Blog 2017-11-26T19:58:35+00:00

Gupta and Healing

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a while since I posted. I hope you are all well!

Thank you to everyone who is a newsletter subscriber – the responses to my last newsletter were so heartwarming. Being able to go to London was a very big milestone for me in my recovery.

If you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter, I shared some great news about my hyper-reactivity finally healing. It was a combination of things that got me there, but most important was the belief that I could heal. If you’d like to learn more about The Gupta Programme – which was central to that healing – click here to go to his website.

You can read an interview with my husband about the program here. Peter calls The Gupta Programme his “toolkit for inner peace” and – in that great way that he does – explains so well why it is simple and special.

My take on The Gupta Programme is similar to Peter’s. I think that mold illness likely has two stages: the first is toxicity+hyperreactivity and the second is residual hyper-reactivity. I think that the second stage can last a lifetime and can cause just as much runaway inflammation as the toxicity stage does.

The Gupta Programme gives you a way to repair the limbic system.  I think it is plausible that the amygdala/limbic system could get directly traumatized by mycotoxins traveling up the olfactory nerve. There is only a two synapse gap between the olfactory nerve bulb and the amygdala and mycotoxins can travel directly along that path. It makes sense to me that some repair might by needed. So I’ll always be a mold avoider in the sense that it matters to me to live in a healthy home. 🙂

The Gupta Programme works on resetting the fight or flight response but it also works on repairing the entire body and mind by making it easier to put yourself into a state of parasympathetic rest.

Ashok Gupta is a talented meditation teacher and his work brought into my life spiritual renewal. When that happened, my mold illness healed on an even deeper level. You can find more about Ashok Gupta’s Meaning of Life Experiment here.




By | November 26th, 2017|Categories: Favorites|Comments Off on Gupta and Healing

An Interview With My Husband about The Gupta Programme

Q. When did you start The Gupta Programme?

A. Mid-July. I started it when the fire was burning near our cabin and you were camping by yourself.

Q. Tell me about what happened with your hyper-reactivity to mold and biotoxins during the spring and summer.

A. It was getting out of control. I was reacting to bedding more and clothes more. I felt like I was reacting to myself more. My system was over-reacting and it wasn’t doing me any good.

Q. What was your main goal when you started the Gupta Programme?

A. I wanted to feel better – find some real health. I really wanted that hyper-reactivity to go down. It didn’t make sense to me that it should go up again.

Q. How would you describe the The Gupta Programme?

A. It’s great! I love it. It is amazing how easy it is to reset your amygdala to a healthy place. That’s the way I like to think about it: it’s just resetting the system to act in a healthy way again.

Q. How do you feel about the meditations?

A. I like them. They are my favorite meditations of all the ones I’ve tried. They are relaxed and chill – not too many rules.

Q. How long did it take before you felt like your mold reactivity had lessened considerably?

A. It was about two weeks. That’s it. I’m amazed with the right words and big movements how easy it is to repair or reset the amygdala. It’s so cool.

Q. I thought the same thing. How would you describe The Gupta Programme’s effect on me?

A. It’s astounding to watch you eating things that you used to have anaphylactic reactions to like chicken and eggs. You are so much happier.

Q. I just want to ask the question everyone is thinking: would you ever live in a mold-toxic house?

A. NO! No way! Absolutely not. It is good to avoid mold as much as is practically possible. It is just so nice to be past the stage of having to avoid mold at such a microscopic level. This November has been so much easier than last November.

By | November 26th, 2017|Categories: Favorites|Comments Off on An Interview With My Husband about The Gupta Programme

Remember Who You Were


A steady feeling has been percolating through me as of late, calling me into my future.

Remember who you were before you thought who you were mattered.  

There is a pivotal piece of my continued healing that I have been puzzling over for a long time now.

This wildfire – and the many hours sitting in this forest in the silence – are getting me closer to it. I am so close I can almost taste it.

I have this sense that my biggest breakthroughs happen when I go through a process of letting go on multiple levels.

It happened to me during my two-month migraine. It happened when I read Erik on Avoidance and decided to go all-in on trying his approach. It happened in my early months of mold avoidance, when I was camping alone, often spending whole days in silence (or sometimes quietly strumming my $20 children’s guitar).

It also happened when I decided to do my van and just be in nature for long, long stretches without worrying about the rest of world at all.

During the months when I was alone in Nature, I disconnected so much that many days my only technology-based contact with the world was just the two nightly texts to my husband:

I love you!

I love you, too!

Every time this process of closing in on a breakthrough happens, I feel three burdens lift.

I let go of what I think I know. I let go of what I feel must be true. And I let go of what I feel I ought to be doing.

There is something about this process of just saying, “Fuck it!” that seems to remove the junk from my mind. And then – often – the answer is right there in front of me, shining away and saying, “I was here all along, friend.”

For me – maybe because I am such an introvert – there is also a part of healing that has to do with letting go of my own story. It is as if I need some distance from my own story in order to let the most beautiful narrative unfold. If I try to stay too tuned into it, I’ll miss the most important arc.

And so, this idea keeps pulsing through me. Like a heartbeat, there is a rhythm to it.

Remember who you were before you thought who you were mattered. 

Remember who you were before you thought who you were mattered. 

Remember who you were before you thought who you were mattered. 

I’ll still be writing and sharing on here as my heart draws me to do that.

I have had some requests for some group calls and am considering it. I’ll let you know about those through my email list if I decide to do that.

But I am going to pull back from Facebook for a while to see where this new rhythm takes me.

Please do subscribe to my website – if you haven’t yet – to stay in touch with me and to get first word on all the things I am working on. The survey many of you filled out had requests and questions so wildly diverse I could easily see three more e-books coming out of those.

It felt good to read them. So many of you really, really get me. It is no wonder that I love you all so much.

I wish for all of you freedom, joy, wellness and peace.



Sara Riley Mattson is the author of  Camp Like a Girl and Migraine: Finding My Own Way Out.

If you click here you can subscribe to my website. I’m giving away three 1-hour consults in July to subscribers and you’ll also get a free download of my (updated) e-book Best of the Blog. (This is a new list from my previous list, so feel free to subscribe again if you want the updated e-book.)

