With multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), I have been living in fear. Fear of the "almighty toxin".
I am beginning to see now that mold, shampoos, lawn chemicals, and perfumes may be toxic...but they are not nearly as toxic as my mind's debilitating fear of them.
During our recent stay with a "moldie" friend, I was shaken to the core.
Her moldy home had been remediated and scrubbed with mycotoxin-killing enzymes. She was doing fine, up walking around, happy, and living a normal life. I, on the other hand, was weak, chest pain, ridden with anxiety because I was reacting to the mold that was still in her house.
I just could not wrap my brain around it. Mold is toxic! How could a "moldie" like me be doing so well when she is living in a moldy house every day, driving a moldy car, even for hours at a time?
Yet when I considered it, how many of the homes and places I have stayed have been moldy? How many times have I stayed in a moldy hotel room? How much of my life have I spent basically "living" in chlorinated swimming pools?
My reaction to all of those has been...a stuffy nose, sweating chlorine out of my pores, and....that's about all that comes to mind.
Why was it okay then? Why does it now bring me to my knees to (try to) walk past a chlorinated pool, or a person smoking a cigarette?
My friend spent a lot of time talking with me, sharing her experience and what she has learned along the way. It is because of her that I have begun the brain therapies that enabled her to get well, when nothing else worked.
What I am piecing together is that my brain is confused. I have experienced trauma around mold and chemicals, and it is now wired to avoid that situation at all costs.
What was my trauma that set off multiple chemical sensitivity?
I did have long-term exposure to toxic mold, and I had 3 weeks of intense exposure to the spores that increased my sensitivities. But the event that turned the MCS switch "on" was the night we spent in a moldy hotel that reeked of the cleaning chemicals used to try to mask the smell.
In that hotel, my head was pounding, my anxiety was mounting, and I found immediate relief by walking out the door of the hotel. I went to sleep in the hotel anyway, and woke up worse. I went to the dining area to make a green smoothie, and the anxiety and head-pounding increased; the symptoms were worse. I ate my breakfast outside and felt better.
I tried to go back in, to go to my room, but I felt worse and worse. My throat was swelling up, my chest tightening. I began to panic. I had to get outside. I went outside, tried to clear my chest, tried to breathe, but I could not clear it.
I felt so scared, I could not find a safe place. I walked round and round the hotel, trying to find some fresh air, scared I was going to suffocate. I couldn't get away; cigarette smoke, chlorine, car fumes, pesticides. I was stuck, no car, no escape, for hours. It was an extremely frightening experience.
That was the day my MCS began.
It would make sense that my brain would be wired to keep me away from anything remotely similar to the mold and chemicals that caused my traumatic experience.
Sadly, from what I'm learning, the brain has suffered an injury. It is a traumatic brain injury that has altered its functioning. I know about traumatic brain injuries. I've known many affected by them, forever stuck in the brain functioning of a teenager or young adult, the age at which the car or motorcycle or skateboard accident happened.
Apparently, my brain is stuck in this track. It needs help. It needs to be re-set; re-wired. Without help, it is on a path to self-destruction, with ever-increasing sensitivities, leading to entire debilitation, as was the case with my friend.
Her brain's increasing sensitivity led her to have anaphylactic shock upon waking up, or temperature change, or her husband driving too quickly. She was bedridden and reliant on her husband to carry her or push her in a wheelchair.
I do not want to go there. I am watching the increase in sensitivities and the severity of my reactions: migraines, spasms, collapsing.
It's time for a change.
I went to my first NAET treatment last Sunday. I shared about it in this video:
The treatment was to reset my brain; to give it an opportunity to re-wire itself, to be "okay" in the presence of my "triggers". My first treatment was for mold. I needed that treatment in a big way.
The NAET practitioner also gave me a magnetic vibrator to apply to specified accupressure points three times daily. This is to remind my brain of the treatment we did. Part of the treatment was to make my body inhospitable to mold, and using those accupressure points is to remind my body that my body is no longer a home for mold.
