be free as much as possible because I know that you were going to change the world one day. I can’t wait to see how you do it.

How to be DONE with your Losing Season

Lifestyle, Motherhood

A friend of mine recently posted a beautiful photo where she was glowing! As soon as I saw the picture of her, before ever reading the caption, I started smiling. She’s someone I can relate to and someone that I am so happy to see find her voice. The caption said something along the lines of “Stop being jealous of people in their winning season. You never know what they lost in their losing season.” Wow, did that hit me hard!

In a little over a year I lost my job, my best friend, my sense of security, my marriage, my grandfather, my house…anyway you get the point. I had a pretty rough losing season. I’m in the process of finding a new therapist after moving across the country and I’m learning to cope with my trauma in healthy ways.

I promised myself a little over a year ago that I’d never lose my voice again. I’d never refrain from speaking my truth. I’ll admit, I didn’t always go about things the right way. PTSD is something that I will live with for the rest of my life. I’ve recently struggled to remember so much. I’ve researched what PTSD does to the brain and as someone who used to remember every tiny little detail…I can’t put into words how much it hurts to watch videos of my children over and over again to try and replace those hard memories with something positive. This isn’t a poor pitiful Ashlee post by the way. It’s just so if anyone else finds themselves struggling…you know you are not alone.

When I started making Tiktok videos a little over a year ago, I had no idea that people would actually follow me. I just wanted a connection. I wanted to be a part of something again. Don’t we all? At work, I was struggling to come to terms with my depression and PTSD. I was doing everything I possibly could to hold on to the life that I had, no matter how flawed it may have been.

I would have never left. It didn’t matter how worthless I felt. It didn’t matter how toxic the work environment was. It didn’t matter how many times the police were called. In the end, I had to realize that It really didn’t matter who believed me or believed in me because I knew the truth. It has it’s way of coming full circle, but I’m not the best at being patient…or at least I wasn’t until I had to be.

I moved across the country with my four girls and I discovered that no matter what I was told in the past, I wanted to stay in the present. I had to remain in reality for my girls. I had to continue to fight for them but I had to fight for myself first. After spending months wanting to unlive, I forced myself to get outside. When I did, I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a long time and honestly thought I’d never experience again…excitement. I felt the warmth of the sun and I heard my little baby’s feet waddling/running (idk what it is, but it’s cute). I let my kids get extra snacks at the grocery store and I realized that I have to be the one to teach them that life doesn’t have to be so complex all the time. Sometimes we are going to go to a new park completely put together and some days we are just going to play in the backyard looking a hot mess still in PJs. But you know what? They’ll take either day as long as I’m happy.

When I left the grocery store, for a brief moment I remember thinking that all this STUFF, the heavy stuff, the stuff that keeps me up at 1am writing this blog post to keep from shutting down again…will always be with me. And it will. There’s no denying that. But so will the lessons I’ve learned, so will the people I’ve met and the places I’ve gone along the way. Growth is messy and healing isn’t easy or pain free. To be done with your losing season, you have to come to terms with the fact that your life will never be the same again, and that’s okay. It’s not supposed to be. If you’re challenging yourself every day and you know that you’re doing the best you possibly can…you will find your people.

I used to believe that we only had one soulmate and you should stay with that person until the end of time no matter what. I still have a hard time letting go of toxic. I had a hard time providing myself closure when someone shut the door on the opportunity of a clean break. I believe that we outgrow people. I believe that things happen to us and some of us can’t help but feel every little sting. And I couldn’t heal in the same place that broke me. I couldn’t drive by the same gas station or pull up in the driveway of the place where I lost my sense of security and who I was. Moving and changing my environment was hard, but it’s hard either way. I just had to choose a path and stick with it. And every day it gets a little easier. Sometimes I feel the sting, but I know that even though that feeling can be painful and STRONG, I KNOW that I’m stronger. I just finally see it now.

You are stronger than the thing that broke you. Don’t stop. Believe in you.

Follow me on Tiktok @ashleelemay where I share my chaotic motherhood journey! Let’s connect.

Two Year Old in Tulip Town

For collabs: ashleelemay@gmail.com

Job Loss and Confidence

Mental Health

I saw a video going around not too long that talked about describing who you are without any labels…without saying I’m a mom, a wife, a sister, friend, etc. Who are you without naming your occupation? Who are you without your degree or hiding behind your social circles? It hit me differently because I don’t think I know who I am without those things.

It’s easy to lose yourself in the process of giving everything you have to your family. It’s easy to define yourself by your occupation and bury yourself within your career. We grow up thinking that it’s normal to not be happy at work if the money is good. For years I worked night shift as a scientist and homeschooled my kids during the day. I had the best of both worlds…or at least that’s what I told myself.

I was proud of myself for finishing school despite having a second baby and I never wanted my girls to give up on their dreams because of a difficult situation. But was being a scientist really my dream? Was it? Maybe. Can our dreams change? Absolutely. You’re allowed to redefine yourself a hundred times over and it’s normal for your path in life to change. You are under no obligation to be who you WERE…one minute ago.

The problem with using those labels to define yourself is that sometimes life happens and those titles can be compromised in a heartbeat. I lost two jobs this year. Both times were unfair and handled poorly but when enough people say you do something it doesn’t really matter, does it? Before 2019, I’d never lost a job. I don’t even think I’d ever interviewed for a position that I didn’t receive an offer for. I went to school, got a degree, and even received a promotion at the job I thought I’d retire at. A couple weeks before I was brought into the office about my “negative influence on the workplace” and “intimidating behavior” I’d received a near perfect evaluation.

