Choosing a Living Space That Helps You Heal

My preference would be to own a nice house, complete with wife, picket fence, and a couple of kids. But Lyme Disease hasn’t cooperated with that plan.

Instead, I’ve become a bit of a nomad. Because the disease has drastically eaten into my savings, I’m a renter. And because of the need to find affordable, mold-free housing, I’ve moved several times in recent years.

The upside is that I’ve found the type of place that best suits me in my fight to defeat Lyme and regain full health. I don’t think I’m much different than a lot of people with this illness, so what I’ve found out might help you too.

I’ve learned that where I live makes a huge difference in how effectively I battle Lyme. My Lyme-literate M.D., who is a specialist in Environmental Medicine, has said this to me several times. Now I’ve learned from experience that she’s right.

Because Borrelia Burgdorferi hates oxygen, I seek oxygen. Thus I like places that have a lot of windows I can open. While most people want their living spaces airtight to save on heating costs, I prefer lots of cracks to let more fresh air in. I don’t mind putting on a sweatshirt. I like sweatshirts.

Because mold and bacteria tend to grow in the dark, having many windows also is important for letting in plenty of sunshine. Having lots of light kills microbes and it also helps prevent depression, which often comes with the disease.

Mold is a difficult subject. Some Lyme doctors say it’s impossible to get better if you’re living in a moldy space, while all agree that mold makes a return to health more difficult. Studies show that roughly half of dwellings have had water intrusion at some point or other. This often will lead to mold problems.

So mold is a hard thing to avoid. I lived in one place for six months, wondering why the pace of my healing had slowed. Then the landlord pulled up the carpet in my bedroom. Horror of horrors. A black, five-foot long spot of mold in the corner of the room. I soon moved out.

It surprised me because I’d done a lot of research on mold, and I thought I knew how to steer clear of it. But unless you can afford to have a mold inspector check the place out beforehand, all you can do is study the subject, inspect the place yourself, quiz the landlord, and hope for the best.

Before getting Lyme I preferred a big place, but I’ve since changed my view. Smaller is easier to manage, easier to clean, and uses up a lot less precious energy. Reducing possessions also has been helpful. The less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to trigger allergies, outgas toxins, and gather dust, mold, and microbes.

Focusing on the bedroom is crucial because that’s where I spend the most time. I try to keep it as free of stuff as possible and as clean as possible. Having hardwood floors, both in the bedroom and in the main rooms, helps a lot too. Even before I got sick I much preferred hardwood to carpets, which contain toxic chemicals and attract mold, dust, and microbes.

The best place I’ve lived had a small bedroom with hardwood floors and only basic furnishing. It also had a big west-facing window that let in tons of fresh air and warm afternoon sunlight to naturally clean and freshen the room.

Clean air is a major priority. I once liked being downtown where a lot more is happening. But now I’m a suburbanite, looking for places on tidy streets far away from the noise and pollution of major arteries and highways.

I’m also a short driving distance to a beach, which I now consider an essential factor when looking for a place. I’ve clearly noticed major increments in health improvement when I can spend a lot of time at the beach.

Parks are good, but beaches are way better. You get more Vitamin D from the sun when trees aren’t blocking your path to it, and the breeze coming off the water blows allergens out of the way. And, like most people, I find that being at the beach is just plain fun and relaxing.

There are, of course, other factors to consider. To help sort it all out, I’ve developed a checklist I take to every apartment I look at.

Whether the place has forced-air gas or electric heating is an important consideration. I prefer radiators and electric heating (especially if the landlord is paying for it) instead of forced-air, which can blow unwanted mold and toxins into the main rooms. I also prefer an apartment in a house, or at worst a small apartment building, so I’m not in the wi-fi soup that comes with big apartment buildings.

Many Lyme experts, like Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, emphasize how bad wi-fi and other sources of electromagnetic radiation are for Lyme patients. So it’s ideal if the place can be hooked up with cable for Internet and a landline for phone needs. Checking around the neighborhood to make sure there are no cell towers or banks of high voltage power lines nearby is another good idea.

Another potential pitfall may crop up if you have allergies, which many Lyme patients do. Trees, flowers, and shrubs are beautiful, but they can cause severe allergy problems if your bedroom happens to be very close to them. If you are on a lower floor, you should be especially careful about not having a lot of trees just outside your window that shed leaves in the fall. That can create a serious mold hazard.

Having to keep all these factors in mind makes apartment hunting something anyone with Lyme would rather avoid. I’d be thrilled if my health status suddenly jumped from getting much better to total remission and I could again dream of buying a house. Until that happens, though, I always have my healthy apartment checklist ready in case this disease forces me to look to rent somewhere else.

 

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