Fragrance Impacts Everyone, Not Just the Sickies

Fragrance Impacts Everyone, Not Just the Sickies

EWG’s article on the health effects of fragrance.


Self Betrayal

There is something for which I need to publicly apologize to myself.  There was a time when I was so ill because of chemical sensitivities that I could not sleep.  Lots of people can keep going physically on very little sleep.  Where we suffer the most, however, is mood.  I lost so much sleep that I fell into a brutal depressive state.  I knew what was wrong with me.  I just needed to sleep.  And my body needed a break from toxic chemicals.  Many of my family and friends, however, were convinced that I had gone off the deep end and was in serious need of psychiatric help.  To their credit, it’s hard to blame them.  They just wanted my suffering to end.

Eventually, because I was so miserable and felt so much pressure, I caved in and began to concede that, yes, I was merely a severely depressed hypochondriac who needed meds right away.  I said it even though I didn’t believe it.  I said it because I was in desperate need of love and support, and it seemed that the only way I was going to get that was if I denied what I knew deep inside.  I betrayed myself to the point of admitting myself into the hospital for depression although my intuition was telling me that it was the worst possible place for me.

My intuition had been correct.  The hospital experience was nightmarish to the extreme.  On the night when I first tried Risperdal, an antipsychotic, I had a dream.  I saw a capsule being pulled apart and granules from inside the capsule spilling down in a shower as a voice spoke the words “this is not a way to live, this is a way to die.”  My mind was desperately trying to communicate with me, and it was too late for me to pay heed to it.  I was incarcerated in a place where pills are the only way out.

The day after I had the dream, I had a very dangerous reaction to the Effexor with which my doctor was experimenting.  I began to feel extremely light-headed and sick.  I assumed my blood sugar was off, so the nurse tested it and it was perfectly normal.  She then tested my resting heart-rate.  It was a whopping 160 beats per minute.  Shortly after that, I scared my fellow patients with a strange episode which I never reported to the doctor.  It felt like a seizure.  Obviously, taking any more Effexor was out of the question.

I had two doctors and at least one counselor confirm what my intuition had told me from the beginning: I should never have gone to the hospital.  It was not a place for me.  Medication simply does not help me, it only hurts.  I had never really been a danger to myself.  I just needed to sleep.

So, to myself I say this: I am so very sorry!  Next time I will try to listen.

The rest of the story:

Chemical Madness

MCS Under Seige by Dr. Ann McCampbell


“Movies like Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action depict the true stories of communities whose members became ill after drinking water contaminated with industrial waste. Their struggles clearly show how difficult it is for people to hold corporations responsible for the harm they have caused. Whether individuals are injured by exposures to contaminated air or water, silicone breast implants, cigarettes, or other chemicals, their quest for justice is usually a David versus Goliath battle that pits average citizens against giant corporations.

When confronted with the harm they have caused, corporations typically blame the victims, deny the problem, and try to avoid responsibility for the harm caused. The corporate response to people with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) has been no different. People with MCS are made sick from exposures to many common products, such as pesticides, paints, solvents, perfumes, carpets, building materials, and many cleaning and other products. But the manufacturers of these products would rather silence the messenger than acknowledge the message that their products are not safe.

To that end, the chemical manufacturing industry has launched an anti-MCS campaign designed to create the illusion of controversy about MCS and cast doubt on its existence. What has been said about the tobacco industry could easily apply to the chemical industry regarding MCS, that is, “the only diversity of opinion comes from the authors with … industry affiliations (1).” “

Read the rest of the article:

Gratitude Heals


In his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul said to “show yourselves thankful.” (Col. 3:15)  It turns out that that is excellent advice for more than one reason. Gratitude is good for us. Professor Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, says: “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress, and to achieve a positive sense of self.”  That is something that I’ve learned on a very deep level, and in the hardest way possible.

I’ve been to places in my soul where just breathing in and out was torturous. When simply continuing to live is the best one can do, it doesn’t take much pleasure to induce feelings of profound gratitude. A little less than two years ago, I was in that state. I remember the first positive emotion I felt. It was love for my youngest boy, a hug and a pinch. I was so grateful for that bit of pleasure, that tiny reprieve from constant torment, that I wrote about it in my journal and put a star on that page. My pain taught me what nothing else could: to feel grateful for every tiny blessing. From that day forward, I recorded every positive emotion that I felt in my journal, starring the page on which I wrote it. Soon, I began to have whole days that were full of little joys, and those days received big stars. Some days I would cry tears of joyful gratitude for the blessings I had received, immediately thanking God.

I’ve had many experiences over the past couple of years that inspired profound gratitude for things I had once taken for granted.  One of them happened when I went to my place of worship, the Kingdom Hall, in spite of feeling ill.  I knew that the depression resulting from isolating myself would probably be even more counterproductive than the exhaustion and possible pain from going. And my son had been assigned to do a public reading of the Bible. I had to go, so I prayed for strength.