My performance review was nearly perfect and I wasn’t given much that I needed to work on. I got along with my coworkers, and I loved going to work. Despite the work environment being extremely toxic, I tried my best to make it work. I was diagnosed with PTSD and extreme anxiety after experiencing a very public trauma and I felt like my job was all I had left to hold on to. I couldn’t imagine starting over again or going through another change. After all, I’d spent years in school and given up so many hours with my children to accomplish goals that I thought would provide them (and me) a better life.

I went from being the lead of two departments as a Medical Laboratory Scientist to being unemployed. The years I’d given to that organization ended with less than a page notice that returning to work would not be best for my mental health. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make but looking back it wasn’t really much of a decision. I didn’t have a good choice. They’d proven they’d stop at nothing to make my life miserable there and it didn’t matter how much experience I had, how well I performed my job, or how much time I’d invested outside of work just to keep things peaceful when I was present.

Leaving taught me that life goes on whether you really want it to in the moment or not. It taught me that I’m more than a scientist, but also that someone else’s disapproval of me can’t take my degree or who I am away from me. Maybe I didn’t do the smartest thing, but I did the right thing. Doing the right thing doesn’t always pay off immediately, but I know that in time I will heal. That being said, I strongly believe that time heals nothing unless you move along with it. I needed to feel it. I needed to hit rock bottom so that I could learn to pick up the pieces and stop hiding behind the image of what I thought life was supposed to be like. Something tells me that I’m not alone in that feeling.

It took me a long time to begin to recognize the difference between my intuition guiding me, and my trauma misleading me. Losing a job is a loss. I needed to take the time to grieve but I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t have a support system. Not truly. Everyone expected me to make lemonade out of lemons like I always do but I was too exhausted. Telling pieces of my story and realizing that I’m not alone has helped. I was too ashamed to admit, *even to myself* the full story because this wasn’t supposed to happen to me.

I’ve learned that hurt people, hurt people and I don’t want to be that person. I want to heal not only for myself but for my girls and the relationships that I will make in the future. There are so many things I want to get better at. As much as I didn’t want to leave certain people behind I’ve realized that it’s hard to turn the page when you know your favorite character won’t make it into the next chapter of your life…but the story must go on. It’s not finished yet. You’re not finished yet. You repeat what you don’t repair so please make peace with your broken pieces.

Follow along for more. Tiktok: @ashleelemay IG: @ashleeleighann

-The Zombie Mom

What I Learned from Losing my Best Friend…How to Deal with Ghosting and Rejection

Motherhood

I’m not a stranger to rejection. I don’t think anyone is…maybe everyone just deals with it differently. The last year was by far the most challenging of my life. I hurt more, cried more, felt all the things, and grew more than I ever imagined. Trauma tried to complete break me down and in some ways it did. I picked myself up and started over more times than I can count.

I felt like a failure at work no matter how hard I tried to get back to a place where I truly enjoyed what I did. I felt like no one truly had my back or could understand what I was going through. But how could they when I didn’t even understand what I was going through? I felt like a failure in my marriage and I dreaded being anywhere besides my bed (where I got very little time to even sleep between working nights and homeschooling four kids during the day). The only constant that I had in my life was my best friend. I thought she’d always be there. She was my person that I searched my whole life to find. She was the person that I wanted to be when I grew up. We went through pregnancy together, a toxic work environment together, Home Goods trips when we felt like we were about to break. We were neighbors, our kids were best friends, we went on vacations and lake trips together. Some of my best memories include planning our toddlers’ weddings, suffering through our little girls’ dance classes on no sleep after working all night. But we were in it together.

When I knew that my marriage was over but couldn’t admit it to myself, she picked me up more times than I could count. I couldn’t imagine a life that didn’t include planning birthday parties or a world where we didn’t wish each other’s kids Happy Birthday. I still can’t wrap my head around never having another pool day in the backyard with mimosas.

Losing someone who is still here was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. I’ve cried more tears at night over the loss of that relationship than I did when it finally sank in that my husband cared more about controlling me than saving our house or our family. I’m still angry that she couldn’t even have the decency of letting my kids say goodbye to their best friends before moving across the country.

I’m angry that she couldn’t support me in doing what was best for my children when I would have walked through fire for her. I’m so angry that she knew how panicked, how hurt, how scared, how broken I felt because she was the one person I opened up enough to to share those feelings and she couldn’t even give me a reason. She just ghosted me like you do someone who you have no emotional attachment to at all. I’m angry at myself for still wanting to reach out for answers after months of being ignored. I’m angry at myself for being angry. I hate that in giving so much of myself to other people I completely lost myself.

At the end of the day, the biggest loss of my life taught me that you have to love yourself. You have to believe in yourself enough to pick back up on the hard days. You have to find strength in who you are but to do that you have to know who you are without any labels. I could try to word this better and add in some bullshit about a beautiful tomorrow but the truth is that tomorrow isn’t promised. There is beauty in breaking but it hurts like hell. That’s the truth. It hurts like fucking hell.

As a mom of four, I’ve seen, heard and experienced alot of different cries. Some tears flow freely. But the ones that don’t come with alot of sting. The tears you try your hardest to hide from the world are the ones hurt the worst. Let it out. Don’t hold that shit in. Breathe. And move on. No matter how much you wanted them to want you…if they can’t at least respect you enough to give you an answer…they aren’t worth your time.