By | July 15th, 2017|Categories: Favorites|Comments Off on Remember Who You Were

That Brave Line We Walk: The Story of How I Was Able To Be at My Niece’s Birth


Getting There

As I drove away from Wyoming on my way to North Carolina, I wondered if I maybe I had lost my mind. But at the same time, I felt a strong desire to risk it, to try, to test how big my buffer against the harmful effects of mold was – or, in Moldie terms, how far above the power curve I was. I wanted to be there for the birth of my brother’s baby. For him, for my sister-in-law, for me, and for the baby.

Was it a wise move? Probably not. When I’d talked about it with my dad in April, I’d admitted it made much more sense for me to come in winter. But it was my brother’s baby, the first baby in that generation, and I didn’t want to miss it.

Had I really learned how to manage my mold/biotoxin illness enough to drive all the way to North Carolina by myself, through the humid Midwest and into the humid South? I didn’t know. I thought there was a pretty good chance that I wasn’t well enough at all and somewhere around eastern Nebraska I’d have to turn around.

I hoped because I live at such a high elevation, I would have an additional buffer against mold thanks to all the extra red blood cells I have now. I also regularly hike and snowshoe at 10,000+ feet, and Dr. Shoemaker – one of the most gifted mold-illness clinicians – has mentioned that when we exercise at higher altitudes than we live, our bodies naturally make erythropoietin, a performance-enhancing, healthy chemical.

But I just wasn’t sure. So I kept the trip a surprise from everyone except my husband and the friends I would be staying with just in case I had to turn around.

I was in the middle of some work projects I could do from anywhere. So my plan was to drive down to North Carolina in small stints, staying with my friends along the way, sleeping in my van in their driveways. I figured I could work every other day and in the evenings.

When I got to eastern Nebraska, my eyes starting watering, and that continued all through rural Iowa. The outdoor air in rural Iowa was incredibly tough. Fusarium mold growing like gangbusters in the wake of glyphosate application is not a good thing for me, but my friend Amy’s house in Des Moines felt great! Yay!

My friend Bob in Chicago – who was my husband’s best man and had come to visit us in both Las Vegas and Phoenix when I was still pretty sick – couldn’t believe how different I looked. He even had a copy of Camp Like a Girl all ready for me to sign.  He kept saying, “This is so amazing!” about my recovery. He also said, “I’d had sympathy before, but I didn’t have empathy when I visited. Your book helped me understand. And it is SO obvious how much better you feel. It was like you bounced out of your van!”

When I made it down to Nashville with no problems and did really well at my husband’s aunt and uncle’s house, I thought, “Wow. Wow. Wow! I can’t believe this! I really might be able to travel again!”

Driving over the Smoky Mountains, I felt some signature symptoms of one of my most problematic biotoxins, but it passed pretty quickly. At that point I had been traveling for six days. It was June 1st, the due date of the baby, but my brother had texted that there was no news.

That evening, I pulled into my brother’s driveway and immediately knew that his house and neighborhood were going to be tough for me. Darn. I’d really lucked out on the way down there, but his house was no good for me. In fact, the whole town felt much harder. Although, I also worried that maybe I was just losing my resistance to mold and that the drive back home was going to be torture.

So I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay long, but I hadn’t driven all the way there just to leave.

I knocked on the door, and my sister-in-law Ashley answered.

She said, “Oh, my gosh! I knew you were coming! I just had this feeling!”

She called for my brother, and he came down the stairs, saw me at his front door, and said rather matter-of-factly, “Hey!” He said it as if I were there all the time and had just popped over for a quick second.

Then he said, “HEEEEY! Oh, my God, my sister is in my living room! You’re so tall! You look great! You’re so tall! How did this happen? My sister is here. I need a second to process this.”

(Everyone thought I was taller, so I wonder if my spine has stretched out a little bit from my back no longer being in a state of partial seizing all the time. I really should measure myself.)


The Wait

My brother’s neighborhood was wearing down my immune system fast, so I had to bolt. Just before I did, I washed my head and changed my shirt for the drive to my parents’ house, two hours away.

But my parents’ house, which is situated on a tidal creek that constantly floods, was not good either. Even sleeping in my van, I really struggled. When I woke up, my brain was mush, and I was in a lot of pain. Another day would have been unbearable, so I had to find another option.

Family came to the rescue! My cousin has a condo an hour away from my parents’ place and it turned out to be great mold-wise! The experts I trust say that about 5% of homes work really well for people who have become severely ill from mold/biotoxin illness. The home has to have good outdoor air and toxic mold can’t have gotten a foothold in the house. Homes like this are hard to find, but my cousin had found one! It didn’t feel as good as our cabin, but it felt really good.

So I spent the next week there. I was grateful for the condo, and it was so lovely to go for walks on the beach a few times a day. But I was heartbroken, too. I’d come all that way, and I couldn’t be with my family. What a bummer.

Luckily, I had lots of work to do. I did one to two mold-coaching consulations a day. I taught Pilates over Skype. I worked on Julie Rehymeyer‘s audio book – a huge project I’m spearheading with about a dozen other patients across the country – in an effort to give everyone a chance to hear Julie read her beautiful memoir, Through the Shadowlands, herself. A few times a day, I took a break from my work to go swimming in the ocean and walk on the beach.

And every morning I sent my brother the message: “Baby?”

He’d reply: “No baby.”


The Baby Comes

My brother emailed me on June 6th that Ashley’s physician had decided to begin the process of inducing her on the next evening, June 7th. By that time I had been away from my cabin in Wyoming for a week-and-a-half. I was feeling it. The day before, I’d gotten slammed at the grocery store, and I was starting to get symptoms that showed I was dipping too far down in the power curve. I was losing my ability to be around mold without reacting. My fingertips kept going numb. I was getting rashes on neck and legs.

I worried that if the hospital were terribly moldy, I wouldn’t be able to be there. I steeled myself up for having to walk straight back out of the hospital, decontaminate, and begin driving back to Wyoming.

When you have this illness, however you manage it, if you do a full crash it can take months to recover. There is no cure yet, but to successfully manage it means to manage your inflammation, keep an eye on where you are in the power curve, and avoid a crash.  You want to stay “aloft.”

