ADHD, children, faith, illness

12 Times Local Churches Showed Us They Don’t Understand Neurodiversity or Mental Health

When I started writing this post, I had planned on calling it, “How One Church Showed Us They Didn’t Understand ADHD.” But, then I realized the problem goes so much deeper than ADHD, and the issues are far broader than just one church. There is a huge problem in the church of misunderstanding and even mistreating those with mental health problems. According to my count, we have experienced problems in thirteen churches over the last 20ish years. Some of those churches, we attended for years, while others we only attended once. All the while, my family has remained faithful to Jesus while often feeling rejected and unsupported by many of the churches that are around us. I am not saying there are no good churches out there, but I think there needs to be a whole lot more understanding and grace than my family has received from most congregations we have been a part of. Since approximately 25% of the population of the earth is neurodiverse (and 50% is introverted), it would behoove the church to learn about these conditions and open their arms and their hearts to those who desperately need support. Although many of these stories are frustrating and even upsetting, I didn’t write this to garner pity. I wrote it to raise awareness of how special needs families are sometimes –too often– treated in churches.

Here are my 12 times when churches made it obvious that they didn’t understand mental health or neurodiversity:


1. Postpartum depression.

After my second child was born, I developed some pretty serious postpartum depression. I started shutting down emotionally. I couldn’t feel anything. I had always wanted was to be a mama, and we had struggled to even get pregnant. Not even my babies who I had prayed so hard for brought me joy.

It got so bad that I started having episodes of paranoia. I thought someone had installed cameras in our house to spy on us. I was afraid people were following me. Years later, I would hear this called postpartum psychosis.

One day, I was driving down our local state highway with my babies in my car and felt the urge to throw the car into the oncoming traffic. I knew something was very, very wrong. I’m a very caring person who under normal circumstances wouldn’t hurt anyone –let alone myself and my babies.

I didn’t even hesitate: I marched into my doctor’s office and told her I needed help. She referred me to a psychiatrist who got me on a medication for the postpartum depression. I was so glad I had gotten help! I had heard the horror stories about moms hurting their babies and had no desire to become another statistic or cautionary tale.

What I absolutely did not expect was the backlash at church.

A normal person –upon hearing that someone was suffering from a serious and potentially life-threatening condition and they sought treatment –would be proud of the person and happy for them.

Nope.

I was told not to take medication because it was poison. I needed to go see a nutritionist that the pastor’s wife liked and stop the medication immediately.

I needed to pray more. My real problem was lack of faith they told me. I was enrolled in a discipleship class, and they wrote down in the church documents that I was a new convert. It didn’t matter to them that I had made a profession of faith when I was a child, had been baptized as a young person, and had already taken discipleship classes at other churches in the past.

Because, according to them, someone who was truly saved would never be depressed.

I remember looking at my husband and asking if he would have married me if I hadn’t been a Christian. He said wouldn’t have and that he had no doubt that I had been a Christian since long before I met him.

Needless to say, I did not heed their advice. I knew I needed that medication, so I took it.

The discipleship classes didn’t last long, because it was hard to keep up with all the studying and the discipleship classes with a newborn. Plus, I had a three-year-old on top of that. It was 35 minutes to church, class was an hour long, and it was 35 minutes home. My baby was nursing every hour and a half and wouldn’t take a bottle. I was not allowed to bring my baby with me to discipleship classes. No childcare was provided so I had to hire a sitter which I couldn’t afford and then rush home to feed a screaming, frantic baby.

This church’s response to me getting mental health help has always baffled me –even angered me.

But mostly it has motivated me to try to help Christians understand the truth behind mental health.

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2. Learning disabilities.

My preschool son was kicked out of Sunday school.

I was told my son was not welcome back in the 4-year-old Sunday School class until I taught him to write. I was accused of being a bad mother and a bad homeschool teacher because the other 4-year-old children could write their names and some could even write full sentences while he could hardly hold a pencil, couldn’t use scissors, etc.

Years later, I would discover that my son had dysgraphia. I didn’t even hear the word dysgraphia until he was about 10 years old. He would struggle with pain in his hand from writing and lack of fine motor skills for years. I knew something was not normal. If I tried pushing him to write, he would have panic attacks and cry because it hurt.

The Sunday school teacher would not listen to me explain the problems we were having. For being sensitive to my son’s needs, I was labeled a defective parent. We were excluded from children’s activities and gossipped about.

I was finally able to get my son back into the children’s program by volunteering to teach some of his classes. This was about 3rd grade. I ended up keeping him with me in the adult classes unless I was teaching the children’s class. We tried putting him back into classes more than once, but we only had one teacher for one semester who didn’t view him as a problem child and blame it on me.

The truth is that I worked really hard for my son. I wasn’t a slacker. I wasn’t shirking my responsibility as a teacher and a mother.

He was a good kid too, just a little high strung.

My son just had unique struggles that required grace and finesse to handle. Unfortunately, there was very little grace given to either of us.


3. ADHD.

When I was diagnosed with ADHD, I was 6 weeks shy of my 30th birthday, and I didn’t know a single soul who thought ADHD was real. I was incredibly excited about the diagnosis because it answered so many questions for me. It was life-affirming, validating, cathartic, and a huge relief to know that I didn’t just have fatally flawed character.

I looked around at my friends at church, remembering previous conversations about mental health, and decided that it was in my best interest to keep the ADHD diagnosis to myself. Most of these women didn’t even use medication or go to the doctor when they were very sick. This was the same group who had shamed me for using antidepressants.

Years later, I found out that another family had a child who was diagnosed with ADHD while they attended the church. They were advised to keep the diagnosis to themselves. ADHD was viewed as a character flaw, sin, failure to let the Holy Spirit refine you, etc. –depending on who you talked to.

Over time, the rest of my family –my husband and my children– would all be diagnosed with ADHD. The church’s bias was a large part of the reason it took me so long to start telling people about my diagnosis. If I couldn’t even trust my church family how would I trust other people with this information?

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4. Giftedness.

My son’s precociousness and impulsivity got him kicked out of kindergarten Sunday school, too –this was a different teacher than the 4-year-old Sunday school class mentioned above.

But this was the real issue: because my son is gifted, he has often been held to a higher standard than other children his age and given even less grace. Most people do not understand that it is possible to be both intellectually gifted and developmentally delayed. Just because someone is highly intelligent doesn’t mean that they are able to control their impulses better or regulate their emotions in a superior way than other 5-year-old little boys. He often struggled with being upset when he didn’t get his way, but he was not given the same latitude that other children were given when they were upset.

In fact, ADHD and giftedness are often combined and are greatly misunderstood. I am so tired of hearing comments like “He is smart; he will figure it out,” as a dismissal of my children’s real, legitimate conditions.

Being intelligent doesn’t mean that you don’t struggle with mental health problems or developmental disorders.

It just means that most people give you less grace.

Another bizarre instance of this: the midweek 4-year-old’s teacher refused to let him back in her class until he apologized for “lying.” His perceived offense? He believed he was older than Jesus. He believed this because Jesus’ birthday was in December and his birthday was in January. In 4-year-old logic, since January comes before December, my son thought he was older than Jesus.

He was four.

FOUR.

Timelines, dates, and ages are very hard to understand at that age –even for gifted children. I remember asking my mother if they had cars and electricity when she was little because I had a hard time understanding this concept in grade school. I remember being about 8 years old when timelines really started making sense to me.

But, nope. I was told I was raising a child who blatantly lies, and until I forced him to apologize he was not welcome back in her classroom. She wouldn’t even discuss it with me beyond demanding an apology.

I wish I could say I am joking.

Under no circumstances was I making my son apologize for being a child and having a child’s understanding of the world. So he stayed with me. This was one of many times we tried church classes again and decided the children would just stay with me.


5. Anxiety disorder.

I have written before about the difference between an anxiety disorder (a medical condition formerly called phobias in which your brain misfiled information) and anxiety (choosing to be fearful and not trust God which is a sin according to the Bible). These two things are not the same.

And yet, the pastor at one church we were attending –when he found out my husband had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder– took it upon himself to try to confront my husband about his sin of having an anxiety disorder. We had just started attending this church. We didn’t know the pastor very well, and he certainly had no gauge except his own prejudices to convince him that my husband was in sin.

I intervened as soon as I figured out what the pastor was intending to do and got us away from the church before he had a chance to engage my husband with accusations.

We never returned to the church.

My husband suffers from a number of mental health problems which significantly complicate our lives. Those who do not live with and love those who have severe mental health problems do not understand the impact it has on those who suffer from it and their loved ones.

The last thing we need is accusations coming from the place where we should be getting support.


6. Mood disorders and bipolar.

I looked at attending –but never actually went to– a church which openly considers bipolar and other mental health problems to be demon possession. I have also heard this point of view repeated by popular pastors who I respect and agree with regarding most theology, for example, John MacArthur.

The Bible doesn’t really touch on the topic of illnesses of the mind. Although there are instances of demon possession in the Bible, in no way does the Bible say that any and all afflictions in the mind are demon possession! That’s a ridiculous leap.

If that were true then I guess migraines are demon possession, too? What about traumatic brain injury? Fetal alcohol syndrome? Where do we draw the line if we start labeling mental ailments demon possession? Was my headache last night demonic?

That’s ludicrous.

I wish I could say that this sort of belief was uncommon, but it is not. In many churches, if mental health conditions are not considered demon possession, they are considered a sin issue. Since I have multiple family members with mood disorders, I find this very disturbing, especially for the children I know who suffer from these disorders.

It is hard enough to find acceptance outside of the church. Of all the places that someone suffering should find support and acceptance, it would be a church.

However, I have a friend with bipolar who gave up on churches two decades ago because she could find nowhere to attend that would not pass judgment on her for her disorder.

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7. Personality.

Personality is just part of the way God created your mind to work. It’s not an ailment but definitely a function of the brain.

The same church that didn’t believe in ADHD or in treating postpartum depression treated my husband like he was ungodly for having an anxiety disorder –but it was more than that. He was ungodly for not looking like what they considered a godly man to look like.

A godly man to them was bold and forceful. He knocked on doors and handed out Bible tracts. He was willing to engage in verbal battles with complete strangers about the Bible even if that meant offending or upsetting them. He was gregarious and boisterous.

