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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ADHD

How To Get an ADHD Diagnosis

If you are an adult who thinks you have ADHD or if you are the parent of a child who you think has ADHD, where do you begin? How do you go about getting a diagnosis?

Caveat: Because I live in the USA, this will be written from the perspective of someone using our medical system here in the US. If you live in a different country, you may have to go about getting your diagnosis in a different way.

First of all, look up ADHD symptoms online and write down every symptom that you or your child has. Check multiple web pages, because one webpage may only list hyperactive type or another might only focus on inattentive type.

If you or your child are female, I recommend looking for pages that list women’s and girl’s symptoms specifically, because the ADHD often manifests itself differently in women and girls who are much less likely to get a diagnosis than boys are.

Write down any and all symptoms.

If the list is for you, an adult, write down any symptoms you had as a child on a separate list. Ask an adult who knew you as a child, if possible. I was surprised to find that my mom remembered me having anxiety as a child when I did not remember, for example.

Go to your primary care doctor and request a physical –a full blood panel including thyroid– and a sleep test. You want to rule out other conditions that could be mimicking the ADHD before you pursue a diagnosis. I would also recommend food allergy testing as some ADHD people find that their symptoms go almost entirely away when they remove trigger foods from their diets. Unfortunately, our PCP refused to do allergy testing for me when I requested it.

I recommend at least thyroid blood tests even on children because many times thyroid problems in children go unaddressed because doctors assume they are too young for thyroid problems. That is a misnomer. Children can have thyroid problems, especially if endocrine problems run in their family. Many ADHD people –including children– have sleep problems which exasperate their ADHD symptoms.

If your bloodwork and sleep test come back normal, or if you are already medicated for a condition such a low thyroid or sleep apnea and are still experiencing ADHD symptoms, I recommend contacting a mental health professional.

Depending on your healthcare plan you may need to go to your primary care doctor first and get a referral to a psychologist. Call the psychologist before setting up the appointment to make sure that this doctor knows about ADHD.

Here is an unfortunate reality: even many mental health professionals do not understand ADHD and do not believe it is real.

ADHD is very complicated. For this reason, it is best if you do not see a primary care physician or a regular pediatrician for ADHD diagnosis and treatment.

Mental health professionals that I would recommend seeing for ADHD diagnosis:

  • Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Developmental pediatrician
  • Neurologist

As I mentioned before, I recommend calling before you set up an appointment –even if it is with a referred doctor.

You want to find out what percent of the doctor’s clients have ADHD and what percent of the doctor’s clients are adults with ADHD.

The reason the percentage of adults matters is that –while children may have no choice as to where their parents take them for treatment– adults do have a choice. ADHD adults have a low tolerance for nonsense and are unlikely to tolerate subpar treatment. If they have adults with ADHD in their care, it is likely that the care will be better quality.

When you go in for the appointment, bring your list of symptoms that you made.

Here are some warning signs to watch for:

  • The doctor prescribes medication without a formal diagnosis.
  • The doctor doesn’t believe in ADHD and refuses to test you.
  • The doctor tries to give the computer-based child’s test to an adult.
  • The doctor refuses to test if the child isn’t struggling with his grades in school.
  • The doctor always only uses one kind of medication to treat ADHD and won’t even discuss other options.
  • The doctor refuses to test for ADHD because he blames the symptoms on the parent’s: parenting style, homeschooling, divorce, low income, etc.
  • The doctor patronizes or dismisses the parents’ concerns because he or she is the expert.
  • The doctor refuses to prescribe ADHD medication but will only give antidepressants.

(The last may be necessary with a young child, but it is common for a doctor to diagnose ADHD adults with depression instead of ADHD. The antidepressants just made me not care that my life was falling apart. It didn’t help my ADHD at all.)

The standard way to test for ADHD, in my experience, is via a set of questionnaires that are filled out by 3 adults in the child’s life –often the parents, a teacher, and an additional adult. If you homeschool, you can have one parent fill out one set, and the other parent the second. We had my children’s questionnaires filled out by one of their grandmothers, a Sunday school teacher, and me. Anyone who works with the child should be able to fill out the form.

Don’t listen to a doctor who says you cannot get a diagnosis if the child is homeschooled or that homeschool children do not have ADHD. That belief represents a misunderstanding of how ADHD works –the causes and severity of ADHD– and you do not need that kind of negativity. Get a new doctor.

Although each doctor has a different way that they go about diagnosis, since the paperwork style evaluation seems to be the most common, that is what I am describing. If you see a doctor who does brain scans and more detailed testing, that is awesome, too.

When you bring the paperwork back, the doctor will evaluate the results and usually interview the child. Our psychologist talked to our children while playing board games, so it was not stressful for the child at all. I recommend cognitive behavioral therapy, too, if you can find someone who really understands ADHD. It can be very helpful if you find someone who actually understands ADHD.

Regardless of how the results of the ADHD screening test come back –whether yes or no to the ADHD diagnosis– I recommend that you get a full psychological evaluation done next. Some doctors will allow you to skip the ADHD screening and go straight to a full psych eval. Other doctors will not.

If you suspected ADHD and the test came back negative, then what else is going on that made you think ADHD? Could it be bipolar? Oppositional Defiance Disorder? Something else? A full psych eval will tell you.