Erik Johnson came up with the ‘power curve’ imagery from his years teaching hang-gliding. When a hang-glider is high enough on the power curve, it doesn’t take a lot a effort to stay aloft. When the hang-glider starts to get lower and lower on the power curve, it takes a lot of work to climb back up. That is how mold illness is. When you are high on the power curve, your inflammation is down, your neurological system is happy, and you can handle quite a bit of mold. (Although getting to a place where you are high on the power curve in the first part takes a lot of effort.)

I also – because I love birds – like to think about this idea using the imagery of birds. Sometimes being aloft feels easy. You’re like an eagle riding thermals, flapping once every ten minutes. Sometimes it is harder, kind of like an awkward duck flapping a hundred times a minute. But if you crash – oomph! – it is hard to get back in the air. (This is the aspect of managing mold/biotoxin illness that requires fierce discipline…to know when you cannot do anymore and must retreat.)

So I wanted to be there, but I couldn’t afford a to let myself get completely tanked. I just couldn’t.

Tears welled in my eyes as I asked my brother, “If I can’t do this, will you tell your child how hard I tried?”

He said, “Of course.”

I spent that afternoon at or in the ocean, trying to climb a little more up the power curve so I would be able to handle the hospital. At one point, a pelican came and hovered above me for just a moment, eyeing the water below.

I watched it gracefully dive into the water again and again, occasionally coming up with a fish. And this thought came to mind:

No one blames the pelican that it can’t stay under the water permanently. It is just a visitor in the ocean. And so am I, in this place I so want to be, with these people I so want to be near. But for me, this moldy air is like trying to breath water instead of air. If I stay too long, I won’t be able to fly away.

Sometimes I think I am the last one in my inner circle to really accept this.

On the morning of June 8th, I drove three hours to Raleigh, and the hospital felt okay. It was a decidedly okay-ish place. The carpet in the waiting room was a little moldy, but I felt like I could probably pull this off. I really could probably (I hope?) do this! I knew I would need to keep decontaminating to wash away the mold particles. I’d need to keep taking breaks to get fresh air. But I could pull this off!

My mom and dad, my sister-in-law’s parents, and her brother and his wife were all there. As we waited for news, we talked and laughed and told stories about how incredibly strong and full-of-gumption my sister-in-law is.

As the day wore on, whenever I felt my inflammatory response rising, I’d run to my van, shower, and change my clothes. My mom said she almost always noticed that just before I’d say, “Be right back,” she could see my face reddening and a little rash forming on my neck. (I wasn’t aware that my skin did that, actually, but it has been a long time since I was around that much mold.)

So I’d come back to the hospital after washing my hair and changing into a new Hanes shirt with my wet hair tied up in a pony tail, and after I felt like my inflammation had calmed down. I still felt kind of stupid that I had to keep washing away the mold particles to keep from getting too sick. I kind of chuckled about how many pharmaceuticals I used to have to take and how they never even came close to the ability of quick decontamination in their ability to keep me well.

Ashley’s brother smiled at me and said, “It doesn’t make any more sense that a pharmaceutical would work better than what you are doing, actually.”

Yeah. I guess that is true. Still, I was embarrassed. I just couldn’t help it. (I wasn’t embarrassed enough to not do it, but still….)

After two hours of Ashley pushing, her physician finally decided that they needed to do a C-section to get the baby out. Less than an hour later, with my brother standing there by Ashley’s side, the surgeon pulled my baby niece out into the world. They named her Laurel Rose.

Laurel. I have a niece named Laurel.

My sister-in-law had to recovery from surgery before we could go up and see the baby, and the grandparents went up first. Then at 2:30 in the morning, the aunts and uncle were invited up.

We walked into room 314, and there she was – the most beautiful baby in the world. Laurel.

I was still there! I’d driven over 2000 miles. It had taken five showers and five changes of clothes to make it through the day, but I was there.

As I held her in my arms, I couldn’t believe how in love with her I already was. We’d just met, and I was over the moon for this tiny little person. I wondered who she was and who she would grow up to be. What will she see in this world and where will she go? I thought about all the amazing things she would do and learn.

I couldn’t help but selfishly worry: Will she get me? Will she understand why I live the way I do? Will she be in my life even though I live so far away?

Will she love me?

I made a wish that in her hardest days Laurel would remember this story, the story of how we all gathered in Raleigh on the day she was born to celebrate her arrival. Her Aunt Sara had driven all the way from Wyoming to be there. That was how much she was loved by me even before she was born. I hoped she’d understand if I didn’t get to be around very much because I had a serious chronic illness.

And then it was time to go. We all needed to sleep. I leaned down to smell her head, and it was the best smell in the universe.

My throat caught. This baby is the closest I will ever get to having a child, I thought.

I’d been too sick for too long for it to be a possibility for me to have my own child. I am not cured of this wretched illness. I’d only learned how to manage it really well. I thought about everything Ashley had been through to bring Laurel into the world and knew it was a risk I could not take. The last time I took antibiotics, I ended up in a 67-day status migraine.

As I walked back out to the van, my legs ached and my gait was a little bit off. My back was starting to hurt. Nothing too serious symptom-wise (all things considered), but I couldn’t ignore it either.

Runaway inflammation with this illness – sometimes quite aptly called Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) is like flipping a switch. Well, I think it is like flipping several switches, actually. And when the switch flips that turns all the anaphylactic allergies, MCS and EHS back to nightmare levels, getting your inflammation back down – and the illness back into remission – is a Herculean task.

So I showered one more time, took two Benedryl, and crawled into my bed in my van that was parked on the top level of the parking ramp of the hospital. I was hurting. I’d stayed too long in the hospital, I knew. It was worth it, though. It was so worth it.


The Fallout

I woke up in my van to the morning traffic bouncing the parking ramp and my bed. I sat up and groaned. Oh man. I pulled up my pant legs and looked at my lower legs. Oof, that is a nice rash.

Sliding off the bed, I groaned. My back and calves ached. I felt tired. And my fingertips were getting a little numb. Still not devastating symptoms yet, but they were a warning. I knew from experience that I was sliding down into a scary place. My inflammation levels were rising. As much as I wanted to stay all day near my brother, Ashley, and Laurel, it was time to go back to my cousin’s beach condo.

So I went back in the hospital, said goodbye, and decontaminated one more time. Then I drove back to the ocean, tears flowing down my cheeks as I pulled onto the highway.