He also must have a wife who is timid and demure, which I am not –by a long shot. What is it about some men that makes them want weak women, resenting when God builds women into strong creatures who can stand up for what is right?

But I digress.

At this church, everything about my husband –even his very personality– did not line up with their perception of what it means to be godly. Neither did my personality. So they sought to change us by pushing, plodding, or outright criticism.

Eventually, he just stopped going. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident.

I am not even going to begin to address how often I have been mistreated at churches for not having a “right” personality to be a “godly” women.

This has happened at more than one church. I have even lost friendships over this issue.


8. Sensory Processing Disorder.

My husband and children have sensory issues.

For my husband, it is mostly noise related. He is incredibly sensitive to sounds and finds loud noises so disquieting that it can affect his sense of calm him for hours afterward. Unfortunately for us, we have really struggled to find a church who we agree with doctrinally that also offers a traditional worship service.

Many of the churches around here who offer traditional services do so because they believe that all forms of music except hymns are a sin. Churches like that are a kettle of fish we have nearly drowned in before and are uninterested in attempting again.

There are some local big churches that offer traditional services among all their choices but most of these are charismatic groups which we don’t agree with doctrinally.

While I realize that many children with SPD wear headphones in these kinds of services, I’d be hard pressed to convince my introverted husband who has social anxiety to wear a headset around hundreds of people. That would not be comfortable for him.

At one church we attended, the children would poke, push, and pester my son until he would have a sensory meltdown. They did this for their own entertainment. The parents told me I was overreacting when I intervened. This was “normal” behavior for children according to the parents, and I needed to accept that my children would be bullied and mistreated at church –after all that is how life is in “the real world.”


9. Introvertedness.

I touched on this issue in number 6. Introvertedness is not really a mental health issue but it is part of your brain make up. It is just the way you’re wired.

Either you get your energy refilled by being with people (extroverted) or you get your energy refilled by being alone (introverted).

Many church groups have a prejudice against those who are not naturally outgoing –especially if it is a man.

Verses in the Bible about women not interrupting a church service have been misinterpreted by some church groups as a call for women to not have opinions at all and let men have all the opinions. Consequently, if you are a man who is soft-spoken and kind, who respects his wife instead of steamrolling over her, who consults her in matters of life, and who cares about her opinions without trying to suppress and control her, you are viewed as less than.

This is especially true in some of the more conservative churches.

This is very frustrating for me as a wife because I have a fabulous husband who, in my opinion, other men would do well to imitate –I have never met a more kind and gracious man than the one I married. This is a strength, not a weakness.

Additionally, music leaders should note that those who are introverted do not wish to shake hands with five people and make small talk in the middle of the service on queue when directed by the music leader. Most music leaders are extremely extroverted and cannot fathom the stress this alone causes those who are not extroverted.

Don’t believe me? Ask an introvert.


10. Highly Sensitive Person.

Church is full of people.

People are full of drama.

All of them.

They cannot help but be.

Some even go manufacture more drama to keep their lives interesting.

Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is not a mental health problem, but it is very common with ADHD.

Being highly sensitive means that I cannot handle attending Sunday school, worship service, Sunday night service, Midweek service, and ladies Bible study. It is too much for me. In many churches, if the church doors are open, you’re expected to be there. But (not even accounting for my chronic illnesses), the stress of being exposed to people’s ongoing drama is often just too much.

A lot of people, especially physically and mentally healthy people, will not understand this.

Those of us with HSP take the emotional stress of other people onto ourselves because of our high sensitivity and the empathy that accompanies it.

Many churches actually increase drama (emotional music performances, prayer times, testimonials, videos of children dying in third world countries, drama presentations, committees to resolve conflicts in the church, pressure to take on more ministries, etc) to keep people interested and try to make people invested in the struggles of others, but this only further isolates those of us who are highly sensitive.

We are already invested in the suffering of others.

Most of those things are not necessary for the church to do its job of training believers in the Bible. Discipleship –which is the church’s main job– could be a very calming and life-affirming process. It doesn’t have to be dramatic.

You know how there are Facebook groups that are the “drama-free version”? I have said many times that wish I could attend the “drama-free version” of church.

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11. The mental load of being physically and mentally ill.

Some time ago, I found a church that was over an hour away from us. It was very close to what we had been wanting both doctrinally and socially, so I called and talked to the pastor’s wife hoping that they would know of a similar church near us. She did not, and she strongly discouraged me from trying to attend their church because it was so far away from us.

I had spent an hour explaining about our health and mental health problems, how hard it is for me to be the mom of special needs children and wife to a special needs husband while chronically ill myself, and the toll that church had on us.

What she said next really surprised me.

She recommended that I join a local church and make it my mission to forcibly change that church from the inside out.

First of all, that showed that she really didn’t understand anything I had just told her about how sick I am, how absolutely debilitating physically and mentally health problems are, or how hard it is to be a special needs wife and mom.

On a daily basis, I can feel like I am drowning in the necessities of life without taking on any more.

While I wish this wasn’t the case, I am in a position of needing someone to take care of me –not in a position to wage war on a church body.

Second, I truly cannot fathom joining a church with the express purpose of causing problems and trying to change it. Paul has some harsh things to say about people who cause divisions in churches which is exactly what I would be. I have seen people join and church, try to change it, and the result is a church split that tears relationships –friendships and even whole families– apart.

Even if the mental load of being ill myself wasn’t extreme, even if the mental load of caring for husband and children with mental illnesses wasn’t extreme, I could never bring myself to sabotage a church that others had worked so hard to build –not even if I disagree with them doctrinally. The people who attend that church must find it is helpful for them or they wouldn’t attend there.

I would, in fact, be destroying their church family and their support system if I followed her advice.

There’s a verse in Romans that commands us to live in peace with all men. I take that verse very seriously.

I found the whole conversation with this pastor’s wife very upsetting. She treated me like this: if I really loved Jesus, I would be willing to do whatever it takes to force one of my local churches into my view of what a church should be. If I was unwilling or unable to do that, well, I guess that means that I don’t really love Jesus that much anyway.

And, that’s the real reason we never even visited her church. There was a great lack of grace in the way she conversed with me.

There was pity: she thought I was pitiable. There was no compassion and empathy. But, there was a lot of judgment, especially about things she really didn’t understand.

Plus, she was incredibly condescending –as if she was holy and godly –but I was the lowly ungodly person who needed to hear what she was telling me.

Hers was one of the most blatantly ableist attitudes toward those who have health problems that I have ever encountered in the church. I understand that she cannot truly understand what she has not experienced, but as a pastor’s wife, I expected more genuine compassion and understanding. When I called her, I was not even able to drive. I had already explained to her that I was nearly a shut-in at the time, but that did not increase her grace for me.

For those with autoimmune illness, the stress of trying to invade a church and win the battle to alter the course of an entire congregation would be so intense it may be enough to hospitalize them. It would certainly make them sicker because flair-ups in autoimmune diseases are triggered by stress.

She obviously had not even the vaguest concept of what she was asking of me.

I felt further misunderstood and isolated.

This one glimmer of hope that we had possibly found a church home that would accept up was squelched in the light of her judgments.

To ask for help and receive judgment –there is far too much of that going around.


12. Mental Health Denial.

Mental health denial is practically a religion unto itself. Many people who believe that mental health conditions don’t exist have no idea where those ideas even started or why they believe it.

Many Christians do not believe that any mental health conditions are real. I think I have encountered this at nearly every church I have attended.

Some believe it is sin or demon possession as mentioned above. Others believe that it is just an excuse to misbehave or to not have good character. Some believe it is a sign that you are not saved.

A popular opinion among Christians regarding children with mental health problems –especially developmental problems like ADHD and autism– is that the parents just didn’t spank the child enough. That seems especially popular among the more conservative and traditional groups who actually admonish parents to “beat the disorder out of them.”

Honestly, some of the most hate-filled comments I have received about ADHD and mental health have come from my fellow Christians, or at least those who are claiming they are Christians. Christian means “little Christ” or “Christ follower” so whether they are actually Christians would depend on if they are really truly following Christ. That is not something that I can really know.

What might come as a shock to most Christians is that the widespread hatred of mental health originated with a cultic group –Scientology– which has been single-handedly responsible for spearheading mental health denial in the USA and around the world.

Scientology believes that psychiatrists are evil because in their mythology, 76 trillion years ago psychiatrists participated in the mass genocide of aliens. They believe that the spirits of those massacred aliens now float around earth possessing people and that this –as well as nearly all evils in the world today– is a result of the psychiatrists and psychologist. They even blame the Holocaust and 9/11 on the psychiatrists and psychologists.

It is well documented that they have popularized the idea that these conditions are not real because it suits their purposes. One of those purposes, in their own words, is to destroy psychiatry. They wish to replace psychiatry with their unproven and unhelpful “treatments.”

I have yet to have a single Christian who objected to mental health conditions like ADHD come to me with any specific medical research that says it is fake.

Sometimes, I hear the argument that the Bible doesn’t mention it so it is not real. But the Bible doesn’t mention cancer, migraines, diabetes, or Down syndrome either. Are all of those fake too?

Because the Bible says that the world will hate us, some people who claim the name of Christ are quick to look for a conspiracy. I think there is a higher prevalence of conspiracy theorist in the churches I have been part of than any other group I have joined. But, Jesus said they would hate us because of Him. He doesn’t say they will make up fake health problems because of Him.

Do those who believe ADHD is a conspiracy really believe the government is using mental health misdiagnoses to persecute Christians? Even if we are following the Bible, being loving and kind and compassionate, some people will still hate us because they don’t want to see God’s light. But that’s not happening with those who treat mental health. There is no real evidence that Christians are being targeted in any way.

One must remember that while governments are only as good as the people who run them, they are ordained by God and He uses them as His instrument according to the book of Romans. Those who espouse the idea of a big government conspiracy would do well to revisit the passage in Romans.

The real truth about mental health and the church is that the church is woefully falling down the job. Those with mental health problems are often mocked, ridiculed, excluded, gossiped about, and sometimes even told they are not welcome. If it is not outright, often there is subtle communication that they are not welcome.

Jesus said what you do until the least of these you have done unto Him. How much more “least” can you get than those who are rejected by culture and the church alike? In other words, if you mock ridicule, exclude or otherwise mistreat special needs families, it is like you are doing that to the Lord, like you are mistreating Jesus Himself.

