The American Refugee: We’re Losing the Battle to a Hidden Enemy

I vividly remember the day that my husband and I received confirmation that the location we were living in was making me sick.

Like every newby to the environmental injury game, you get to a point where you have tried every conventional and unconventional remedy that you start to think that your illness just may be self-inflicted.

That’s what I was led to believe by doctors too lazy to investigate the cause of my health complaints.

“Well Alicia, we’ve ran every test we could and you’re fine.”

I remember standing up in the patient room, pacing back and forth, as my doctor continued to encourage me to take psychiatric medications.

Holy shit I was so angry.

“I. Am. Not. Crazy,” is what I said to myself.

“Something is wrong with my body and I am so frustrated by the fact that no one can tell me what the hell is wrong!”

When you’re sick, everything goes out the window.

Mindless chatter about mundane things.


Hopes, dreams, accomplishments, goals.


Petty fights, he said, she said drama, even how you are going to support yourself financially.


Your illness becomes your obsession.

All you wish for is to simply FEEL like a normal person so that you can go back to living your normal life.

Being affected by mold isn’t just taking a prescription to quell a symptom so that you can go back to your 9–5.

Being affected by mold means having the rug pulled out from under you while you fall into a bottomless pit of confusion, struggle, and defeat.

When you lose everything — your health, your home, your belongings, your savings, your relationships, missed memories with loved ones, it takes an unspeakable toll.

I will never forget the post made by a friend who has gone through my same struggle:

“If you survived Stachybotrys, you DID survive your house being bombed, without the explosion to warn you of the danger you were in.”

I don’t want to be an asshole and take away from anyone’s experience, as being a war refugee and a mold survivor are both separate but tragic experiences.

However, I do want to make one distinction: if you survive war, you can at least pick up the pieces of your life and start over. If you survived an exposure to toxic black mold and have been made hypersensitive, you are forever fighting an endless battle against an invisible enemy.

I will never forget the conversation I had with a close colleague of mine.

We both agreed that we would rather have a limb blown off than endure this daily horror.

We meant every word of it.

When we fled our first home, I thought I was in the clear and on the path to better health.

The mold doctor I hired to help me through my injury made it seem like that was all I needed to do — simply move out of the toxic home and I would get better.

It wasn’t that simple.

After recently having to flee (for the second time) my brand new apartment because of a leaky roof and poor remediation job that left me comatose, it hit me that I am on track for a lifelong battle against this invisible enemy.

Now, I don’t want to kill your hopes of healing and overcoming this because there is hope. It just takes a whole hell of a lot of work and resources to back it up.

I would have to say that I am the most fortunate of the unfortunate individuals made hypersensitive to mold because I now fully understand what I need to do in order to survive this.

It doesn’t involve taking a pill.

It doesn’t involve expensive treatments or therapies.

It doesn’t involve meditation or brain retraining.

All that I need to do is avoid. Avoid toxic mold like a peanut allergy sufferer avoids peanuts.

This all comes from the teachings of Erik Johnson, the originator of mold avoidance. His military training in biological warfare— in viewing mold exposure as a toxic nerve agent, he was one of the few that made a full recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; which is unheard of.

Without him, I’d probably would have been given a terminal life sentence with chemotherapy as my last option.

I am not going down like that and I don’t want you to either.

The main reason we are losing the battle to mold (and why many people are sick and cannot figure out the cause) is because we are up against incompetent doctors (even the mold literate ones), mold testers, remediators, insurers, landlords all trying to save a buck and make a buck. No one wants to be liable and no one wants to tell you the truth. It is the most epic cover up of cover ups.

Just think, what if your doctor, upon your initial visit, screened you for an environmental injury and recommended you spend time in nature, sans your belongings, just to see if maybe your environment was making you sick?

It’s that simple and that complicated at the same time.

I know that I am not alone in this. The growing number of people like me is quite alarming. For those of you currently going through the trenches of this illness; I commend you. You are fucking warriors.

To those of you new to this, all I can say is that I am so sorry. I sincerely empathize with you. Heed our warning, learn from our trials and tribulations so that you too can gain some normalcy back into your life.

We’re here to help you.

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Writer: Alicia Swamy, Vice President, Exposing Mold Inc.