Alone again in my cousin’s condo, I felt a trapped in a state of magnificent agony. I had done it! I’d made it here. I’d made it through the day. I’d gotten to hold Laurel on the day she was born. It was an experience that would feed my soul for the rest of my days.

And wrapped up in that was this realization that I was getting worse. My cousin’s condo wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to get back to Wyoming, and I felt wretchedly angry with Life that this was as close I had been able to get to normal.

Weeping, and knowing I really needed to decontaminate again, I put on my swimsuit, walked out into the ocean, and dove under the waves. Again and again and again.

I started walking, splashing my feet through the surf. I just kept walking and walking. For hours I walked. Every twenty minutes or so, I would dive into the water. Then I’d walk for awhile more.

I thought about my life, about how much of my waking life I’d spent in bed, about losing my ability to read or play music, about the depression, PTSD, the emotional numbness. I thought about how I’d been in pain almost every day for 25 years. I thought about my seizure disorder, about how many times I’d vomited because of this stupid illness. I thought about how terrified I’d become of eating because my throat kept closing from anaphylactic reactions. I thought about being hospitalized and catatonic and waking up after four days to discover I was in a diaper. I thought about how I’d have remissions and I’d burst into the world able to hide almost all my suffering. And then I’d get sick again and retreat, pull back, showing the best facade I could manage, revealing only to a few how much agony I was in. I thought about what it had felt like to be stuck in the dark for nearly 2 months because of that interminable migraine, the one that had made it impossible to hide the illness anymore. I thought about how mold had nearly ended my marriage and how it almost certainly killed my kitten.

I thought about how much my husband and I had given up in order to give me a chance: our homes, everything we owned, our jobs, our city. And how finally – when I’d found the book Erik on Avoidance and decided to give everything I had to doing what Erik Johnson had done – I’d come back to life. Real life. Real happiness. Real contentment. Not the pretend version of all those things that I’d presented to the world – not out of dishonesty – but just because I thought the pretend version was as close I as was ever going to get.

I thought about how I now lived in a cabin I had built myself in a place that supported my health. In that life I’d built there, I no longer was in physical or emotional pain. I no longer needed any medication. I could shop and go to movies and spend all day sitting in a chair in a coffee shop. I could hike and bike and snowshoe and ski. I didn’t worry much about my throat closing when I ate. I never had migraines. I thought about how even though I was tired and a little bit slammed at that moment, I’d actually done this trip. I’d made it here.

Then, with bitterness, I thought: Yeah. That’s just great.

These are things that I shouldn’t even have to worry about! Being grateful that your throat doesn’t swell shut when you eat? That you are no longer stuck interminably in the darkness in agonizing pain? Oh, why don’t you just bite me, life!

I collapsed down into the sand and the water crashed around my knees.

A deep primal scream burst forth from within me.

It was just a scream, but within it was this: I have asked for so little: to be able to breathe, to be able to think clearly, to have a safe place to lay my head, to move through the world without debilitating pain, to feel safe in my own mind. And I am so grateful, finally, to be living a life in which those things all exist. But I cannot deny that I have lost so, so much, and that for so many other people in the world, these things have been as natural to their lives as breathing. Surely, I deserved that too, did I not?

And then I just cried. And cried and cried.

When I could cry no more, I waded back out into the ocean for one last swim, then stumbled back inside. I took a shower, crawled into my cousin’s bed, and went to sleep.

At 3:30 in the morning, I awoke. My fingers were totally numb. So were my toes. The bottoms of my feet were itching like mad. Oh no, that stupid infection clearly got reactivated. My chin just under my lip on the right side was also numb. (But more of a pins and needles kind of numb.) I got out of bed. Oh no, my back!

Crap. Crap. Crap.

I’m running out of time and I still have to drive back to Wyoming!

I wondered if I made it to Nashville – but couldn’t continue –  if my husband could fly out and help me. Well, I have to try.

Oh my god, I’m so tired. My legs feel like lead.

At 5:30 AM, I texted my dad. “Hey. Are you up?”

He texted back: “I am now. Are you okay?”

“I need to get back to Wyoming. I’m running out of time. Do you and Mom want to come over and have coffee this morning? And then maybe you could help me close up the condo so I can drive to Nashville? I just have to go. If I let myself fully crash it could take a couple months for me to recover.”

He said, “We’ll be there as soon as possible.”

Then a second text came through. “Here is another idea: I could fly you back home today. And then I’ll drive your van to Wyoming. Happy to do it.”

I read his text and sobbed. Yes. I need to get home. Yes, yes, yes.

I texted back: “Oh my gosh, that would be so amazing. Are you sure? You’d have to get new clothes so you don’t contaminate my van.”

He texted back: “I got you a flight at 4:30 this afternoon. I’ll get some new clothes, come over, shower, and then we can drive to Charlotte so you can catch your plane. You can sleep in your own bed tonight. Do I need to get new shoes, too?”

Three hours later we were on our way to Charlotte. I’d started driving but couldn’t keep my eyes open, so my dad had taken over after an hour. It was hot because I had decided not to use the vents or air conditioner in such a humid and moldy place. I’d actually placed a band-aid over the vent to remind myself not to use it.

I looked over at my dad in his new clothes from Target: a red hipster t-shirt and blue shorts with bright red chiles all over them. On his feet were new flip-flops. When he’d come out of the shower in these non-contaminated clothes, I’d finally been able to hug him. He’d said, “I will always be here for you, Sara. As long as I am on this earthly domain, you can count on me.”

I’d cried and cried and cried.

My mom had said just as we left in the van, “You’re doing so well, honey. You’ve come so far! I’m so proud of you. It’s okay now to say you need to go home.”

All I’d been able to say through my tears was, “But I just want to be cured. I don’t want any of this sickness anymore. I want to be cured.”

She said, “I know. I know. But you are better than you’ve been for so, so long. And you did this, Sara. You were here. It is an amazing thing that you did.”

I took three charcoal on the way to the airport, and when I got there, I took two Benedryl. I told myself that whatever happened, I was only eight hours away from home. Eight hours away from my amazing husband and sweet, beautiful cabin. Eight hours away from safe.

No matter what happened between now and then, all I had to do was pass through time as the pilots flew me through space. I did my loving-kindness meditation: for myself, for everyone and everything on the plane, and for the whole world. When the plane took off and the biotoxins did their huge poof from everyone’s contaminated clothes, I tilted my head down into my shirt to breathe the air around my uncontaminated shirt and fell sound asleep.

