From time to time, I’m struck with a bit of insight that I feel may be worthwhile to share. Recently, I’ve transitioned out of the safe haven I’d created in the studio apartment above the garage back into the house. It has been nearly 10 years since I’d slept on a regular basis in the house. Granted, I spend the entire day in the house working, eating, and relaxing, but I’d always returned to my safe haven at night. Such are the deep psychological scares of having gone through the horrific experience of having my mind torn apart by CIRS. I just couldn’t muster the “gumption” to find out if I could spend an entire 24 hours in the house. It’s hard to return to “the scene of the crime”.
As it turns out, I was recently compelled to make the move. First, the studio apartment developed mold under the toilet tank cover and second, my wife lamented over not being able to be in the same building over night. (More about my latest mold issues in another article.) I have to admit, that woman is just flat out tough and incredibly patient to put up with me hiding out above the garage at night. Then again, she loves me deeply and when a spouse sees the other suffer like I did from CIRS, they get it. So we both waited a long time before my making the transition “back home”.
So the inspiration that struck me the other day centers around how I go about deciding if a place, piece of furniture, bedding, and the like is safe. Even after roughly 10 years, it’s still a work in progress. It’s the process that I go through to tease out if a reaction I’m having is being driven by a physical response to some insult or if it’s coming from mental trains of thought.
I’ve discussed this a bit in other articles. Namely, the importance of being able to quietly sit in the center of all the emotional and physical turmoil that CIRS creates. That is, to take a step back in order to discern if a set of symptoms are my body’s natural response to a toxin or whether I’m unconsciously whipping myself into a sort of frenzy because my psyche has been traumatized by previous experiences.
I’m sure most of us have heard about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In brief, even after some terrible event is over, the person suffers relapses that emotionally mimic how they felt when they were initially traumatized. In other words, when having a relapse, they can feel just as scared, ill, alone, and the like as when the event happened. Such is the power of mind. Such is the importance of learning to work with the mind.
When it comes to CIRS, if a “knucklehead” like me can be afraid to sleep at night in his own home, along with conversations I’ve had with others that have CIRS, some degree of PTSD is common in folks that have suffered through the worst that CIRS has to offer. The experience can be so bad that it deeply flavors all experience. Given that mold is everywhere, those that have been so afflicted can end up seeing everything as a potential threat. Emotionally, a person remains on high alert, afraid to go into a building for the first time, afraid to try a different supplement, afraid to buy new clothing or eat different foods. It can get real bad. I know; I’ve been there. I’m still making my way “back home”.
Mind & Body & Spirit
So from a more practical perspective, the question becomes, how does a person so afflicted tease out whether any given new input is “moldy”. When I say “moldy”, I mean that a place or item is causing a physical reaction that is distinct and separate from any mental process. In other words, that a person is not suffering from a PTSD like effect. That they are not having first and foremost an emotional reaction driven by mental processes that are then driving a physical response. Is the horse leading the cart or the other way around?
After 10 years of practice, what follows is how I go about answering the question as to whether an item or place is “moldy” or if I’m experiencing a PTSD like reaction. This is a practice that’s still a work in process and will likely remain so for some time. It is a process that relies on the ability to distinguish between mind, body, and spirit.
Let’s begin with mind. As discussed, what goes on in your “noodle” can have a deep impact on your body. Take for example hearing a “bump” (unfamiliar noise) in the night. If you’re home alone, you might get a bit afraid. If there are other associations in your mind, maybe you just got done watching a scary movie, the fear might be quite palpable. You might even feel a bit woozy or nauseous. Why is this? What just happen? Just a moment prior, you were sitting all warm and cozy in your house; and now you’re perspiring a bit, your heart is pounding, and your body is buzzing with fear.
To answer this, I refer to my meditation training. To answer this, one needs a framework from which they can make distinctions between that which is primarily mental (emotional), physical, and spirit. For most, these facets are one big jumble. They can’t say with any precision why they feel or think the way they do. For others that have a proclivity toward understanding the mind and their emotional responses, or want to develop “mold radar”, being able to distinguish between physical and mentally driven symptoms is essential.