The treatment is followed by much tiredness as the body detoxes that substance out. I feel the same when I use the accupressure vibration points.
Like my friend, I was skeptical that it would work for me. But after two days of tiredness, I felt stronger in her home, even though the mold count was exactly the same.
We then moved into our 1-month beach condo rental, where the plan was for me to sleep on the patio. The first night was terrible. It was cold, windy, and moldy. I was anxiety-ridden. I slept in my mask.
But I was thinking of how healing this air is. Moldy or not, I've always felt better at the beach. I decided to breathe this air and see what happened. After all, I got a mold treatment, so maybe, just maybe, it would be okay. I became a bit more regular with doing the accupressure vibration points.
Today, I woke to the sound of a lawn maintenance crew. And I decided it was going to be alright. My chest was pounding. I chose to call to mind Bible verses and replay them in my mind, to counter the pounding in my chest. And it was alright. I did feel slightly weak this morning, but I survived.
And I chose to do the things that would help me get healthy. I ate mangoes, did my dry skin brushing, and walked down to the beach.
I took my cane, but I decided not to use it unless absolutely necessary. I chose to leave my mask behind. I walked through our moldy apartment, breathed in the fragrances, and reminded myself that God is my Healer.
I used the elevators, I breathed in them, I walked past the lawn and freshly-cut bushes. I walked past the chlorinated pool. I walked right next to a guy smoking a cigarette, and near a fellow smoking a cigar. I made my way out to the water with no collapsing, weakness, or headache.
The entire way, I was repeating phrases from Psalm 23: "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Your rod and staff comfort me." "You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies." "My cup overflows." "You make me lie down in green pastures." "You restore my soul."
And then I got in the cold water. I swam back and forth near some fishermen who told me they'd let me know if they saw a shark. I floated in the salty, healing water. It was green from seaweed particles. I told myself that meant more iodine for me. Maybe not, but it worked. :)
I played football with a father and son. I drew in the sand. I rested in the sun. I ran and walked on the beach. I sang to myself that repetitive song: "The joy of the LORD is my strength."
I talked with a sunbather as I rinsed off near the pool. I showered and dressed, mask-free, in our apartment. I grabbed more mangoes and I ate them outside. And soon I will take a nap.
I had thought I was helping my body heal, by avoiding toxins. I thought my body was overwhelmed with them, and that doing my best to avoid them would give it a better chance at dealing with what was already inside.
I'm beginning to think that I was wrong. That instead of helping my body heal, I was crippling it. I was helping to etch into my brain a pattern of reacting to molds, chemicals, and fragrances.
I slept without my mask last night in the moldy air. And it was fine. I am fine.
I'm excited to do the rest of the NAET treatments. I wish I could do them all at once, instead of over a period of months or years.
But I am now, more than ever, convinced of the amazing power of the brain.
All those people who said my symptoms were in my head, or that they were real symptoms, but they were caused by my brain having a PTSD reaction...I was so angry and hurt when they said those things.
But now I am understanding their words in a new way.
Indeed, I am not crazy. I am not making my symptoms up. They are very real, and very debilitating. And they have gotten to the point of ridiculousness. They are hurting me, rather than helping.
My injured brain needs to be re-trained. It needs some tender loving care (TLC). It needs to be reminded that God is in control, God is my Healer, and this world is an okay place to live.
I don't need to run away. I need to learn how to live in this world I am in.
I'm making the decision to put the mask down. For today. I don't know about tomorrow, but I'll face tomorrow when it comes.
I'm gonna use my Bible verses, use my praise songs, use my accupressure points, use my therapy, and choose to do the things that bring health to my body.
I'm gonna choose to walk upright in a world that has been a scary place for me for many months now. I'm gonna help my brain learn that it's really okay. Because it really is.
Goodbye Fear. Hello Faith.