Discovering Deep, Lasting Healing With Emotional Detox

by Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

Detox is a topic that we see often, both here on our site and throughout the media.  Typically this refers to various methods of encouraging the body to rid itself of deleterious substances or byproducts of metabolism or exposures.  Approaching health holistically, however, means looking at more than body function and including emotional and spiritual health and well-being.  There is an intimate and important relationship between each of these.  I think we get so focused on physical symptoms, getting to the bottom of the problems, and establishing a treatment plan that we may neglect other important aspects of whole body health.  This leads us to the subject of emotional detoxification.

Emotional Detox

In examining this topic, I was drawn to the writings of several individuals diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a progressive neurological disorder that results in weakened muscles and deformity.  This disease has a very poor prognosis, and there is no known cure. However, these particular patients lived much longer and with good quality of life than the average sufferer of this disease.  Some have even reversed the disease progression altogether with no vestiges of the disease present.  Why is this?  One might argue that genetics plays a part, and certainly, that can contribute, but the common thread among all of these people is that they included techniques and practices to clear and maintain their emotional health along with all of the physical modalities that they employed to treat their symptoms.

The reason that I bring up the experiences of these ALS patients in our blog on mold-related illness is that the same emotional tools can work very well for patients who have suffered both physically and mentally from mold and mycotoxin sequela.  Like ALS, mold-related illness is poorly understood by mainstream physicians and the general population.  But, unlike ALS, mold illness symptoms can vary in presentation and severity; some patients are even labeled as hypochondriacs or malingerers because they are never diagnosed with a known “disease”.  Additionally, there is often significant loss, not only of health but also of finances, homes, and belongings, and family members or spouses who are not similarly affected may not demonstrate support or empathy.  The combination of these factors can make the emotional burden immensely challenging for sufferers.

How to Begin When Hopelessness Feels Like Your Current Reality

It is very easy to say, “Be positive.” It is also easy for people to tell mold sufferers to, “Live in an attitude of gratitude,” and to, “Focus on what you can do, not what you cannot do.” Another one is, “Give to others so you are not focusing on yourself all the time.” And while I do not need to get into the fact that someone suffering from an illness is not doing so out of selfishness or a need for attention, it is much harder to do these things or to think of others when you are in the middle of sickness or physical upheaval, like what happens when someone is forced to move or to overhaul their home with massive mold remediation. In my practice and in my personal experience of dealing with mold in my life, I have seen the hard and difficult roads in recovery from mold-related illness. But, I can also say that those who prevailed, recovered, and went on to live the best life possible were generally following, at least in part, practices of emotional and mental fortification.

To begin an emotional detoxification practice in the midst of adversity is difficult; there is no denying that. Emotional detox, therefore, often begins as a practice of faking it till you make it. In other words, make yourself say or think positive thoughts, or do things for others, even when you do not feel like it or it is the last thing on earth you feel like doing. Starting small, with defined parameters is also a good idea. Recommendations from ALS survivors and thrivers that resonated with me are outlined below to give you some ideas of what worked for others:

1. Meditation: Multiple scientific studies have shown that those who meditate, no matter what the health challenge may be, have better outcomes. This does not have to be anything program related or involved.  It can begin with sitting still, eyes closed, without moving, for 5-15 minutes per day, while clearing your mind of its constant chatter.  Focus on your breath.  Of course, we all get mental chatter, but simply quietly recognizing it, labeling it as “thinking” and returning to focusing on your breath can help.  Quieting the mind may help you find insights you would not otherwise receive. You may be inspired to look at a certain website, search a topic, speak to someone, or get an idea about something that might help you heal. This is a practice, and as you do it more often, it becomes easier.

2. Forgive: No matter who you are angry with, including yourself and God, forgiveness is the key to emotional health. Every negative emotion you carry with you is detrimental to your health and interferes with your healing. That is not to say that anger is not justified, or that you should forget a grievous wrong committed against you.  But the emotions attached to anger only harm you, not the offender. Being in a state of anger and agitation also keeps certain hormones and neurotransmitters in a switched-on position. You have the power to forgive and to release yourself of that negativity; you do not have to forget.

3. Gratitude: No matter how bad things may be there is always something for which to be grateful.  In a given moment it may pale in comparison to the challenge presented but there is always something you can feel grateful for.  Next time you have a negative thought, think of something you are grateful for. It can completely change your mental outlook and you can physically feel your body relaxing. Relaxation allows your body to gain benefit from the other efforts you are making to nourish and clear your body of toxins. Even if you are only grateful for a blade of grass that is a particularly beautiful shade of green that day, you have found something or a reason to be grateful and that is a big and powerful thing for healing to take place.

4. Visualization: Some psychologists have written about the power of visualization.  One of the ALS patients doing very well recounts laying in bed and picturing his body as an erector set with a team of professionals coming in and putting all of his neurons and parts back together so that they worked perfectly. It was a powerful mental picture that helped him feel more in control of his circumstances and that he could heal.

5. Find a way to give back: One patient volunteered at a non-profit making phone calls.  She vowed that with each person she spoke to, she would endeavor to make his/her life better.  Another set up a blog and online support group for other patients with ALS.  Another organized a non-profit pairing caregiver volunteers with patients in need.  There are countless ways to contribute and to give back; one only has to look outside the door to find them.

6.Embrace life the way it is, not the way you wish it were. Wishing life was different is unproductive and only makes you unhappy. Living life as it is, at this moment–since we cannot change this moment–is the only logical way to live, because anything else interferes with joy, happiness, and healing.

7. Stay in the present moment: Most of us live in the past (regretting, which is unproductive) or the future (worrying, equally unproductive) yet we only have this present moment. In this exact second, are you living your life to the fullest and being the happiest you can be?

8. Seek positive influences: Books, videos, social media, and support groups of a healing and positive nature may help sustain you and any of the above efforts in hard times.

Special Note on Emotional Detox for Mold Sufferers

Specifically, in patients or people facing the hardships of mold-related illness, find your voice to protect yourself. You are the one who knows your body and your needs better than anyone else. You may need to step out of your comfort zone to do things like leaving an environment when you know it is not healthy for you or finding a new doctor who will listen to you and help you heal your body.  You always will be your best advocate.  We have repeatedly said that the path to health involves reducing the total body load.  Part of that load becomes emotional; it only stands to reason that using these techniques to reduce that part is not only desirable but necessary!