I awoke to the pilot announcing that we were expecting lot of turbulence on our way into Denver.

The sweet old lady next to me said, “You slept for three hours, dear.”


She and I talked a little bit, and then the turbulence started. She was terrified. I thought about offering her my hand, but thought that might be weird.

I wasn’t afraid though. I felt calm.

A peaceful – though perhaps odd – thought went through my head. If the plane crashes, don’t push away the experience. Just feel it. Even if it is awful or painful. You don’t want to miss your death, for even to feel something that hard is the gift of this life. It’s not the moments between the pain that make it special. It’s all of it. The pain, the release from pain, the apartness, the togetherness, the connection, the disconnection, the confusion, the understanding, the knowing that one day this will all be over.

It’s all magnificent agony, this life. What a gift it is to know that – to feel it in your bones – before it is over.




My husband was waiting for me at the gate. As we drove out of our tiny airport, five antelope ran in front of our truck.

“The welcoming commitee,” my husband joked.

I stripped down out of my clothes and showered in front of our cabin.

Ahhhh, filtered water. That’s the stuff.

My husband had washed for me some new pajamas, and I put them on.

Ahhhh, clothes dried in the Wyoming sun.

I crawled into our bed.

Wow, this is a nice bed.

Just before I fell sound asleep, I knew I was going to be okay. I hadn’t suffered a full crash. My bed and cabin and beautiful land would pull me up the power curve as I slept.

I’d done a hard thing. I’d walked a brave line. I’d reached out for help when I’d needed it.

The people who loved me now really understood my illness. I finally knew it to be true. To be understood in such a way had relaxed me, had eased my feeling of shame for being the rebel that I am. They knew I was a rebel out of necessity, not because I was a malcontent. They were proud of me for finding my way.

Everything is okay again. Everything is okay.

And then I thought:

Laurel is here.

And I got to meet her on the day she was born.

I got to meet her on the day she was born.


Sara Riley Mattson is the author of  Camp Like a Girl and Migraine: Finding My Own Way Out.

If you click here you can subscribe to my website. I’m giving away three 1-hour consults in June to subscribers and you’ll also get a free download of my free (updated) e-book Best of the Blog. (This is a new list from my previous list, so feel free to subscribe again if you want the updated e-book.)










By | June 15th, 2017|Categories: Favorites|Comments Off on That Brave Line We Walk: The Story of How I Was Able To Be at My Niece’s Birth

The Loving-Kindness Meditation


May I be filled with loving-kindness.
May I be free from suffering. May I be well.
May I be at peace. May I be joyful.

May you be filled with loving-kindness.
May you be free from suffering. May you be well.
May you be at peace. May you be joyful.

May all beings be filled with loving-kindness.
May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings be well.
May all beings be at peace. May all beings be joyful.

Sara Riley Mattson is the author of  Camp Like  Girl  and Migraine: Finding My Own Way Out.

If you click here you can subscribe to my website. I’m giving away 3 1-hour consults in June to new subscribers and you’ll also get a free download of my free e-book Best of the Blog.

By | June 14th, 2017|Categories: Favorites|Comments Off on The Loving-Kindness Meditation

The Story of How I Came to Mentor Ana Harris

Early this year, I came very close to leaving my involvement with the community of Moldies. Our sweet little cabin, our land, and the wide open spaces felt like enough. My health had recovered more than I could have even wished for. That was all I needed. In the mornings my husband and I would light a fire, drink coffee, and watch the antelope and larks through our windows. The snow-capped mountains and the Milky Way stretching across the sky so bright and clear every night were a constant reminder of the bigness of the world – of the universe – and the blessed tininess of me.

I could so easily have just faded away.

Then I got an email message from Ana Harris’  husband, Brett. He wondered if I would consult with them about his severely ill wife. They’d loved my book Camp Like a Girl and wanted to do what I done, to repeat my experiment as I had repeated Erik’s. They were willing to work with me intensely – to trust me – to follow my advice even if it disagreed with the group, because as Brett said, “We want to be you and your husband. Will you help us do that?”

Had I not been worried that I was going to lose my health insurance if I didn’t get my income up, I’m not sure I would have said “Yes.” To personally carry such an intensely sick young woman in my heart like that – to help her steer through this process that always felt to me like tap-dancing over laser beams – I just didn’t know if I could do it. I thought it might break my heart.

When I said “Yes”, they placed their trust in me as their teacher and mentor. They worked hard. They committed to quick decontamination. They watched their mindset. They called me when they got stuck. They let any storytelling that pushed them into fear and panic fall away. They waited to buy their van until Ana was out of the bulk of her detoxing.

Ana Harris’ remarkable recovery changed my mind about stepping back. Ana is an excellent writer in her own right, click the image below to read her piece “Day 72 | So, is it Lyme Disease or Mold?”

I know that there is more for me to do. There’s a contribution I can make in the realm of intense teaching that is exactly as I did with Ana. I have always had a knack for explaining difficult things and in creating shifts in thinking. To quell fear.

So I have decided to make myself available for more consulting for those who feel a strong resonance with my story – and with the way I worked myself back to health. Click here to go to my consulting page.

I would also like to make my style of mold avoidance and storytelling-based teaching available to more people who can’t afford intense mentoring as Ana did. So in addition to opening up more slots in my schedule for one-on-one coaching I’m working hard on recording hours of content. I’m also having it transcribed to make it highly searchable. I’m thinking I might offer it as a subscription site, but not exactly sure how it will turn out. Erik Johnson – the mack-daddy of mold avoidance whose expertise brought me back to health – is going to try to join me for some interviews which will be amazing! It makes me very happy to think that – if we find a good way to do a subscription site – he could reap some financial blessings from all the incredibly hard work he has done to teach the world about mold and mold avoidance.

If you click here you can subscribe to my website. I’m giving away 3 1-hour consults in June to new subscribers and you’ll also get a free download of my free e-book Best of the Blog.

By | June 11th, 2017|Categories: Favorites|Comments Off on The Story of How I Came to Mentor Ana Harris

I Could Have Missed This

Doing back exercises, just as I did everyday for two decades. This is at the airport before I leave for my first trip to Europe. My dedication to my back never wavered.

