top of page
  • Writer's pictureBritany Libutty

The Mental Toll of Mold

* Trigger Warning*

(Dark Thoughts and Questioning Sanity)


This post is going to walk through the mindset and thoughts I had when I was at my absolute worst health-wise, when I was at my rock bottom. It is going to meander through the darkest moments that I had while I was bedbound.

I was fortunate enough to not encounter suicidal ideation like many others might when facing mold and co. ...but I did honestly teeter on the brink of sanity.


If you are still very sensitive and/or really stuck in "fight/flight/freeze/fawn" -or- "the cell danger zone", it may not be in your best interest to read yet.

It's up to your discretion.


-----------------------


I remember the moment I knew something was seriously wrong with my mind and not just my body.


I jerked our van off the road half into a ditch, shaking and gasping for breath as repetitive intrusive thoughts swelled up in me. My heart was racing, I was sweating, my head felt like it was exploding, my face was red, and I couldn't' breathe. My arms and face went numb. Something is wrong. This crushing feeling of DOOM, RIGHT NOW!!!! DEATH. ABSOLUTELY RIGHT NOW!!! My field of vision shrinking, and my body trying to pass out and me fighting it and trying to regulate myself with counting and holding breaths repetitively because my baby was in the back seat. I couldn't die. I couldn't die right there with no one to take care of her. I thought I was dying. I wasn't ready to die.

And as I sat there cyclically breathing, fighting my mind and body with some other barely clinging on portion of my rational mind, I clutched the steering wheel so hard my hands went white and numb. I struggled to talk calmly to my baby and let her know mommy needed to just take a minute before we could head home. Always the actor, I put on the show that I was okay. I knew I wasn't.


Let me back up. That day, I had been driving my husband to work, with my baby, or rather a newly titled 'toddler' in the backseat. Our preschooler was in school a couple days a week and we had dropped her off that day already.


I had noticed that for a few weeks now I'd had this deep seated rage I'd never felt before and a temper that would snap on a dime. Things that shouldn't matter now incited me to demonic screaming fits for about 5 minutes, a pitch so loud and low I literally scared myself to hear it...and I'd suddenly be okay. Deep remorse followed, with me wondering why the hell I reacted so intensely to something so small. I would apologize to my children, try to talk through my feelings and figure out why I had gotten so mad from whatever it was, and then model using positive calming strategies in front of my kids. I wanted to show them a healthy way to figure out feelings and move on. But I wasn't healthy or handling any of my feelings well. I was an emotional mess all the time.


I assumed that it was burn out. After all, I had been a SAHM full time now for years with one child and then two, and we were a family of four trying to live on a paycheck from one adult, and had mounting bills from our younger child's congenital health condition.


I used to be well known in teacher groups and mom-friend groups for my unyielding patience and my upbeat energetic attitude. Old colleagues would probably not admit it to my face, but I'd heard them chatter as I passed the break room at work either being in awe of my energy, work ethic, and dedication to the students I taught or loathing me for raising the work environment standards to a level that seemed "impossible to meet". It frustrated me somewhat that people didn't understand me, but I was there to work, not hang out with staff. I had drive, passion, creativity, positivity, and energy that radiated. I had a class full of children that I guided for a year. And then another year. I was given tough students to work with and I always found ways to help them and their families.

Now I couldn't even manage my two children at home. My entire mindset had shifted. My emotions were everywhere. and intense. What the hell was happening?


------------------------

After my body calmed down enough that I could manage talking normally, I called up the first emergency crisis line I googled. I asked when the soonest I could get an emergency consoling session. These huge emotional outbursts, this newly acquired panic attack I just had were NOTHING in my history, so I assumed that something deep and repressed form my childhood was waking up now that I was a parent. Maybe my extremely fucked up childhood was finally catching up to me. They asked me if I was suicidal or going to harm anyone and I responded no that I was just mentally Not Okay and needed help, and they hooked me up with a therapist for the following day.


