The Effects of Mold-Related Illness on Families, Marriages, and Relationships

by Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

In the 33 years of my medical practice, I witnessed first-hand the impact of chronic illness on the families and relationships of my patients. This relational effect even extended into friendships and workplace relationships. Some patients had families and friends who were supportive and loving, others suffered through critical and even hateful behaviors and responses.

When one has a visible disability or a well-recognized serious illness, then empathy and understanding amongst family and friends is much more forthcoming. Unfortunately, when the illness is poorly understood and not recognized by all doctors and mainstream medicine, it may be chalked up to mental illness, malingering, or a made-up syndrome. The misunderstanding and inability to emphasize from others can and does have devastating effects on the patient, as they may feel guilt, anger, shame and depression. Self-doubt about their condition, and the questioning of one’s own mental stability may then present. In addition, the financial impact chronic illness can have on the patient’s family can be huge. For one, the cost of full remediation of a mold-infested home can be substantial. Moving may become the best option, which has its own set of stresses and emotional baggage. Furthermore, the ability of the affected individual to continue in their job or occupation may be impaired due to the illness; proving disability is sometimes a nightmarish process that takes inordinate time.

Why is Mold Illness So Hard for Others to Understand?

Mold-related illness often falls into the realm of disabling, yet not overtly evident disorders. As we discussed in a previous article about the total body load, the threshold at which patients become ill can vary widely depending on genetics, previous illnesses, accidents, and other toxic exposures. This is the reason that, at times, only one family member is ill, and the others have not yet succumbed, even though they all live in the same moldy house.

One example of this I remember well was a patient in his mid-40s who had worked for 20 years in a chemical plant. He began feeling weak, tired, and unable to function after a slow leak in his home created a moldy bedroom. His wife was seemingly fine, and was struggling to understand why a previously brilliant husband with a great job was now applying for disability. When tested, his detoxification pathways were blocked significantly. Each day in the moldy house was adding to that load. She was reluctant to spend the money needed for complete remediation as she could not believe that this was truly necessary for his recovery.   She resented the fact that his productivity, vibrancy, and virility were now compromised to this extent. He was not the same person she married, or so she claimed. She was angry that he was unable to do and to perform in ways that he had previously been entirely capable of. She lived in the home too and was fine. Why in the world was it making him so sick?

Looking at the situation from both sides, it is understandable why these problems may arise.   The illness affects everyone in the family in some way. Likewise, in the workplace, productivity and quality of performance may suffer, even though not everyone is aware that the environment is problematic.

Helping Others Gain a Different Point of View

Addressing incongruent views of mold and other chronic illnesses fall into several areas, the first of which is proving to the extent possible that there is a problem. For mold, that can mean monitoring all environments in which time is spent, so as not to reactivate the inflammatory process. Using mold test plates in the home, car, and work place may quickly help identify problems. Many people need to see evidence to recognize the existence of a tangible mold issue. If suspicion is confirmed, then getting a quality, professional mold inspector/remediator/ industrial hygienist is necessary. For work places, depending on the company or agency, using the mold plates to test first is imperative, because they may or may not allow inspection without having at least some degree of proof that there is an issue.

There are also certain lab tests that may be done on the affected individuals to help monitor the degree of inflammation caused by mold. The first step in initiating testing should be finding a doctor who can help diagnose a mold-related problem, as not all are familiar with it. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine website lists practitioners by state and city. Most of these doctors have been trained in the evaluation of mold-ill patients. Having a trained medical professional confirming your diagnosis serves another purpose as well; the spouse, significant other, or other family members can attend appointments with you to hear first-hand the verification of what mold illness is, that you do, in fact, have it, and what you can do to get better.

Working Through Conflict and Finding Support

Finding a knowledgeable therapist who can work with a couple or family through the difficult times and conversations helps give support to all; the reality is that everyone’s life has been shaken up. There is a new “normal” at least for a while, and the end result may be an increase in empathy and acceptance among the family. It is often helpful to save charged topics and decisions for times when a therapist and neutral party can be present to help you work through the issue without as much emotion and anger.

Support groups, online or physical groups that meet through a doctor’s or therapist’s office, may be helpful. In is important to be wary and vigilant when joining any groups, though, because you want to look for a healthy balance of members who share personal stories and information, but who don’t dwell only on negativity, or a group-think mentality that fosters sickness. A good group is meant to help and support each other along one’s particular path.

Try to have understanding and empathy for their point of view as well. When you are sick and suffering, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that your decline may scare and deeply concern those who love you. A common reaction to this is anger and emotional and physical distance. The other person is reacting to feeling out of control of the situation. Try to keep the focus on the problem (mold), and on solving the problem, rather than on feeling misunderstood. The more you can develop and execute a plan to get your environment and health back on track, the easier it is for the other person to understand that you are not the enemy. The mold is the enemy and you should unite in fighting it.

Finally, individual healing techniques such as prayer, meditation, reiki therapy, and acupuncture may help release and relieve trauma from the experience which become stored in the cells of the body and promote illness. Energetically, release techniques improve resilience emotionally and physically.

Steps to Take to Lessen the Chronic Illness Cycle

  • Get Ec3 Mold Test Plates to check your environment. If tests are positive for mold, proceed with additional, professional investigation and testing.

 

  • Clean up your diet! No sugar, no high glycemic carbs. Dietary changes are necessary that not all family members may be on board with them. The elimination of sugars and high-glycemic carbs, as well as avoidance of pesticides in non-organic foods increase the grocery bills, and are not part of the “before I got sick routine”.   Until all family members are in agreement, it may indeed require the preparation of multiple meals.

 

  • Start supplements to help calm your system. At the very least, magnesium threonate, available on Wellevate supports calmness and sleep.

 

 

  • Get all the support for yourself and your family that is available, either in person or on-line.

Please comment below or email us at newsletter@sinusitiswellness.com with questions or suggestions for topics you would like for us to cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

Susan Tanner has practiced medicine for over 33 years, concentrating primarily on chronic illness and the impacts on the individual, the family and the community. Her driving curiosity into why people are made ill caused her to pursue education in Environmental Medicine, completing coursework, exams, and necessary practice years to earn board certification in this area in 2009. Her own struggles with mold-related illness drove her desire to teach those similarly affected. While in clinical practice, Dr. Tanner wrote and contributed to a number of publications on environmental health, prepared narratives for understanding in legal matters, and researched new techniques for modulating the body’s ability to clear toxins and infections. She now has a fitness and health website www.thebodynexus.com, where she writes articles and shares education on utilizing the various body systems into improve overall health.

One Comment

  1. Anonymous October 9, 2019 at 1:04 am - Reply

    Yep, and I’m the crazy canary, why me!

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