A New Normal: How well do you handle Plan B?

by Linda Daniels

Linda DanielsIn life, sometimes when you least expect it, you find yourself in a perfect storm. About ten years ago, that’s what happened to me. It resembled a wild Australian bush firestorm that came quite suddenly out of nowhere and burned up most everything of importance in my life, as I knew it. This story is about renewal and how to go about picking up what is left behind in ashes and finding seeds of renewal. But a little history first.

My odyssey began at a time, when I was employed and making six figures, was receiving stock options, and was traveling internationally. My life was full of hope and promise. I had endless energy. Then my health began to evaporate. I was being unknowingly poisoned by toxic black mold.

Endless exhaustion & flu like symptoms overtook me. Symptoms expanded to vomiting, rashes all over my body, muscle cramps, ongoing colds, headaches and abdominal pain. At my worst I was bedridden. At my best I was a short time from needing a very long nap.

Unable to function I was forced to go on disability and lost my career and along with it my health and disability insurance. The disability company cancelled my policy. Their doctors (who never saw me) declared me well. Then I lost my longtime boyfriend. At times, I thought I could no longer bear it.

Doctors proposed many diagnoses over time everything from chronic adrenal fatigue, to the symptoms being all in my head, i.e. psycho-somatic. But my mystery illness continued on. I continued on as well…never giving up in my search for some hope and answers.

Fifty one doctors and health practitioners and ten plus years later, I finally received an accurate diagnosis. I was experiencing severe over exposure to extremely toxic black mold. This medical condition is hard to diagnose. There are but a mere handful of doctors in the U.S. who know how to identify and treat it. This condition is characterized by a cascade of debilitating symptoms.

Perhaps I got “mold sickness” from eating food or drinking water in one of the third world countries I’d explored, perhaps from exposure to a water damaged building. I will never know.

What is important , is that my journey back toward wellness taught me many valuable lessons. As I began to give up my attachment to a specific outcome ( i. e. to whether or not my life would ever get back to my previous normal), I began to discover silver linings…and began an unanticipated spiritual journey of sorts. I learned firsthand if we are open, sometimes good things can come from unlikely places. It is hard to imagine who I would be today if this had not happened.

Linda DanielsChronic illness is many things, including being a teacher, if we are open to learning from the experience. Though illness can be devastating & is certainly no walk in the park, important life lessons can sometimes come from adversity.

Taking a look at what being ill both cost and taught me, I share this list:

1-Black mold illness took away my dream career path and associated bragging rights. But…drove me to find new purpose (freelance writing) something I’ve always wanted to do. It gave me the impetus to adjust.

When it’s your health on the line, you become much more creative in finding new ways to feel better; which translates into greater creative savvy. I learned to reach within my heart and soul to see what else I might do whenever I am stuck.

I began to redefine success in a broader fashion than society’s emphasis on financial wealth. When one becomes too sick to work, one begins to ponder new definitions of success.

2- Black mold toxicity cost me my pride… It was hard when people along the way saw me as being sick or weak and it cost me my previous self image. But…the experience helped me to redefine and to refine myself into a better me and to love myself as I am. I no longer spend as much time worrying about what people think.

3-Black mold toxicity cost me my energy and along with it, some of my freedom and it closed some doors for me. But…the experience taught me to notice when I am bumping up against the limits of my power, to ask for what I need, to work smarter, not harder and to become more in tune with my body.

I learned to be more content with small things, to slow down and enjoy the moment and to not “sweat the small stuff”.

I learned to be more accepting of how things are and not how I wish they were. I learned to stop comparing myself to others… as we each have our own crosses to bear.

The experience taught me the difference between what I could and could not control and to be open to unanticipated new opportunities.

4-Black mold toxicity cost me some of my friends, but I learned that people that matter, love you no matter what.

5-Black mold toxicity forced me into a position in which I was vulnerable.

It’s been frightening for me to be vulnerable. I sometimes picture I am like a little kitten bearing its underbelly to the world. But… this vulnerability has given me deeper empathy and compassion for others.

6-Black mold toxicity at times stole my hope. But…I have learned that the trick to hope is knowing how to find hope again and how to re-frame trauma into a story in which your phoenix begins to rise from the ashes.