Now before going any deeper, I want to repeat that this is just my understanding to date. I reserve the right to modify this understanding with time and there most certainly are other approaches. Furthermore, mind, body, and spirit are inextricably bound. Really, what we’re talking about here is probably best classified as an art form.
In other words, while we can with some level of accuracy separate these different aspects to better help understand our inner world, these are just mental constructs which necessarily implies they’re limited. So while breaking personage into these three aspects has utilitarian value, there are subtleties, nuances, and inherent limitations in any mental construct. Exploring and learning about how mind, body, and spirit function as a lifelong endeavor. In other words, if you don’t like this construct, you are of course free to use a different one.
Workings of Mind
OK, with that preface out of the way, let’s look at the processes of mind. For this, a person really does need to learn how to “quiet their mind”. In other words, if you’re unable to drop all the mental gyrations to a reasonable degree, then you’re probably not going to be able to relate very well to what comes next. You have to be able to sit still. You have to be able to cultivate a state of mind that’s just like when you wake up in the morning – before all the thoughts about the day creep in.
You know; you’re just lazily lying in bed. You’re mostly just enjoying the experience. You’re feeling refreshed and relaxed. Little thoughts about shifting your position in bed or using the bathroom may pop up but they just as quickly disappear. There are no worries, you’re very relaxed, there’s not a lot going on “upstairs”.
From my perspective, the degree to which a person is able to cultivate this state of mind, and this can be very difficult to do in the depths of CIRS, is directly related to how accurate their mold radar is. In other words, if you can’t quiet your mind, then there is little hope in being able to discern if what you’re experiencing is a result of thought patterns or is a physical response to some insult.
So quieting the mind is key. When you’re able to quiet the mind, you’re able to sit back and watch with some impartiality how the mind works. At first, you begin to see how an initial thought pops up out of the “primordial mist” and gets your attention. With further practice, you begin to realize that each thought is almost instantly categorized based upon your own personal world view and that this categorization is necessarily tied to an emotional response.
For example, “Oh yeah, I’ve got to get my tires changed today” leads to a touch of trepidation followed by, “I’ve got to remember to bring my checkbook”, followed by “That reminds me I need to go to the grocery store too”. After a short bit, the particular train of thought dies out and there is a brief moment of respite. It’s these moments of “no-thought” that need to be cultivated. It’s the open space between trains of thought that provide a clear view into what the body is experiencing. It’s a view that is much less tainted by mental gyrations.
So I don’t think I really want to give a short course into how to meditate here. I’m sure there are many others more qualified. What I can say is that it’s important to note that first there is just open space without a lot happening. Next, a thought arises pretty much out of nowhere. In other words, you didn’t consciously say, “OK now I’m going to have a thought about such-and-such”. Then, within a nano-second, there is an emotional response. Did you catch it? Did you notice how first there was just the thought and then boom, an emotional response? Note: You may want to read CIR doctor, Dr. Whitcomb’s, article on how mindfulness builds resiliency.
Right after that there is almost always another related thought. It’s important to see for yourself how first there is the thought and then there is the emotional reaction followed by more thoughts and emotions. In other words, while there are physical conditions that that bleed into thought patterns and color emotional responses, a lot of what we “feel” is a result of our conditioned response to thoughts. A lot of what we feel is purely mental – is devoid of external input. We experience an emotional response to any given thought (that response may be neutral, positive, or negative) based upon our worldview and our experiences to date.
I realize this may sound off-putting to some. For some, they are their emotions. They don’t distinguish between what they’re thinking and the emotions they’re feeling. The two are one and the same. However, if you sit still and learn to quiet your mind, you can prove to yourself that what I’m saying has validity based upon your own direct experience. As my teacher would often say, don’t believe me; see for yourself.
In addition to not understanding the workings of mind, most westerners are devoid of knowing how their bodies feel with any level of precision. Again, as my teacher used to say, we’re all “up in our heads”. There is nothing going on from the neck down. To learn more about getting in touch with your body, you may be interested in his teachings on Somatic Meditation.
So for me, learning how to quiet the mind is key to developing accurate mold radar. In the case of CIRS, this can be quite challenging and takes dedicated practice. In the beginning, probably the best times to work on this, especially when symptoms are really bad, is right after waking up when the mental chatter is at a low. Sit or lay still.