We are supposed to be known for our love for one another. We are supposed to treat even our enemies with kindness. But many Christians cannot even be nice to other Christians who have diagnoses they disagree with.

A mark of a Christian is the fruits of the Holy Spirit, including love, patience, and kindness. Those who truly understand God’s grace to them are quick to pass that grace on to other people.

Even people they don’t agree with.


In Conclusion.

With these sorts of attitudes toward those who are suffering, is it any wonder that those who have these ailments end up abandoning the church and practicing their faith in the quiet of their living rooms on Sunday mornings?

I wish I could say that the stories above are isolated incidents. I actually have many more stories but some of them I am not ready to share yet.

I wish I could say that the resistance my family encountered is disproportionate to what the average family with special needs and mental health problems encounters. But, that is not true.

My stories are not isolated.

There are even studies that show that children with autism and ADHD are being excluded from churches in the USA.

Similar stories are repeated by parents of special needs children with some amount of frequency. Heartbroken parents report stealing away for a midnight mass while their children are sleeping even though they are not Catholic because that is the only time they get to go and be in a church. Grief-struck moms and dads report that their children’s conditions make it impossible for them to attend church because the church doesn’t understand their kids or openly criticizes them. The adults that suffer from these conditions eventually give up hope that they will ever find a place that truly shows them the love of Jesus.

One man told me that if he had seen the love of Jesus shown toward those with special needs –the kind of love I described in one of my Facebook posts, he would ever have walked away from the church.

While some churches –particularly the charismatics– are catching up, many other churches –like the Baptists, just one example from my experience since we usually attend Baptist churches– are way behind in their acceptance of those who are different than what is “normal.”

It is my dream that all special needs families would have a church to go to, a church that aligns with their beliefs where their children are loved and accepted as they are with a spirit of compassion and grace.

I must have missed the passage in the Bible where Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me and forbid them not for such is the Kingdom of Heaven, except the weird kids –the kids with autism, ADHD, and bipolar–, not those ones.”

If He were here today, Jesus, who reached out to the broken and socially outcast of His time, would undoubtedly be on the frontline ministering to those who need Him –including special needs families.

So why aren’t we?

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

P.S. A heartfelt thanks to those Christians and churches who have embraced our family and all of its quirks.

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ADHD, children, illness, myths

How You Should Respond to Special Needs Families

I couldn’t decide what to call this post: “Stop Shaming and Blaming Special Needs Families”? “She Said Coddling Causes Special Needs; This Was My Reply”? “How Not to Respond to Special Needs Families”? I settled on “How You Should Respond to Special Needs Families” after quite a bit of deliberation. I feel very strongly about this topic. Regardless of what we call this post, the fact remains that parents are being blamed for their children’s medical conditions.

This needs to stop.

{{FYI: This article contains snark. Consider yourself warned.}}

Last week, I found a comment on my Facebook page that was something like this:

“Children wouldn’t have special needs if you didn’t coddle them, and treat them like babies, and if you made them toughen up.”

Oh, really? That’s how it works, huh?

Okay then, let’s define what “special needs child” means –because that comment leads me to believe that maybe she really doesn’t know what it is.

“In the United States, ‘special needs’ is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological.” (from Wikipedia, italics are mine.)

According to the commenter, I guess that means that my friend’s daughter who has Type 1 Diabetes is only sick because she’s weak? The fact that she’s been poking herself to check her own blood sugar levels since she was three-and-a-half years old is not a sign of her strength and fortitude? I guess this child has a life-threatening autoimmune disease because she’s been hugged and held too often?

I guess that means my niece who has bipolar would automatically stop having manic and depressive episodes and suddenly start understanding the consequences of her actions if we were just harsh enough in our treatment of her? If we just forced her to be normal? Maybe if we pushed her around a bit? Or chased her with a baseball bat? Maybe if we locked her in a closet? That would cure it?

I guess that means that my friend’s son who is nonverbal with autism would suddenly start speaking if we stopped coddling him and treating him like a baby? He’s only struggling because we aren’t being hard enough on him? Maybe a little cruelty would cure him? Maybe we should scream at him and intimidate him into talking? You think that would work?

My son with ADHD, an anxiety disorder, and learning disabilities –maybe I could just beat the brain development problems, panic attacks, and handwriting struggles out of him, then? Pshaw. Why should we make sure children feel safe, secure, and loved by their families anyway? When he has pain in his hands from handwriting, maybe I should just tell him that if he doesn’t do his assignments I’ll really give him something to cry about? I’m sure that a good beating will solve his learning disabilities? And make his anxiety so much better too, right? You think so?

I guess my friend whose child has severe, life-threatening allergies would just keep breathing if we force fed her the thing she’s allergic to? After all, isn’t she just being weak? And we are just allowing the allergic reactions to happen by treating her like a baby? I’m sure she just made up the anaphylaxis –and that two-week hospitalization was the child manipulating the hospital staff? There’s no possibility that the medical doctors actually know what they’re talking about, right?

Here’s the reality:

Parents don’t willy-nilly decide their child is a little snowflake and label them “special needs” for the fun of it. No one does this for the kicks. Professionals —medical, mental health, or developmental professionals— they diagnose these conditions.

They diagnose these conditions because they’re REAL and because the child has an actual, factual, legitimate medical need that most other children don’t have.

We get a diagnosis to help our children. It is anything but fun and games. Don’t you think that if these conditions could be fixed with a little “tough love” we would have done that already?

Having a special needs child is hard, far harder than most parents could imagine. We try everything we can think of, often grasping at straws and faint hope, existing on a wing and prayer trying to find answers for our kids. No parent wants their child to be sick or to have an autoimmune disease or a mental health disorder or developmental disorder or a learning disability. Like every parent, we want healthy children, and often we mourn our children’s diagnosis and the struggles we know that they will face –not the least of which is cruel judgments from small-minded people.

We get the diagnoses because we are trying to help our struggling and hurting children.

Parents should never EVER be shamed for seeking medical treatment for their children’s legitimate medical conditions.

And, sorry, but no other person gets to decide what is a legitimate condition and what is not.

And, you know, reading an article online explaining some journalist’s opinion about a medical condition does not make you an expert in that condition.

We are experts in our children’s struggles because we live with it and study it every day as we try to help and care for them.

If you can’t be supportive, keep your mouth shut.

Our lives are stressful enough without the ongoing drama caused by people who have no idea what they’re even talking about.

These children are not being coddled or given crutches. We are treating children with legitimate medical conditions. We are guiding and loving them with dignity, kindness, and grace. The same way any human should be treated. We are choosing to believe them and to help them where they struggle –as any decent parent would, as any decent person would.

Shame on those who try to would belittle, shame, and bully parents into not getting the best medical care they possibly can for their child!

Shame on those who would try to make parents feel like failures because their children have medical conditions!

Shame on those who would disparage a parent for looking out for the best interest of their child!

A child with a broken leg needs a crutch. If he is denied a crutch when his leg is broken, that’s abuse. That’s traumatizing. That’s wrong.

The same is true of ANY child with ANY medical condition.

Unless you have a special needs child, you do not know the immense pain and struggle these families face. The parents learn to be hypervigilant –always watching for their child’s medical needs. Often, the parents develop PTSD from the ongoing stress of caring for these children. These kids fight harder every day to exist, and be, and function, and go on than you could imagine in your wildest dreams.

All the while, these parents are fighting against the cultural biases that their children’s medical needs are illegitimate.

They hear accusations that most people would never dream of saying to a parent of a child with leukemia, for example, because that’s generally thought of as a “real” diagnosis.

Frankly, the level of prejudice against special needs families in our culture never ceases to amaze me. It is getting better with time, but we have a long way to go toward cultural acceptance of children and families who do not fit nicely into a box.

Instead of criticizing, blaming, and belittling, you should be admiring these families.

Admire the child who doesn’t give up when faced with far harder circumstances than most adults will ever face.

Admire the mother who keeps on fighting for an accurate diagnosis and treatment for her struggling child and refuses to give up.

Admire the father who endures a manic episode or autistic meltdown with grace and calmness while keeping the child he loves more than his own life safe.

Admire the parents of a violent child with multiple mental health disorders who keep loving the child through the violence, through the struggles, who fight for that child’s health and mental health even if it means the hard decision of institutionalization.

Admire the siblings who sometimes get the short end of the stick because mom and dad put so much energy into their struggling sibling –but they keep loving their sibling anyway.

Admire the families who get up every day and fight the same battle they fought yesterday with the same tools that may well have not worked yesterday, but they still keep fighting.

Admire the adults with these diagnoses who lived through a generation that blamed these legitimate health conditions on the person suffering …and yet they came out the other side. They didn’t commit suicide when they felt abandoned by the world. They didn’t give up –or at least they didn’t give up forever. They turned around and decided that no other person should ever feel like they felt and made it their life’s goal that others shouldn’t suffer in silence as they did.

To the original poster: Why would you choose to turn a blind eye to the needs and suffering of those around you? If you choose to ignore, attack, and marginalize these amazing, strong, brave, resilient, noble, victorious, fighting special needs families all around you, maybe you’re the one who truly needs a doctor.

I suggest a psychiatrist.

Because mentally healthy and emotionally stable people don’t behave like that.

I pity you because you have missed the beauty that these special needs families bring to the world.

And, I’m sorry for whatever happened to you that makes you feel like it is okay to spread toxicity and hate when you could spread kindness and joy.

At the end of the day, let’s try to leave the world a little better than we found it. A little kindness could make a huge difference in our world.

A little kindness could make an already-horrible-day a little more bearable for a family struggling to keep their head above water in a world that doesn’t understand or appreciate their day-to-day battle.

To you who are wondering how best to respond to families of special needs children: listen to them, believe them, support and encourage them if you can.

And, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

To you who fight this battle every day for your children:

I see you.

I understand.

You are not alone.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

If you found this post helpful please consider sharing it. Thanks!

 

ADHD, hoarding, illness

Overcoming Hoarding

Many people with mental health conditions, ADHD, and chronic illness deal with hoarding tendencies. Our relationship with stuff can be incredibly complicated and overwhelming.

This is the story of my family and my struggle with hoarding.

