Health & Fitness

M is for Mold

There I was, living my best life. Spring had finally sprung, turkey season was in full effect, and I was getting a great amount of time in the outdoors. Then suddenly, I couldn’t get myself out of bed in the morning, I was randomly crying at work, and I was even losing my balance to the point that I was falling over! Now, I know I’m clumsy, but I’ve been doing extra ab work in my spare time and this was unacceptable!

At first, I thought I was being dramatic. I’d recently had something emotional happen in my personal life, which I cried about, but I kept crying days later and couldn’t stop. I had to step away from my clients to wipe my eyes, but I wasn’t really sad. I even started crying randomly in the middle of my workout. I’ve had a bout with depression before, but I was getting scared because this episode wasn’t caused by deep emotional stress. It was random, even for me.

Days later, I began cancelling appointments because I simply couldn’t get out of bed, regardless of how much sleep I’d had. Even stranger, the only place I felt remotely normal was at work (since there was no mold), but I couldn’t get myself there. I had terrible brain fog and forgetfulness, mood swings, insomnia and anxiety. I stopped answering my phone and then turned it off altogether. I just didn’t have the energy or the brain power to form thoughts or converse with anyone. Then I started thinking about death, and I knew something was very wrong.

Since I moved to New Jersey, I’ve lived in my grandfather’s house, and a few months ago I noticed the roof was a little leaky. My grandfather lives on a fixed income so he couldn’t really afford to get it fixed, and I didn’t think much else about it. Then, in talking with my best friend about the tremendous rain we’d been having, it finally clicked.

I’d seen a little mold before, but again I didn’t think twice about it. Then I examined my symptoms and I knew.

I had mold toxicity.

Mold toxicity is caused by poisons produced by mold. It’s also known by other names such as mold toxicity illness or toxic mold syndrome. Regardless of what you call it, it can be pretty nasty. In my case it triggered more neurological and psychiatric symptoms, but it can also cause autoimmune, hormonal, skin, musculoskeletal, and general symptoms like hair loss and weight gain. Mold toxicity is also a relatively new discovery in the medical community that can be misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, mast cell activation disorder, depression, post treatment Lyme syndrome and chronic fatigue (which makes me wonder about Dorothy in that one Golden Girls episode). It can also trigger chronic inflammation response syndrome (CIRS), but luckily in my case, it didn’t. (Not-so-fun-fact: a particular mycotoxin called zearalenone is immunotoxic and estrogenic which could possibly contribute to endometriosis and other hormonal issues).

So what did I do? Well, I wasn’t going to stay in an environment that made me literally want to kill myself, I had to get out. I’d stayed at a friend’s house to test my hypothesis of mold toxicity, and after I noticed a tremendous difference in my mood the next morning, the solution was obvious. Don’t get me wrong, I love my grandfather and I will forever appreciate him allowing me to stay in his house financial-obligation-free, but without being able to afford to mitigate the mold and prevent it in the future, I had to get myself and my fur baby out of that toxic environment.  So I scoured the internet to find an affordable, pet-friendly apartment with a short-term lease and convenience to work. Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen on such short notice in New Jersey. So instead, I searched for spare rooms and apartment-house situations. Within 2 days I moved in with the sweetest couple that’s letting me share their house with them for the next 7 months. And I am very grateful. They are extremely kind and welcoming, and I have a ton of books to read! (That actually sold me most when I came to see the house.) As I watched the sunrise from my room the first morning I woke up in my new abode, I realized how much I hadn’t slept in the past few months, and it made me cry… again. And I didn’t know if it was remnants of mold toxicity or actual sadness I was feeling.

Some people get well very quickly when they remove themselves from a moldy environment. Thankfully, I am one of those people. After a few days, I noticed a rebound in my mood, and after a week I even went for a run. So even if you don’t think you need to, periodically test your home for mold. 25% of the population is thought to have genetic sensitivity to mold, so even if you don’t have symptoms, someone in your family might. And that may explain a chronic health condition they’ve been dealing with.