How does your body feel? Similarly, what types of mental patterns arise? Is your body feeling jittery? Are you incessantly being pulled out of your dreamy state by troublesome thoughts? Noticing what your body is feeling and the patterns of thoughts that arise (not what the particular thoughts are about but more of what their “color” is) from a place of peace and open space is vital. You need to be in an open space to really hear what your body is saying. In other words, if there are thoughts racing about then there is no way to discern if the physical response you’re having is being driven by the mind or it is actually being driven by the health of your body. There’s just no way.
So let me give you an example and, in the doing, tease a bit more out regarding how I discern if a reaction is mostly physical or mental in nature. This example relates to moving back into the house and sleeping on a different mattress.
For those of you that have read elsewhere on this site, you know we had mold in our house from a small, remote crawlspace under the front entry. This space had concrete walls, floor, and ceiling. There was a very small opening into this space. And yet, because we’d left a few scrapes of lumber in this space coupled with higher humidity, it was enough to eventually flood the entire house with mold toxins.
The mattress in the house had been there all along. Per Dr. Shoemaker’s advice at the time, I’d bagged the mattress in not one, but two, high quality zippered, non-breathable mattress bags. These were not the inexpensive bags that sell for $12. I think we spent about $40 for each of them. As you’ll soon learn, this wasn’t enough.
However, at the time I returned to the house, both my wife and I couldn’t remember exactly where the mattress had been during the mold debacle. As such, we didn’t know how badly it had been affected. If the mattress had been in a spare bedroom with little to no use, then it would not have “inhaled” many toxins. I say “inhaled” because every time a person repositions themselves on a mattress, it causes some air inside to be expelled and then replaced with room air. The mattress is constantly “breathing” while in use.
So we didn’t know. Given the price of mattresses, especially ones that aren’t loaded with toxic flame-retardants, I decided to give it a try. After all, it was inside two mattress bags. I did this in spite of having an almost immediate fight-or-flight reaction when I laid on it after transferring my bedding. I’ve learned that these sorts of reactions can be a result of being traumatized by CIRS and nothing more – that they’re mostly “mind”. I had to sleep on the mattress and see.
It’s important to note that we tried to keep as many other variables the same. I used the same blankets and pillows. I didn’t change my diet or sleep schedule. I avoided activities that could possibly expose me to mold.
That night when I went to bed, I checked in. I meditated a bit and then looked at the quality of my mind. It was “bouncing” a bit with twinges of anxiety. By “bouncing” I mean that its focus tended to jump from topic to topic at a fairly quick pace. It was hard to concentrate. Generally when I meditate, there isn’t a lot of “movement”. That night my mind was a bit jumpy.
So OK, this was a second data point but hardly conclusive. I’ve learned that a jumpy mind and twinges of anxiety can be caused by food, stress, mold toxins, restricted breathing during sleep, and who knows what else. I went to sleep.
After about four hours of sleep, I woke up, as I commonly do. There was a sense of mild agitation. Again, it was mild enough to only qualify as another data point. It wasn’t so strong as to be unequivocal. In addition and even more telling, after stretching and having a little melatonin, when I went back to bed I wasn’t very sleepy and my thoughts we littered with “oh no” types of reactions. It’s important to note that these mini fright reactions were not associated with any particular train of thought. I’d be lying in bed meditating, drifting deeper and deeper in stillness, before being jerked back to a nearly wide-awake state. These were more data points.
When I woke up in the morning, I was still tried. Clearly the quality of my sleep wasn’t good. In addition, as I laid in bed, the normally dreamy state was fairly disturbed. My mind was bouncing even more, I was experiencing more mini fight-or-flight sensations, and what had started out as a very mild irritation was now a rather persistent grind. This was all before I’d spent any time thinking about the mattress or the day.
If a person isn’t familiar with meditation, then checking in with your body the moment they wake up is probably the best time to really gauge whether they’re having a physical reaction driven by toxins as opposed to those driven by mind. I should also mention that had I woken up reasonably rested with a still mind, I would have immediately discounted previous data points. The physical sense of the body upon first waking is very telling for me.
