This was first posted on November 6, 2012. The holidays are here again and we are all asking the same question. Are we ready? How will we handle the holidays with chemical sensitivity as well as food allergies? It is difficult. I have been fortunate that my family is always cooperative and we manage to make it through without too many issues. The picture below was my first Thanksgiving at my house in 2004. I am posting this early because I have another post scheduled for Monday.
The holidays are approaching. Are you ready? Someone Googled “Christmas with multiple chemical sensitivity” and found my post on mold spores and cross contamination. I Googled it myself and found my blog post on page 6. The holidays are hard for everyone with the craziness of shopping, decorating, wrapping gifts, preparing for company and planning dinners. For those of us with multiple chemical sensitivity life becomes even more difficult and we have to be so much more creative.
My sensitivities had peaked by the end of 2003 when I came home after being in Dallas at the Environmental Health Center-Dallas for nearly a year. My husband had been working on a safe house for me without carpets and other toxic substances. I had rented a computer in November while still in Dallas to try to do some Christmas shopping online. I was determined that there would be a Christmas someway, somehow. My family would not go without some gift from me. I arrived home on December 22nd. The house was not finished. The only rooms tiled were a bedroom for me to sleep in and the guest bathroom. I had my cot and a washer and dryer. I arrived home to a stack of boxes and two days to get it together.
Christmas morning arrived. My family (daughters, mother, dad and sister) arrived. The living room floor was just concrete. There was no furniture so I borrowed some metal folding chairs from my sister. There was no tree so I tied a bow on an oscillating fan that my husband had been using while working on the house and gently placed a few packages down around its base. My husband made coffee at the house next door and brought it in for my family to drink. The house was cold because the heat wasn’t hooked up yet, made even colder by the cold concrete underneath our feet. The only heat I could provide was from a small ceramic heater that I used in the bedroom. We survived the opening of gifts and then everyone left me alone in my room to go to my mother’s for Christmas dinner. Oh how I wish I had a picture of the fan to share with you all.
The following year was Thanksgiving. By this time I had some wicker furniture in the living room and a table in the kitchen. My house was now to be my safe place and no one could enter without wearing the beautiful and elegant white tyek suits to protect me from possible mold and fragrances. They also wore white painter hats and booties to cover their hair from fragrances and cover their shoes from whatever they might have on them. The photo I am sharing is what Thanksgiving looked like at my house.
My point in this post is to let others know that yes holidays are hard with multiple chemical sensitivity but there are ways to make it work. If you can’t go to shop like me, there is an abundant amount of online shops. The trick is to have an idea of what you want to buy. The first time I tried it, I became panic-stricken and began to cry. It isn’t like going to the mall and picking up something you see that you know would be perfect for Aunt Ginny or cousin Susy. It takes time, patience and practice but it can be done. Wrapping paper is another issue. Solutions can be something as simple as plain tissue paper or kraft paper that doesn’t have all the inks or shine of traditional wrapping paper. My second Christmas after my family all graciously endured the tyvek suits, hats and booties from Thanksgiving, I wanted something better. I purchased pajama pants for the entire family and plain simple t-shirts. I laundered them so I could stand them and one by one my family entered the garage, changed from their “stinky perfumed things” into my safe clothes and walked into my living room. For the first time Christmas felt a little more normal. We all looked like we had just gotten out of bed and went straight to work celebrating Christmas. We just had a pajama day.
Christmas dinner was what I could eat and what anyone else wanted to bring as long as the aroma from the food wouldn’t bother me. I ate what I could eat and left the other food to everyone else. We have continued this way of celebrating the holidays. It may not be everyone’s normal, but it is our normal. I am so fortunate and grateful to have a loving family that supports me and gives me the opportunity of celebrating holidays with them even if it means that they have to step outside their comfort zone to do it.
I would love to hear what others with multiple chemical sensitivity do to celebrate Christmas and other holidays. I hope that I have answered the question for the next person that searches out chemical sensitivity and Christmas or given hope that there are things that can make it work.