"I'm living very carefully these days," Gosselin tells PEOPLE in its latest issue, on newsstands Friday.
Now that her TLC reality show is a thing of the past, the matriarch is making ends meet "piecing and patching together" an income from a variety of projects, she says.
For the former nurse, whose marriage to Jon Gosselin imploded on Jon & Kate Plus 8 in 2009 after a cheating scandal hit the tabloids, "To not have a reliable income is scary," she concedes.
"I made so many mistakes, of course," she says, admitting that her own diva-like behavior may have led to her current unemployed state.
Looking back on the heyday of her fame, and the scandal that surrounded her, "It feels like a whole other lifetime ago," she says. "And sometimes I don't even remember much of it. Both when the babies were first born and during the divorce, I was on survival mode. I feel like I've lived two lifetimes already. I'm not the same person I was ... I don't even recognize her."