If you got a positive ADHD diagnosis, now you need to know what other mental health conditions the child has. 50% of people with ADHD have an additional psychiatric condition. Those conditions can significantly complicate the treatment of the ADHD even if you choose not to medicate. Either way –medication or not– you need to know what is going on so you can help your child or yourself.

A full psychological evaluation is worth every penny even if your insurance will not cover it. It could save you from tons of heartache later, such as when you try to medicate the ADHD with a stimulant and find your child in fetal position in the living room floor having panic attacks for hours or days and unable to function because he has a separate anxiety disorder that was just made significantly worse by a stimulant. This is a true story. This is why you need to know about the comorbidities.

Another example: if you have bipolar, going on a stimulant can send you manic –something you really don’t want to happen. Another reason for a full psych eval.

Maybe your child doesn’t have comorbidities, but you need to know for sure before pursuing treatment of any kind.

Dr. Russell Barkley explains (in the video series that I recommend every person with ADHD or parent of an ADHD child watch) that ADHD is a neurogenetic disorder –ie a genetic disorder affecting the brain. ADHD medication is a neurogenetic treatment. It fixes the problem cause in the brain by the genetics.

Since ADHD is genetic, there is a genetic test –called Genesite— available which will tell you based on your genetics which medication will work to treat your ADHD. I wish such a thing had been available when my children were trying medications! The cost varies based on what percentage your insurance will pay. I have heard prices from free all the way up to $350. But, it is definitely worth asking your doctor about.

If you have a child with ADHD, do not be surprised if the doctor wishes to evaluate you and the child’s other parent as well. ADHD is genetic and runs in families. This means that there is a high probability that you or the other parent have ADHD. Since 20% of adults with ADHD do not get diagnosed and treated, doctors try to make sure the parents have access to answers. Also, 50% of people with ADHD who take ADHD medications are able to function like a completely neurotypical person, and 80% see improvement in their condition. According to Dr. Barkley, ADHD is the most treatable condition in psychiatry. The doctor would be remiss in his duties if he didn’t at least bring it to the attention of the potentially-ADHD parent(s).

Medication for ADHD is tricky –especially when comorbidities are involved. This is why a trained mental health professional and not just a general practitioner is so important. Dosing medications, knowing side effects, and having experience with multiple medications and how they interact are all things that you get when you opt for a mental health professional.

It is unreasonable to expect your primary care physician to stay up-to-date on all the various special conditions that his clients have. He undoubtedly does not have the time to dedicate to educating himself on the complexities of ADHD in addition to all his other duties as a doctor. It is really unfair to expect him to –this is why we have specialists like mental health professionals. I do know some people who have had good luck with primary care physicians, but these are usually people who have only ADHD and no comorbidities.

How complicated is ADHD to treat by itself? Well, one researcher proposed that ADHD should be divided into different categories based on how the executive function issues affect the person with ADHD. He came up with 36 different kinds of ADHD based on the different executive function deficits. His proposal was rejected because of its complexity, but it goes to show how complicated and varied ADHD is. This is why one medication will not work for everyone with ADHD and why one medication works great for one person but will not work for another.

You need to be treated by someone who understands the complexity of ADHD –not someone who thinks all ADHD people look like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh (yes, a doctor actually told me that).

When you begin medication, you can use this chart to evaluate your child’s symptoms and see if the symptoms have improved on the medication.

Never hesitate to fire a doctor who will not listen to you, dismisses you, belittles you, ignores your or otherwise marginalizes your opinions. If you are the parent, you should not be treated like you are not important. If you are the patient, you know yourself better than anyone else. Don’t let an arrogant doctor undermine your confidence.

The first mental health nurse practitioner we saw for our children was a nightmare. She treated me like I was an idiot –the patronizing should have been a warning to me (but she came highly recommended). She only used one medication to treat children and wouldn’t even consider any other options. She refused to treat my children’s comorbidities even though we had the results of a full psych eval showing that there were other conditions which needed to be treated. It was horrible, and some of the worst few days of my entire life were while he was on that medication that she claimed: “always worked for ADHD.”

I fired her and found a new doctor. It was the best choice I could have made –I wish I had made it the first time I had doubts about her. My son’s experience on that medication was so traumatic that he actually blocked them out and has no memory of them.

Advocate for yourself.

Advocate for your child.

And don’t stop advocating until you get the answers you are looking for and the treatment you need.

Keep looking for a doctor who will listen to you. I went through six doctors in about five years trying to find someone who would just diagnose me with adult ADHD. I have no regrets about firing doctors and moving on to the next until I found someone who actually knew how to diagnose ADHD in adults.

The diagnosis was life-changing even though I am not medicated. Just understanding that my brain is different has been so impactful in my life that I lack the words to accurately articulate it.

I am not broken.

It is not my fault.

I have a unique brain that works differently –and I have discovered that along with that different, abnormal, unconventional brain comes beauty that I couldn’t see until I stopped shaming myself for all the things I thought I should be but couldn’t.

I found answers to questions I had been asking my whole life.

I found beauty in the ashes.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

If you found this post helpful, please consider sharing it!

ADHD, charts, homeschooling

ADHD Comorbidities That Parents Should Be Aware Of

ADHD is hard.

It is hard to live with ADHD when you have it.

It is hard to live with ADHD when your friends and family have it.