My husband woke up this morning in the mood to dance. So naturally, I joined in. I offered some pathetic scat singing for him to dance to: “waba dala de zoop doo de la da da.”

He came over and hugged me a little too hard, and I squeaked, “Ouch, ouch, ouch!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Sweets! Your rib!”

(I’m just on the tail end of a respiratory virus and seem to have really injured my rib from coughing so much.)

He made his hug more gentle; then he pulled back to look me in my eyes. His pupils dilated, betraying – as they always do – how over the moon this amazing man is for me. I am so over the moon for him, too.

We continued dancing and laughing, and I continued on with my truly terrible scat singing: “Zaba lah-dee zippa rip rawp rawp.”

Then he said, “Remember how waking up in the morning used to be so hard for you? How you’d drag yourself into the kitchen, desperate for coffee, grumpy and exhausted? Remember when your back got so bad you had to quit dancing, even in the kitchen?”

“Yeah. It’s amazing isn’t it how close I came to missing this. I didn’t think I’d ever again feel such joy just from being alive.”

I could have missed this. I could have so easily missed this.

It’s weird, but this terrible respiratory virus has been a real eye-opener for me. Symptom-wise, it has been objectively hard. Fever. Tenacious cough. Nosebleeds. Severe muscle aches. And it’s been two weeks long.

But the feeling I have had the whole time has been: This is so easy!

It’s the first viral or bacterial infection I’ve had since 2006 that didn’t bring with it a secondary fungal rash that I also had to treat. That suggests to me that my underlying mold/biotoxin illness is FINALLY really well-managed.

As I’ve gone through this virus, I’ve been comparing my energy levels to how I felt before my mold/biotoxin illness was well-managed, and there is no comparison. Compared to how I felt before, this virus has been a tea party. A TEA PARTY! No wonder the healthy people of the world do not understand those of us who have struggled with chronic illness. If this is what they think sick feels like, they could never truly understand us.

I had no idea how much I was running on nothing more than purpose for ten years of my life. I didn’t want to be a victim. I wanted a great life. If I had to FORCE a rewarding life into existence, well, then, so be it.

This observation has brought up some grief for me. Because not only could I have so easily missed this newfound health that I have now, but if I had found my genius doctor in 2006, I could have missed so much of that suffering.

This line of thinking has also brought me back to my childhood, to my 15-year-old self, who was already experiencing so much back pain that she decided she would set as her life’s greatest wish this simple mantra-like request: I want to be healthy and happy. I want to be healthy and happy. I want to be healthy and happy.

I think about that girl – about me – and the years of tenacious back pain and depression that followed. I think about the entire second semester of my sophomore year of college when I had to stand at the back of my classes leaning on a small pillow because to sit at a desk was too excruciating. I think about how many careers I knew I could not do because my back was far too fragile. I think about the fact that by the time I was 30, I had already spent over a year of my waking life in bed because of pain.

I believe now that I could have missed all that. Psychiatrist Mary Ackerly, in this article, explains that pain followed by treatment-resistant depression is often not really depression. It is “sickness behavior” caused by untreated mold/biotoxin illness and the inflammation-induced pain it causes.

It is easy to see in hindsight that my struggles with arthritis, herniated discs, and crippling back pain were being driven by runaway inflammation. When the doctors said chronic pain was something I would just have to learn to live with, they were just operating on a hunch.

But here I am at age 41, and my back is finally well. I can really push my back now, and it is very resilient. I fell very hard a month ago while cross-country skiing and didn’t have a single repercussion from that. What a difference from all those times I ended up pinned to the floor in pain because I picked up a pencil in the wrong way!

Medicine is an art. It is a practice. This is a truth. It is not hard science. It is not supposed to be held to the same standards to which the physicists at The Large Hadron Collider must hold their work. There is enough evidence now that people like me are being set up for a lifetime of health problems because of mold/biotoxin illness. I’m getting FED UP with how much modern medicine is dragging their feet with this.

Because there is a 15-year old girl out there right now who is in bed – in pain – saying to herself, saying to LIFE, “I want to be healthy and happy. I want to be healthy and happy. I want to be healthy and happy.” Doesn’t she deserve the option to see if her runaway inflammation is being caused by an underlying susceptibility to mold/biotoxin illness?

So the treatment is difficult. So what? Doesn’t she deserve a chance to have the best life she can have? What if catching this really early means that the treatment is much easier and more effective? We don’t know how easily this could be treated if it is caught right away, because we are forcing people to get to the point of devastating illness before we diagnose and treat it.

She could miss this. She could miss all of this. Not just the back problems, but the migraines, gastritis, anxiety, depression, Hashimoto’s thyroidits, insomnia, chronic rashes, arthritis, exhaustion, neuropathy, severe allergies, and PTSD. I want her to. I want her to have a chance to catch this when it is still so much easier to treat.  I don’t want her happiness in life to be a grit-your-teeth, willpower-based accomplishment.

I want happiness and joy to flow out of her as easily as breathing, just as it does for me so often now.

We know better now. Let’s do better. For her and all those like her.


Dave Asprey’s movie, “Moldy”, is being offered for free right now. Watch the entire documentary at moldymovie.com. The first thirty minutes of the film are available below or click here to go straight to the video on Youtube.

Sara Riley Mattson is the author of Camp Like a Girl and Migraine: Finding My Own Way Out. Sara has a bunch of stories at her Patreon site, too.

Join Sara’s Newsletter and get a free PDF e-book of her Best of the Blog and Patreon Picks.

Sara wants to empower you in any way she can. If you’d like to become a student, client, or to consult with her, please send her an email at sara@sararileymattson.com.

By | March 13th, 2017|Categories: Favorites|Comments Off on I Could Have Missed This

We Built a Cabin

In mid-October, Peter and I decided we didn’t want to leave Wyoming. We been dry-camping in the shadow of the Snowy mountains and had plans to drive to New Mexico for the cold, winter months. But even as the nighttime temperatures crept lower and lower, we kept finding reasons to stay.

Maybe it was time for stage two of our plan: buy some land in a remote location and build a small cabin. It was the “frosty mornings and front porch nights” goal. The “real home with a cat and a piano” goal. Did we have enough time to make that happen? We didn’t know. But we decided to go for it anyway.