I began counseling with the therapist and she was a wonderfully new enthusiastic practitioner. We talked a lot about my past which was what I thought was causing my new "stuff". She and I talked about coping strategies and methods of dealing with transforming thoughts patterns. Honestly, everything we talked about was something I had already done consistently growing up to help myself out of what I was living at the time. The only suggestion she had that I hadn't already committed to long term was CBT, so I started journaling and doing that more.

(CBT is similar to brain retraining in a lot of ways, and many people dealing with mold will need to do some sort of brain retraining or CBT on their journey to help themselves recover.)

I found the CBT activities sort of helpful as I did them, but all the while my mind got weirder.


As my body began to reject foods I had eaten for my whole life, or respond to them with varying degrees of anaphylaxis, my mind became terrified of food killing me. Once your throat swells completely shut from an apple, like those that you've eaten most days of your life, that shit messes with your mind. I became afraid of a lot of foods, even if I had no previous reason to fear them. My physical body not being able to digest foods properly because of mycotoxins in my digestive tract, and causing new food allergies from leaky gut was not a thing I knew about then. I just knew that food was suddenly terrifying. While at the same time, in my lingering logical brain I was trying calculate how much I needed to try and get down each day as I ate my narrowing diet. My body couldn't handle digesting foods, and reacted to them. I needed calories and nutrition to live. I was afraid of the symptoms and the pain that came with when food didn't work for me body. I was afraid of not eating enough to sustain myself. Food was horrifying.


(I later became orthorexic for a long spell- after I learned my diagnosis because I was so afraid of the ultimate consequences of mold toxicity. I didn't want mold to kill me, so I began to cling to optimal nutrition and nothing else in order to save my life. It felt physically necessary but was not a healthy mindset.

Orthorexia is an unhealthy focus on eating in a healthy way, many with severe mold illness and co. wind up with this.)


At this point in my journey I had almost no energy, my digestive system was fucked, and no doctors I saw ever had any answers for me. It was the beginning of COVID. Everything was all about COVID. It took months to get set up for doctor's appointments when I begged to see specialists as I was rapidly deteriorating. I bounced around between the E.R. often and Wellnows and Urgent Cares less often. My primary Dr. fired me because she had no idea what was happening to me and nothing she tried was helping. She did kindly let me know I had to advocate for myself, which I had been doing, and wished me luck.


Seeing neurologists, cardiologists, therapists, gastroenterologists, and emergency care personnel didn't help much. I was gaslighted at most every turn. I was told that I was just anxious, and that I needed to calm down. I was told my brain shattering inflammation was just a normal migraine and told to take 4x the normal dose of Tylenol and deal with it. I was left in the back of the E.R. for hours and hours and watched it fill up 2 or 3 times before I would be taken in for examination- because I was after all a "frequent flyer" and nothing every showed up wrong on the minimal blood work or scans they did. I kept being told I was fine by every doctor I saw.


All of these thing wreaked havoc on my mind.


I always returned back to our bedroom, the place I couldn't leave because I physically was bedbound. My husband had to take me to the toilet, or if he were busy with our children, I'd crawl slowly on my hands and knees or sometimes drag myself if my pain and fatigue were at their worst.


My brain began to spiral after being in there for months mostly alone. Was I actually even sick? Everyone keeps telling me that I'm not. What exactly is wrong with me again? And I'd go back and re-read the 5 journals I'd had up until that point trying to find anything tangible I could to back up my story. That I actually WAS SICK. I was losing belief in myself. Was I actually mentally ill? Was I making all of this up? What was the physical proof that I had that something was actually terribly wrong? I started to take pictures constantly of my bowel movements and my urine for clues. For anything to show anyone that would care. I listed all of my symptoms and tried to look for the ones that people could witness or see. I reminded myself that my husband had known me for over a decade at this point, and so had his mom and they both had been witness to this tumultuous downfall. They knew me. They knew my character, and this wasn't me.


-----------------


I was still in bed one rainy afternoon in April (when the mold is in full bloom!) and I began to witfully wonder about what comes next if I were mentally ill. Was this it? Was the rest of my life just me wrestling in my mind with what was reality and what wasn't? Would I ever really know what was true, when I was so sure that I was sick and I still had no answers and no Dr. believed me? What would my husband do? Would he put me in a padded room for the rest of my life? Would he visit me? Would I expect him to? Shouldn't I want him to move on instead? Then what, I would be alone always. My children don't deserve a mother that is mentally ill. What will this do to them? How would they emotionally cope? My fucked up problems would fuck them up for life. I was going to end up like many members of my maternal family, I hadn't outrun mental illness at all. at age 34, it must have finally fucking got me. Where did I go from here?