One thing that I’ve learned from suffering from PTSD is that you deal with trauma at some point or another. You don’t walk away completely unscathed. It might be something silly like a trip to Home Goods by yourself where you break down looking at Rae Dunn coffee mugs because it was much more fun with your best friend. It may be working in Seattle thinking about Grey’s Anatomy and realizing you don’t have anyone to discuss it with anymore. It might be a phone call from a complete stranger who is mentally disturbed a year after the worst moments of your life were broadcast on national television reminding you that you still don’t have answers. Triggers are different for everyone. But since I can’t avoid the pain, I’m choosing to move on the only way that I know how.

I’m choosing to forgive. I’m choosing to accept that I feel things and that’s okay. I’m choosing to keep the happy memories and hope that one day maybe my tears will be the ones that flow freely. I forgive myself for making excuses for someone who could have sent a simple text message. I’m vowing to try and be better at communicating my feelings even when it’s hard because I don’t want to hurt anyone else. I’m choosing to accept that just because I want something to be okay doesn’t mean that it is. We are all human and at the end of the day the basic rules, wants, and needs are the same. We don’t know what the hell we feel sometimes. At others we think we have it down to a science but we aren’t even close. We need interaction but fear getting close to anyone.

I don’t regret any of it. The world hasn’t hardened me yet and I still love her deeply. And I’m proud of myself for trying to fix what I broke even when she wouldn’t give me an answer. Forgiveness isn’t always for the other person. It’s so that we can pick up the broken pieces and try to put them back together again. Things will never be the same. I know that…I didn’t always, though. I used to fight so hard to avoid change. But I think I’m on to something. I don’t know what that is yet but I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was yesterday.

I Moved across the Country when Life Got Boring

Motherhood

I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy with my job. I wasn’t happy in my marriage. I no longer felt secure in my home and I could no longer tell my kids that everything would be okay with a sparkle in my eyes.

See, I used to carry the desire for adventure in my back pocket. I wanted to see the world, do something important…I wanted to help people and nothing was going to stop me. Steve Jobs once said that the people who believe they will change the world are the ones that actually do…or something like that. I’m typing this in notes on my iPhone while traveling surrounded by nothing but clouds. Honestly, it’s the only place that I find peaceful nowadays.

Life is funny like that…once your worst nightmare happens in your safe place, everything else is fair game. I lost my fear of flying or being bit by a shark. Oh yeah, about that…I met a guy on my travel assignment that survived a shark attack. Maybe it was then that I realized I’m my only limit. I learned that I invested way too much of my energy into caring what others thought about me. I don’t do that anymore. We’ve all had our own shark bites. We all deal with trauma in our own way and I’m still learning to deal with mine. What I do know is that I no longer expect people to understand. As a matter of fact, I hardly have expectations anymore. Life is better that way.

I’m no longer bitter. I no longer hold resentment towards the people who treated me unfairly. No matter how much I wanted them to be, they weren’t my people. I’m special. So are you. I care. Too much. And I’ve learned to love that about myself. I feel this way when I fly. Who are you without any labels? I don’t want to know if you’re a mother, what you do for a living, or what kind of car you drive.

Who ARE Y O U? Maybe that’s why flying does this to me…because I’m above all the pain, the labels, the responsibilities. I have time to think about who I am and what I want out of life without all the other distractions. I’m a better person when I take the time to reset. Aren’t we all? Give yourself some grace…some time. And realize that time doesn’t heal all wounds. Learn that it’s okay to be a little broken. But put yourself back together in a way that matters. PTSD and trauma never completely go away, but I’ll be damned if I let it destroy me. I will rise above it. I’ll fly in the clouds as many times as it takes without offering an apology to anyone for how I choose to reconfigure the broken parts of me. I’ll swim in the middle of the ocean in a country I’ve never been, hike a mountain in a new state, and say hi to a stranger even though it makes me uncomfortable. Because being comfortable is boring anyway and I want to feel alive again.

Things You Save in a Fire Book Review and Mental Health Tips

books, Mental Health

If you haven’t read Things You Save in a Fire, I highly recommend that you do. I recently had one of my social media followers ask about books I recommend for mental health. Personally, I have a hard time finishing self help books. I follow podcasts, Ted Talks, and watch a lot of documentaries. I read ALOT, whether it be a book or an article. I personally relate more to story telling. I love books that I am able to escape reality with but also learn something. Things You Save in a Fire taught me how to begin to move on from something that caused me severe trauma and PTSD. The steps to forgiveness and why it is important to forgive even when someone will no longer be a part of your life completely changed my thought process. I didn’t believe that it was possible to see the good in a situation so devastating. I thought that if I admitted that any good had come from that situation, I was saying that was slightly less awful. As a mother, how do you feel okay saying that something good came from a situation that stole your child’s innocence?