Though we got a lot of help with the design of our cabin from architects, an engineer, a indoor air quality professor, and a seasoned building inspector, it turned out that since we were trying to build such a teeny-tiny cabin, it was pretty much impossible to find anyone to help us. The project was way too small and every contractor we called was booked solid.

And so the two of us – whose previous building experience was limited to a couple of CD shelves and my super-easy van conversion – began building an off-grid, solar-powered cabin all by our very own selves.

For two straight months, we worked from sun up to sun down. With just a hint of light in the sky, we’d start a new day of problem-solving and climbing steep learning curves. When we got tired, we’d stop, drink chocolate milk and watch the antelope roaming across our land. We’d keep working until the sun dipped below the horizon, then stumble back to the van, strip down, wash our clothes by hand, and hang them on the line to dry. Exhausted, we’d crash into our bed in the van, but amazingly, we’d awaken the next morning ready to work again. I can’t remember ever seeing my husband so happy. The incredible healing of the last year for both of us had never been more apparent.

My previously crippling fear of heights now completely gone, I was scrambling up ladders like it was nothing. That was something I had never in my life been able to do before. I used to have to count my steps just to walk across a bridge without spiraling into panic. And now, I felt completely at ease at the top of a 12-foot ladder.

I kept being stunned at how strong and resilient my back had become from the previous year of mold avoidance. There is no other time in my life I would have been capable of working that hard, of lifting that much, of twisting and reaching and holding with all my available strength hour after hour. Day after day. Though I had been a Pilates teacher and cyclist in Portland, my back had been incredibly fragile since I was fifteen. I always had to be super careful. Even to pick up a piece of spinach off the kitchen floor required focus and proper biomechanics.

It was also clear that all the chronic fatiguing remnants of my illness were over. I was back to my old self. I’ve always loved things that are fun, hard, and really challenging. And this was definitely that. It felt great to have back that part of myself that gets a huge burst of strength from hearing herself say, “I can’t.”

As winter got into full force, we had to abandon our efforts several times and stay in hotels. But a break in the temps came just long enough to install a heated floor and a wood cookstove. December 31, 2016, we fired up the stove and toasted the New Year in our new cabin. A week later, the temperatures plummeted to -40 degrees and we stayed toasty warm. A few days later our little cabin stolidly withstood 60 mph winds. We couldn’t have been prouder!

The last several months of my life are chock-full of incredible stories. I think they are most interesting stories of my life. And I am so far behind in writing them down! As an extremely introverted person, I have to be really careful about sharing stories before I write about them. An audience of just one person can be satisfying enough for me and then the stories lose all their punch.

I’m not sure if I will share the technical details of how we built the cabin in the same way I did in Camp Like a Girl. For one, after so many people read Camp Like a Girl and Migraine, I felt myself slipping into some pretty serious sharing fatigue that anyone in the world could see exactly what my bed looked like and knew so many intimate details about my health. As someone who has never had the desire to be a “known person,” it was a lot to take. It was a nice break to have the cabin be my own little secret for a while.

Building the cabin was also at least ten times harder than converting the van. It required us to be belligerently optimistic on a daily basis. If you want to make me cry, tell me I have to cut corrugated steel with tin snips again. Dear god, that is hard!

I also have my book of mold avoidance stories that is getting close to being finished. I hope to share that one soon. So I have to ask that you let me keep most of the details of our cabin – including exactly where it is – to myself for just a little while longer. It’s something my introverted self just needs in order to function. I hope, in the end, the stories I write will be worth it.

Support for my writing has come almost entirely from patrons and donors. One of them asked me to add a donate button to the end of each post. Thank you for all of your support!

Sara Riley Mattson is the author of Camp Like a Girl and Migraine: Finding My Own Way Out. Sara has a bunch of stories at her Patreon site, too.

Join Sara’s Newsletter and get a free PDF e-book of her Best of the Blog and Patreon Picks. Sara wants to empower you in any way she can. If you’d like to become a student, client, or to consult with her, please send her an email at sara@sararileymattson.com.

By | February 19th, 2017|Categories: Favorites|Comments Off on We Built a Cabin

I’ve Never Wanted to Be a Warrior

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

The war metaphor in regard to mold illness – or any illness – has never really resonated with me. I’m not sure why. I’m sensitive and gentle by nature and that might be part of it. But also I think that I’ve never wanted to feel like my body was my enemy. I made a concerted effort to call my back “vulnerable” or “fragile” and never “bad” during the decades I struggled with severe chronic back pain.

I know the war metaphor works for a lot of people, though. Dr. Shoemaker’s book is even called Mold Warriors. For a long time I figured I must’ve been alone in feeling like it wasn’t helpful or useful to think of mold as my enemy or my life as a series of battles.

Around Christmas I mentioned to one of the Moldies that I’ve been mentoring that I found it much more helpful to think of my illness as a journey, that thinking of mold as my enemy leads to absolutist ideas of being mold-free which are bound to fail. It leads to ideas of fighting battles and of winning and losing, and that felt corrosive to my health. I knew that if I told my mind and body it was in a war, a war was what my mind and body would give me. It would be the way in which my mind framed my experiences.

She said that she felt her whole body relax as I shared this. The next day she texted that she felt different. More at peace. That her circumstances were the same, but she didn’t feel the same.

So I’ve been thinking that maybe I’m not really alone in needing a different umbrella philosophy within which to frame my illness. But it kind of bothered me that my explanation was so cliché. It seemed that there must be a better way to explain this. Last night I realized why the shift from a war mindset to a journey mindset could be so much more conducive to healing.

It has to do with rejection and the way rejection affects us both emotionally and physically.

Everyone in life has dealt with rejection. It feels positively awful. Rejection sits in your stomach heavily like a ball of lead. Then it spreads to your chest with a tenacious grief-driven ache. It makes you tired. It makes you wonder what is even the point of trying so hard.

This article in Psychology Today entitled Ten Surprising Facts about Rejection mentions that “rejection piggybacks on physical pathways in the brain” mimicking physical pain. Rejection also “sends us on a mission to seek and destroy our self-esteem” and even “temporarily lowers our IQ”. Rejection pummels us physically and emotionally. Rejection is an assault on our self-worth. This is why it is so important to reach out to the people who love us for exactly who we are when we experience rejection. It is legitimately harmful to our health.