It is hard to accurately diagnose sometimes, and it is hard to find treatments that work –because everyone is different and how the ADHD affects them is different.

But, ADHD by itself can seem simple compared to ADHD with comorbidities.

Comorbidities are ADHD’s mean, ugly cousin who came to visit and just won’t leave.

Comorbidities take a condition that is complicated but successfully treatable in 50% or more of the cases and make it incredibly complicated to live with and medicate.

The definition of a comorbidity is “an additional condition” or “two conditions coexisting at the same time.”

By itself ADHD can be life-threatening –or at least the side effects of undiagnosed and untreated ADHD: suicide, car accidents, drug abuse, etc.

But comorbidities complicate everything.

It is often hard to tell where the ADHD ends and the comorbidity starts which is why a knowledgeable clinician or doctor is incredibly important and why I don’t recommend going to a primary care physician for diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.

It took me six doctors to find someone in our area who could diagnose adult ADHD.

The primary doctor said I didn’t have ADHD because I wasn’t bouncing off the walls in her office at age 30 –hyperactivity is one part of ADHD that most people outgrow by internalizing the restlessness.

My psychiatrist who I was seeing for postpartum depression didn’t even believe ADHD was a real thing –yes, even many mental health professionals still do not recognize ADHD as legitimate.

The first psychologist I saw used the childhood ADHD diagnostic computer test for my evaluation and declared that I did not have ADHD –the kid’s test doesn’t work on adults.

You get the idea.

If it was that hard for me to get diagnosed with almost no comorbidities –I have some anxiety but not enough to need medication– then imagine how hard it is to get a child who cannot explain what is going on in their head a proper and accurate diagnosis if there are overlapping serious conditions.

If you think your child has ADHD –and especially if you think they have comorbidities– I implore you to find someone who is very informed about these disorders.

We had great success with a developmental pediatrician, a mental health nurse practitioner, and a psychologist who had ADHD himself.

They key to finding a good clinician in my experience is calling around and finding out what percentage of adults with ADHD are seen in that clinic. ADHD adults will not stay with a bad clinician. If they see a lot of ADHD patients and a lot of those are adults, you can probably count on decent treatment there.

The following graphic addresses six possible comorbidities, but these are not the only comorbidities know to hang around with ADHD. This is just a starting point to raise awareness of comorbidities. I encourage parents to do their own research.

Informed parents can better help their child.

Depression symptoms:

Persistent sadness, Withdrawal, Changes in sleep patterns, Loss of interest, Talk of suicide, Problems in school

Anxiety Disorder symptoms:

Sleep problems, Increased irritability. Withdrawal, School refusal, Argumentative, Hair twirling, Skin picking, Compulsivity, Panicking

Bipolar Disorder symptoms: Bursts of energy and restlessness, Impaired judgment, Depressive and manic episodes, Severe mood swings, Family history of bipolar

Conduct Disorder symptoms:

Family history, Trauma, Harming others, Animal cruelty, Aggression, Disregard for rules, Running away from home, Bullying

Sensory Processing Disorder symptoms:

Sensitivity to taste, touch, light, textures, etc., Coordination problems, Too rough/gentle, Weakness, Alternating dominant hand in writing

Oppositional Defiant Disorder symptoms:

Aggression, Antisocial behavior, Impulsivity, Screaming, Self-harm, Resentful, Argumentative, Vindictive, Rebellious

ADHD Comorbidities That Parents Should Be Aware OfDownload the PDF: ADHD Comorbidities That Parents Should Be Aware Of

There is more information about additional comorbidities based on a survey of adults with ADHD in this post called Should I Medicate My ADHD Child?

You can find more graphics about ADHD here.

This a reminder that I am not a doctor or a scientist. I am just a writer and author making graphics and posts based on information I have read from leading authorities on ADHD. I encourage you to research these issues yourself and watch the Dr. Barkley videos at the bottom of this post called What You Need to Know About Your ADHD Child for more information about the science behind ADHD.

I hope this information is helpful. If you enjoyed this post, I would be honored if you would subscribe to my blog and follow me on Facebook.

Blessings!

Sarah Forbes

ADHD, charts, children, homeschooling

How Do Executive Function Problems Affect My ADHD Child?

#ADHDFacts

#DrBarkley

#GraceUnderPressureBlog

#ADHDAwarenessMonth


If you or your child have ADHD, you have executive function issues.

ADHD is basically all about problems in executive function.

What is executive function?

“Executive functions (collectively referred to as executive function and cognitive control) are a set of cognitive processes that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals. Executive functions include basic cognitive processes such as attentional control, cognitive inhibition, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Higher order executive functions require the simultaneous use of multiple basic executive functions and include planning and fluid intelligence (i.e., reasoning and problem solving).” –from Wikipedia

How executive function problems affect someone varies by the person.

For instance, I don’t struggle with time management as much as some of my ADHD friends. I struggle in some areas, like keeping on a strict schedule, but I don’t struggle to arrive places on time or to make plans.

Some ADHD people have a hard time thinking up creative solutions, but that is one thing I am really good at.

So, while ADHD does involve executive function, how it looks in each person is as individual as the person themselves.

The following chart lists the various areas of executive function that could be deficient in an ADHD person.

How Do Executive Function Problems Affect my ADHD Child

It was very helpful for me to identify which areas I am good at and which I am not.