Sitting in the little back room isolated from the rest of the congregation because of my sensitivity to fragrances, I began to feel that I’d made a mistake in coming. I was beginning to feel very ill and only wanted to go home to my bed. I really needed some loving encouragement from my friends, but I often don’t get to talk to many of them because of the fact that I have to keep myself segregated in my little room. Sometimes they come back to greet me, or they meet me outside, but not always. I was in that dark sort of mood that had me expecting nothing good. But immediately after the meeting concluded, I was blessed with plenty of friends to talk to.

As soon as I was alone in my bedroom that night, my eyes filled with tears as I realized that I had received just what I needed.  My heart overflowed with gratitude, and I thanked Jehovah.

I could have missed out on that opportunity to feel and express gratitude.  I could have remained in my dark, brooding state in spite of what I received.  The key for me was to notice.  How many opportunities for feeling and expressing gratitude do we pass up simply because we fail to notice all those little blessings and recognize them for what they are?  How easy it is to overlook the good and focus instead on all the big hurts.  There is ample opportunity in this world for feeling legitimately bad.  The practice of gratitude takes effort and practice, especially for a confirmed pessimist like me, but change is possible.  I used to think that pessimism and negativity was indelibly chiseled onto my personality.  I am happy that I was wrong, because gratitude is helping me heal.

Photo by Joel Montes

The True World

“Increasingly over the last maybe forty years, the thought has come to me that the old world in which our people lived by the work of their hands, close to weather and Earth, plants and animals, was the true world; and that the new world of cheap energy and ever cheaper money, honored greed, and dreams of liberation from every restraint, is mostly theater.  This new world seems a jumble of scenery and props never quite believable, an economy of fantasies and moods, in which it is hard to remember either the timely world of nature or the eternal world of the prophets and poets.  And I fear, I believe I know, that the doom of the older world I knew of as a boy will finally afflict the new one that replaced it.” – From Andy Catlett, Early Travels by Wendell Berry

You can’t wake people up through argument…

Something I need to try to remember:

You can't wake people up through argument….

So how do you wake people up? My experience has taught me that you have to live what you believe. And you have to try very hard to crawl inside the others’ skin for a while, to feel what they feel, to see yourself the way they see you, to view life from their perspective, with their particular education, their particular experiences. It is only then that you may have any chance at all of getting a hearing from them.
After all, how many times have you had a life changing moment of realization as a result of an argument? Think about it.

Chemical Sensitivity…From the Beginning

Sometimes I say that I’ve been sick with multiple chemical sensitivities for 14 years, since we built our home.  It’s true that 14 years ago is when I began to become aware of what was happening to me.  But in truth, I can trace it back much farther than that.  Exposures tend to build, adding gradually over the years to our ”total load”.  I know that now, but I didn’t know that then.

When I was about 1 year of age my parents bought a brand new house located in a brand new housing tract on the edge of town.  It was the late 70′s and the building industry was changing.  Whereas houses had been built using mostly natural or non-toxic products up through the 60′s, by the mid-70′s things had begun to radically change.  One of the new materials, Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation, or UFFI became the industry standard and was most likely the type of insulation found in our new home.  It was later found that this particular type of insulation out-gassed so much formaldehyde that it could cause the air quality within a home to become toxic.  Insulation, however was not the only toxic culprit.  Particleboard subfloor and shelving, carpet and carpet backing, sheet rock, paint, finishes, and glues all out-gassed toxins which could contribute to unhealthy levels of indoor air pollution.  Fortunately for me, my young body seemed able at the time to handle the toxins I was exposed to in that home reasonably well.  But it was the first of many big exposures that would eventually culminate in illness.

When I was 7 years old, we sold the little shoebox house in town and bought a turn-of-the-century farmhouse out in the country.  Our new home was like paradise for a 7-year-old.  I loved it.  And I loved the hills and woods that I was now free to roam.  In spite of the beginnings of arthritic degeneration in my joints, I remember feeling the healthiest I’ve ever felt in my life during the early years of living in our big, drafty house.

In my middle school years, my teachers began to expect my writing assignments type-written.  We had a computer, but unfortunately it was located in the shop where my dad rebuilt and refinished pianos.  He had been careful to install a powerful ventilation system and usually wore a gas mask when he was using chemicals.  But It wasn’t enough to keep me from feeling quite ill when I was sitting at the computer in the little office inside the shop.  The feeling from inhaling those fumes is hard to describe.  It was like what I imagine a frontal lobotomy would feel like.  I just couldn’t think.  My head hurt.  I felt as if I were floating.  My sense of smell was destroyed for hours after an exposure.  I remember thinking just as I was leaving the shop that the fresh air seemed to smell like mushrooms.  I have no explanation for that.  Fortunately, the shop fumes didn’t seem to tear my health down very much.  I do remember struggling with various health problems in my teens, but I was still functioning quite well.