Step One: To forgive you must admit that someone hurt you. That sounds easy enough, right? While I will admit that most of the time this is the easiest step, for fellow empaths or others who overanalyze every situation, this isn’t always a piece of cake. I have always been hard on myself. As the saying goes, you are your own worst critic. I realized that in an attempt to control the uncontrollable, I caused myself destructive anxiety. I believe that there is such thing as a worry that is productive. Being excited about something can be an exceptional motivation factor, but being anxious about something that you have absolutely no control over is destructive. I have a desire to fix everyone and every situation. I want to know what I did wrong and I’d rather be wrong because then I can be proactive about the situation. Admitting that someone else caused me pain and the situation was not within my power to alter was extremely hard for me. Seeing those words in writing while reading someone else’s story put everything into perspective. I knew the answers all along and I was fighting to change something that I had no choice but to accept or let it destroy me. Admit to yourself that you allowed someone to get close to you. Admit to yourself that you were a victim of a crime. Admit to yourself that you are a little bit broken right now. Admit to yourself that you are allowed to feel pain. To become a survivor, you have to feel what you need to feel first. Feeling the pain now allows your body to time to process the emotions. As someone who still suffers from PTSD, I thought that avoiding the emotions would keep me from feeling pain.

For example, I tried my best to stay off social media. Don’t misread what I’m saying. Taking a break from social media and distancing yourself from any kind of negative environment is a good thing. In my case, social media was important to me before the trauma. I stayed in touch with my family and friends and by avoiding it all together, as well as not allowing myself to process my trauma in a healthy way, I cast the entire trauma off on social media. I didn’t know who to blame anymore. I didn’t even have a lucid version of what actually happened in my mind. I became triggered everytime I received an email or text message. I dreaded checking social media accounts to the point where I had anxiety attacks just thinking about reading a message. I associated any pain that I was feeling with social media. In the process, I missed positive messages from friends and family and pushed people who wanted to support me away.

It’s important to admit what happened. I am all about taking responsibility for what I do wrong, and I would never tell you to place blame where it is not due. However, we have so many negative thoughts that go through our head every single day. Telling yourself that something was your fault when it wasn’t will not make the pain go away. It will not give you any more control over the situation. It will only prolong the healing process. Admitting what happened is important for the next step.

Step Two: Acknowledge that the person who hurt you is flawed, like all people are. To me, this was a lot bigger than just saying that someone sucked. It was saying that in a way, we are all a little broken. Our flaws can add character, and they can cause some serious damage. In acknowledging that the person who hurt me is flawed, I also acknowledged that I was. I learned that sometimes it’s no one’s fault. Sometimes two people can be toxic for each other. People don’t always apologize and you won’t always receive the closure that you so desperately hoped for. Part of the healing process is gaining an understanding of what happened. In no way do I mean fixate on the situation or allow it to control your life. But you need to have an idea of what went wrong, the parts of the situation that you do have control over, and the parts that you do not. You can control your reaction to someone else’s actions, but you cannot control their actions.

What do you do when the person who hurt you is blaming you? This question is precisely why forgiveness is so important. Forgiving someone else is not always for them. It’s so that you can move on. If you blame yourself for everything that goes wrong in life, not only will you be miserable, but you will limit yourself in ways that you cannot even imagine. So again, feel what you need to feel…and then move on. You are in no way saying that because all people have flaws, someone’s flaws did not hurt you. You are simply saying that imperfections can cause pain and gaining a better understanding of boundaries that you may need to set in the future.

Are you ready for step three? I know I wasn’t, but here goes.

Step Three: Find something positive that would not have happened if the situation had not occurred. For the longest time I thought that finding something good discredited me. I thought that finding a glimmer of light and hope would give someone the power to say that I spent no time in the dark. The trauma we suffered was real. I know this because I finally allowed myself to feel. That doesn’t mean that I’m never allowed to experience joy again. That doesn’t mean that I can’t find peace and move on. It doesn’t mean that I wanted this to happen to me. Finding the good in a bad situation allows you to change your story. It doesn’t delete the chapters before it. They will always be with you. But it allows room for new characters and events. Someone once told me that the reason some people stay stuck in the worst moments of their life is because that’s all they have. They live in that moment because it was significant.

I don’t want to give too much of the book away because you really should read it for yourself, but I will reference a part of the book (with no spoiler context) that was super relateable to me. One of the characters mentioned that when she envisioned her trauma, she pictured herself as scared and hopeless. When she finally embraced the power of forgiveness, she pictured the woman that she had become sitting alongside the scared little girl. She pictured herself giving her a hug and letting her know that it will be okay. That might sound crazy to some, but for trauma victims it’s common to feel as though your life was split into two parts: the part of you that lived before the trauma, and the person that you became afterwards. The middle can be kind of hazy sometimes. Your body has a way of shutting down some of those thoughts and preventing you from remembering certain things. Don’t spend so much time wishing that the past didn’t happen. It did. But what are you going to do about it? Are you going to remain stuck in the moment? Will you use your knowledge to help others see the light?

If you found this helpful, let me know in a comment and feel free to follow along! Follow me on IG: @ashleeleighann and TikTok @ashleelemay.

-The Zombie Mom

 

 

I don’t do Six Feet Apart or Toxic very Well…Confessions of a Mom and Healthcare Worker

Mental Health, Motherhood

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Everything below this paragraph I wrote yesterday before I had any idea what was coming. Reading it again now, I realize how much God was preparing my heart for what was about to come. I know that I gave it my all. I know that I fought for my job in healthcare more than I’ve fought for anything else in my life. I went through a year of discovering my worth, and recently I started to realize that I don’t have to stay in a toxic environment. I don’t have to allow people to destroy me for something that I had no control over. I left a job I thought I would retire from, a job that I was proud of, and a job that honestly defined me for so long. Sometimes when something is so good for so long, it makes it that much harder to realize when it’s no longer serving you. I never thought I’d have the ability to say that I deserve better than this without a backup plan, but I know that I have to take care of my mind, and the stress from situations out of my control became way too much. I’ll write about exactly what happened later, but for now, here is what it’s really like to work in healthcare right now (especially as a mama).