There are some of these areas that I am not struggling with which was very encouraging for me.

It also helped me to see these all written out because I was able to look at this chart and see how my children struggle compared to how I struggle.

At least if I can identify the problems, I can give them more grace and help in that area. If I can identify the issue in myself, then I can realize when one activity is going to cause more stress than another.

You can download the PDF of this graphic here: How Do Executive Function Problems Affect my ADHD Child PDF.

Follow this link to read a detailed description by Dr. Barkley of the 7 areas affected by executive function.

To learn more about executive function, take a look at these posts:

What Is My ADHD Child’s Executive Function Age?

What Is My ADHD Child’s Executive Function Tank?

For additional posts on ADHD:

What You Need to Know About Your ADHD Child

13 Facts Parents of ADHD Children Should Know

17 Things Your ADHD Child Would Tell You if He Could

10 ADHD Statistics Parents Should Be Aware Of

ADDitude Magazine Endorses Homeschooling When Public School Isn’t Working

Start Here to Learn More About Homeschooling an ADHD Child

So, You Want to Homeschool Your ADHD Child


 

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I cannot diagnose your child or offer you medical advice. A lot of the ADHD information on this blog comes from Dr. Russell Barkley’s videos –many of which are available on YouTube. There are many links in this post to more information about these topics, but since I am not a scientist or a researcher, I am unable to provide you with double-blind studies. I am just a writer and artist making articles and graphics based on information I have seen and read from ADHD professionals in an effort to raise ADHD awareness. I encourage you to look into these ideas yourself and follow the links provided. You can see more of those videos from Dr. Barkley at the bottom of this post.


 

You can also download a pdf worksheet to evaluate if your child’s ADHD treatment is helping his or her symptoms here.

If you found this information helpful, I would be honored if you would subscribe to my blog and follow my Facebook page.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

ADHD, children

10 ADHD Statistics Parents Should Be Aware Of

As part of ADHD awareness month, I have been posting ADHD facts regularly on Facebook. More than once I have been asked if I could back up my facts with studies and data. For some of these facts, I was able to find data; others I only have videos or articles by experts. I hope you find this information helpful. Please consider following the links and looking into the sources yourself.

An educated parent is better able to help their child.

Statistic adhd


1. ADHD is the most treatable condition in psychiatry, and yet 40% of ADHD children and 90% of ADHD adults are not recognized and treated for their ADHD meaning that the issue is under-treatment, not over-treatment. [source]


2. 80% of people with ADHD will be on medications at some point in their life which is a good thing because ADHD is a neurogenetic disorder and ADHD medication is an effective, proven neurogenetic therapy making medication completely justifiable. [source]


3. Less than 20% of adults with ADHD have been diagnosed and treated.
[source]


4. Approximately 2 million children in the USA have ADHD which means that in a classroom of 30 children, at least one will have ADHD. [source]


5. Only 50% of young children with ADHD are receiving services for their ADHD. [source]


6. At least 50% of ADHD children have a comorbidity or additional psychiatric condition. [source]


7. About 80% of ADHD patients respond positively to the medication. [source]


8. When ADHD people use stimulant medication it lessens the likelihood that they’ll abuse drugs and alcohol not increases it. [source]


9. ADHD people often use drugs and alcohol as self-medication which would likely be reduced if they were medicated properly. [source]


10. Exercise helps ADHD more than any other psychological disorder, so everyone who has ADHD should be in an exercise program of some kind. [source] and [source]

For my ADHD boys, I think Fruit Ninja on the Kinect was the best exercise program of anything we tried.


BONUS:

11. 50% of ADHD people who take medication are completely normalized meaning that the medication allows them to function like a neurotypical person. [source]

12. 50% of children with ADHD also have a learning disability. [source]


I hope you find this information helpful!

You can download the printable PDF of this image here: ADHD Statistics That Parents Should Be Aware Of.

You can also download a pdf worksheet to evaluate if your child’s ADHD treatment is helping his or her symptoms here.

If you found this information helpful, I would be honored if you would subscribe to my blog or follow my Facebook page.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

PS If you enjoyed this post, there are many other posts on my blog about ADHD such as:

13 Facts Parents of ADHD Children Should Know

17 Things Your ADHD Child Would Tell You If He Could

Start Here to Learn More About Homeschooling an ADHD Child

What Is My ADHD Child’s Executive Function Age?

What Is My ADHD Child’s Executive Function Tank?

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A DOCTOR or mental health professional. I cannot diagnose your child or offer you medical advice. A lot of the ADHD information on this blog comes from Dr. Russell Barkley’s videos –many of which are available on YouTube. There are many links in this post to more information about these topics, but since I AM NOT A SCIENTIST or a researcher, I am unable to provide you with double-blind study reports. I am just a writer and artist making articles and graphics based on information I have seen and read from ADHD professionals in an effort to raise ADHD awareness. I encourage you to look into these ideas yourself and follow the links provided. You can see more of those videos from Dr. Barkley at the bottom of this post.

ADHD, children, homeschooling

What Is My ADHD Child’s Executive Function Tank?

#ADHDFacts
#DrBarkley
#GraceUnderPressureBlog
#ADHDAwarenessMonth

Executive function is defined as “self-directed actions needed to sustain problem-solving towards a goal.”