Do you know the difference between hoarding and collecting? A collection that is not actually valuable, useful, organized, and accessible is likely hoarding because if you can’t manage your things, you will easily fall into hoarding.


Now, before I get started, let me apologize to my family for any of the details that I may have gotten wrong. My intent in writing this post is to help other people who are struggling with hoarding. My writing is only as accurate as my memory. Since many of the things described in this post happened when I was a child or even before I was born, I am doing my best to accurately convey them to the best of my recollection. Please forgive me if I am less than totally accurate about some of the details. Please know that I am not disparaging anyone’s character in this post, but rather giving commentary on the effects of mental and physical illnesses.


This is the story of four Sarahs. Four girls, all named Sarah, spanning nearly a century.

This is the story of how hoarding has affected our lives and the story of my pursuit to break the generational hold that stuff –possessions– has on our lives.

Sarah Number One

My great grandmother’s name was Sarah. I never had the pleasure of knowing my great-grandmother as she died before I was born. I know that she was a very caring, loving lady who had only one child: my grandmother, also named Sarah. While my grandmother described my great grandmother as loving, she also described her as controlling and obsessive. If she were alive today, I have no doubt that she would be diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She required everything to be meticulously clean all the time. She held my grandmother –who was not naturally meticulous– to her standard. My grandmother was not allowed to save treasures or things that were important to her. Everything always had to be perfect in their house –and if it was not, then my grandmother was not even allowed to have friends over. Once, my great grandmother decided that her curtains were not right, therefore my grandmother was not allowed to have company. Listening to my grandmother describe her relationship with her mother, it was quite obvious that –while she loved her mother very much– she did not agree with how her mother chose to interact. Her mother put a huge emphasis on things, on perfection, and on tidiness at the expense of all else. This attitude would greatly influence her daughter.

Sarah Number Two and Three

My grandmother is Sarah number two. She grew up, got married, and had children. From what I have heard, she didn’t really start having problems with hoarding until after her fourth pregnancy. There were complications, she was hospitalized, and the baby –named Sarah Jane– died. Sarah Jane is Sarah number three. Sarah Jane was one of eight babies my grandmother lost. My grandmother’s health –physical and mental (which often go hand-in-hand)– declined from there. From what I understand, it was sometime around then the time of Sarah Jane’s death that my grandmother started hoarding. My father describes a memory of being so happy once when the living room was cleaned out that he has his siblings danced around happily because there was finally enough room to play.

Grandma probably had many of the same conditions that I have. Unfortunately for her, in the 1950s and 1960s, doctors were less likely to diagnose and treat conditions in women, and many of the conditions I have were unknown –undiagnosable– at the time. If I had to guess I would diagnose her with a thyroid problem, estrogen dominance, ADHD (maybe even a form of autism?), OCD hoarding –just from the limited knowledge I have. Since I spent very little time with her as an adult, this is mostly based on my memories of her as a child. Even in the 2000s when my mother was taking care of my grandmother, her doctors dismissed her symptoms and didn’t take it seriously. If they had taken it seriously, we may have discovered her cancer in time to save her life –but that is another story for another time.

Before Great Grandma died in the 1970s (when I was yet to be a gleam in my daddy’s eye), she bought Grandma a beautiful Civil War era house with a wrap around porch on a hill. It was certainly large enough to house my grandmother’s family of (by then) seven children.

In 1976, my mother visited my father, her then boyfriend, at this house. During the visit, their freezer died, and my mother assumed it would be dealt with.

But like many things, it was not.

By the time I knew Grandma, her house was full to the brim with stuff. So full of stuff that I don’t know what her house really looked like. All I could see was goat trails through piles. Even the outside of the house was cluttered and obscured with stuff.

In the 1990s, something got too close to the coal burning furnace in the basement, and that beautiful house burned to the ground nearly killing my grandfather who was sleeping on the fourth floor. That same fridge was still where it had died in December of 1976. It had never been cleaned out –never even opened I was told.

My grandmother moved a trailer onto the property with the intent of sorting through the rubble of the fire for her “treasures” that were in the fire. Due to her mental health issues or the physical health issues which restricted her movements, this sorting didn’t happen. She wouldn’t let people clean out the property. Even years later she complained about the things she hadn’t been able to save. What she did save was often ruined by water or smoke damage but it was still vital to her –absolutely essential to her that she had these things.

Eventually, the county forced them to sell the property and the debris from the house was cleaned up. What she had saved was moved into one of her children’s houses merely transferring her hoarding to a new location.

Unfortunately, the actual issue was not addressed.

What follows is my opinion based on conversations with my Grandmother when I was in high school (some of my family may or may not agree): My grandmother’s mother was an OCD clean-freak, critical of my unknown-then-probably ADHD (among other things) grandmother. My grandmother never learned to view possessions in a healthy way. She was forced to never keep anything –even special things– as a child, and she reacted as an adult by keeping everything.

This has been passed on to her kids, grandkids, and now great grandkids. It’s like our brains are wired to see possibilities and struggle to get rid of them. We make emotional connections to and plans for the things we possess. We can see the possibilities and struggle to look beyond that to the problems those possessions are causing in our lives.

I’ve read about epigenetic and how researchers believe that certain traumas in your family history can trigger a switch in your ancestors genetic make-up inclining you toward certain behavior or certain conditions.

Sarah Number Four

Hi, I am Sarah number four. Actually, I am Sarah number seven in our family according to my grandmother, but I am only including four of the Sarahs for the purpose of our story.

I am very much like my grandmother in many ways. I am gifted, artistic, and not naturally organized –totally ADHD. I look like her, even down to the same weight problems she had. I love dresses and long hair, just like she did. My aunt likes to remind me how much I look like Grandma. We have many of the same health problems, likely a result of shared genetics.

I recognized this struggle with possessions in myself in my early twenties.

I didn’t want to copy the same mistakes that my grandmother had made. I wanted to make wiser, better choices about my possessions.

I don’t want my possessions to rule my life.

So, I started actively working on my own view of possessions until I could get rid of things. More than once, I cleaned everything surplus out of my house –then I would relapse due to my illness. So, I would clean it all out again. At one time, I hauled 3 truckloads of craft and art supplies out of my garage to the local thrift store.

It took a few years of forcing myself to face this issue and my approach to possessions before I saw real progress.

The first few times, I will be honest –it was really hard. I had plans for those things when I bought them. But, my ideas are always greater than my time and my energy. Learning to accept reality was very important to my ability to part with my stuff and not bring more stuff into my home –as was dealing with my health and mental health issues (an option that was not available in my grandmother’s time).

Here is the reality: I will always have more ideas and plans than I have time and energy for. Once I accepted that as a fact, it made getting rid of things so much easier. Knowing that my ideas were greater than my ability to fulfill my ideas meant that I could put a priority on the things that were really important and get rid of the other things.

It was then that I started noticing this same hoarding tendency in my children.

I am fighting a multigenerational battle.

This battle –as far as I know– started with my great-grandmother and how she interacted with my grandmother and has been passed down from generation to generation.

Now, it’s passed to my children.

I am now fighting for my future grandchildren.

I am fighting to break a pattern of behavior that is neither healthy nor ideal. It is not what I want for my children and grandchildren.

Although sometimes due to my health and my inability to clean my house still resembles that of a hoarder, it is not because I cannot get rid of things.

I have learned to get rid of things.

At one point, a group of ladies came to help me clean out my house. In one day, we overhauled and cleaned out the whole house. I was getting rid of things hand-over-fist as fast as they could bring them to me.

For me, overcoming this need to have things just in case or because they were special, unique, or important to me came down to a few factors:

1) I’m a Christian. If I believe God will provide what I need then I don’t need to keep every little thing just in case. We need far fewer things than we think we need. Most of what we think of as needs are actually wants. I should be storing (hoarding) treasures in heaven not here on this earth.

2) There are very few things that are truly unique, and nearly everything I own could be bought again on Amazon or eBay if I truly and actually needed it. The toll of the possessions on my life is not worth keeping things just so I feel like I have been frugal.

3) Our things must fit in our space. If they don’t, we are not good stewards of our space. Our space –such as our homes– is also something God has given us. If things don’t fit in our space, it makes everyone miserable.

4) Even if I saved it for later, if I can’t manage my stuff, then even when I need it, I will not be able to find it, in which case I have wasted the storage space and my time.

5) I decided that people were more important than things. If I am choosing to fill up my home with things, to make my home unsafe for my children, to force my children and husband to work around my possessions that I refuse to get rid of, I have prioritized things over people –over my own family. I cannot do this in good conscience.

6) I decided I was not bringing new things into our house unless they were necessary. If I have the mindset that I am not bringing new things into the house, it saves me a lot of hassle. My first answer is “No new things.” If we actually need new things, I can adjust. But, assuming I will not bring new things into the home helps keep me from the mindset of always collecting new things. It was a change in the way that I think about possessions.

With the intent of teaching my children to not cling to possessions too tightly, I have begun to embrace minimalism. Not entirely –because I still have way too much stuff, but I have found the idea of not having more than we need very helpful.

I have worked really hard with my children on this issue. We have discussed at length –with kindness and understanding as well as honesty– about my grandmother’s issues.

I remember how traumatic it was when I came home from school at age five and many of my favorite things were gone. I know my mother meant to help, however, it made me cling to things more tightly. I do not force my children to get rid of things. Instead, we discuss what’s needed, why we keep things, the nature of possessions and how they can possess us if we aren’t careful. I’m trying to teach them how to get rid of things. How to be rational about possessions.

They have a drawer in their dresser that they can keep special things in and a box on their school shelf for special papers. When the box is full, they have to choose what to keep. Sometimes, we photograph special items and save the photo if we have to get rid of the item. I try to treat them –and their feelings– with respect. As an adult, their things may not seem important to me, but it is very important to them. If I want them to value what I value, I need to be willing to value what is important to them.

I’m not going to lie and say that this is an easy topic. It’s not. I’m fighting generations of genetics that incline us to certain behaviors.

I don’t get rid of everything. For instance, I have never gotten rid of one piece of my art. Somethings are important to keep.

With my children, I have decided to pick my battles, to be more concerned about if they’re learning to be discerning than if they get rid of every little thing.

It’s a journey.

One that I’m still on.