During the day, the agitation went away as I went about my work but the incessant dwelling on the mattress did not. I’ve learned over the years that when I obsessively dwell on a troubling topic, it’s another data point indicating toxin exposure. By this point, the list of data points was fairly long.
It probably goes without saying, but this isn’t an easy process for those that have been pounded on by CIRS. When you’ve been through hell, it really takes courage and conviction to re-visit the “scene of the crime”. However, for me, it’s sometimes the only way to gather meaningful data about what’s really going on.
So I won’t drag you through the second night, as it was essentially a repeat of the first only the symptoms were worse. By the time I woke up the following morning and meditatively checked in with my body, it was all I could do to not jump out of bed. Yep, that mattress was toxic and it had to go along with the pillow I’d used – pillows “breath” too.
So I don’t know; this may all sound rather obvious to some. However, clearing ones mind of thoughts in order to simply be able to notice what’s going on physically wasn’t an easy skill for me to learn. It took me almost a year being pounded by mold before I finally had the epiphany during meditation that I wasn’t going crazy but rather, was experiencing intense physical symptoms that were then coloring my thought patterns in really bizarre ways. It wasn’t my mind that was in trouble, it was my body. A month later after many hours of research, I was traveling to see Dr. Shoemaker.
A caveat worth mentioning is that when there are multiple sources of exposure, such that a person is reacting almost all the time, it can be really difficult. This coupled with the fact that CIRS symptoms can persist long after exposure is removed makes it super difficult. This is why I can totally relate to folks that take on “mold avoidance” as describe by Lisa Petrison and Eric Johnson in A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance. The more a person can reach some level of equilibrium, the better they will be able to discern changes to that balance. The quickest way to do this is to get into a clean space and start clearing toxins using binders and such.
It’s also worth noting that when this body is badly exposed to toxins, my mind really “bounces” and is littered with obsessive and dark thoughts. At these times, meditation feels like trying to tame a bucking bronco. When this happens, I shift my meditation from following the breath to paying attention to the quality of my mind. The way to calm a bucking bronco is to pay attention to it – not to try and force it to behave in a particular way.
Ultimately, meditation is about surrendering our ideas about the way we think life should be and allowing it to be the way it actually is. So instead of following breath, I gently notice how my mind shifts from idea to idea at a fast pace, what the energy is like, the types of ideas that pop up, and so on. This is done without getting pulled into any particular storyline. This is done with a sincere commitment to listen/see/know. When properly done, a small gateway opens into a bit of equanimity from which I can more clearly distinguish between mind and body driven reactions.
Who’s Driving the Bus?
As I’ve done in the last couple of posts, I want to remind everyone that what’s going on in Congress related to impeachment and the like is there to keep the population distracted. It has nothing to do with the real power structure that runs the world – centralized banking and black budgets. Spending your energy by engaging in that circus is like fighting over what station should be playing on the radio while traveling in a bus. This is a bus driven by psychopaths that care only about being in the drivers seat with no concern whatsoever that the course they have chosen will bring about great suffering for mankind. Bankers love it when we argue over relatively inconsequential points.
I’ll leave you with little tidbit to help make this point. Not long ago FASAB Statement 56 went into effect unaltered by either the Whitehouse or Congress. Not one Republican, not one Democrat objected. They were all unanimously united. They let FASAB 56 go into effect without even a whimper, without any circus. And why, you may wonder. It’s because FASAB 56 is about real power.
FASAB 56 allows for dark pools of money to move about at will among Federal entities. It essentially says that the Federal government does not need to be accountable to its citizenry. Experts like Catherine Austin Fitts have estimated the amount of money that’s gone missing into these black budgets to be in the tens of trillions of dollars just within the last decade or so. No one knows what the money is being spent on. The population has no say over sums of money that could easily resolve the bulk of societal issues.
So when folks get irate over the circus, I just shake my head. I know they’re well intentioned but fighting amongst ourselves is not the solution. Understanding who’s driving the bus is. Given that no one is allowed to become President without being sanctioned by real power, I sometimes wonder if the reason Trump was allowed to be President was because of his ability to bring about strife, to keep us distracted.
