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. 

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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

illness

I Am Not a Hoarder: How Living with a Chronic Illness Differs from Hoarding

When I was very sick in 2010, I was misdiagnosed with hoarding.

I rejected the diagnosis then, and I reject the diagnosis now.

Although I did have anxiety about getting rid of things that were important to me (like the perfume that my grandmother wore –she died in 1993– or the single doll I saved from my childhood), I never had anxiety about being without possessions –in fact, minimalism appeals to me.

It was more anxiety over the decisions of what to keep and what to get rid –that would overwhelm me.

That, combined with my general low energy created an environment which looked very much like hoarding but was very different.

I know because I grew up with a grandmother who was a hoarder, and I saw how she acted with her possessions –even things that were broken, water damaged, and unfixable she couldn’t bear to part with.

I knew that my issues were not the same.

Although I did have perfection issues that I had to work through which I have discussed in other posts, I did not have clinical OCD hoarding.

The next mental health professional I saw agreed that I did not have it and removed it from my chart.

It was around then that I found that many people who have chronic illnesses get erroneously diagnosed with hoarding simply because they lack the energy or clarity of mind to keep their houses clean.

In my defense –and theirs– I am listing here the differences between how I behaved and how a hoarder would behave.

The good news is that you can help people with chronic illnesses because they actually want to be helped –unlike many hoarders.

That’s not to say that chronically ill people cannot be hoarders, only that they aren’t the same thing.

Hoarding vs. Chronic Illness

Hoarding is a form of OCD; I am not OCD although I have struggled with some OCD tendencies due to my ADHD, usually about germs and trying to do things perfectly.

Hoarders consider their possessions precious; I considered the excess possessions a nuisance.

Hoarders, when forced to choose, will usually choose their possessions over people; I wanted the stuff out of the way to make it less of a burden on me and those I love.

Hoarders fill up every space they can with junk and useless things; I actually had plans to use the items I purchased but due to my unpredictable energy and ADHD would always overestimate how much time and energy I had.

The possessions make hoarders feel better –happy; the possessions made me feel stressed and depressed.

For hoarders, whatever enters the house never leaves; I was constantly getting rid of things, but couldn’t keep up with the mess because I was not getting rid of enough fast enough due to decision paralysis and low energy –even when I decided to get rid of things I didn’t have the energy to actually remove them from the house and find them new homes.

Hoarders make goat trails through their floor to ceiling piles; I did not have that much stuff even at my worst.

Hoarders usually learn to keep possessions as way to survived some trauma; my problems only started when I got sick after my second son was born, and before that I was able to maintain (although I have never been extremely tidy and it took my way more energy than average to keep a house clean since I am more creative and less type A).

Hoarding is a way to increase isolation as you build relationships with stuff instead of people; I viewed my possessions as getting in the way of my relationships with those I cared about.

Getting rid of their possessions causes hoarders a great deal of anxiety; keeping my possessions was very stressful, but for a long time I lacked the ability to sort through the items that needed to be sorted.

When people try to help hoarders, they resent it; when I was offered help, I was enthusiastic and grateful, and I jumped on it allowing a group of 10 women to clear out my entire house in the span of about 6 hours –I was throwing things out as fast as they could bring it to me: “toss it,” “get rid of it,” “do you want it? keep it!”

When hoarders are forced to get rid of things they fight tooth and nail; I was throwing things away, giving them away, and even burning things just to have them out of the house when I finally had the manpower in my house to help me sort things.

If hoarders aren’t supervised, they will start hoarding again; I have managed to not bring new things into my house after I had help to clean the house (even though I still struggle to keep it tidy due to my energy issues).

Hoarders are proud of their collections even if it makes them live in squalor; I was so embarrassed and took no pride in any part of it.

Hoarders are in denial that there is anything wrong with collecting thing; I was in denial that I wouldn’t have the energy to do and make the things I wanted to do –I was always expecting to wake up the next morning with tons of energy and that never happened.

Hoarders think they have to do everything perfectly; I admit to having this issue in the past but not anymore as I have come to grips with needing to do whatever works even if it is not perfect.

Hoarders usually don’t want help; I wanted help but didn’t know how to ask for it.

Even when hoarders don’t have money they keep buying more stuff; I never bought things when we didn’t have money just because I couldn’t stop buying things.

They feel like their stuff is people and like they are saving the person/stuff; I felt like I needed to be saved from my stuff.

Throwing things away is scary for a hoarder; being overrun by my stuff was terrifying.

Hoarders nearly always have a relative who is a hoarder; I do have a relative that was a hoarder, but that doesn’t predestine me to be a hoarder.

Hoarding is like armor to protect the person, a fortress to not let people in and to hold onto things that they feel like they are losing; I was upset that the stuff was causing problems in my relationships and didn’t want that to be the case so much so that I was determined to change something.

To a hoarder, things are more important than relationships; relationships are way more important than anything that I own.

Hoarders need expert help to stop hoarding; I stopped bringing things into our home by changing my expectations of what I could actually handle and maintain –all by myself –because I had a better understanding of my health and abilities.