I’m a mama who works night shift in a laboratory and I’m tired. I’ve worked at night, gone home to my kids, and stayed up all day for almost five years now. I can honestly say that I’ve never been this tired. I breastfed two babies while working nights. I was pregnant twice while working nights. With my last baby, I worked the night before while in labor and delivered my baby the next day. I still wasn’t nearly as exhausted as I am now. It’s not so much the job, as the current state of the world. I’m used to having most of the answers and being able to figure out the ones that I don’t have. When I went to school, I knew that I would be exposed to illness. I knew that I would experience times where I couldn’t fix it or figure it out. I remember having my hands prayed over before starting clinicals and thinking of all the wonderful things that my hands would be able to do. I felt empowered. I felt excited. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and joy that I didn’t allow room for exhaustion. I learned equations, medical terms, the correct order of draw, and how to determine if an infection is viral or bacterial. I learned the reference ranges for lab values. I learned how to determine what gram positive cocci look like vs. gram negative bacilli. I learned how the coagulation system works and exactly how our blood circulates. I can tell you what tests to order to check for most ailments and if your potassium is really critical or if it’s contaminated. I can even tell you your blood type by testing for in manually. But I wasn’t prepared for six feet apart.

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I wasn’t prepared for the day that I couldn’t go see my grandparents without fearing judgement or possibly infecting them. I wasn’t prepared for the night I would leave my already traumatized daughter and have her ask me if I was going to die. I wasn’t prepared for the nights where I’d struggle to breathe behind a mask for almost nine hours and get on social media to read all the misinformation out there. I’m prepared to fight for you, and I’m prepared to be on the front lines. What I wasn’t prepared for was the hate and tension that surround us right now. You don’t really feel like a “healthcare hero” when your day to day consists of constant changes and you still don’t have the answers.

I’m tired of telling my children that we can’t walk in the store. I’m tired of my ears hurting and face breaking out because of a mask. I live in the South and I’m tired of not being able to walk up and give everyone a hug. I’m tired of letting my phone ring because I’m so mentally drained that I can’t handle a conversation. I’m tired of telling my daughters that we can’t go to the zoo, or the park, or find a filter for our pool because of this virus. It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting not knowing what to say. It’s exhausting reading the opinions people gather from empty numbers that they don’t understand. It’s exhausting having my educated opinion questioned for trying to provide a sense of hope. It’s exhausting not knowing what to do, so I get it. As a healthcare worker, I want you to know that you aren’t alone.

My five year old starts kindergarten this year,

and while I homeschooled my oldest by choice before, I wanted to send her. I wanted her to experience the first day of school. I wanted her to make new friends, go on field trips, and come home sweaty from recess. I wanted to take her back to school shopping and pack her little backpack for the first day. My oldest got to experience two years of “real school” as she calls it and I wanted Addalise to experience that too. I’m tired of feeling like I’m letting her down. I’m tired of being asked questions that I can’t answer. I don’t know when this will be over. I don’t know how to tell her to not be scared when everything around her is changing. I’m tired of not being able to control the spread at work, and coming home without a moment to gather my thoughts. The only answer that I have right now is that I don’t know. I’m trying my best to focus on setting up our homeschool room. I’m trying to stay strong for her, remain positive, and remain grounded in the belief that even though things may not be ideal, I can still create a magical learning experience for her this year. It’s okay to let yourself feel, but don’t stay in your negative thoughts for too long. Utilize the resources that are available to you, vent when you need to, and start your school day with a grateful heart and open mind.

I know that’s easier said than done, but trying to control the uncontrollable will solve nothing.

I don’t like not knowing. I don’t like not having concrete information. I don’t like being in a lose lose situation where I don’t even have a choice. I don’t like feeling like the entire world is giving up hope, but not being able to honestly say that I don’t feel the same way. I don’t like that people are losing their jobs. I don’t like that everyone is struggling in some way, and there is no way to appease everyone. I try to fix everything. I try to do what I can. Being on the front lines isn’t enough. How are we really supposed to feel like we are all in this together when no one really has a clue what’s going on? I don’t like how comfortable people have become behind a keyboard because they have nothing better to do. Don’t be bitter, get better. On your worst day, think of a positive memory or something that you can look forward to and get out of bed. Don’t assume the worst but hope for the best. Make it the best that you possibly can, and try harder the next day.

I don’t want to give you empty positivity because I get it. I have fears too. We all do. I fear for people’s mental health. I fear for the loss of connection. I fear for the seniors that didn’t get to experience a real celebration for all their hard work. I fear for the new marriages that are already facing so many challenges right at the beginning. I fear that something I say will make it worse for someone else. At the same time, I fear that as someone who is always positive, saying nothing at all is so much worse.

While I don’t have all the answers, I can tell you this.

There is beauty in every day. As a mama and a healthcare worker, I can tell you that we care. I can tell you that we take this job seriously and that I have dedicated my life to helping people in any way that I can. I can tell you that we feel it too…that everyone is frustrated. I can tell you that no matter how many times I have felt lost, I know that we will get through this. There are ways to stay connected. We can adjust to this new normal the best that we can. I can tell you that homeschooling really isn’t so bad after all and that I’ve used this time to connect more with the people at home. I can tell you that when things become a little sunnier, they will shine brighter than ever before. I can tell you that we have the opportunity to recognize how much we took for granted before and vow to not let that happen again.