But I know there’s hope because I can see how much I’ve improved. I can see how much my children have improved.

I have learned to be thankful for what I have and thankful to have just what I need instead of clinging to everything for the one-day-plans that I had. Being thankful has greatly improved my outlook on things! If I’m thankful for what I have I’m less likely to feel the need to acquire more.

I posted a version of this article on one of my facebook groups and inspired a self-proclaimed hoarder to start cleaning her house. So, I am posting it here, honestly and plainly, in hopes that it will help and inspire others.

I do not claim to have conquered this area — on the contrary, it may be something I struggle with for my whole life.

But, if you struggle with it, you are not alone. There is hope. There is progress. It can get better. The first step, in my experience, is to get a proper diagnosis. A lot of hoarding is a result of unaddressed anxiety. You can’t help what you don’t understand. Thankfully, unlike in my grandmother’s day, there are doctors who will listen to women and treat them.

Be your own advocate.

Fight for yourself, for your family, for your future.

Your choices now don’t just affect you: they affect the generations to come.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

P.S. To any of my family who reads this, please give me grace as I tried to deal with this topic as graciously and honestly as I could.

If you found this post helpful, I would be honored if you would share it. 

illness

Please Stop Giving Me Weight Loss Advice | Weight Loss Is Far More Complicated Than You Think It Is

Dear friends and family…

And complete strangers in the grocery store…

And purveyors of exercise programs…

And friends on Facebook…

And friends of friends on Facebook…

And sellers of diet pills, nutritionals, and protein drinks…

And random people who stop by my blog…

Please stop giving me weight loss advice.

I’m actually less concerned about my you bugging me about my weight than I am concerned the stigma attached to people who are overweight.

Hear me out.

Here’s something you may not realize: weight loss is so, so, so, so, so, so very much more complicated than you think it is.

“Well, no, it’s not,” you say, “You eat healthy food, you move your body, and you lose weight.”

Right?

Wrong!

So, so, so wrong.

The above statement presupposes that you have a healthy body to begin with.

Without a healthy body that simply will not work!

I was born sick.

I’ve been sick most of my life in varying degrees, and my body has never —I repeat, never— worked properly.

Here’s an interesting little factoid: I spent two years having salads and meat for every single meal and exercising regularly, and I still gained weight.

“How on earth can that happen?” you ask.

It’s simple.

My body is broken.

I cannot lose weight until I fix the problems in my body.

Most of these problems are issues of my genetics which has predisposed me to certain conditions, many of them autoimmune related.

And none of them are my fault.

I have spent the better part of the last two decades being obsessed with food –not obsessed with eating food, but obsessed with what I should be eating and trying to put the right foods into my mouth.

I am absolutely not overweight as a result of not eating healthy.

In fact, I think that the only reason I’m still alive is because of how careful I’ve been about my health and what I put in my body.

I have exercised until I nearly passed out and couldn’t walk anymore and still didn’t lose weight.

Here’s something that baffles people: you know those two years when I was eating salads with protein at every meal?

I got sicker.

Way, way, way sicker.

Believe me, you do not have to tell me that this is not the way it is supposed to work.

I got so sick from all that “good eating” that my diet was reduced to only four things I could eat: ground beef from one local meat shop, chicken broth (but not bone broth), kidney beans, and occasionally some cheddar cheese.

If I deviated from the above four food items, I would start hemorrhaging rectally –and sometimes vaginally.

Yes, hemorrhaging.

It’s frankly terrifying when there’s blood coming from all kinds of places it really shouldn’t be.

It’s been going on for over 2 years!

That doesn’t even begin to explain the pain I experience.

I have no choice but to adhere to a very strict diet of those few things I can eat without hemorrhaging.

Now, if diet and exercise isn’t the answer –and I promise you it isn’t regardless of what our culture believes– then what is?

I currently have over 20 medical diagnoses, and those diagnoses do not explain all my symptoms.

What would help me lose weight is to accurately diagnose and treat the conditions which are causing the chaos in my body to begin with.

Here’s an uncomfortable truth: it is possible that we might not find diagnoses or treatments.

I could even die from my conditions.

But, it’s not from lack of trying to get better.

I have a whole team of medical doctors trying to come up with answers and treatments for my puzzling ailments.

If people who specialize in autoimmune diseases have to confer with other autoimmune disease specialists to come up with a viable treatment plan for me because of the extreme complexities of my illness, what makes you think that your diet is the answer?

I’m so tired of being told that if I just did this diet or that diet then I would lose weight.

No, actually, I’ll lose weight when my endocrine system is able to function in a healthy way and my immune system stops attacking itself!

I’m sorry to burst everyone’s bubble but it’s not as simple as diet and exercise.

I repeat: it’s not as simple as diet and exercise.

And no, I’m not doing your diet… because it will land me in the hospital.

What I wish healthy people realized is this: the majority of people you see around you who are overweight are far more conscious of their health than you are.

But, you have a healthy body, and they do not.

This is, for the most part, due to their genetics and not due to them not caring, or eating too much sugar, or whatever you think causes their problems.

That is a lie that sick people fight against their whole lives.

If you know an overweight person, most likely they are sick —even if they don’t know it and haven’t been accurately diagnosed.

People often don’t get medical help because, even if they have some health problem, they –and everyone around them– just assumes that they aren’t trying hard enough to eat healthy and exercise.

More than one time, I’ve had people tell me that if I would just stopped eating at McDonald’s I would lose weight.

Here’s the reality: I wouldn’t even dream of eating at McDonald’s unless I was suicidal, because that a sure-fire way for me to end up hospitalized!

Gradually, over the last 18 months, my doctors and I have found ways to increase the foods I’m able to eat to about 20 items.

So, I’m not really the person to complain to if you have to remove a single item like gluten from your diet –I might be slightly less compassionate than the average person.

I just wish people would stop acting as if it’s simple.

Like if I just did this one thing than all my health and weight problems would go away.

Do you think I’ve not considered every single possibility available to me?

My life may depend on my choices!

Don’t you think I wish there was one simple answer that would solve all my health problems?

But, it’s not that simple.

And, my weight itself is not a health problem.

My weight is a symptom of my health problems.

I have come to grips with my weight and am focusing on being healthy which is honestly a better goal than being thin.

Even if I lost a bunch of weight by some miracle pill or liposuction or whatever, it isn’t going to fix the problem that caused that weight to begin with.

Please, don’t assume it’s simple.

Please, don’t assume you know more about my condition than I do or than my doctors do.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t assume I’m not trying every single reasonable thing I can to get better.

But, 99.9999% of the suggestions I get are things that I’m either severely allergic to, that I’ve already tried, or that would send me to the hospital.

If you feel the need to do something, instead of giving unsolicited advice, pray for me.

Pray that I would have strength and be pain-free so I can be active and take care of my family.

Pray that my immune reactions –to, well, basically, everything– would minimize.

Pray that my doctors have wisdom to diagnose and treat my conditions.

Pray that my family continues to have the money for my treatments since we lost our insurance and my treatments wouldn’t even be covered if we got new insurance (it’s a long story).

If you feel generous and feel like you just need to do something, you could even donate money to help with my medical expenses.

But, in the name of all that’s good and holy, please stop sending me links to new diet plans and trying to sell me your shakes and pills.

If you do send something to me, please do not be shocked and offended when I do not respond enthusiastically but instead send you the link to this post.

And, please stop viewing every overweight person as a slob who doesn’t care instead of a real person who is trying to overcome his or her genetics and health complications.

Overweight people are –with very few exceptions– ill people.

They shouldn’t be objects of ridicule and criticism.

They should be given understanding and compassion.

And support.

There: that’s my tirade about magic pills and diet plans.

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but this is the honest truth about what I know and how I feel.

Be thankful if your genetics has not predisposed you to live with severe illnesses and significant weight problems —you are far more blessed than you realize.

Oh, and one more thing: please don’t pick apart every little thing I’ve said in this post and give me even more unsolicited diet and health advice.

Because that would just be rude.

Blessings,

Sarah

If you liked this post, you might also like some of my other posts:

Why I Am Not Ashamed of Being Overweight: My Weight is Part of My Story

Too Much Information: 10 Unexpected Symptoms of My Illness That it’s Taboo to Talk About

From Immobile to Mobile: a 20-week Exercise Plan for the Obese and Chronically Ill

ADHD, illness

I Failed Flylady | What To Do If You Can’t Even Do Flylady

Once upon a time, this mom tried to follow Flylady.

If you’re not familiar with Flylady, it’s advertised as a program for even the most chaotic of people to get their homes and lives organized.

All my friends swore by it and promised that if I just tried, this would solve all my housekeeping problems.

I failed.

Miserably.

If they gave prizes for the worst failure, I’d surely have won.

Even the program made for super unorganized people was too much for me.

The problem was that Flylady did not address the actual issues in my life.

Issues like health, energy, focus, the ability to walk and not be dizzy, unexplained pain, etc.

15 years and more than 20 diagnoses later, I know what was inhibiting my ability to follow through.

At the time, I actually emailed Flylady and asked what they recommended I do if I was unable to follow their plan.

She replied saying that I probably had health problems that were keeping me from being able to follow through.

Since I had recently had a physical showing no problems I unwisely dismissed her explanation.

She was so right, but I wouldn’t learn how right for many years.

So, what do you do if you find yourself in a position where you can’t even do Flylady?

You’re not alone!

Here are some things you need to know:

1) If you have ADHD or some mental or physical health issues, be honest about it and how it affects your life and ability to maintain.

2) If you think you have something but don’t know why you can’t keep up, get help: get a diagnosis and treatment, and don’t give up advocating for yourself until you get answers –even if that means going through alternative medicine to get answers that “regular” doctors won’t consider like adrenal fatigue or autoimmune illness treatments. I had to do this, and it quite simply saved my life.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be honest with people about how you’re struggling –and if you can’t trust your friends with this, you need new friends. You need a support system. If the system of friends around you are anything but supportive, do yourself a favor and find a better support system.

4) Minimize. If you can’t control and manage your stuff, you need less stuff. Don’t let your desires get the better of you: be realistic. I know from experience that my house can quickly start looking like a hoarder (even though I’m not a hoarder) if I bring too many things into my house.

