You know the old saying…lightening never strikes twice in the same place. While this is mostly true, it is almost never true when it comes to mold. Especially toxic mold. Toxic mold strikes twice (or more than twice) more often than you might think.
By now you all know about Moldaggedon and how it ripped my life apart at the seams in December 2014. You know that we lost everything and that we had no financial recourse – thus finding ourselves homeless, void of all our earthly possessions, and in financial ruin. You also know that my daughter and I have been going it alone in Arizona in an attempt to recover from years and years of toxic mold and mycotoxin exposure.
Our first couple of months in Arizona showed promise. We felt decent. We were living in a safe place that was mold free. We had found a wonderful and supportive tribe of neighbors in our apartment complex. My daughter was making friends. I was optimistic that there was a light at the end of the tunnel – even if it was going to take a few years to reach it.
But then the other shoe dropped. My deepest, darkest fear. The one I have to push away each and every night before I go to bed.
My mom had come for a visit in early July and we took a little road trip for a few days. Basically it was hot as all get out where we live so we headed north for cooler temperatures. When we returned, my mold rash on my hand immediately appeared. I dismissed it though and blamed it on not washing dishes with gloves on while we were out of town. My daughter also began sneezing all the time. However, she insisted it was because of the new batch of hay we had purchased for our rabbit. I wasn’t so sure about that but decided that Tiny was just run down from the trip and her immune system was overreacting a bit.
Over the course of the next week, Tiny’s appetite went south. She just wouldn’t eat. She was also complaining of headaches and stomach aches. I was absorbed in hashing out my first two months of homeschooling while I had my mom in town and honestly I just brushed it all off.
But then the fatigue started to hit me. And this bizarre thing that happens when I close my eyes. It’s impossible to explain but trust me – I was all too familiar with it. Again, I ignored it. Yes, I ignored it. Why? Because I really didn’t want what my gut was telling me to be true.
My inlaws came to visit the day after my mom left. They commented that Aaliyah didn’t seem like herself and that she had some major bags under her eyes. While they were here, the vertigo and “drunk” feeling started to hit me hard. It was only happening when I went into the kitchen but it would linger all day.
This time, I blamed it on some clothing a neighbor gave us. Convinced it was contaminated, I put it outside to see if our symptoms would resolve.
They didn’t. They got worse.
When toxic mold strikes twice.
I knew we had mold. I could feel it in my soul. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from but decided it must have originated in the kitchen since that was where the nasty symptoms would take over.
I checked every air return. I pulled out the fridge. I checked pipes. I checked the dishwasher. You name it, I checked it. Of course, I ordered an ERMI kit knowing that I had to get answers and fast. Our health was on a freight train to complete disaster.
On July 28th I sat at the table filling out the ERMI paperwork. I was upset because I didn’t have it in me to go down this road again. Once was more than enough, especially at the level we had to deal with. After I finished the paperwork, I went to do some dishes. The light shined on the ceiling in such a way that I finally noticed it. Yep – the ceiling above our kitchen was soaking wet.
Thanks to a VERY negligent upstairs neighbor, we entered mold hell for a second time. It was beyond obvious that there was a serious leak above us. At 9:45 at night, I hauled up there and demanded that she call her landlord. A couple hours later and an emergency repair crew was standing in my apartment confirming what I had basically known for three weeks. There was a long term leak that finally ramped up and now we had a moldy mess on our hands.
You see, thanks to our upstairs neighbor NOT reporting a leak, our lives were put in jeopardy. She knew our history. She knew about our health issues. She knew why we were living there. And yet, she did not report a leak that clearly would impact our unit.
This leak started a few months prior to my discovering it but it was a slow leak. However, it had gained some serious steam over the past month and basically invaded our apartment. As is the case with most leaks, the perfect environment for toxic mold was created.
Unless you have been a victim of toxic mold exposure, you simply cannot comprehend what this did to me.
It couldn't be true…toxic mold strikes twice I asked again and again. I don’t break easily but this almost, ALMOST broke me. Everything we have been doing to get healthy was undone by this fool living above us. And yes, she is a fool because this all could have been prevented. I should be sitting here creating a recipe to share with all of you but instead, I am in a tiny motel room praying with everything in me that we can somehow recover from this.
Of course we abandoned ship, leaving most of our belongings behind. I insisted on extensive testing to the apartment so we can make an educated decision about our small, yet important, stash of personal items. We didn’t have much but what we did have was being used daily.
In a week and a half period we shuffled around between temporary residences, living out of a few boxes. And of course the reason for the shuffling was the discovery of mold in various places we attempted to stay. The fourth location ended up being mold free – at least as far as I could tell.
And so here we sit. Deflated. Scared. Homeless. Worried about having items with us that were in the apartment. Worried about losing what we did have.
I am most worried for my daughter’s mental health. What she has been through is certainly more than any 6 year old should ever have to experience. She understands and yet she doesn’t. She is brave and yet she trembles in fear. She thinks motel hopping is kind of fun and yet she just wants to go back to the apartment.
I feel like mold will chase me my entire life. In a sense, it will. Not because mold spores are literally following me but because I am so acutely aware of mold that I will always find it if it is there. And with so many water damaged buildings in the United States, it is very likely that I will be plagued my entire life.
Where do we go from here?
This weekend, we are moving again after being in a motel for close to one month. We will still be in Arizona, in another apartment – one that I pray is safe. I spent over an hour inspecting it. All signs pointed to a DRY, non-moldy living space. We felt good in there. No immediate reactions and typically we react rather quickly.
We have lost everything again.
The condo we were in was just too contaminated. The number of stachybotrys spores are too many to ignore. I pondered cleaning and keeping things but decided it wasn’t worth our health. Not with so much Stachybotrys running around. Our doctor really encouraged us to part ways with our stuff once more.
Our health has been derailed. We are not worse than we were with the first Moldageddon but we certainly did a major backslide.
I’m sure you can imagine the array of emotions I have gone through. Why me? Why again? Why do this to a child? It’s not fair! When will I catch a break? I can’t handle this. I have to handle this. I can’t do this again. I have to do this again. And on and on and on.
This is my life. It is ugly as hell right now and has been for years. But you know what? I’m still here. And even though this time around it is going to be close to impossible to move forward, I will somehow do it.
I think the thing that really sucks the most is that after having this happen twice, in less than a year, is that I will NEVER be able to relax into my home. It will always be that nagging set of questions…
- When will I find mold?
- When will there be a water leak?
- When will I start feeling my mold symptoms?
- When will we lose everything again?
- Should I even purchase this? Won’t I just loose it to mold?
- Should I forgo furniture and just keep everything I own in plastic totes to try to prevent contamination when it happens again?
- Should I even bother living IN a home? Maybe camping outside or living in an RV is safer.
For me, it’s not an IF. It really is a when. I’m not sure I will get past that. Maybe someday but for now, I am going to do my best to move forward, for my daughter’s sake, and try to not let those nagging questions control my every thought. It’s really all I can do.
Please don’t take your life, what you have, and your health for granted. I suppose I started to get comfortable with having some stuff again. While it wasn’t much, it was a start. I thought I appreciated it. I certainly used it. I saw my daughter’s joy in having some of her favorite toys replaced. But apparently even I took it for granted. Something I thought I learned the hard way not to do. Well, lesson learned. The harder way. I have been humbled down to a place I never dreamed of being. So please – take a moment every day to be truly grateful for your life. I certainly will be.