“Executive functions (collectively referred to as executive function and cognitive control) are a set of cognitive processes that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals. Executive functions include basic cognitive processes such as attentional control, cognitive inhibition, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Higher order executive functions require the simultaneous use of multiple basic executive functions and include planning and fluid intelligence (i.e., reasoning and problem solving).” (from Wikipedia)

ADHD is an executive function disorder.

Because of the asynchronous growth in their brains, ADHD people struggle with executive function.

It is a daily struggle.

Since so much of life requires executive functions, it is easy for those of us with ADHD to deplete our executive function ability –or our executive function tank.

Different activities can either fill or tax our executive function. When the tank runs out, the ability for self-restraint is gone resulting in blowups and meltdowns –even in adults with ADHD.

“The executive function has a limited fuel tank, and you can spend it out real quick. Every time you use an executive function and you use it continuously, you empty the tank. And, if you get to the bottom of the tank, in the next situation, you will have no self-control. This is the ADHD child after school. It [the executive function] is gone, and you want to do homework? You’re out of your mind! So, you’ve got to refuel that tank, and that tank has a very limited capacity.” –Dr. Russell Barkley

What taxes the tank? How can we refuel the tank?

What Is My Child's Executive Function Tank-

You can download a printable PDF of this graphic “What Is My Child’s Executive Function Tank” by clicking here.

The most useful perspective on ADHD is to view it as a chronic disability.

“ADHD is the diabetes of psychiatry. It is a chronic disorder that must be managed every day to prevent the secondary harms it is going to cause, but there is no cure for this disorder. They [those with ADHD and their loved ones] need to view ADHD as diabetes of the brain. It’s a chronic disorder.” –Dr. Russell Barkley

Like with any disability, those with ADHD will need the support from those around them to succeed.

I hope this chart helps you better understand what is going in with your ADHD friends and family.

You can learn more about executive function on this post:

What Is My Child’s Executive Function Age?

To learn more about ADHD in general, there is a great video at the bottom of this post. The video is a 3 hour long series by the wonderful ADHD advocate Dr. Russell Barkley.

What You Need to Know About Your ADHD Child

Many of the ideas in this post have come from Dr Barkley. The concept of an executive function tank came from the video in the bottom of this blog post:

13 Facts Parents of ADHD Children Should Know

I hope you find this information helpful. If you enjoyed this post, I would be honored if you would subscribe to my blog or follow me on Facebook.

You can also download a worksheet here to help you evaluate if your child’s ADHD treatment plan is working.

Please remember to give your ADHD loved one or friend lots of grace. They have a brain that works differently than the brains of neurotypical people.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

Disclaimer:
I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I cannot diagnose your child or offer you medical advice. Most of this information comes from Dr. Barkley’s videos –many of which are available on YouTube. There are many links in this post to more information about these topics, but since I am not a scientist or a researcher, I am unable to provide you with double-blind studies. I am just a writer and artist making posts and images based on information I have seen and read from ADHD professionals in an effort to raise ADHD awareness. I encourage you to look into these ideas yourself and follow the links provided. If you Google “Executive Function + Dr. Russell Barkley” there is a lot of information available online.

ADHD, charts, homeschooling

What Is My ADHD Child’s Executive Function Age?

“Executive functions (collectively referred to as executive function and cognitive control) are a set of cognitive processes that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals. Executive functions include basic cognitive processes such as attentional control, cognitive inhibition, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Higher order executive functions require the simultaneous use of multiple basic executive functions and include planning and fluid intelligence (i.e., reasoning and problem solving).” (from Wikipedia)

What is my ADHD child's executive age

The brain of the ADHD child is developing at an average 30% behind schedule in the frontal lobe region according to leading ADHD researcher Dr Russell Barkley. The frontal lobe controls regulation. It is the executive function part of the brain. It is the boss, the voice in your brain, the executive assistant, that tells you what to do with what you know and learn. Because this part is behind schedule, children with ADHD brains are not always able to access the information they know to make use of it.

All the files are there in the information section, but the operating system is failing to access the files.

For example, they may know that stoves are hot and yet impulsively touch a hot stove because the part of their brain that says “Wait!” isn’t working on schedule with neurotypical brains. This is because the files stored in the back of their brain that says “Stoves are hot” was not accessed in a timely manner to prohibit touching the stove. It is not because they do not know the stove is hot. It is a failure of the frontal lobe of the brain to access the information they have stored in the memory sections.

Executive function dysregulation generally causes deficiencies in planning, abstract thinking, flexibility and behavioral control. It encompasses many different parts of regulation –from emotional control to physical control over their bodies to organizational abilities– and any one part could be more or less affected by ADHD. It varies by the individual.

Because there are other disorders or injuries that can cause executive delay problems, Executive Function Disorder is a diagnosis in an of itself. Sometimes, someone with ADHD will have both diagnoses. According to Dr. Barkley, (the ADHD researcher who is the source of the 30% behind concept) every ADHD person has executive dysfunction by default to one level or another.

The 30% behind neurotypical people as listed in this graphic is just an average. So your child could be more behind or less behind. He could be more behind in some areas and less behind in others.

For instance, I knew I was impulsive (even though I didn’t know I have ADHD) and didn’t think things through as a teen. So I chose not to get my license until I was 19 and thought I could handle it. Impulsivity was a big deal for me. But I was also a smart kid and knew I wanted to be careful and make good choices. So even though I tended to be impulsive, I was careful about my choices, involving my parents in decision making, asking for advice from trusted adults, and being cautious. This made a huge difference in me not making bad choices as a teen.

