I checked into the hotel with just the clothes on my back, my phone, and my wallet. Minutes earlier, I had walked out of our now-empty home for the last time, having purged the remaining bits of our life into the garbage. Just before I left, I snapped one last picture of our beautiful view of Thomas Circle and tweeted, "I don't live here anymore." It took my breath away how much it hurt.
The woman at the hotel desk handed me a package with the clothes I would wear and a purse I was borrowing from my mother. They were the only possessions I had. I swallowed the lump in my throat and went to my room.
As I stripped off my clothes and put them into a garbage bag, I thought to myself, "How did I get here? How had I survived the past year? Would I survive what was coming next? What was coming next?" There I was, in nothing, with nothing, and I couldn't fathom how I was going to put my life back together. I didn't know if WH was ever going to get better. If we were ever going to be better.
Standing in the shower, as I washed my hair (three times, with antifungal shampoo), I felt resolute. I was literally and metaphorically washing off all that had come before: the mold that had upended our lives; losing our home, our things; the months of searching for answers and doctors and treatments; the gutwrenching heartbreak of not living together, of not being able to comfort each other with even a hug, of suffering separately; the time we could never get back; the loss, so much loss. It all went down the drain as I stood there washing it away.
I went downstairs to the hotel's restaurant and ordered a glass of wine. I don't remember what it tasted like, or the two glasses that followed, but it was more sacramental than any communion wine I'd ever drunk. This was my rebirth. This was my new reality. This was my new normal. Starting over with nothing. Except that I didn't have nothing. I simply didn't have stuff. And in that moment, even as I sat there alone with nothing to my name besides the clothes on my back, I knew that I would never truly have nothing. I had WH -- who was on his way to recovery. I had my parents who were giving me a home again. I had our family who were holding us up in whatever way they could. I had our wonderful, loving, and supportive friends who had been there through all of the hell and helped us keep going, who gave us strength we didn't know we had. I had what I needed, what really mattered.
The hell wasn't quite over yet -- that kind of lingering burn doesn't go away in an instant and you bear the scars forever -- but eventually the burning stops and the scars fade, and you come out of it. And there we were, on our way out of it, on our way to better. . .
For more information about environmental illness, mold, and mycotoxin poisoning, read here, here, and here, and watch video here.