I fell into a deep deep depression for about a week.

(Once again, not previously prone to depression ever in my life.)


And then as quickly as the depression came on, it changed to an intense fear. I launched out of depression with a will to figure my shit out, and that no- duh, I was OBVIOUSLY ACTUALLY FUCKING SICK and these idiots haven't figure it out yet. I started to re- research for answers and new doctors that might have any clues and suddenly...


The pitches of anxiety I knew for the previous months before as panic attacks started to show up as fears about common things in my life. I suddenly became afraid of scheduling a new doctor appointment because, why? I didn't know.

I thought about taking the van to an upcoming previously scheduled visit and I suddenly became terrified at the thought of DRIVING. I'd been driving for almost 20 years at that point and never ever had any issue with anxiety and the road or cars. But now, I imagined getting into the van to drive away and ice filled my body.


(When I had dr. appointments in early March-early April I had tried to make myself more independent at this point and was forcing myself to go alone and not lean on my husband to carry me along inside anymore. I was trying to give him some independence back and shield him from the trauma of seeing me as a hollow skeleton dragging myself around. I could tell it was affecting him badly. Even though I had almost no energy I could shuffle from the van into the waiting room in about 10 minutes with rests.

So I drove myself to some appointments. But suddenly when I experienced this new fear of driving, I stopped driving for 2 and a half months.)


I began to get scared thinking about leaving the house at all. I literally internally laughed at myself when I had that fleeting thought, remembering "Stoop Kid" form Hey Arnold as a child- I recognized how fucking stupid it was to be scared of that and literally forced myself to try sitting on the porch at nighttime and made myself leave the steps just so I wouldn't end up a "Stoop Mom" myself.

I had this Intense Anxiety

Panic Attacks

Deep Depression

Hulk equivalent Rage

Incredible Self-Doubt


Where did it all come from?


-------------------------------


Mold is related to all of those things.


"A new study found that people affected by mold illness experienced:

  • Brain inflammation in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that governs memory, learning, and the sleep-wake cycle.

  • Decreased neurogenesis, or the formation of new brain cells.

  • Impaired memory.

  • Increased sensitivity to pain.

  • Increased anxiety.

The study also noted that the mold spore alone is not necessary to trigger mold reactions and mold illness. We’ve long known that mycotoxins, toxic compounds produced by mold spores small enough to pass through most materials, are the primary trigger in mold illness.

The study also found that mold spore skeletal elements and other mold metabolites also cause symptoms of mold illness.

Researchers link mold-triggered immune activation with these symptoms in the brain and the body, concluding that mold causes symptoms and illness through its inflammatory effects.


Symptoms of mold illness vary from person to person, although mold has been correlated with a significant increase in asthma.

People who live, work, or go to school in moldy buildings complain of pain, fatigue, increased anxiety, depression, and cognitive defects such as memory loss. Researchers say the symptoms are similar to those from bacterial or viral infections, due to the inflammatory cascades mold triggers.

The effects of mold illness on the brain have gone largely dismissed by the standard health care model due to insufficient research on the neurological effects of mold illness.

However, this study demonstrates what people with mold illness already know — it messes with your brain. Hopefully similar studies will follow.

In the study, researchers observed that mice inoculated with mold spores showed increased inflammation in the hippocampus, causing notable losses of memory, increased pain, and more anxious behavior compared to mice inoculated with saline."


READ MORE HERE:



“We thought that once we statistically accounted for physical factors like crowding and psychological aspects like not having control over one’s living environment, then the association between mold and depression would vanish,” he says. But rather than debunking the notion, Shenassa found an association between mold toxins and depression."


