One of the most difficult things about environmentally-triggered and chronic illness is finding a doctor or health care practitioner who has the knowledge and training to help you. There are so many different reasons for this problem, but from my experience the main ones fall under the following explanations:
- Environmental and mold illness symptoms are usually many and diverse, without just one sickness or specific symptom to pinpoint. There usually isn’t one thing “wrong” or main complaint. In my case, I had chronic fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, hormonal and adrenal abnormalities, digestive issues, and severe sinus symptoms. The core issue is that the symptoms of environmental illness mimic symptoms of several diseases of the immune system, metabolism, horemone, even cancer. Furthering this problem is the fact that the current medical model in this country teaches us that, for each symptom, there is a specific doctor that we must go to. When there are so many symptoms, and you default to a primary care doctor, you are then referred to a specialist, who then refers to another specialist and so on. The list grows extensive and the bills add up. Rather than continue down this path of constant doctor’s visits and medical expenses, many people give up without ever finding the source or cause behind ALL of their issues.
- Symptoms of mold illness can be debilitating but are not always completely incapacitating—at least not at the beginning. Thus, the urgency to find treatment or medical care is many times delayed up until the point that you are VERY sick and desperate. For example, if your temperature spikes and you have sharp sinus pain, you may go directly to the doctor for a sinus infection. But if symptoms are more gradual, like not being able to think straight, gaining weight, and feeling fatigued, you may just contribute your failing health to stress or a change in lifestyle. Then, by the time you go to the doctor, your symptom list is extensive, and you are at #1 on this list.
- Our environments (and/or lifestyles) are oftentimes the LAST place both we and our medical doctors look for the cause of sickness. In my opinion, this is changing, but still another way our current medical model of allopathic traditional Western medicine fails us. It has been indoctrinated in us that when we are sick, or have a health problem, we need to go to the doctor and get treated or get a prescription to “fix” the issue and eliminate the symptoms as quickly as possible. There usually is not much thought given to the why behind the symptoms. While this may have worked well in the past and still works well for many acute symptoms and illnesses, it does NOT work for chronic illness, mold illness, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), or autoimmune issues. In fact, pharmaceuticals without lifestyle and environmental changes often make environmentally-triggered symptoms worse or create new symptoms altogether. (One example is migraine headaches. Patients with chronic sinusitis get pressure headaches that trigger migraines. These are debilitating headaches that can make a person severely incapacitated for days. A primary care physician would simply give a migraine medication that costs several hundred dollars for around 8-10 pills that may work sometimes. Interaction is closed. It may never surface that addressing the chronic sinusitis, and the environment would eliminate the cause of the headaches in the first place.)
- When environmental and mold patients do go to the doctor, they are often labelled high maintenance, “thick-medical-chart” hypochondriacs, or even crazy. All of the symptoms, anxiety, and neurological issues caused by the mold exposure can make those going through it seem a bit “off” to others. There is good reason for this. If you are being exposed to mold and mycotoxins on a daily basis, odds are that your brain is not functioning correctly. (To read more on this subject, go to my post on the neurological symptoms and ramifications of mold illness HERE.) This stigma and negative responses to their symptoms perpetuates the issue, and patients just don’t want to seek care for fear of this happening again and again. I speak from experience, because this is exactly what happened to me. At the height of my sickness, I was told that my symptoms were those of post-partum depression, and once I got that under control, the other stuff would go away. I was offered an antidepressant prescription and the name of a good counselor. Meanwhile, my body was in crisis mode from living in mycotoxins. The issue with getting a default diagnosis like depression is that you will endure taking a product that works little more than half the time and causes other side effects. If it doesn’t work after weeks or months or not tolerated, they physician just continues by trial and error until one “seems” to work. Mold-sick patients get depressed and the medication may be warranted; however, depression is a result of their symptoms, not the cause.