I won’t feel stressed about planning a birthday party and I won’t worry as much about how messy my house can get with four kids. I will put real life connections with my friends and family above my own unrealistic image of how I should appear as a young mother. I will try to always remember the days where I had to use my imagination. I will continue to reinvent things and encourage my kids to experience life as much as possible. Because you never know what tomorrow may hold. I will show my teeth when I smile. I will visit family as often as I am able to. And I will give myself grace when life piles on beyond my control.

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I won’t take gatherings for granted. I will be grateful that I have the chance for closure at a funeral and the ability to celebrate the life of someone who meant so much to the people around them. I will tell my daughters that as much as I hated leaving them, I was doing what I had to do. I will never again take for granted the comfort I feel knowing enough to make sense of my own personal research. I won’t feel as though taking in four children is inconvenient.

Better days are ahead, my friend but until then I wanted to give a few tips to get through this. Know that you are not alone. Realize that your fears and concerns are completely justified and that we all feel a little anxious right now. While your concerns may not be the same as someone else’s, let’s try and support each other the best that we can. Let’s use this time to realize that we do need other people and find new ways to adapt together.

Occupy your mind. Take a breath, a walk, or a bath. Relax. When you have exhausted all efforts to find a solution, remove yourself from the situation for a moment. I’m not saying give up. Definitely don’t do that. But don’t overexert yourself so much at one time that you forget how to function. We charge our phones, reset our routers, and restart our computers. Don’t forget that almost anything will work again after some rest.

Use this as an opportunity to grow. Mindset is not something that you achieve overnight and it’s not something that you “get” and then quit working towards. Constantly set new goals for yourself, make lists, and ask for help when you need it. It’s okay to not have all the answers. Especially now.

Research the options available to you and make an informed decision. IF you have done that, then the rest is out of your control. You made the best decision available to you with the information that you had. And that’s enough. You can’t achieve the impossible and predict every outcome. You just can’t. None of us can.

Be honest with your children. Tell them the situation in words that they will understand, and end the conversation by asking them for questions or concerns that they have. You may be surprised to hear that sometimes they have a better understanding than we do. Their thoughts are not clouded by the same anxieties as ours. Spend time with them, and listen when they tell you that they are frustrated. Sometimes our children express their emotions differently than we do, but as parents we have to be present for them. Remember that you are tired too and let them know that it’s okay to feel these things. Try to be positive and end the conversation by constantly giving them something to look forward to. Maybe you can’t go to the beach right now, but you can give them a memory to focus on. Maybe they can’t visit their grandparents right now, but remind them how amazing it is to still be able to connect through technology. Show them photos of people working on the front lines and use this as a teaching opportunity.

Learn a new craft, watch a TV show that you loved over again, or take time to appreciate the things that you “didn’t have time for” before. Acknowledge the activities that we are still able to do.

As I was writing this, I remember thinking that I was scared to even say that I worked in a laboratory because I might get in trouble or lose my job. As healthcare workers we should never feel like we can’t say what we do as an occupation. The people who truly have a passion for what they do belong in this profession right now, and we need them there. Keep your head up. You got this. We all do.

If you found this helpful, feel free to follow along! I post homeschooling tips, mental health, parenting, fitness, etc. on my IG too ❤

-The Zombie Mom

instagram: @ashleeleighann

 

 

How Setting a Reading Goal for Yourself can Improve your Mental Health

books, Mental Health, Motherhood

No matter how busy you are, you can and should make time to experience the positive health benefits associated with reading.

This year I set a reading goal for myself. I wanted to read 50 books by the end of the year. Obviously life happened at the end of last year. Negative thoughts occupied my mind for far too long. For months I have worked on growing as a person, avoiding negative thoughts, and keeping a positive mindset no matter what. It’s something that I have to work at every day, but it’s getting easier. Now when I set a goal for myself, I try to spend time actually reaching that goal and avoiding all excuses. There’s no reason why I can’t accomplish something that I’m passionate about. Negative thoughts will consume your mind if you let them, and it’s estimated that about eighty percent of the tens of thousands of thoughts that go through our mind every day are negative. Crazy right? Let me share with you how reading positively impacted my mental health and helped me escape.

Learning to love myself didn’t happen overnight. First, I had to realize that I’m an empath. I am happiest when the people around me are thriving. I feed off of other people’s emotions, and that’s only okay when I set healthy boundaries. I’m still learning to say no, but I have found ways to make the most of my time and not allow room for unhealthy thought processes. As a teenager, I remember letting go of any anxiety as soon as I walked in a book store. I could spend hours enjoying the magic of picking up a book and reading the plot summary in an effort to make the best selection for my next read. I was one of those nerdy kids that looked forward to purchasing books during the summer for required reading.

When I feel a destructive or negative thought coming on, I take a deep breath, count backwards by 5 (utilizing the 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins LIFE CHANGING), and replace that thought with something productive. I love to read and learn new things. I also love to create and escape through travel and books.

I’m sure you can come up with a million and one excuses for why you don’t have time to read. But I’m a toddler mom and I can play this game all day. Leggo.

I don’t have time.

Yes, you do. We make time for the aspects of life that we find valuable. Find value in yourself. Invest in who you are as a person. Tell yourself that you are worth it every day until you finally believe it. I have four children, work full time on night shift as a laboratory scientist, homeschool my kids by choice, have a photography business on the side, and about 20 different things from day to day. We throw the words “don’t have time” around way too freely. We shut down suggestions before we even hear someone out.