When I got married I was 20 which gives me the executive age of 13.33 according to our chart (which is a rule of thumb, not a hard and fast rule). No wonder I had so much trouble organizing our lives, managing our home, working a job, and paying bills! It makes so much sense now. I had to work so much harder than anyone I knew to do these things well.

The chart only goes up to 32 years of age. There is a reason for this. In the human adult, we reach our peak maturity in our early thirties. That means that however much the ADHD brain has developed by the early thirties is where it will stay. However, that does not mean that we cannot learn new coping mechanisms or better skills. It does, however, mean that ADHD adults tend to be about the same Executive Function Age as those who are in their 20s. This makes us a lot of fun actually! Executive function only refers to the regulatory part of our brains, not our intelligence or ability to learn new things. We may tend to be emotionally reactive, impulsive and disorganized compared to other people our age. Medication can help us make up that 30% difference no matter what age we are.

I hope this chart will help you better understand those around you who have ADHD. Please give them a lot of grace –and remind them that you love them no matter what.

If you have ADHD, give yourself a big hug for me. You are awesome. You have worked way harder than everyone else to get to where you are right now. ADHD people are my most favorite people in the whole world. On average, they are kind, loyal, honest, gracious, and compassionate. Don’t let the fact that you are awesome get lost in the science of ADHD. You know how you always felt like you need a housekeeper and a secretary? That is because those parts of your brain don’t work the same way as neurotypical people’s brains do. All those things require your frontal lobe to work efficiently –the frontal lobe is the very part of your brain affected by ADHD. It is okay. Find a tribe of ADHD people who get you. Educate those around you about ADHD. And, above all else, give yourself a lot of grace.

If you have ADHD, leave a comment and let me know how it affects your life –do you feel the 30% behind? Or maybe this average isn’t true for you.

If you are a parent of an ADHD child, I would love to hear if this post and graphic helps you to understand your child better.

You can download a copy of the above graphic “What’s My ADHD Child’s Executive Age?” to print for yourself here.

You can also download a pdf worksheet to evaluate if your child’s ADHD treatment is helping his or her symptoms here.

If you found this information helpful, I would be honored if you would subscribe to my blog or follow my Facebook page.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

P.S. The information in this post, and particularly the chart, is based on a video series by Dr Russell Barkley. You can find the video series at the bottom of this blog post. If you enjoyed this post, there are many other posts on my blog about ADHD such as:

13 Facts Parents of ADHD Children Should Know

17 Things Your ADHD Child Would Tell You If He Could

Start Here to Learn More About Homeschooling an ADHD Child

ADHD, charts, homeschooling

13 Facts Parents of ADHD Children Should Know

#ADHDFacts #DrBarkley #GraceUnderPressureBlog #ADHDAwarenessMonth

If you love someone who has been diagnosed with ADHD or who you think has ADHD you might feel like you’re fighting a battle. False information, extreme biases, and fake news are profuse to the point that what most of the public believes about ADHD is simply lies –lies that affect those of us who have ADHD and those of us love people with ADHD. I’m not going to misrepresent this: it can feel like a battle. But, there are science and facts to combat the profuse misinformation permeating the internet.

Here are some facts you need to know about ADHD:


1. ADHD is not a new diagnosis, but the truth is that it has been well-researched all the way back to the late 1700s when Sir Alexander Crichton (1763–1856) gave a detailed and accurate description of the condition.


2. ADHD is not really about attention: it has been mislabeled and is actually a regulation problem due to the underdevelopment of the frontal lobe in people who have ADHD causing a failure to develop age-appropriate behaviors on schedule with their peers (attention problems are a byproduct of poor regulation).


3. In ADHD, the hyperactivity is caused by the overgrowth of the action part of the brain combined with the low ability to regulate due to the underdevelopment of the frontal lobe.


4. A huge component of ADHD –which is unfortunately not in the diagnostic criteria– is emotional dysregulation which affects every aspect of the ADHD person’s life and especially those who love and care for them.


5. ODD is a byproduct of ADHD which results from the emotional dysregulation combined with anger (often anger about not being understood), and every ADHD person is automatically subclinically ODD.


6. ADHD is the most researched and proven condition of any mental health condition known to man regardless of what culture and media tell you.


7. ADHD people are not addicted to media and video games, but rather media and video games work in a way that gives immediate responses which ADHD people need to stay motivated and focused.


8. ADHD is not a result of lack of discipline or poor parenting, but rather it is a result of how the brain has formed which is usually a result of genetics and can even be identified by genetic markers.


9. ADHD can be proven, there are even brain scans which back up the science proving that it is real, and it is the most treatable condition in psychology even though most ADHD people do not get treated.


10. ADHD needs to be identified and treated –the earlier the better– and there is significant potential damage for children who do not get a diagnoses, treatment, and have knowledge of their own diagnosis (I cannot emphasise enough how important knowledge of the condition is to the healthy psychological development of the child).


