Tag Archives: charcoal mask

Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 2014

beauty of a woman

I am pleased and honored to again participate in the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest hosted at August McLaughlin’s Blog (Please visit August’s site and read all the other submissions).  To visit my Beauty of a Woman BlogFest post from last year, click here.

In going through my files on the computer recently I came across a file entitled “Tears of a Woman”.  It was a video clip that I found and had saved some time ago because I thought it was so beautiful.

The words that are displayed as the music plays resonates with me; especially the following:  “You see my son, the beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, nor is it in her face or in the way she does her hair…The beauty of a woman resides in the eyes.  It is the door to her heart; the door where love resides.

We are conditioned through magazine photo after magazine photo that beauty needs to be achieved through hair products, clothes, and make-up.  It is hard to get through a commercial break on television without seeing an ad for beauty products.  I bought into that in high school.  I began wearing make-up.  My freshman year I had to have the latest hair cut, the Sassoon.  Of course the hippie culture was all around us and I began wearing less make-up but never left without blush, mascara, and lip gloss.  My clothes weren’t department store fancy but they were my own creations.  I had learned to sew in junior high school and a neighbor girl down the street and I would spend hours at the fabric store picking out patterns and trims. Some of the dresses I made were from these patterns (patterns that I can’t have any more but had my husband take pictures of for me).

This dress was done in olive green suede cloth with beautiful embroidered ribbon all along the front zipper.

This dress was done in olive green suede cloth with beautiful embroidered ribbon all along the front zipper.

As I grew older my amount of make-up didn’t change much.  I did spend money on lotions and creams for my face and body.  I spent money and time getting my hair done (highlighted or colored and cut).  When I chose to go back to work, I spent more money on my clothing.  My jeans, tees, and sneakers from time spent as a stay-at-home mom wouldn’t be acceptable in the “work world”.  I was finding myself (or so I thought) and becoming more of a woman of the world.  My hair was done, my clothes were new, I had new shoes, and even started getting manicures (including the infamous gel nails).

Suddenly all that changed!  I was exposed to mold in my work place and I began to develop sensitivities to all chemicals.  I began to feel ugly as I gave up my contacts for old glasses that I hadn’t worn in years.  I gave up coloring my hair and getting it cut because not only could I not tolerate the chemicals in the hair color but I could not tolerate the salon either.  I gave up my nice new clothes because they were contaminated with mold and mycotoxins and were making me ill.  They were traded in for cotton clothing that could easily be washed.  I gave up all my lovely new shoes for a pair of ugly white sneakers.  And worst of all, I gave up my identity.  Survival meant that if I were to leave my house for the doctor’s office I needed to wear this ugly charcoal mask that hid my face and all expression.

Me wearing my mask.

Me wearing my mask.

I was sent far away from family and friends to the Environmental Health Center in Dallas for treatment.  What I found there surprised me.  I was not alone! There were other women like me.  These women were wonderful, compassionate, helpful, and supportive.  They opened their hearts to me.  The women also hid behind masks, sported uncolored and uncut hair, and wore simple clothes.  Despite their lack of what the world tells us is beautiful, these women were beautiful to me.  These women had gone through similar loss of health, loss of friendships, loss of belongings, and loss of identity.  I was not judged by my looks.  My unkempt and uncolored hair did not draw strange looks of disapproval.  My mask did not draw fear that I was somehow carrying some dreaded disease nor did it draw the looks of sympathy that I had seen in the outside world.

These women were beautiful through their eyes and their hearts that they opened up to me freely and without reservation.  Their beauty was in the kindness and compassion that comes deep from within.  I have found this kind of friendship and compassion through this blog as well.  It has come from women who know this struggle and from women who do not share my struggles but have reached out and touched me through their kind spirit.

Again, I dedicate this to all those women who have struggled to keep going and who have been forced to give up what society feels is beautiful.  For all those women who have struggled, been forced to give up their identity through their clothes and cosmetics, and dealt with the pain of chronic illness (both the visible and the invisible), I say to you:  “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL TO ME!”  This blog is dedicated to you.  May your spirit continue to show through those lovely eyes of yours and pour from your beautiful hearts.

Perceptions/Appearances/Feelings

This is something I have been talking to my daughter and a few friends about lately.  Yes, I am still sick.  Yes, I can go into a few stores but only if I wear my charcoal mask.  Yes, I can eat out at a few outdoor cafes when they are willing to accommodate all my allergies.   I am upfront about the fact that I have gained a little more freedom and flexibility with regards to being able to dash into Target to pick up a card or item and the fact that I can eat at a couple of outdoor cafes.