I remember graduating college with my five month old a few feet away from me as I walked across the stage. Any time that I would talk to someone who either didn’t attend or didn’t graduate college, their reasoning was that they couldn’t study or couldn’t focus. I’m ADHD. I couldn’t take medication for the majority of my college career due to pregnancy. But I did read. The more I read, the less I struggled with it. Picking up the book is the hardest part. Sometimes we are so reluctant to welcome change. We are so scared to fail that we limit ourselves before we even try. That gets us no where.

I have kids and they deserve my full attention.

You’re absolutely right. They do. I’ve been there. For years I took my kids to the zoo on no sleep after working the night before. We constantly went on trips and honestly I was happy…for awhile. But somewhere along the way I forgot to fill up my own cup. I forgot how to reset. I had four babies that absolutely gave me joy, but when you forget who you are as a person, you lose the ability to truly be present. You lose the ability to give back to them.

After so many years of going through the motions and just trying to stay awake, I stopped seeing a beach sunset as magical. I stopped looking back as we left a pretty field during golden hour. I couldn’t picture it anymore. I was there, but in my mind I was constantly searching. Your kids know when you aren’t really there. They don’t want a warm body. They want Y O U.

Fitness isn’t just about tightening your core or a good cardio routine. We have to put our brain to work also. Stop acting as if your brain doesn’t control everything else because it most certainly does.

Reading increases your critical thinking skills, vocabulary, and writing skills. Links to decreases in blood pressure and even longer life expectancy have been made in correlation to reading. Reading for pleasure helps us relate to others, be compassionate and empathetic, and reduces stress levels. It’s good for your mind. Daily reading keeps your brain engaged and aids in preventing memory loss.

Good Reads helps me track my reading goal. When I can see progress, I am more likely to stick with something. I can mark books that I’d like to read, books I’ve purchased, books I’m currently reading, and books that I have previously read. It’s also fun to see that other people are reading and discuss the characters of a book that felt so real to me. I’ve related to so many characters in books and I carry them with me. Being an empath can mean feeling things way too deeply. On the other hand, I wouldn’t give up being able to ride the Magic School Bus, or walk into a tree house and end up in ancient times. I wouldn’t give up feeling the sand between my toes at a beach I’ve never physically visited. I wouldn’t even give up having my heart break for a fictional character.

I utilize Book of the Month club because it helps me with book selection when I’m feeling overwhelmed with options, the book is shipped to me, and I can read reviews from an app on my phone. I can discuss the book with other members as I’m reading or by leaving a review when it’s finished. If I don’t like the book choices that month, I can skip. In my experience, the few times this has happened I used my credit to pick two books the next month. I am able to support up and coming authors and have access to books before they are released to the public. Who doesn’t love having something exclusive?

Get a discount on your first BOTM here!

Thrift Books, The Book Bundler, and a local thrift store are all good outlets to keep you looking forward to your next read. I typically pick out my next book as I’m reading my current selection so that I have something to look forward to. Sometimes I give myself a day or two to process the book that I just read and then I start a new book. Don’t give yourself too much time to get out of the routine.

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Magic Tree House books are THE BEST

Here’s the thing. This year I have lost more than I can count. I lost my sense of security, I had my car stolen, my marriage was barely hanging on by a thread, and I saw the true colors of the people I thought were “my people”. Plot T W I S T…those colors weren’t so bright and wonderful. I lost financial freedom, my daily routine, and my ability to stop the racing thoughts and go to sleep. But you know what I didn’t lose? Knowledge. And it really is power. I’ll admit that my thoughts weren’t always positive, but one day I was able to say enough is enough. On that same day, I already had the tools to begin taking my life back.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go”.

I didn’t engage with people because I felt like I could no longer bring value to the conversation. As moms, we do this all the time. Look, I get it. I’m a mama to four little girls. The youngest hasn’t even turned two. They are the best thing about my life. But was I the best part of theirs? I see the smiles returning to their faces when they are around me now. I see the relief, and as much as that breaks my mama heart…I’m so glad that I finally see it. Reading helped give me something to contribute again. We feel as though our lives are boring or others won’t relate. Sometimes it’s easier to relate to a character in a book and mention his or her story in conversation. In my experience, your friend is probably feeling the same way. She is just too afraid to say it out loud.

Let me know if you found this helpful! I’d love for you to follow along. Drop a comment with your favorite book <3.

-The Zombie Mom

 

Dear Alyssa…Do you Really Have to Grow Up?

Motherhood

Dear Alyssa,

You like to remind me every day that it’s getting closer and closer to your 9th birthday. Birthdays are a time to celebrate, and you know that I find any excuse to throw a big party and have all our friends together. But then I reflect on the last year of your life, and it’s always bittersweet. Something about the fact that you are almost T E N is really not okay with me. I know this year hasn’t been the best, but to be honest you probably think that it has. I hope you never lose that light you have to offer the world. You really are something special.

You’re a dreamer. You get that from me. I hope that you never waste time viewing that as a flaw or trying to fit in.

Thank you for telling me it was okay so many times when it really wasn’t. Thank you for seeing the positive in every situation and finding the beauty in this ugly world. I am so proud of you for fighting through your fears. You handled all the struggles of this year with grace, sometimes much better than I could as an adult. Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I hope that you look back at this time and know that everything I did was to protect you.