11. ADHD is a neurogenetic disorder, and ADHD medication is a scientifically proven neurogenetic treatment.


12. ADHD people are statistically far less likely to become addicts if they are effectively medicated and treated before they get desperate enough to start self-medicating with drugs, tobacco, and alcohol –even the majority of addicts with ADHD do not go back to illegal drugs if they are properly diagnosed and treated for their ADHD (It doesn’t matter what the media says, because the science backs up this position).


13. ADHD people cannot and will not be “normal” –ever– because they have different brains, so normal methods of organization, education, employment, etc will not work for them like it works for those who have neurotypical brains (this is why I endorse homeschooling).


This is a summary of topics discussed in Dr. Barkley’s “30 Essential Ideas You Should Know About ADHD” plus a few additional ideas which have their basis in science. You can find the entire 3-hour video series by Dr Barkley here, and I highly recommend taking the time to listen to the whole thing if you know and care about people who have ADHD or who you think might have ADHD.

If you don’t have 3 hours you can get a taste of the wonderful information available from Dr. Barkley in this video which is about 14 minutes long.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my blog or follow me on Facebook. You can also download a worksheet to help you evaluate if your child’s ADHD treatment plan is working.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes

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

faith, myths

The Bible Doesn’t Call Us to Host Dinner Parties | A Discussion About the True Meaning of Hospitality

More than once recently, a young mom with a bunch of little kids in tow has lamented to me that she’s falling behind on her job as a Christian…

…Because she’s not hosting dinner parties.

Well-known Christian authors have published books about the importance of having dinner at a table and inviting many people to that table –often with scripture that supposedly backs this up.

I have some shocking news: not only does scripture not tell us to host dinner parties, it doesn’t even command us to have dinner at a table.

Ok, now, catch your breath.

I know I just contradicted hundreds of years of Christian traditions.

But, Christian traditions do not equal Bible commands.

In fact, what we really need to do is compare the traditions of men with scripture.

Did you know that the Bible commands us to not get caught up in the traditions of men —especially if those traditions are based on philosophies that are not according to Christ?

So what is the definition of hospitality?

“Friendly and welcoming to strangers or guests” according to Google.

One Bible commentary defines it as “willingness to help the weary and heavy-laden ones of the world.”

And what does the Bible have to say about hospitality?

How is the word hospitality used in the Bible?

What are these verses that are misapplied and used to make moms of little children feel like failures because all their energy is going into providing for and caring for little eternal souls instead of cooking fancy meals?

Aren’t little souls supposed to be a mama’s first responsibility?

And, who is daring to make a mama who is focusing on those little souls feel bad about her properly-placed priorities?

One rule of Bible interpretation is that you use the most detailed verses on a topic to help explain the less clear verses.

Another rule is that you take the historical context and passage context into consideration when applying scripture.

That means that we cannot pick a verse out and use it however we want to –we have to figure out what the verse was intended to mean.

The most detailed verses regarding hospitality are the following verses:

“Do not neglect hospitality, because through it some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2 (MEV)

The KJV doesn’t even use the word “hospitality” in this verse but gets right to the point of focusing on strangers:

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2 (KJV)

Another verse on this topic lists the qualifications for a widow to be worthy of financial support from the church:

“Do not let a widow be counted unless she is over sixty years old, has been the wife of one man, is well attested in good works, if she has brought up children, has lodged strangers, has washed the saints’ feet, has relieved the afflicted, and has diligently followed every good work.” 1 Timothy 5:10

Other translations say she doesn’t qualify unless she is “known for showing hospitality.”

“Above all things, have unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without complaining.” 1 Peter 4:8-9

Here are some things we know based on the above verses: we are commanded to show hospitality to other Christians according to 1 Peter and to show hospitality to strangers according to Hebrews.

Now, let’s look at the historical context of these verses.

What was going on in the world at the time? The New Testament was written against the backdrop of the Roman Empire.

Christians were being persecuted and were fleeing for their lives.

We know this because many of the letters in the New Testament telling the believers how to handle persecution.

Do you think that with all that persecution going on that the writers of the New Testament were actually telling the Christians to host dinner parties?

No, that’s ridiculous!

They are saying something like this: “When strangers who are believers come to your town fleeing persecution, open up your home to them and help them.”

See the context there? How that fits into history and agrees with the passages?

Hospitality in the New Testament isn’t what we think of as hospitality today.

It isn’t making an elaborate meal and keeping a house clean for people to come have a party.

In the context of scripture, hospitality is opening your home to or helping those who are in need.

While the Bible doesn’t specifically say that you cannot open your home to unbelievers, there are specific commands to be hospitable to other believers.

So, mama with a bunch of little kids who feel like you are not being hospitable, let me ask you a question: if someone knocked on your door today and they were injured and needed help, would you help them?

That is being hospitable.

If you knew a mom who was being beaten by her husband and she came to you and said “My children and I need a safe place to stay,” would you help her?

That is being hospitable.

If there was a car accident outside your house and people were hurt would you go out and help?

That is being hospitable.

This is helping true needs –serving and ministering.

And, it has nothing to do with a clean house, fine china, and elaborately planned dinner menus.

If you think hospitality is about those things, you are missing the point.

Hospitality in the context of the Bible is meeting the needs of other people and helping them when they need help.

That idea is further backed up by Hebrews 12:13 which says:

“Contribute to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality.”

The command to be hospitable isn’t given to just women, either:

“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach.” (1 Timothy 3:2)

As a person with chronic illness, I may not be able to many things –I certainly am not healthy enough to host dinner parties, and we rarely even eat at the table because the table is usually covered in school supplies and groceries I haven’t had the strength or energy to put away yet.