In the summer prior to my senior year of high school, a massive remodeling project on the school building had begun.  By the time school started in the fall, the project was still in full swing because of earlier delays.  In spite of that, school was in session and we were forced to breath in the toxic soup of carpet, glue, and paint fumes.  In addition to that, the construction company was still in the process of tarring the roof.  I remember having to go home sick on multiple occasions because the tar fumes were so severe.  The school had no objections.  They knew they were making students ill.

At the same time that I was dealing with the abysmal air quality at my school, I was also working part-time in the press room of the local newspaper.  The ink fumes at work were overpowering.  Although I became accustomed to the smell while working, I recall coming home with a splitting headache nearly every day.

After graduation, I quit working at the newspaper and started my own housekeeping business.  It seems like this must have been a step in the right direction as far as toxic exposure goes, and maybe it was.  But cleaning chemicals are definitely not harmless.  At the time, I didn’t think about the fact that all the bleach and Endust and toilet cleaner I was using might be harming me.  I just knew that I didn’t feel well and that I had to lie down on the floor several times during each cleaning job so that I could recover enough to keep working.  I was still at this point functioning relatively well when I was not being exposed to strong chemicals.  I was active and mostly happy.

After getting married in 1995, I found out that my grandmother had recently been diagnosed with a particular rare type of arthritis called Spondolo Arthropathy.  Soon, my aunt was also diagnosed, and then my cousin.  Since I had struggled with pain and exhaustion since childhood, I decided to go to the rheumatologist, and was subsequently also diagnosed with SA.  I felt that had to be the explanation for most of my health troubles.  I now believe that SA was simply the name given for the particular set of symptoms that were the result of living in a toxic world.

In the year 2000, I was expecting my second child.  My health had not been great, but I was plodding along as best I could.   We had just built a brand new home, and because I had read some information on carpet and allergies, I had decided to put hardwood and tile floors all through the house.  I thought this would prevent any possible illness from living in a brand new house.  I was wrong.  That was the year that my body said no.  It had had enough and it started to really rebel.

Although I was aware that the chemical fumes in my house were making me ill, and that walking into a hardware store would lay me out flat, I still did not comprehend the full scope of chemical sensitivity.   I became sicker and sicker, and eventually concluded that the fad naturopathic diagnosis of the day, systemic yeast infection, was the main reason for my increasingly debilitating symptoms.  I did, indeed, have systemic yeast, but it was not the reason for my illness.  It was a symptom of it.  It was an opportunistic infection brought on my an immune system ravaged by chemical toxicity.  It brings to my mind one of the more macabre nicknames for MCS, “chemical AIDS”.  The more I tried to kill that yeast with anti-fungal supplements, the sicker I felt and the more desperate I became.

I eventually ended up in the office of a chiropractor who promised to heal me completely within six weeks with a  very strange treatment called Neuro-Modulation Technique, or NMT.  Although I had some misgivings about the strangeness of the treatment, I went ahead with it.  The man kept his promise.  I did indeed feel healthier than I had been since childhood after a period of about six weeks.  I cannot say why his treatments worked, but they did.  But because I became increasingly disturbed by the strangeness of the treatments, I discontinued them.  They were so strange that even the lure of complete healing would not induce me to try them again, even now.  It’s a conscience thing.

My health began to fail once again not long after I stopped visiting the chiropractor.  In spite of that, I became pregnant one more time.  This time, it was different.  I was so sick during this pregnancy that I was afraid that I would lose the baby.  I was somehow able, with the help of God and a good midwife, to drag myself through the entire pregnancy and give birth at home and at term to a seemingly healthy 7 lb. baby boy.  And because I discovered the power of homeopathy, I actually became much healthier after the pregnancy.

What happened after the third month of my third baby’s life could fill a book all on its own.  Suffice it to say that he became extremely ill from eczema infected with impetigo.  The infected rash spread over his entire body and no amount of antibiotic was enough to make it go away.  Once that seemed somewhat under control by various homeopathic and naturopathic means, he began to have troubles breathing.  By 18 months of age, although there could be no definitive diagnosis because of his age, he was for all intents and purposes, suffering from severe asthma.  From that time until he was 3 years old we were in and out of hospitals and he had been on nearly every one of the most evil types of asthma medication available, a couple of which he kept taking until very recently.  This, as you can imagine, took an enormous toll on my physical and mental health and I eventually ended up in the situation that I described here, critically ill with chemical poisoning and struggling to survive:  Chemical Madness

I am now fully aware of what multiple chemical sensitivity, or MCS, is and how it is affecting my life and the lives of my children.  I wish with all my heart that I had known 20 years ago so that I could have prevented some of the harm that has come to myself and my family.  But how could I have?  MCS is a hidden disorder.  It is a much maligned and misunderstood disorder.  To understand it, one must understand the whole evil underpinnings of our greedy commercial system.  Who wants to think about that?  Who wants to acknowledge that our entire way of living is toxic, built on lies and greed?  That’s a real downer, right?

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