In my mind, rejection is the opposite of winning. It is losing. Losing what I wanted, how I wanted to feel, what I had hoped would happen. I don’t want my relationship with my body, with illness, or with mold to be framed liked that.

Rejection in regards to illness only exists if you think of your experiences in this binary way. With a shift to a journey mindset, the duality falls apart. Wins and losses, constantly fighting battles…these things don’t exist in the journey. Journeys are about learning and having new experiences.

It’s not that a journey is necessarily easier than a fight. As someone who used to puke on every airplane flight, but also loved to travel overseas, I have had more experiences of being exhausted and sick in my travels than not. I once threw up five times on a train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, Finland. And while I was running back and forth to the bathroom to puke my guts out, my husband realized we were on the wrong train! It led to a saying in our house, “The only thing worse than getting sick on a train is getting sick on the wrong train!” But we kept going and 13 hours later we made it to Rovaniemi…which was lovely. It is one of my favorite places I have ever been.

They say that many of the best athletes focus on their losses more than their wins. That these losses drive them to excel. And so I can see why the war metaphor has worked for so many. Billy Bean in the movie Moneyball explains this mindset perfectly:


“I hate losing…. I hate it. I hate losing more than I even wanna win.”

-Billy Bean (played by Brad Pitt) in the movie Moneyball

But that way of thinking doesn’t work for me. Mold isn’t evil. It isn’t my enemy. It just is. That it is something I need to avoid scrupulously in order to be well is a reality in which I live, but if I get hit or slammed by mold, it is not a failure or a loss. Only a change in the direction I thought my day – or week, or life, really – was going to go.

I’ve found that the journey mindset makes it easier to shake off biotoxin hits and slams. It helps me be courageous when I’m trying something new. If I get hit by a problematic biotoxin, well, I know how to handle that. Decontaminate as quickly as possible! Wash my head, change my shirt, get some fresh air. If possible, I’ll go for a walk at a higher elevation. It’s really no big deal. I just have a wet head and an extra piece of laundry. If I get slammed, well, that’s okay, too. I have tools in my toolkit for slams.

And I never know what beautiful thing I might see because I had to change my plan for the day. Maybe it’s a bald eagle or a moose. Maybe it is a cowboy gabbing away on his cell phone while riding a horse. It’s just life and life will always keep on happening no matter what my plans are. That’s why the journey idea works for me.

If this idea of moving away from the war metaphor resonates with you, I would recommend reading James P. Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility. (Many thanks to my friend Peter Tavernise for recommending it to me.)

Finite games are the familiar contests of everyday life; they are played in order to be won, which is when they end. But infinite games are more mysterious. Their object is not winning, but ensuring the continuation of play. The rules may change, the boundaries may change, even the participants may change—as long as the game is never allowed to come to an end. James P. Carse.


Support for my writing has come almost entirely from patrons and donors. One of them asked me to add a donate button to the end of each post. Thank you for all of your support!

Sara Riley Mattson is the author of Camp Like a Girl and Migraine: Finding My Own Way Out. Sara has a bunch of stories at her Patreon site, too.

Join Sara’s Newsletter and get a free PDF e-book of her Best of the Blog and Patreon Picks. Sara wants to empower you in any way she can. If you’d like to become a student, client, or to consult with her, please send her an email at sara@sararileymattson.com.

By | February 17th, 2017|Categories: Favorites|Comments Off on I’ve Never Wanted to Be a Warrior

Just Pre-Ordered: Through the Shadowlands by Julie Rehmeyer

The connection between mold toxins and illness has strong science behind it. Unfortunately, I believe that as long as the top mold illness experts continue to (correctly) advise that relinquishing one’s possessions is critical to recovering, the emotional resistance to the mold connection will remain formidable. For those who have fallen through the cracks of the medical system, however, compelling stories about the link between mold toxins and illness can be life-changing. They can be life-saving. People trapped in illness have a right to know that mold may be involved in their suffering.

That is why I’m so excited about Julie Rehymeyer’s upcoming book: Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer’s Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn’t Understand. Julie is a brilliant mind among brilliant minds. An MIT-trained mathematician and an award-winning science and mathematics writer, she also is a contributing editor to Discover Magazine. She’s “been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wired, Slate, Science News, and more. Her stories have been featured on The History Channel and NPR’s All Things Considered.”

I mean WOW, right?

I’m hopeful that the mere existence of a memoir by someone this smart, successful, and respected will be very helpful for those whose health has been affected by mold.

The synopsis for Julie’s book on Amazon:

Science journalist Julie Rehmeyer was so sick she sometimes couldn’t turn over in bed. The top specialists in the world were powerless to help, and scientific research on her disease was at a near standstill. She was running out of money. And she was all alone, with no one to care for her.

Having exhausted the plausible ideas, Rehmeyer turned to an implausible one. She followed the advice of strangers she’d met on the Internet. They struck her as crazy–but they had recovered from chronic fatigue syndrome as severe as hers. Leaving behind everything she owned, she drove into the desert, testing the theory that mold in her home and belongings was making her sick. Stripped of the life she’d known and the future she’d imagined, Rehmeyer felt as though she were going to the desert to die.

But she didn’t die. She used her scientific savvy and investigative journalism skills to find a path to wellness–and uncovered how shocking scientific neglect and misconduct had forced her, and millions of others, to go it alone. In stunning prose, Rehmeyer describes how her illness transformed her understanding of science, medicine, and spirituality. Through the Shadowlands will bring scientific authority to a misunderstood disease while telling an incredible and compelling story of tenacity, resourcefulness, acceptance, and love.

Pre-orders make a big difference. Order yours today here.

Support for my writing has come almost entirely from patrons and donors. One of them asked me to add a donate button to the end of each post. Thank you for all of your support!

Sara Riley Mattson is the author of Camp Like a Girl and Migraine: Finding My Own Way Out. Sara has a bunch of stories at her Patreon site, too.

Join Sara’s Newsletter and get a free PDF e-book of her Best of the Blog and Patreon Picks. Sara wants to empower you in any way she can. If you’d like to become a student, client, or to consult with her, please send her an email at sara@sararileymattson.com.

By | January 24th, 2017|Categories: Favorites|Comments Off on Just Pre-Ordered: Through the Shadowlands by Julie Rehmeyer