5) Be okay if it’s not perfect. A functioning cluttered house is better than a perfectly clean house where everyone is miserable or a hoarders house where your stuff is crushing you and causing shame. Find balance. I’ve known people with perfectly clean houses where everyone’s completely unhappy. People are more important than stuff, and your relationships are more important than the condition of your house.

6) Don’t buy into the American lie that the only “right way” to be is Type A and super organized. It takes all kinds, and there’s no shame in being who you are. Don’t waste your life trying to be something you’re not. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to run a house. It doesn’t have to be the “right” way.

7) Do what works to make the house function even if it isn’t the “right” way. For instance, one friend of mine dumps all her silverware in a drawer without sorting because her kids mess it up anyway. I don’t fold clothes. We either take it straight out of the dryer or put it unfolded in the drawers. No shame in doing what works. Let go of what you were told was the right way and stop trying to be something you’re not. I have other posts about this.

8) Prioritize: if you have very limited energy like I did, do not waste time and energy on silly things like shining a sink. I cannot justify energy to make my bed and clean the sink when I could be using my limited energy on something important like cooking. In my case, I could hardly walk and yet I was trying to go into the kitchen every single day and stand over the sink and scrub it out when I hurt too much to even clean the dishes. But –by golly– I was going to keep that clean sink empty and that sink shiny because that’s what I was supposed to do to stay on the plan. Even if that meant I couldn’t walk the rest of the day.

I thought I could get better at being organized by sheer willpower. I have a blog post about that, too. Sheer determination is not the answer to success.

The only way I’ve kept my house clean was paying someone or asking for help.

Because I’m physically unable to do it.

My children are older now and decided to take the cleaning on themselves.

I wish I could alleviate the guilt from myself and other people that I felt for the last 15 plus years of not being able to keep up.

Eventually, I started accepting this about myself, acknowledging that I couldn’t do it all and trying to be okay with my imperfection.

One thing that has helped me is to pick 2 or 3 things I can get done. If I get those done, I try 2 or 3 more.

I hope this helps others.

I hate to think of other moms out there struggling with this guilt.

When you can’t even do the cleaning method that’s supposed to work for the worst of the slobs, you really start feeling like a loser.

But, we can only do what our minds and bodies are healthy enough to do.

We are not the sum of our health or mental health issues.

And neither are they our fault.

No guilt, mamas!

Get help.

Get answers.

Get free of the guilt!

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

faith, illness

Peace Day Challenge, Part 1 | We Are Called to Peace

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. Colossians 3:13

You were called to peace.

Did you know that you were called to be peaceful?

Do you feel at peace today?

The world encourages activity, striving, pushing, trying to fix all our problems, being better and getting better, pulling yourself up by your own boot straps.

And the church buys into that –just look at all the Christian self-help books out there!

But, the Bible encourages us to slow down, live peaceful lives, and be content with what we have and where we are.

This is in stark contrast to the way that the world views life.

Every church women’s group advice I’ve heard is “try harder,” “push harder,” and “do more.”

They act like if you really trust God, you’ll be able to get it all done; if you do things the “right” way, it will be easy and everything will just fall into place — usually backed up by a Bible passage taken out of context.

Unfortunately, that is not the way life is nor what the Bible says.

The Bible says that we will have struggles and trials: it doesn’t say to try to make all those trials go away.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Jesus warns us that we will have troubles –in the context of the passage, we will have troubles until Jesus returns, but ultimately everything is in His power so that we can have peace now.

When a young mom is struggling, why do we say, “try harder,” or “schedule better,” or “be more organized”?

Why don’t we say that maybe this is part of the trials that God puts us through to grow us?

Why don’t we recommend that they surrender their situation to God and say “His will be done” just like the pattern in Jesus’ prayer?

Why are we surprised that we face trials when Scripture repeatedly says we will have them?

Why do we act like the trials are something wrong?

Why do we never encourage people to rest in God and be content?

To be at peace?

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13

We suffer now, but it will be worth it because someday we will be with Him in heaven.

We always seem to think that God needs to fix our situation when sometimes– often times– the thing He is trying to change is us and the method He is using is our trial.

We lack peace because we fight the trail and blame the struggle instead of learning to be peaceful and content in spite of the trial.

Peace brings hope and joy —if you don’t have hope and joy, seek peace.

Sometimes He calms the storm

With a whispered peace be still

He can settle any sea

But it doesn’t mean He will

Sometimes He holds us close

And lets the wind and waves go wild

Sometimes He calms the storm

And other times He calms His child

— Scott Krippayne

We expect Him to fix the situation when that may not be His plan.

Often, He wants us to learn to be content in the storm if that is where He has put us.

What if God doesn’t want us to figure it all out?

What if God’s goal for us is to not succeed at everything?

What if God doesn’t need us to fix everything and be perfect at everything?

What if God doesn’t want us to try harder –He just wants us to turn to Him sooner?

What if He wants us to be weak and unable to do it all because that is where He can use us and where we are most dependant on Him?

What if He wants us to be content without having everything perfect?

What if He wants us to seek peace in spite of the storm raging around us?

Be content — like Paul said– in all things.

We are constantly trying to fix our lives and make all those problems go away.

We rebuke those problems believing they’re Satan keeping us from the happiness and success God wants for us.

But, what if God doesn’t define success the same way we do?

We keep trying to fix all our problems, but what if God is using our problems to change our hearts?

We are constantly trying to do away with the very situations God uses to mature us and make us more like Jesus.

Peace days allow us to stop fighting, stop struggling, stop trying to fix every last problem in our lives.

It teaches us to be peaceful in the chaos, in spite of the chaos. God can use that chaos for our good.

I will write more about Peace Days in coming posts.

We like to say things like: “God often takes people through a hard time before He does something great with their lives” and cite Joseph as an example.

I dare say that Joseph needed to go through those trials to be refined into the kind of man God wanted him to be.

I would also say that these trials happen to all of us regardless of if God ever does anything “great” with our lives.

This is the case because God is far more interested in bringing Himself glory than making us look good by putting us in a high position.

We tend to forget that Lord chastens whom He loves and has the right to do with any lump of clay as He wills –and it’s not always for “great things.”

For who can resist His will? But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have the right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special occasions and another for common use? Romans 9:19-21

Maybe He called you to die to yourself a little bit every day to show His love to your children.

That doesn’t seem like a great and awesome thing, but it is perhaps the way that God will get glory from your life, the way that He will use you.

I always wanted to be a hero –to sacrifice my life in a big way one time– and yet, God has required of me thousands of days, over many years, with one more kiss, one more meal. –Sally Clarkson

I wish I had learned to do this a decade ago instead of constantly fighting over and resenting where God put me and what He was doing with my life.

You know what changed my mind?

Once upon a time, a 10-year-old boy put his hand on my shoulder when I was driving and completely stressing out and said, “Mama, it will be okay. None of this is a surprise to God. If it’s happening, there’s a good reason that we don’t know.”

Out of the mouth of babes, indeed.

This child has definitely been holy sandpaper to my soul.

We spend so much of our energy fighting against things, trying to fix things, trying to make ourselves do and be better about things that aren’t even sin issues –like not getting dinner on time, not being able to keep a tight budget, or not having an effective cleaning schedule, basically all the things women’s groups are often about– when we could be being peaceful instead of stressed out, content instead of struggling.

Peace doesn’t come from fixing all the problems around us; it comes from learning to calm ourselves and be content in the storm where God put us.

Godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

Are you content?

When’s the last time you heard any Bible speaker encourage you to be content where you were?

Are you content where God has put you?

Contentment does not mean that you cease to try to improve; it means that you have a mindset that “Even if my situation never improves, I’ll be happy where God put me.”

Paul said he had learned to be content in all things, even horrible things like beatings and shipwrecks.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:11

Job lay in the dirt with his body covered in boils, his family –except his unhelpful, bitter wife– dead, his wealth completely gone, and his friends making horrible accusations, and what was his response?

Job said that even if God killed him, Job would not stop praising Him.

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him. Job 13:15

Do we have that kind of peace?

That kind of contentment?

Are we so steadfast in God, so content, so trusting, so peace-filled, that no matter what happens we will still praise God?

In my opinion and experience, the try-harder-push-harder mentality rarely comes from God.

God doesn’t want us to push harder; He wants us to turn to Him sooner.

And, turning to God does not guarantee that He’ll fix those burdens.

Remember what God said to Paul when he asked to have his burden fixed?

God told him no.

Sometimes, it’s not God will to fix it.

That’s okay because He’s not the great genie in the sky who grants us wishes.

He’s a holy, entirely good God who bought us with His blood and has the right to do with your and my life as He sees fit.

If what He does seems wrong, that’s because we have a misunderstanding of right, not because He’s wrong –He’s never wrong.

Remember the story of Mary and Martha?

Martha was stressing out; Mary was at peace at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus said Mary had chosen the better.

In the one story in the New Testament about housekeeping, Jesus chided the woman who was functioning like a busy, “godly” women today —or rather what many people teach is godly today.

We glorify the type A woman in our Christian culture and act like she’s the key to being godly.

Being type A go-getter isn’t necessarily peaceful which is the command we are focusing on today.

Jesus did not tell Martha “well done” for managing her home –she was stressed out and not peaceful.

So, maybe there’s more to being godly than having your whole life organized, right?

If Jesus didn’t glorify her for managing her home, being stressed out, and being type A, then why do we glorify it?

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with being type A, only that being type A doesn’t make you more godly.

It has to do with your personality, not to do with your spiritual state.

Contrary to popular belief.

So, we should stop glorifying type A people as more godly and stop glorifying type A behavior as godly behavior.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:l4-15

Lack of peace and grace can cause us to get bitter.

According to that verse above, our bitterness affects those around us!

So practice peace.

In coming posts, we’ll talk about my experience with practicing peace, the Peace Day Challenge and how to implement it.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes


Here are the posts in this series. I will add the links as I publish the posts.

Here are the posts in this series. I will add the links as I publish the posts.

Peace Day Challenge, Part 1: We are Called to Peace

Peace Day Challenge, Part 2: Even If the Healing Never Comes: Choosing Contentment

Peace Day Challenge, Part 3: Scriptures Verses About Living in Peace

Peace Day Challenge, Part 4: The Actual Peace Day Challenge

Peace Day Challenge, Part 5: Yes, I Still Lose My Cool Sometimes

Peace Day Challenge, Part 6: Peace Day Challenge Reflections


If you enjoyed this post, perhaps you would enjoy these as well.