You’re such a cool kid. I’m not even saying that because you’re my kid. The fact that you still want me to pick you up, spin you around, and “squish” you at almost nine years old makes my mama heart so happy. Your Pokémon pajamas, desire to learn everything possible about sharks, and your independence make me so proud to be your mom.

You know that dance parties require 90s music, that the only way to cure a broken heart is by eating a Snickers ice cream bar, and sprinkling glitter everywhere is just a part of life.

I know it won’t be like this forever. This past year you have learned to play violin, found a love for reading, and gave the best dang soldier performance during the Nutcracker that I’ve ever witnessed. You are so intentional with everything that you do, and sometimes I really do love you so much that it hurts.

You find the best in people, even when they really don’t deserve it. It used to worry me, but after this past year I’ve realized that the world needs more people like you.

Sometimes people need just a little bit of your magic. I know that your smile, despite the worst of odds, made me commit to becoming the best version of myself. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it’s not okay in any sense of the word, but you made me so proud to be your mom by showing everyone what you are made of. Never stop standing up for what is right. You are your only limit, baby girl. I truly believe you can do anything you set your mind to because I’ve watched you do it. I watched you pick up your violin and play when all you wanted to do was hide under your blanket.

I want you to know that I support you. I love hearing all your dreams and no matter how exhausted I am, your energy gives me life. You love to create, and I am so blessed to call you mine.

So many people have told me that kids are resilient, like you can just move on and forget about the trauma you’ve been through. They’re right in a way. You have shown so much strength. But you also have the biggest heart, and you understand things that an eight year old should have no clue about. Sometimes you’re the only adult conversation I have all day. You’re an empath, like me. I want you to know that it’s not easy for me to leave home at night when I know you need me there to feel safe. But I get to spend my days watching you grow.

There have been so many positives this year. You had your first dance recital, you played basketball and had nerf wars. You went to Mexico and swam out in the middle of the ocean and slid down a slide into the water. You jumped off cliffs into the lake. You drove your scooter to your friend’s house all by yourself. You learned your multiplication facts and read your first chapter books.

I won’t ever be ready to see another year go, but I am always up for a new adventure.

Love you allllllll the way to the moon and back,

-The Zombie Mom

5 Ways to Recognize Your Self Worth Even When the Situation is Less than Perfect

Motherhood

Can I just get real for a second? Being a mom isn’t “challenging”. It’s hard as hell sometimes. Recently we were put in a situation where we didn’t feel safe in our own home. Go figure, right? That’s the story of 2020 so far.

We have lived in a hotel for the past few days. I’m going through my own stuff, and trying to hold it together the best that I can for my kids. I had to tell my family about the cycle of abuse I’ve been put through that I’m still trying to figure out myself. It took me a long time to realize my worth, and I am extremely independent by nature. Admitting that I was in a situation where someone had any type of power on me wasn’t easy to say the least.


Why do people stay in situations where they are constantly put down, mentally abused, and maybe even physically abused? Because it’s a cycle. People who absuse others are master manipulators. I have found myself in relationships with people who are not good for my mental health several times, and I’ve been on the other side wondering why someone else didn’t just get themselves out of the situation.

1. One reason is that someone who is controlling and manipulating is an expert at making you doubt your self worth, which ends up making other people doubt your credibility. You find yourself having a reaction to the constant trauma that you have no idea you are even going through. If this person is so awful, why does everyone believe them? Everyone can’t be a narcissist so it has to be me, right? Maybe I did say that and I just don’t remember? Be so sure of who you are that no one can interfere with that.

2. Expectations will keep you in a bad situation longer than anything else will. Here’s why. Because when you expect someone to apologize and they ignore you, or belittle you more…you start to question the situation even more. You start to think that if things happened the way you remember them, there’s no way this person could react like that. Limit your expectations to yourself. You have to take care of your mind, and have a game plan for your goals.

3. Keeping someone in a constant state of confusion allows that person to keep control. If you’re in a situation where you start to see your worth or question of things are normal at home, this will anger the manipulator. They will devalue you, discard you, and possibly try and lift you up the next time they want something…but it’s not out of love or seeing that they were wrong. It’s just the beginning of the same cycle all over again. Realize who you are, so that no one else’s insecurities can make you question your worth.

4. Leaving is hard. Leaving with children is even harder. This can apply to friendships too. I feel like leaving is the hardest when that person will remain in your life in some way, shape or form and you question whether it’s worth it or not. I’m not saying that people can’t change, but they had to want to change for themselves. I like to think that I can fix everyone, and that everyone thinks the way that I do, but they don’t. Realize that you are enough. This situation may suck, but the words you are hearing from someone else are not something that you have to hear forever. The longer you stay, the harder it becomes and the more defeated you will feel.

5. It’s easier to control someone who is vulnerable and full of empathy. I’m a highly empathetic person. I connect to other people’s emotions, and I will genuinely cry with you. If you’re like me, it takes awhile to see all the red flags. But let me tell you, it’s hard. It’s even hard when you have a good job. It’s hard when you can support yourself because they will find a way to make it hard. Own your shit. Own it from the beginning so that you know what you did and didn’t do. Because owning your own shit doesn’t give someone else the right to piss all over you. It gives you the power to say enough is enough and fight like hell to become to person you were meant to be.

If you found this helpful, let me know! I’d be happy to answer any questions. Feel free to follow along for more tips!

-The Zombie Mom