READ MORE HERE:


"A groundbreaking public health study has found a connection between damp, moldy homes and depression. The scientists said the findings came as a complete surprise. This was a large study, analyzing data from 5,882 adults in 2,982 households. Molds are toxins, and some research has indicated that these toxins can affect the nervous system or the immune system or impede the function of the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that plays a part in impulse control, memory, problem solving, sexual behavior, socialization and spontaneity."


READ MORE HERE:



"What I found is that neuroinflammation — which is mediated by a variety of mechanisms including cytokines — is very widely documented in the psychiatric literature. It’s just that that knowledge isn’t in most clinical practices.


One thing I’d like to point out that is sort of fascinating to me is that Dr. Shoemaker has often said that it’s about 25% of the population that is susceptible to biotoxins. When you add up all the psychiatric illnesses that people are exposed to, it’s actually about 25% of the population that has been diagnosed or is said to have psychiatric illness.


Is that a coincidence? Perhaps. But it’s a very interesting coincidence to me. Because again, there is a very extensive and robust line of research that neurotransmitter theory alone is really insufficient to explain most psychiatric illness — although it does sell SSRI’s quite well."


READ MORE HERE:




-------------------------



One of the more awesome accounts I follow on Instagram is the_holistic_savage , Brendan Dean Vermeire, FMHP


He talks a lot about brain inflammation, toxins, mental illness, histamines, and the blood brain barrier. All of these things tie into mold or are impacted by mold.

He is a wealth of knowledge about all of the things I was dealing with mentally, and much later in my journey, I found him and have used his 'Gram as a place of learning.


(He does do a live weekly Wednesday night chat/info/answering session if you are interested. It isn't meant to be medical advice- *disclaimer*)




He posts literally so much excellent content that I can't begin to share enough here, I suggest you follow and read and learn from him. Above is an example of a diagram he posted.


One of his most popular posts is about which tests to run to see if you have neural inflammation and those tests can reveal much more about your health in general.

--------------


After I hit that lowest point where irrational fears, panic attacks, depression, self doubt, and wondering about mental illness hit I found someone that would listen to me and take me seriously.

My bedbound research led me to an integrative doctor who listened, really listened to me. I still held back sharing everything because at this point I was really wondering if I was "truly nuts" but she was kind and intensely listening and didn't tell me I was making anything up or imagining anything. She gave me an answer, "Mold."


I finally found someone that could treat me. They could identify what it was I was grappling with with every ounce of my being left. They could point me in the direction to start healing. That one word began the journey of a new lifetime of learning and healing, and growing. That one word saved my life.

------------


Where am I now?


I am still recovering from severe mold exposure, mold toxicity, and other health challenges. After treating for 2 years now, my mental health has been the strongest it has ever been. I still have a lot of physical, immune, and autoimmune challenges I face daily, but I am healing.

...and so is my family.


Working on your mental health is one of the absolute best things you can do to help yourself recover, even if you don't think you have a whole bunch of mental issues. Your mindset sends messages down to your body. Every cell you have is listening to the messages you send, and you are directing your body with your mindset.


I think that for me, as someone who really grappled with losing their mind as they knew it, I will never underestimate the power of the mind again. In fact, one of the first points of my healing journey began after I noted a huge shift in my mental state. Shifting my mindset shifted my body's ability to heal, and catapulted my body's healing. I made a huge jump in many recovery areas when I noticed my thinking switched from "will I ever be able to heal" to "I will heal and have my life back" last summer.


I implore you all to take seriously the effects that mold can have on your mental health, and not to rule it out as a root cause or a co-factor if you are struggling with mental health issues.


With 25% of the population being genetically susceptible to the effects of mold with no naturally innate way to remove them from your body, you can bet that they will accumulate in your own your lifetime and eventually affect your mind.


Inflammation from co-infections or co-conditions are other factors to look into if you are having mental health issues.



The mental impact of mold on the mind is fucking staggering. I've been typing for an hour straight an I feel like I have barely touched what I wanted to talk about,

but I'll let it rest here for now and return at a later date.



If you are dealing with mold, be kind and gracious to yourself and your loved ones. This is an incredible burden to bear and you can find your way out of it, it just takes a lot of time, consistency, and a knowledgeable doctor to guide you.


Sending love your way,

have a good night.




491 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page