The Condition of My Home ≠ the Condition of My Heart

Independentism: The Negative Effects of Self-sufficiency on Women in the Church

It’s Not a Sin to Be Untidy

13 Ways To Improve Our Women’s Ministries

Confessions of a Horrible Housewife, Episode 1

Confessions of a Horrible Housewife, Episode 2

ADHD, illness

Could Mold Be the Root Cause of Your Physical or Mental Illness?

I was unintentionally exposed to mold this last week.

Here were my symptoms within an hour of mold exposure:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability (way more than normal)
  • Restlessness
  • Anger outbursts
  • Crying (more than normal)
  • Joints stiff and cracking
  • Muscle spasms and aches
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Brain fog was back
  • Upset stomach
  • Trouble falling asleep (the supplement I’ve been successfully taking stopped helping)
  • Weird vivid dreams
  • Waking with a start, unrested and unsettled
  • Anxiety
  • General uneasy, queasy feeling
  • I had to take 2x the normal amount of muscle relaxant to get the pain in my back to go away. I’ve never had to take that much
  • Ankles swelled to the point that walking was painful and difficult
  • Energy level was completely depleted even though I’m taking medication for my adrenals which was giving me tons of energy prior to exposure.
  • Aches and pains returned, aches and pains which had been present previous to taking Naltrexone (to minimize autoimmune inflammation); the mold exposure was like I wasn’t even taking the medication anymore.

I am also taking high doses of antitoxin supplements (Parotid and Chlorella) just to be able to walk, think, and talk.

In less than 24 hours, my son (who was helping me move the bed) had a hyperventilating panic attack for the first time in four years.

Here’s the thing though: I didn’t even attempt to clean up the mold.

I only moved the bed 6 inches away from the wall to see if there was mold.

There is mold behind our bed in the master bedroom. The bed has been in the same place for 8 years because the room is too small for rearranging. I would have to move the dresser out of the room if I wanted the bed in a different place.

The mold was between 10 and 24 inches high and about 8 feet long (4 feet along each side of the bed that was touching a wall).

We did not even touch the mold or go behind the bed.

But, we still had reactions.

The mold actually had little arms growing out of the wall and into the mattress and box springs!

I didn’t even know that was possible!

I don’t even want to know what sleeping on that is doing to our health!

Mold is a neurotoxin.

Black mold is a myth: the toxins can be present in any kind of mold, and not all black mold makes the toxin.

With over 100,000 kinds of mold, there’s no way to know if what you have is toxic, but is it really worth the risk?

Yes, we are taking precautions:

1. I have an air conditioner/humidifier running in the house to dry the air. Wet air means mold can grow so we are drying the air.

2. I’m keeping all ceiling fans and box fans running to keep air moving. Stagnant air and pockets of moisture allow mold to grow.

3. I’m running a HEPA filter in my house. This kind of filter can take particles as small as mold out of the air.

4. I’m defusing tea tree oil, thieves oil, and purification oil from Young Living as well as frankincense to help with our overall anxiety levels in the house since the mold exposure. Tea tree oil is known to kill mold. Mold cannot grow in the presence of thieves oil. I’ve seen tests with my own eyes that show this. Purification was recommended to clean the air.

5. We are using Thieves cleaner from Young Living on a patch of black mold in our living room window sill. It is working really well! I’m planning to use the same thing in the bedroom, but I need breathing protection first.

5. I ordered a non-toxic mold cleaner from Amazon that has great reviews (provided you follow the instructions). The thieves cleaner doesn’t seem to be enough for the mold in my bathroom because of the ongoing presence of moisture. I’m going to try this spray in the bathroom on the tile shower surround that has ongoing mold problems due to daily moisture.

6. I’m looking to hire a professional who can find the mold that I can’t see. I know that many of these symptoms started years before I could see the black mold I’m dealing with now. Since our house was “flipped” (bought and fixed up for the purpose of resale) before we bought it, I’m concerned that the previous owners may have painted over or walled in problem areas rather than deal with them properly.

7. I am following my doctor’s directions on how to handle the mold exposure. I am blessed to have a doctor who is knowledgeable about mold and has helped people heal from mold toxicity before.

Although many of my health symptoms existed before moving into this house, they didn’t exist to this extremity.

I had far fewer and far less extreme symptoms at our previous house.

Within six months of moving into this house, I was having trouble walking.

Within one year of moving in, people were threatening to take my children away because I couldn’t keep my house clean –which is hard to do when your whole body is screaming in pain and you can barely move.

I know this is just anecdotal evidence, but it makes me go “Hmmmm.”

Most houses have some mold.

Could the mold you see –or that you don’t see– be contributing to your illness? Or anxiety? Or increased ADHD symptoms? Or depression? Or be prohibiting you from seeing improvement in your health?

I was surprised how quickly and extremely the mold affected us and also how many houses statistically have mold of some kind.

Some people react more extremely to the mold than others –I was told this has to do with our genetics and that there are even tests that can tell you if you are susceptible to mold.

My doctor said that she didn’t take mold seriously until she had a patient who found mold, got rid of it, and saw remarkable improvement in her overall health.

After that, she went to a continuing education class about mold and learned what a huge deal it can be.

Mold toxicity is not something that is an alternative medicine issue which regular doctors don’t recognize.

It’s listed on the government and standard medical sites as known toxins.

I have a friend who was repeatedly told by ER doctors that her house was going to kill her if she didn’t get out of it. This was because of how severely she was reacting to the mold.

It’s not nothing.

I’m not sure what all we’ll be doing to get rid of the mold.

But, I’d be lying if I said that the thought of moving into a tent or camping trailer in my front yard until all the mold is gone had never occurred to me.

I need a concrete house with a tin roof.

Maybe that would help.

But, I’m not going to stand by and let the house slowly kill me if there’s something I can do about it.

A special thanks to my cousin Cathy and my sweet friend Leanne who have gently pushed me toward answers and repeatedly answered my questions about their experiences with mold toxicity. Cathy saw remarkable improvement within just weeks of getting out of their mold-filled house.

If you’re sick and have unexplained or increasingly worsening symptoms, don’t discount the impact that mold could be having on your illness.

I will update this post as I learn more about the mold and how to deal with it.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

Image courtesy of:

Bruno Nascimento

ADHD, art, children, homeschooling, illness

Art Therapy: A Simple Method to Deal with Stress

If you have ADHD, anxiety, adrenal problems or if you are basically living and breathing, you probably deal with stress and difficulties processing that stress.

This can be especially true for people who don’t have neurotypical brains because our brains are already a little off and prone to misfiling information.

Many anxieties (for example, phobias) comes from the brain not filing information properly. That’s how something as nondangerous as a housefly could cause a panic attack in someone with that phobia: houseflies got misfiled in the brain as dangerous.

Those of us who are neurodiverse also have a greater possibility of having PTSD than neurotypical brains because PTSD involves the misfiling of information in the brain during a stressful situation. We already have issues with misfiling information due to stress and executive function, so it is quite understandable that we would be more susceptible to PTSD.

As part of the treatment for my low adrenals, my doctor suggested that I try art therapy to lower my stress and the tax on my adrenals. However, the art therapy instructions she gave were very nonspecific and abstract.

I don’t deal well with abstract. I’m going to blame that on being a Highly Sensitive Person, but it could just as easily be something else.

No matter the cause, I deal better with more concrete ideas.

I read as much as I could find on art therapy online and came up with my own method that seems to be helping me.


Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a psychologist. I’m not responsible for problems that occur as a result of using this method. These problems could range from remembering things that make you angry or messes from children having art supplies. Proceed at your own risk.


Some people actually go to college to teach art therapy, and I’m sure they would balk at this.

I’m not saying it’s the right way; I’m only saying it has worked for me.

The purpose of this method art therapy is to help you let go of things that stress you.

Anything that helps you to that end, even if it’s not the same as what the professional would do, is a good thing in my book –provided that it’s both legal and moral, that is.

True clinical art therapy is much more involved than what I’m doing.

Some versions I saw online also involve emptying yourself and letting your spirit guide show you what to do. As a Christian, I won’t be following any spirit guides, but I do pray during the process. If you aren’t religious you can just as easily skip the prayer part.


What you need:

  • A sheet of paper (such as computer paper but any will do)
  • A variety of color crayons or pencils
  • A pen (black works best in my opinion) or a regular #2 pencil

Parts of this activity I have actually been doing since I was a child –minus some of the angry scribbling.

It is simple enough that a child could do it, and I think a child understand it.

This video explains the process including how to adapt it for kids –even special needs kids.

This is one of the first times I have made a video, and I apologize in advance for all the times I say “Umm.” I am obviously not comfortable with the medium of video yet, and I smiled at my own discomfort when I replayed the video. I had also hoped to be able to caption the video for my hearing-impaired friends, but my computer was not cooperating. I may be able to do it sometime in the future but not today.

If you have any questions about the video or the method I use, please ask! I am happy to help.

I hope this was helpful in learning to de-stress.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

faith, illness

8 Things That People Say That Make Me Not Want to Talk About My Miscarriages

Almost 3 weeks ago, I had a miscarriage.

Miscarriage number seven.

Seven babies that I’ll never meet.

Seven babies that I held in my heart, but I’ll never hold in my arms.

This time, I didn’t want to talk about it.

If you’ve read my blog you know I’m pretty open about the stuff I deal with –from icky health stuff to being a rebellious middle schooler.

I know that’s not healthy –it’s not good to hold all the sadness inside.

But this time –no matter how much my heart ached, I didn’t want to talk about it.

Why was this issue so much deeper of hurt? So much more tender? So much more raw?

I’m not entirely sure.

But what I do know is that people have said some pretty horrendous things to me in the past about my miscarriages.

Those unkindly spoken things have made me not want to talk about it –not even to my own friends and family.

I talked about the first two miscarriages pretty openly, but the in between ones, not so much because people would say ridiculously insensitive and offensive things like this:


 

1) “You are in sin for only having two kids.”

People judge me for only having two kids.

But here’s the thing:  I have nine children — nine!– I just don’t get to hold them all right now.