I appreciated this article. I seem to have the same kind of mental and emotional reactions you do because of mold illness. Your article helps me to find ways to figure out whether my symptoms are just because I’m afraid of getting sick from mold again or because I am still being exposed to toxins. By the way, I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of the political debacle being used as a diversion. Yes, the rich and powerful WORLDWIDE are in control…most everything else is an illusion to keep us thinking we are in control and dividing us so that real change is not possible
I had a similar experience with Wal Mart mattress protectors. (They didn’t officially have breather holes – so no wonder the bedroom air test revealed basidiospores). I am now trying LL Medico “Gary” 8 guage mattress covers. One developed a rip in about a year – – but they are the best I can find. I would like to get away from traditional mattresses. I appreciated your pages on Large Appliances. Speed Queen makes a “non tempered” hot water old fashioned top load machine. Since I alerted my mold inspector, every home they travel to has a positive result for front load washers. My Bosch dishwasher developed mold in the internal (metal) debris filter; I now check my Whirlpool (plastic filter) with every load. Thank You so much.
Lately, I really like my non PVC inflatable mattress. After airing it out for a day in the sun when it was new, I can’t detect any odor and sleep great on it. I do have to top it off with air every night before bed but it’s small price to pay for an inexpensive mattress that can be washed off if contaminated.
I totally agree about regularly checking the filter found in the bottom of dishwashers. They trap larger particles that can get moldly if not removed in a timely fashion. Do you have a link to the Speed Queen washer? I’ll add it to the Large Appliances page.
Or just their main page http://www.speedqueen.com then shows a link to “top load”. I bought mine in 2017 (model AWN432SP113TW04).
The (newer?) “Classic Clean” model still has true “hot fill” according to this reviewer (quotation marks around the person’s quote).
“TC5000WN – Exceptional Quality and Performance
I have had my Speed Queen TC5000WN for several months now, and I absolutely love it. The classic agitator action is a winner, and really gets clothes clean …. The hot water setting is truly hot, not mixed with any cold water.”
This fall, I finally purchased crawlspace encapsulation. Ingrid Naiman talked about it on her Moldmisery.com website. Afterwards, the air test is 6 spores per cubic meter of air, which the mold inspector says is “excellent” for a crawlspace. Previously, I would sometimes get a slight fever the night after spending time in the crawlspace. My MSH was 43 in 2012. I need to get re-tested. I discarded my “dusty” (likely moldy) mattress around 1 year ago. With these improvements I have less “brain fog” and have a better mood.
I have been also inspired with Erik Johnson’s book “Back From The Edge”. One friend that told me the mold was “in my imagination” doesn’t argue with medical results, including elevated penicillium antibodies. Unfortunately, due to neighbors dead trees, my driveway outdoor reading is 600 (probably 600 spores / cubic meter). Thanks for your article about of outdoor mold (if I remember correctly it had something to do with your deck).
Thanks for the washer information. I added it to the Large Appliances page.
I’m sure you’re aware of this information but for others, nearly all crawlspaces are really moldy. In addition, when it comes to CIRS, it’s all about the toxins mold makes. While mold spore counts can be a useful data point for determining if active mold has been addressed, they really aren’t very indicative of how harmful a building is. For that, there’s ERMI testing.
If it were me, I’d be running at least one Air Oasis non-stop and seriously looking at taking a several month “mold sabbatical” while taking binders, clearing MARCoNS, and the like to see if it helped.
Yes, I’ve noticed that same thing about the first instant of consciousness in the morning. When I was in a moldy place, and being affected physically, I would wake up and immediately feel stress hormones squeezing into my body. After getting myself into a cleaner environment, I noticed I woke up with a positive attitude. Also my brain is less “monkey mind” in a clean place. When I start to obsess on problems or grievances, it’s really because I’m in mold again. The pretend subject of my stress is just a rationalization. My body’s upset about mold.
I think it’s really key to understand that when a person is loaded up with mold toxins, it really skews the way they think and feel – stubborn, quick to anger, obsessive, paranoid, depressed, anxious, etc. In a way, this makes sense because the person is under attack and some of these qualities can be helpful in doing what needs to be done – so long as the person understands that their attacker is mold. Otherwise, they just end up “tilting at windmills” – attacking imaginary enemies. Thanks.