For a hoarder, the stuff is their life; the stuff was ruining my life, and I was so over having too many things.

Hoarding is chronic, and it is not easy to and rarely successful to cure it; overnight, I stopped bringing things into the house once I accepted that I wasn’t going to get better and magically wake up tomorrow to have the energy to sew, craft, or interior decorate –it was not easy to accept that this was my realityF.

For a hoarder, addressing it is more stressful than leaving it there; for me, leaving the possessions was more stressful than addressing it.

[This information is based on my understanding of hoarding and may not represent every case.]

This is my explanation of why those of us who have chronic illnesses aren’t automatically hoarders.

Even if it looks kinda like hoarding, it has difference symptoms and causes.

In the case of chronic illness, it is not a pathological need to keep bringing things into the house, so it is easier to address.

And, good news, it is easier to fix than hoarding –you just need a better system.

And maybe some help to implement that system.

I am indebted to the women who helped me clear out my house –such a great service they did for me.

But, don’t confuse being too sick to clean your house with hoarding because it is not the same thing.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

ADHD, illness, parenthood

Confessions of a Horrible Housewife, Episode 2

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Confessions of a Horrible Housewife, Episode 2:

Very few things as a homemaker have caused me as much shame as this word: dishes.

I was never a huge fan of doing the dishes –I am a little OCD about germs.

But, in spite of my struggles with focus due to my then-undiagnosed-ADHD, I was determined to be a good wife when I got married.

I am still determined to be a good wife, but my definition of what makes a good wife and mother has changed over the years.

You will see what I mean as I tell my story.

I was a young mom with an-almost-three-year-old and a newborn baby.

After my son was born, I started bleeding.

And it just didn’t stop.

For over 2 years, I had one straight period with no break, and no amount of medication could stop it. (For some reason the medication made it worse.)

One day, it stopped on it’s own with no explanation, but I have spent the last 12 years, trying to get my iron levels back up as I have frequent relapses into unexplained and almost-untreatable bleeding.

So, I was severely anemic, and –although the doctor didn’t tell me– I had been diagnosed with Hashimotos (I wouldn’t learn about the diagnosis until a decade later when a different doctor reviewed my chart).

I would later learn that the Hashimoto’s had sent me into hypoadrenal (not enough cortisol).

So here I am, severely anemic, low thyroid, and low adrenal.

If you have never been anemic, hypothyroid, and hypoadrenal, you don’t know the real meaning of the word tired.

Add on top of that postpartum psychosis which included severe insomnia and paranoia.

Now, back to the topic of dishes.

It was during this very difficult time in my life that I was so weak and so stressed, I would forget to do the dishes.

Or, I would be so tired and weak, I couldn’t stand over the sink to do the dishes.

This was the first time I remember seeing maggots in our dishes.

We lived in the country across from a horse barn, and it was nearly impossible to keep flies out of the house.

The gestation period of flies is only 24 hours, so it didn’t take long for my avoidance of the dishes to be a big problem.

I had apparently forgotten to put dinner away before we went away for the weekend, and when we came back, there were already maggots in the bowl on the table.

I sat over that bowl of ickiness and sobbed.

I was such a bad mom.

Such a bad wife.

I was smart and creative, and I couldn’t make this work?

I knew women who were very mentally challenged who managed to keep a clean house.

What on earth was wrong with me?

I was just a failure.

I had this image of “failure” stamped across my forehead.

That’s how I saw myself for a long time.

Plus, this dish had been a wedding gift.

I washed it and even boiled it to make it useable again.

For a long time after this, I couldn’t eat rice because it reminded me of maggots and I would get grossed out.

My first solution to avoid maggots was to haul everything outside and hose it all out in the back yard.

But I would get so tired, so weak, and so distracted that I wouldn’t finish the job.

And the dishes would sit in the back yard.

So, I just started throwing dishes away.

I have almost no dishes left from my wedding for this reason.

I probably should have asked for help at this juncture.

But I didn’t know how.

Like, how do you go to your friends and say, “For some reason I can’t explain, I can’t keep up on the dishes and need help?”

I asked for advice by hinting that I was struggling and got advice from “Just do it.” to “Don’t go to bed until the kitchen is clean.” to “Make a schedule.”

I did all that and more.

None of it worked because none of it fixed the underlying problem: my health condition.

My sweet husband tried to help, but he was working full time and dealing with his own health issues.

I even emailed the Flylady and asked her for advice because I couldn’t even follow her plan; she said that she was sure there was something wrong with my health, but I dismissed that because I had bloodwork done and they didn’t find anything (the doctor who didn’t tell me about the Hashimoto’s).

Eventually, we hired someone to come in and do the dishes each week.

She always acted like if I could just get myself motivated and do what I was supposed to do I would be able to do this myself.

I was a smart, able-bodied woman….why was I just sitting there?

That only added more shame to the fact that I already couldn’t keep it together.

I got treated for the post partum depressions, and I have only recently started talking about the psychosis portion.