There’s a Big Family Club that I’ll never be a part of –through no fault of my own.

Simply because my children died.

I wanted a big family.

But, I’ve been treated like I am deficient for only having a small family.

In my heart, I have many children but in my home, I have very few.

Here’s the rub: I don’t think it would be wrong if we had decided to only have two kids. But, we didn’t choose this.

You never know someone’s life story. So how about we just stop judging things that are not clearly and absolutely stated in scripture?

It’s really low to tell someone who just lost a baby that they’re in sin for not having more live babies, but yes, I’ve been told that –as if somehow I controlled which babies lived and which ones died.


 

2) “God took your baby because He knew the baby would be bad.”

Some people think God took my baby because He knew it would be a bad person.

This is a really horrible thing to say to someone.

Is that supposed to make me feel better? Am I supposed to say: “Oh, good, well, if he was going to be a sinner than I’m glad he died”?

We are all sinners.

God’s love and grace are there for a reason.

We need it.

All of us.

I do think God has a reason for this happening that I can’t see, but I reject the notion that it was because my child would be a sinner.

Or less worthy of life.

Or whatever.


 

3) “Your baby went to hell.”

If you believe that babies who die do not go to heaven, please do not tell me: I do not want to know.

It just adds a second layer of guilt because then I’m sending my child to hell if I miscarry.

I have enough guilt and stress due to the fact that I can’t carry a baby to term.

I know that the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about the death of a child, but I would rather choose to believe that my children are waiting for me in Heaven than to think that my inability to carry to term sent my children to Hell.

This turns my stomach.

It’s really heartless and cruel to say this to someone who just lost a baby.

If you believe this, I don’t want to talk to you about my miscarriage.


 

4) “It’s lack of faith that you stopped trying to have babies.”

The last time I miscarried was about 4 years ago, and after that, a friend sent me an article about a lady who had 20 miscarriages before she had one live birth.

The insinuation was that if I really had faith then I would keep trying to have babies –no matter how sick I was, no matter how many babies died, no matter how difficult the pregnancies, no matter what the fallout.

This idea is part of the Quiverfull movement which I’ve spoken out against — the idea that women are here to have babies and shouldn’t stop having them in any situation.

I think it was completely reasonable of my husband and me to decide –after losing six babies– that we were done.

Maybe someone else has the ability to go through loss after loss after loss and keep trying, but I have two living children and I need to –as much as possible– be here for them.

It’s not lack of faith.

It’s prudence.

It’s reasonable.

Maybe if you’re healthy, losing a baby might not be as big of a deal? (Someone told me that.) 

But if you’ve got over 20 medical diagnoses like me, that loss is incredibly difficult –especially healthwise since I get significantly sicker after each pregnancy.

I’m glad that the lady in the article kept trying and got her miracle baby. But, I already have two miracles, and I need to be well enough to actually be invested in their lives.

What’s the point of having them if you are unable to raise them in the Lord which actually is commanded? –as opposed to trying to have a specific number of children which is not commanded.


 

5) “Great, you miscarried; that means you can get pregnant. You should try again.”

They dismiss the pain of the loss and the health risks as if it’s nothing to worry about. I’m glad that for them that it’s nothing, but for me, it’s not nothing.

It’s serious and hard.

Besides, I don’t want another baby.

If I was going to have a baby, I wanted that baby –don’t treat it like it wasn’t a real person.

I don’t want another baby at all, honestly.

I’m not trying to have more, and this pregnancy was not intentional –unlike previous pregnancies that ended in miscarriages (I didn’t even know I could get pregnant anymore).

We’re done, and I’m okay with that.

It seems to be other people who have a problem with the fact that I only have two (alive) kids and don’t plan to have more.

Why are people so invested in the intimate lives of other people? Do they not have enough problems in their own lives? They have to worry about mine?

I don’t think I should have to tell people that I have lost seven babies to have them leave me alone about having more babies –I think it is none of their stinking business.


 

6) “You hate big families.”

I think the hardest thing about the miscarriages is that people have accused me of hating big families because I speak out about the false doctrine of the Quiverfull Movement.

They see that I only have two living babies and make asinine assumptions and accusations like that I hate anyone who has more than 4 kids.

But I have more than 4 kids!

I have nine children.

I don’t hate big families.

I have a big family.

Part of my family is in heaven.

They treat me like I’m against them –they have an us-versus-them mentality.

I am on the side of big families.

And –more importantly–I’m also on the side of accurate Bible interpretation.

I’m also on the side of small families.

Because the Bible doesn’t specify how big your family has to be.

I’m on the side of families.

Period.


 

7) “You should just adopt.”

People criticize me for not adopting, but these are the same people who know that my family has to take care of me because I’m so sick.

I think most of my friends and family don’t really understand how sick I am.

I don’t think anyone would allow me to adopt, but if they did, would it even be wise?

To bring a young child into my home that I physically can’t care for?  

That my 12-year-old and 15-year-old would end up raising?

And what if I die?

My children are old enough that they can mostly take care of themselves if I die.

The same is not true if we bring new little people into our home.

This doesn’t even begin to address the fact that we’d have to move to a larger house which I’m not able to do –moving is very hard and very stressful.

I applaud and appreciate the women I know who are involved in foster care and adoption.

They are ministers to a group of children who desperately need it.

But don’t accuse people who are too sick to be involved in your ministry of not caring or being in sin.

We feel enough guilt about the things we’re not able to do without your help to make us feel worse.


 

8) “You never even met the baby –it shouldn’t be this big of a deal.”

Some people have said that since it wasn’t a child that I lived with or held it then shouldn’t hurt.

But it does.

Believe me: it does.

Deeply.

Significantly.

Intensely.

And every day.

People who say these kinds of things seem to simply not understand.

Some of my miscarriages have been very early, and I didn’t even know I was pregnant until I miscarried.

For a long time, I didn’t let myself mourn because I told myself it shouldn’t be a big deal.

After seven miscarriages, I know that it is a big deal.

Every life matters –no matter how small or how brief.

I choose not to confide in people who treat life so flippantly as to say a miscarried baby doesn’t matter.


 

Another thing that bothers me isn’t something people say; it’s an attitude. 

An attitude of ingratitude toward God for the children He’s given them. 

Believe me: somewhere out there is women who would gladly endure your worst day just to hold a child or just to have her dead child back again. 

And, if you can’t understand that, I’m going to have a hard time talking to you about how painful these miscarriages have been. 

Do not, I beg you, take your children for granted. 

Just like when you lose a loved one, after a miscarriage you go through the grieving process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

For a long time I was in the denial stage because if I don’t talk about it, it’s not real, right? That was especially true of miscarriages 3 through 6.

This time, I think I’m somewhere between denial and anger.

But, I’m giving myself permission to hurt and grieve this time.  

I think that is helping.

I’ve burst into tears over stock photos of baby girls. I’ve spent hours up at night crying over the fact that I’ll never get to play dress up or tea party with my daughter or braid her hair.

For some reason, this miscarriage brought all the years of horrible experiences –all those intense emotions– bubbling to the surface.

All the heartache of broken dreams.

The empty arms just feel so much more empty.

I was too upset, too hurt to talk about it.

This time.

I’m not sure why.

It just is.

So, I cling to my Savior and to the knowledge that one day the canvas of time will be unrolled like a tapestry and the Great Redeemer will trace His fingers across the lines of time and eternity and explain every hurt, every heartache, every loss.

It will make sense, and we will see that His plan was wonderful, providential, and worth it.

He who catches my tears in a bottle knows how much I hurt.

For now, I hurt a lot.

But I trust Him no matter how much I hurt.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

If you liked this post, you might enjoy these as well:


I’m a Real Mom: Coming to Grips with Disabled Motherhood 


Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen to Good People?


Too Much Information: 10 Unexpected Symptoms of My Illness That It’s Taboo to Talk About 


“You Hate Big Families!” –A Discussion About How to Respond Biblically When Someone Disagrees with You


Does the Bible Command Us to Keep Having Babies? An Argument Against the Quiverfull Movement


illness

Thyroid Disease: Is This Butterfly-shaped Organ Messing Up Your Life?

Unless you have thyroid disease, you’re probably not familiar with it.

And even if you have heard of it, you probably think it causes weight gain and is easily fixed by a small pill.

There are a few –very few– people who are able to fix thyroid disease by only taking a pill.

But unfortunately, that’s not the norm.

At all.

For a long time, I believed it was all I needed.

Because that’s what I was told.

I wish I had not believed that lie.

Thyroid disease is so very much more complicated.

Who knew that a little butterfly-shaped organ could mess with my life so entirely?

Did you know that researchers estimate that most thyroid issues are actually cases of Hashimoto’s –autoimmune thyroid disease?

Did you know that researchers estimate that most of those cases have gone undiagnosed?

So, not only is this disease incredibly complicated to treat affecting almost every part of your body, but it goes undiagnosed

That’s what happened to me.

I was undiagnosed for a decade (actually, a doctor did the test but didn’t tell me the result).

The following quote is what I wish someone had told me 12 years ago:

“The thyroid is very important gland in the human body. It plays a very vital role in the overall health of the human body. It is basically butterfly-shaped gland that is located on the front of your neck. Your thyroid lies below your Adam’s apple, along the front of the windpipe.

“It has two side lobes, connected by a bridge in the middle which is known as isthmus. It is an endocrine gland that is responsible for controlling the metabolism (energy produced and used in the body) and regulates the body’s sensitivity to hormones.

“Any kind of anomaly in the thyroid gland can cause number of health issues. It mainly triggers the autoimmune diseases. The main problem that it creates is the issue of hypothyroidism.

“Hypothyroidism causes various types of problems like changes in the menstrual cycle, constipation, depression, dry hair and hair loss, dry skin, fatigue, greater sensitivity to cold, slow heart rate, swelling of thyroid gland, unexplained weight loss and gain and carpal tunnel syndrome.

“If the problem of hypothyroidism goes unchecked it can cause other troubles such as heart problems, infertility, joint pain and obesity.”

Your thyroid delivers chemicals to every cell in your body.

So, if your thyroid isn’t working properly, it will affect your entire body.

If I had read this before 2011, I could have avoided double carpal tunnel surgery –what I needed was the right thyroid medication.

There is so much information available now that I wish had been available back then.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes