Chemical sensitivity (and most recently mold) tries to push me down. I push back.
I'm LuAnn aka Lu Cooley. I'm a wife/mother/grandmother, educator/writer, entrepreneur/eco-warrior, chemical/mold sensitive involved in a variety of projects. Every day is an adventure. Chemical & mold sensitivity tries to push me down. I push back. I have too much to do to give in-- much. I can't say when I first starting having symptoms. Like most sensitives, the years are populated with visits to doctors and over-the-counter medications, attempts to do whatever I could to feel better. I didn't connect my health problems with any of the signs. My son was actually the first to show real symptoms, but we attributed his sometimes peculiar behaviors to allergies and went the allergy shot route for him. It still didn't occur to me that many of my health problems were environmentally related even after my husband began having asthma attacks. In fact, I didn't hear about, think about, or worry about "chemicals." And mold was definitely not on my radar.
I finally recognized the connection between being in heavy traffic and having uncontrollable itching, being in heavy traffic and experiencing narcolepsy or feeling sick to my stomach, being in heavy traffic and having anxiety attacks. Many of my symptoms I chalked up to getting older-- stiff, creaky joints, hot/cold flashes, loss of energy and no endurance, etc. The insomnia was from stress and too much caffeine, even when I didn't feel stressed or have caffeine. The forgetfulness was from having too much going on at one time. It took a student to bring me to that "ah-ha" moment about chemicals and a non-life threatening medical event to force me into recognizing the symptoms from mold exposure.
Through sheer chance, I found out about chemical sensitivity and the problems chemicals create in your health when a student asked to do a paper on schools, children, and chemicals. I kept having little moments of recognition as I helped him with his research. Finally, things began to make sense. I've continued my research ever since. I created The Little Suzie Homesteader website initially to share how I was handling solutions-- most of which were homesteading type activities (organic gardening, canning, homemade cleaning supplies, homemade cheeses, breads, etc.) A world apart from my professional life as an academic and business person, I was reminded of the Little Susie Homemaker toys I lusted after when I was little. As my knowledge of sensitivities grew and I began to meet in person and "virtually" more and more people experiencing the same problems, I revamped the site to focus more on chemical and mold sensitivity. The site was always, but specifically more now than ever designed to provide hope that you can feel better, to give encouragement to keep trying, keep fighting, keep looking for solutions, and to be a support with resources I've discovered, research that's coming out from all over the world, and space for you to share your story, connect with others, and realize that what you are experiencing is not imaginary, not unique to you, and absolutely not uncontrollable.
I discovered I had mold sensitivity after breaking out in blisters from neck to ankles, then having face, neck, arms, hands, legs, and feet swell three times their normal size. A trip to the emergi-clinic wasn't helpful except for a prescription of prednisone, but the temporary relief it provided allowed me to start intense research. I'm still having ah-ha moments from what I'm finding and will be including that information, too-- an immaculately clean house is sooo Suzie, but getting there is difficult.
The bottom line is my desire to help other "sensitives" take control of their thoughts, regain their health, and become a powerful force in creating chemical-free/mold-free environments.Through the blog, I'll share my own struggles and solutions. I tend to get too academic when my brain is fully engaged, but I frequently have snarky days as I struggle to pull words together and put them on paper or the screen. The amount of information can become overwhelming, especially when the chemicals and/or mold are holding your thoughts hostage; however, it can be done. I know it. And I want to make sure anyone going through these challenges knows it, too.
The first step in handling the symptoms of chemical/mold sensitivity is being able to recognize when you've been exposed. That means being able to control your thinking and what could be defined as a really sassy attitude. As an educator, I know you must have a positive attitude in order to be aware and alert, in order to learn. Chemical/mold sensitivity will challenge your reasoning skills, your problem solving, your imagination, your creativity and your willpower. I readily admit I am susceptible to drama and a nice chemical attack will bring out all the theatrics. Mold just makes me weird. I try not to embarrass myself too badly during those times and am now far more forgiving (well I'm working on it anyway) when I see others behaving badly.
I believe I am fortunate to be chemically sensitive; although I have to say that being mold sensitive sucks. My physical and mental reactions to chemicals are information that tell me there are bad things trying to do me harm. Knowledge is a good thing. I am fortunate in that so far my reactions have not debilitated me physically or mentally, although my husband might argue that point some days. The mold shuts me down almost completely mentally. Not a good thing for a writer/business person.
On the other hand, I don't live in a plastic-enclosed room and I'm not in a tent in the woods. I did buy an RV, which is currently my primary residence, but that's a story in itself and better discussed in the blog. I am most decidely fortunate in having found a healer (not a physician), resources in books, websites, discussion boards, Facebook groups, listservs, documentaries, music, and more, and a support system in my family, particularly my husband. Chemical sensitivity is frequently debilitating, but under control (and make no mistake I do not believe that anyone is ever "healed"), then you can use your symptoms as important, life-saving information. As for the mold, it just sucks, but I think I already mentioned that.
This website is and always will be in the developmental stage-- another good thing. New research keeps coming out and as it does, I'll keep adding it to the site. I am not a medical doctor, but I am a Ph.D. in Education. There will be a lot of information about how chemicals and mold affect your thinking, remembering, and emotions-- all personal challenges and necessary for learning. Since I'm an educator and not a physician, I cannot advise you on medical procedures, pharmaceuticals or diagnoses. I can give you information based on personal experience and research, but you have to decide whether to use it or not. If you are ever in doubt about anything, you should always consult a medical doctor. Always. Regardless of my personal experience or any other story you may hear. You are the first and last authority on your physical, mental, and emotional health and must be the one to make any decisions about what's best for you. Education is my field and my focus. You and only you can make judgments about your health. I encourage you to use Little Suzie Homesteader to help you make wise, informed choices, even if only what questions to bring up to your doctor.
Good luck! Now, let's get started.
I also believe that everyone without exception is experiencing symptoms from exposures to chemicals, also known as pollution, and from what I'm learning almost 30% of the population of the United States is experiencing symptoms from mold whether they know it or not. Some of us are aware of it. We're the lucky ones. Whether you are currently experiencing symptoms you recognize or are just curious about chemical/mold sensitivity or have a family member or friend who is acting a little odd when they get around perfume or printer toner or car exhaust or go down in the basement or there are days when you just can't seem to remember anything, this website is here to be a resource, but not just for information. It is a resource of hope, encouragement, and support.