Today’s Mold Talks guest is Sarah Tate, a school teacher, toxic mold warrior, and exposure survivor. Sarah’s experience with mold exposure has been a long and painful journey as she continually suffered through symptoms that no one could find the root of the problem for. As time went on, she began to fear that the chronic pain and health issues would be the new normal in her life and that relief would never come.
However, she remained resilient and continued to push for answers even while bandaid after bandaid continued to fail to cover up her symptoms. Eventually, her search for relief led her to a functional medicine facility that introduced her to the world of mold toxicity. After running a series of tests, her new medical professional team discovered that exposure to this indoor contaminant was causing her debilitating migraines, weight loss, depression, anxiety, and a long list of other adverse health reactions.
With an answer finally in hand, she dove into detoxing with both feet but quickly realized that her body wasn’t quite ready to go full steam ahead. She’s now in a trial and error phase with her practitioners as they attempt to figure out how to gently guide her body to healing. While it’s been an incredibly rocky road filled with more than her fair share of speed bumps, she’s holding onto her faith that better, healthier days are ahead. Her long-time suffering shows how important it is to create more awareness for this indoor contaminant so that the root of the problem can be unearthed much sooner and chronic symptoms due to exposure don’t continue on much longer than they should.
"It's not your job right now to make anyone comfortable. It's your job to heal; that is your job. You know, if you need to be unavailable, whatever that means to you, be unavailable. Rest is productive. It's not a setback, it’s something you need. It’s taking care of yourself right now. It's not selfish. It's really necessary."
Sarah’s experience with mold toxicity began after her long-term migraines that began in high school spiraled into debilitating pain that began affecting her everyday life. Initially, she thought her chronic pain was due to a family history of migraines, but when she could barely get to her new teaching job in Chicago and developed a list of other symptoms, she knew something had to be done.
Unfortunately, as often occurs with mold toxicity symptoms, while she went to a series of doctors, no one could figure out the root of the problem and her ongoing adverse health reactions. To make matters worse, a majority of the treatment plans they put her on to manage the pain didn’t work. Some made the pain even more severe. After yet another hospital visit, her doctors decided to send her to a national clinic where she spent two weeks attempting to find a pain relief regimen that worked.
"I left there not knowing why I ever had the pain. The root of the problem. They basically released me with two things: one, a prescription for Benadryl intramuscular injections, which was the only thing that could relieve the head pain. But at that point, an answer was an answer and I had gotten some relief. I was prescribed a medicine that was, to my knowledge, working and avoiding pain. I was also put on an antidepressant."
Her experience at the facility wasn’t a new one. While she always tried to make the basis of her conversations with doctors about the root cause, no one could determine what it was, and they focused instead on managing the pain. To make matters worse, by the time she flew back to Louisiana, her other symptoms began ramping up as well, including drastic weight loss. While she’s normally around 115 pounds, she weighed barely 80 pounds by the time she got back home. On top of all this, she was also experiencing dark and difficult thoughts as well as anxiety as her body continued to seemingly shut down.
"After leaving the headache clinic, I moved back to Louisiana, and I spent a couple of months in what I call a false chapter of healing. I had a bandaid on the depression and a bandaid on the pain. I thought I was in enough. I thought I was ready to go take on the next job."
It just so happened that her next teaching job was right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. As she continually sanitized her classroom throughout the day, her symptoms came back with a vengeance, and she began developing other reactions as well, including brain fog and a stutter. Once again, she was back in the hospital attempting to figure out what was going on in her body.
Eventually, she and her family stumbled onto a functional medicine clinic in Chicago, and she was finally introduced to the idea of mold toxicity. After running a few tests, her results confirmed that she was suffering from adverse health reactions due to mold exposure.
"I experienced so many emotions after the diagnosis, but initially relief in the fact that I'd actually never heard of that before, rather than hearing something that didn't sit right or me having to be like, ‘No, I've thought of that and that can't be it because of A, B, and C.’ The unknown of it had me in the mindset of, ‘Okay, I'm ready to tackle something.’ I felt like I had already tried everything else. So, I shared that joy with many people when I found out about the diagnosis. I just didn't know how severe this really was. And, you can still be joyful at finding out what is wrong, but it's a much darker battle than I knew."
Since her diagnosis, she’s been in a difficult battle of figuring out how exactly to detox her body from the toxins. Initially, she began too quickly and experienced more pain and pushback, so now she’s focused on finding out how to gently get her body ready to heal. It’s been an incredible struggle, but Sarah refuses to give up. She’s continuing to try alternative after alternative until she finds the solution that works for her particular situation.
Sarah is also using the experience to learn more about herself and views the situation as something that is making her a stronger person.
"I'm now able to acknowledge what this illness has taken from me; that used to be the focus. At times, it's still hard not to be upset. You know, job loss, moving cities, all kinds of spirals, but then you're almost put in a position to look at what it can't take away. It's made me value and appreciate friendships and, most particularly, the relationship with my parents. It's crazy. It's something I've never experienced until you're fighting for something like this together. I'm looking forward to who I will be at the end of the journey, but I'm trying to enjoy who I am during it, too. I think there's even a little bit of fear of what am I without this. This has been years and years of figuring it out, and there's certainly some anxiety about what life looks like without it."