Shocking, I know!

But, if you have a need, I will be there for you if I at all can.

We know a Christian family who lives a ways away from us and kind of in the middle of nowhere.

We were traveling and needed a place to crash for a few hours so my boys who were little at the time could take a nap while my husband was working that day.

Unfortunately, circumstances around the job he was working had prohibited me from making solid plans earlier –I didn’t know I needed a place to stay until that day, and we didn’t know another soul in any direction for hours and hours except one family.

This family refused to let us come by their house even for a few hours.

I was desperate for somewhere to go because my husband needed the car to go to the job he was there for –he needed the car for the job, and the children and I were not allowed on the job site or else I could have just stayed in the car and had the children sleep there.

Every plan I came up to address our situation fell through.

I ended up paying for a room at a hotel so my children could take a nap: we paid hundreds of dollars that we couldn’t really afford to use a hotel room for a few hours when our friends were right down the road unwilling to help us.

Although I’m sure their reasons seemed sound to them, it seemed like when we were really in need, they refused to help –like they viewed us as an inconvenience rather than a Christian brother and sister in need or a ministry opportunity.

That’s the point of hospitality: helping those in need.

It isn’t about having a finely set dinner table –it is about helping others when they are in need.

I have always wondered how I would respond to someone’s need –and planning and writing this post has made me rethink how I address requests for help.

I mean, sometimes, I am just unable to help.

If you call me and say “I really need a ride,” and I am in too much pain to drive that day, I cannot help you –but, I would probably try to find someone else to help you.

A while back, a car broke down across the street from my house.

I live on the busiest street in my town: it is the main road between our little town and the next big city where most people work.

I joke that the whole down drives by my house every day.

The car had been sitting there for a while along the side of the road with traffic whizzing by it.

The inhabitants didn’t get out of the car, and I wasn’t sure at first that there was even anyone in there.

I was getting ready for a medical procedure, and we really had to leave by a certain time.

Then I noticed movement in the car.

I wasn’t sure what to do.

I was concerned about their car being in traffic.

I was concerned that maybe they didn’t have a phone or that they needed help.

So, I finished getting myself ready to go and walked carefully across the street.

They had broken down, they had a phone, and they were waiting for a relative to come help them –he was about an hour away.

I offered to get my boys to push their car out of traffic, but they didn’t want to.

Thankfully, it was not hot that day, and the mom seemed to be entertaining her munchkins to pass the time.

I offered use of our bathroom, but she said they were fine.

I didn’t know them and didn’t feel comfortable leaving them in my house while I was gone: I needed to leave for the doctor’s office in less than 10 minutes.

I did the only thing that I could think of: I went into the house, gathered up some bananas and bottled water and took it over to the car for them, and I told her they were welcome to run around in our yard and use our lawn chairs while they waited if they wanted to.

She had mentioned that they were headed to someone’s house for lunch before they broke down; I would have provided something more to eat, but that was about all I had because I really needed to go grocery shopping.

She thanked me profusely, and I just tried to be as kind and helpful as I could be under the circumstance.

I kinda felt like there was more I should have done, but I couldn’t figure out what.

By the time I got back from the doctor’s office, they were gone.

Do you see someone in need? Help them if you can!

Even a little help is better than no help.

When the scripture says you may be helping angels unaware, it doesn’t mean that one of the people from your church who come over for a dinner party is secretly an angel.

It is talking about helping strangers.

I have seen my parents live out this idea of helping people in need –they have done it before my very eyes, and I am honored to be able to see their faith in action.

I have seen them help people who have needs –like being stranded in one state trying to get to another– and my parents have dropped everything and driven those families to the place they were trying to get to even hours away, provided food for them, diapers and clothes for their children, and made sure they were in a safe place once they got to the new location.

I have no doubt in my mind that my parents’ hospitality to strangers left a lasting impression and a strong testimony to those to whom they have ministered.

I implore you, do not reduce the concept of hospitality down to a dinner party.

If you do, you miss the point.

You do not have to have a clean house to minister to other people’s needs.

My house was not clean when I was helping the family with the broken-down car, and I would have brought them in my messy house if they needed to use the bathroom.

If I hadn’t needed to go –and been unable to reschedule the appointment, I would have even brought them into my home until their help arrived.

Do you think that the lady trying to get away from domestic abuse cares when the last time your living room was vacuumed? Or your shower clean out?

So, mama out there with a house full of little people feeling like you can’t be hospitable: look for ways that God brings people into your life that you can minister to.

Our responsibility is to focus on the eternal things in our lives: the souls of your children matter more than the condition of your house; the souls of those around us who are in need matter more than the condition of your house.

You do not need a clean house to help other people.

And, you certainly don’t need to host a dinner party to do it.

Those who say hospitality is about a dinner party are missing the point of these verses and missing opportunities to minister to others.

Not only that, they are teaching –erroneously– that women who are unable to host dinner parties are somehow in sin for not doing so.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with hosting dinner parties, but that is not what the Bible is commanding us to do.

We need to read the Bible with the context of what it was written and what God was trying to communicate through the original authors instead of simply viewing the words through our modern, wealthy, American culture.

Blessings,

Sarah Forbes