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Today’s Mold Talks guest is Atoosa Rubenstein, former editor-in-chief of Seventeen Magazine, founder of CosmoGirl, and content creator for the substack Atoosa Unedited. Before Atoosa’s personal experience with mold, she admitted that she knew 0.000 percent about the fungus. Like anyone suffering from the effects of exposure, though, her awareness of and concern for indoor mold growth has changed drastically over the last few years.
Atoosa’s awareness of mold came years after moving into a brand new apartment in Manhattan. She and her family continued to experience ongoing symptoms and chronic conditions, but mold exposure never crossed her mind as a possible culprit. A chance discovery finally gave her the answers she was looking for and started her down the path to healing both her and her children. Now, she is focused on telling her story and bringing more awareness to this health hazard.
Their chat touches on how mold was the hidden perpetrator in her home. The effects began so slowly that it was difficult to notice at first and then before she knew it, she and her family’s lives were completely changed. Dealing with the mold was a long journey, but Atoosa believes it made her a stronger, better, more aware person in the end.
“I really do consider mold to have been my teacher… It definitely is like a fire that you have to walk through. And in walking through it, there is a level of initiation and maturity that you gain.”
Atoosa’s journey with mold began in 2013 when her family moved into a brand new apartment in Manhattan. After living there for a few months, she and her family began developing more and more symptoms as time went on. From an autism diagnosis to chronic sinus infections and intense brain fog, the list of health reactions kept getting longer and longer, but Atoosa just thought she was unlucky and aging.
Like many suffering from mold exposure, she and her family went from doctor to doctor, but no one had a concrete answer for her. They all just kept getting sicker and sicker.
“It’s (mold) so insidious, isn’t it? It doesn’t happen overnight… and that’s part of why it’s so hard to really catch.”
In 2018, as their illnesses were reaching a crescendo, Atoosa finally caught the break she needed to pinpoint what was triggering so much chaos in their lives. Her sister-in-law came over for the holidays and immediately began experiencing allergy symptoms, which prompted Atoosa to look into getting her ducts cleaned. As soon as the cleaner got to her home, he immediately noticed mold in her air vents. While she knew nothing about mold, her gut told her that she’d finally found her answer.
“Something happened inside me in that moment. It was a nine o’clock appointment, by the time he left, it was 10 I literally packed my entire family and I found a new place to live temporarily by midday. I just knew all of this was because of that.”
What followed was a long process of living away from home while they attempted to figure out where the mold problem was in her apartment. It was a complete demolition zone, Atoosa said. Turns out, it was an overly tightened sprinkler head that was causing them so much turmoil.
While having their home taken care of, Atoosa knew she had to handle the health portion of the situation as well. Over the following months, she and her family underwent rigorous detoxing to help remove the mold toxicity from their bodies. As time went on, she started to realize just how much the mold exposure had affected her family. So much so that her child, who was suffering from autism, started to feel better and better.
“At her last neuro-psych… The neuroscience had said don’t even use her name and autism in the same sentence. This was really an environmental situation that we were able to remediate, and honestly, we were lucky that we, we sort of went down this path, not even realizing the mold was the culprit.”
Their other symptoms collectively started to dissipate as well, as they spent more time away from the mold and working to get their bodies back into balance. Atoosa said it was a slow process, but they eventually made it to the other side, and they’re better for it. Choosing to look at the positive side, she’s using her experience as a teaching event that led her to become a stronger person and changed her life in a multitude of ways.
“I also got divorced, not because of the mold, but because once I was clear-headed, I saw my life differently. You know… the trance that this mold can create keeps us in situations, all types of situations that really, with more clarity, we would change.
Atoosa and her family are now working through the PTSD of mold exposure. With their new mold awareness, it’s been difficult to not fear that mold is everywhere, and it’s pushed her to have her home tested for mold frequently throughout the year. Over time, it’s gotten better, but mold continues to be at the forefront of her brain.
“The psychological piece, honestly, for us was the hardest. And, and I know that’s a privilege and a luxury because we didn’t have to think too much about the remediation.”
For others suffering from mold exposure, Atoosa recommends jumping in with two feet and not ignoring it or opting for the easy way out. The only way to solve the problem correctly, so that healing can begin, is to tackle it head-on.
“In the process of mold remediation, if we can not look at it as a pain in the neck or just something that’s like coming to disrupt our lives, but rather that it’s dismantling so that we can put it back together in a better way, both our homes and in our lives. Just surrendering in some ways to the process as opposed to resisting it.”
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