Because I don’t think people should be ashamed to talk about it like I was.

There is no shame in being sick –mentally or physically.

I was told that my postpartum depression was a result of not praying and reading my bible enough.

I wonder why I didn’t want to confide in those people about how I was struggling?

In the middle of all of this, an older lady at church scolded me for not ironing my husband’s work clothes –she had seen him on the job one day– and said that I was embarrassing him by not helping him present a professional front. (In my defence, my husband works construction, and I don’t think anyone has ever cared if his clothes were ironed.)

I went home and cried.

Now, not only was I a complete failure at home, but I was making my husband a failure at work too.

I started trying to focus on the things I could do right and ignore everything else, but that came with it’s own set of problems.

The housekeeper, around this time, suggested that we eat off paper plates to make kitchen clean up easier.

We have been eating off paper plates for over 10 years now.

This is one decision I do not regret.

I have a friend with a ton of kids and she did the math: it is cheaper to eat off paper plates than to run the dishwasher.

Eventually, I was diagnosed with ADHD which I am sure I have had since I was a child —I am anything but type-A and have always struggled with attention, focus, and emotional regulation (which may explain the amount of crying described in this post).

For the year that I was on ADHD medication before we learned about the hashimotos and hypoadrenal, I actually kept my house clean.

Then, the ADHD medication crashed my adrenals even further, and our house completely fell apart.

I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew I needed help.

I made the mistake of telling one of my doctors about the condition of my house when inquiring about possible health problems that could be causing my low energy.

I didn’t know that doctors are mandatory reporters or that the condition of my house constituted child abuse.

That was a whole ‘nother debacle that I will not describe in full here.

But needless to say, it brought shame.

A lot of shame.

And, it brought the condition of my house and my poor homemaking skills to the forefront as our friends and family tried to help us get the house clean to avoid having our children taken away.

I remember being barely able to walk, holding onto walls to walk through the house, on my hands and knees scrubbing floors, and sobbing.

I would spend days just crying and asking God for help.

What on earth was wrong with me?

Why did everyone else have it all together?

That was 2010.

It was a life-changing year.

After that, I got really sick.

All the stuff before was just a prelude.

Until this last year, I have consistently had to have someone come and do the dishes for me.

It got the point that I was too dizzy, too weak, and in too much pain to lean over the sink, pick up dishes, and put them into the dishwasher.

I have some pretty awesome friends and family who have chipped in to help with housekeeping.

Sometimes, I paid someone; other times friends volunteered.

And, I significantly lowered my standard.

I want my house to function.

If it doesn’t look really clean, that’s okay.

It doesn’t need to be magazine-worthy.

I don’t have the energy to be OCD anymore.

(I don’t actually have clinical OCD, but because of the ADHD, I would use OCD behavior as a coping mechanism to try to counter my distractibility.)

Within the last year, my children have gotten old enough that they now clean the house without me.

It is not perfect, but I am not completely mortified if someone comes to the front door anymore.

They do the dishes daily, and I only occasionally have to help with a special dish or a pan that is very difficult to clean.

I still deal with a certain amount of shame that I cannot clean my own house.

Shame that I cannot do and be all the things that I should do and be.

But I am learning to ignore that voice that tells me what I should be able to do.

I once told a counselor that I was a horrible wife and mother.

She looked at me and said that she did not see that.

“Really?” I asked, again through tears.

She said that if I divided up all the tasks I had as a wife and mother and looked at them individually I would be able to see what kind of homemaker I really was –that I was not a failure.

I am a homeschool teacher, a disciplinarian, an at home nurse, a conflict resolver, an affection giver, a cook, a housekeeper, a lover, ect.

I was good at every single job she talked about except I am not a good housekeeper.

Housekeeping is not the totality of who I am, but that was the gauge that I was using to measure my worthiness.

“Can I clean and do the dishes?” was the measure that I used to decide if I was a fit mom and wife.

But that was an unfair evaluation because I am so much more than my ability to cook and clean.

I am a good mom to these boys and a good wife to my husband: I love them fiercely and with my whole heart, and I give them as much of myself as I can everyday.

I can pay someone to do to cook and clean, but I cannot pay someone to love my kids and teach them about faith in a trial or grace under pressure.

I cannot pay someone to love them like a mother, to train them in God’s ways, and to point them back to Jesus every day of their lives.

No one else can do the job that I can do.

And this job has nothing to do with if the dishes are done.

My job is affecting the eternal in ways that doing the dishes never could.

I know women who have focused on the housekeeping and neglected the rest, and they have lived to regret that choice.

So, if you are reading this and you feel like you are an abject failure because you can’t keep up with the dishes, the laundry, the housekeeping: you are more than that and don’t you ever forget it or let anyone tell you anything differently.

And by the way, I no longer see myself with “failure” written across my forehead.

I understand that this is where God put me and that my job as His child is to be content with where He put me and find a way to make it work.

If I am not a failure in God’s eyes, how can I let any person here on earth make me feel like a failure?

Their opinions do not matter.

Blessings,

Sarah