December 12, 2014 is a date that is etched in my mind permanently. It is right up there with my birthday, my daughter’s birthday, the day I got married, and the day I got pregnant. I will never, ever forget the day I grabbed my daughter’s hand and walk away from our home and everything we owned.
Today marks the 6th month “anniversary” of Moldaggedon. It is almost impossible to comprehend how much has happened in those six months. Aside from the fact that I have aged about 30 years, life as I know it has completely changed. Had you asked me last summer what I would be doing this summer, my answer would have been so far off from my current reality.
The past six months have NOT been easy as any toxic mold survivor will tell you. But I’m alive. My husband, daughter, house-rabbit, and cats are alive. We are all split up but we are safe. And that is what is important.
December 12th wasn’t such a difficult day. I was in hyper-overdrive. There were new clothes to be purchased, food to be bought, toiletries to be gathered, and lists to be written. I was moving fast and didn’t have time to think about the fact that we just left our home behind. I pretty much stayed in a frenzied state of “get things done” for several months. Because leaving a contaminated home behind isn’t exactly as easy as closing the door and walking away.
From December 12th until early April, my life was consumed by our moldy house. First, I had to get our animals out of there. While my daughter and I had a temporary living arrangement, our animals did not. We were fortunate enough to bring our rabbit with us on the 12th but our cats stayed behind. My husband stayed at the moldy house with them as he wasn’t quite as ready to walk away. So they were safe and I was going over twice a day to take care of them (properly suited up in protective gear). We decided to remediate my daughter’s favorite cat – Dumuzi – because she was quite lost without him, plus he discovered our mold fiasco anyway. Remediating our furry friends was no easy or cheap task which is why we decided to start with one cat. Dumuzi joined us at my parents a couple of weeks after we invaded their home.
I still had other cats to deal with and to make a long story short, two of them eventually ended up in the forest with my dear friend and cat savior Lauren (of Spiral Elixir). Now my kitties are not literally living in the forest. Lauren has them all cozied up in her master bathroom. That’s love people! She gave up her bathroom for my cats. Not everyone would do that. They have been there since late February and are well loved, happy, and safe.
My other two cats eventually ended up in my parent’s bathroom. It is pretty crazy in their house right now because they have their own animals. But hey – you gotta do what you gotta do. So all of our animals are alive, safe, and thriving.
So what about the moldy house and our stuff?
Well, not a day went by for a 4 month span of time that I wasn’t doing SOMETHING related to the house. I initially focused on getting all important documents sealed and into storage. I then went through the house and took out anything that was of a personal nature – photographs, computers, etc… Basically, if our home was broken into, I wanted any identifying information gone. While I had to destroy nearly everything I took out of the house, at least I knew it didn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Destroying memories was very difficult. Heartbreaking. And I did it all by myself. It takes a lot of strength to throw away family photos, your child’s first tooth, their locket of baby hair, their baby blanket. No parent wants to do that. I found that I just had to do it quickly – like ripping off a bandaid. It still hurt a lot but not as much as reliving those cherished moments in your life and realizing that all you have are the memories.
After I handled those important items, it was time to go through the house room by room, drawer by drawer. Again, I basically did this all by myself. It was gut wrenching. There were a few things that I was able to save. I had a sealed plastic tote that had some of my grandmother’s items in them. These went from her house to my attic and I had not opened them in my house. So I carefully transferred them to a clean container and stored them at my parents. We also had some items in our storage shed that I was able to salvage because they had not been in our home. Nothing important really – mostly the hard copies of my music collection as well as some random odds and ends.
Cleaning out my daughter’s room was very difficult. She had a lot of my dolls and stuffed animals from when I was little. She also had my first communion dress and a few other important items from my childhood (and my mom’s childhood too!). Throwing away my toys was almost more difficult than anything else I had to dispose of because it felt like I was throwing away my childhood. Those toys held such a rainbow of memories for me and it just hurt like heck to toss those away. It also was hard throwing out those items that were treasured by my daughter. She had this little “towel” she slept with every night since she was just a few months old. Oh how it pained me to let that go. Same with her beloved stuffed animals – the ones she carried everywhere with her.
Physically, cleaning out the house hurt my body. It was a lot of intense labor. Mentally – well, the entire situation was messing with my head. Emotionally I was all over the place. Health wise – even with a hazmat suit, I was still getting re-exposed to mold spores and mycotoxins. It wasn’t ideal but no one was going to clean out the house for us.
In March of this year my daughter and I made a 400 mile journey to see an M.D. who specializes in Environmental Health Issues. She is a toxic mold survivor and has keen insight on the recovery process. It was an eye opening appointment. An 8 hour long eye opening appointment. I naively was under the impression that with a little extra detoxing effort and mold avoidance, we would recover quickly. Not so. Mold Related Illness runs deep, is sneaky, and can flare without warning. Detoxing, rebuilding your entire system, and then moving forward with a new set of things to avoid takes a lot of time, patience, diligence, and commitment. You are either all in or all out. There is no half-assing recovery.
One day down the road I will spend more time discussing our treatment protocol. (I actually did end up writing about how I detoxed from mold here). That isn’t something that can be covered in a quick update post. I will share that I have seen positive changes in our health and while I know the road to recovery is years long, it is worth every bit of time and effort.
Part of our recovery involves complete mold and chemical avoidance. It also involves living in the driest environment we can find. So with tears in our eyes, my daughter and I said a sad goodbye to our family and friends in California and headed to Arizona for some dry air and hot sun. We have been here for two months now and that has been an adventure all its own.
Our detox protocol is a full time job. Seriously. We are doing something, taking something, etc… nearly every waking hour. Keeping track of what we have to take when is tough. While some of my cognitive issues have improved, my memory isn’t all there. Even with charts and lists posted everywhere, I forget something or another at least once a day. My daughter actually does a better job remembering everything.
I’m totally overwhelmed as a single parent. Even though Rasta Daddy was at work most of the time, there was still another person THERE, in the general vicinity, should I need an extra set of hands. My parents and friends were also just a phone call away and would rush to my aid should I need it. I don’t have that here. It’s just me and my daughter. I have a completely new appreciation for the world of a single parent. My gosh. I had no idea…
I have no idea how long we will be in Arizona. As an OCD planner who HATES changes, loves a schedule, and doesn’t like upheaval, this entire mold journey has flipped my little worldview upside down. I have learned to let go, live a little more in the moment, and trust the process. We won’t be moving back to California any time soon, that much I know. And that’s ok. When the Universe calls us back, we will go. The main goal living here is to starve out the active mold spores with dry air. This will allow our detox protocol to work at an optimum level.
We are also very focused on healing our food allergies/intolerances. Exposure to toxic mold created some deep rooted systemic reactions to food both for myself and my daughter. As a result, we are dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, coconut-free, and grain free. We were already gluten free thanks to being celiacs. There are also about 40 additional foods were are avoiding. The coconut free thing is very temporary. We hope to add some foods back in at the end of the year but we will be gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and almond-free for life. It makes cooking and baking VERY VERY interesting but I have discovered some amazing ways to bake, despite all these limitations.
There is so much more that I wanted to write but as you can probably tell by the choppy nature of this post, I am finding myself lacking for time on my computer. I am exhausted at the end of the day and sleep is calling louder than blogging is.
I will update you all again soon. There are some developments with the house itself (and what we did with it) that I want to share because it may help others going through a similar process. I learned a lot about what happens when you need to “get rid of” a contaminated home. But I will save that for another day.
Thank you again for all your support. I still get a lot of really uplifting emails from you all and you have no idea how much that helps spur me forward.
Until the next update – thank you for keeping my family in your thoughts and prayers.