Then why do I feel guilty about this?  Why when I see someone I know do I want to hide?  Why do I feel the need to explain my actions (Oh, I can eat here because they have a wrap so I don’t have to worry about yeast, and they will leave out the avocado, and they will substitute the aged cheese for the provolone that I can eat, and I can finally eat lettuce and tomato again.)  For years I have been so severely sick and at times thought I was dying.  Now that I have some freedom why should I feel like I am being deceitful when I am out doing what things I can finally do again?

I have been wrestling with these feelings for a while now and I can’t seem to get rid of them.  I think it is even more apparent now that the book is out there chronicling my journey and my life is out there as well.

I think it is time for an appointment with my therapist.  I should be rejoicing in the newfound things I can do and not feeling bad about being able to do them.

My question to you:  Have or are any of you going through this yourself?

Catch-UP Monday: Why is that lady wearing a mask? A repeat

Me wearing my mask.

Me wearing my mask.

I have watched as little children innocently ask their mothers this very question. The answers vary from a mother suddenly noticing that I have a mask on and answering I don’t know to a mother replying maybe she is sick and doesn’t want to get us sick. My chemical sensitivities are such that to be able to go into the grocery store for a short period I must wear a charcoal mask to lessen the severity of what I breathe in and lessen my reactions to those chemicals. I have had people see me and suddenly veer off in a different direction for fear that I could spread some dreaded disease to them when in fact they are the ones I am protecting myself from (the cologne, laundry soaps, fabric softeners, etc.). When I was in Dallas in 2003 a friend and I who also wears a mask had made an excursion to  window shop at a store we had seen that had very nice clothes in the window.  We decided to stop because she wanted to see if she thought she could tolerate the clothes or if the store would be too fragrant for her to be able to get the smells out of the clothes.  I write about this in my book. 

By this time Lisa had begun gaining weight and needed clothes.  We had driven by this store that featured clothes in the window that she thought might be safe for her.  We decided to stop by there one morning.  So here we were both in our masks knocking on the door to get the clerk’s attention.  We finally got her attention and asked her to come to the door.  We wanted to ask her if she would be willing to bring something out for us to look at.  She cautiously opened the door; the whole time she kept looking at us in our masks and back to her register.  I think she thought for sure that we were going to rob her.  When we explained why we wearing the masks, she was very accommodating.  There was also a time when we were standing outside another store waiting for a clerk to bring something out and a man approached us and asked why we were wearing masks.  We tried to explain it to him.  So, he said you are allergic to perfume and we just said yes.  As he walked away he asked if we were sisters because we both had on masks.  That generated a good laugh by both of us.

The mask presents many issues.  In winter it causes my glasses to fog up.  In warm weather the heat from wearing the mask is so stifling that I feel as if I could pass out. 

WE ARE FAMILY

I have mentioned so many times about my isolation. I have also mentioned that I have become strong enough that I can make a 20 minute journey (only with my mask on) into Target to grab an item or two as long as I don’t make a habit of it. Usually I don’t go by myself unless it is very early in the morning and the store is pretty much deserted. Recently I needed two graduation cards and my Seventh Generation Laundry Soap. I got up early and headed for the store. I managed to get the cards without a problem. Then I needed to get my laundry soap. The problem is that all laundry soaps are in the same area (including my Seventh Generation) along with all other fragranced household products.

As I made my way towards that section of the store, I worried about a reaction that might render me brainless and coughing and gagging. When my daughter or husband is with me I just stay a few aisles back and let them fetch my soap. Hmmm. Suddenly I saw a Target employee. I said, “Excuse me. I need some help.” He asked what I needed and I pointed to my mask and said that I have a very hard time with chemicals and could not go to the cleaning section to get my soap. Without any hesitation he asked what I needed and went off in search of my soap. A few minutes later he returned with my exact brand and size. He told me not to hesitate to ask for assistance any time I needed help.

Fast forward and I have made a quick trip with my daughter to pick out some party supplies and leave. Suddenly I hear someone ask if I need help getting anything. I turn around and see the gentleman that helped me weeks before. I said I was fine and he again reminded me that any time I needed assistance to feel free to ask for it. This made my day.

As we celebrate National MCS Awareness Month, I found it encouraging that not only did the gentleman help me but that weeks later he recognized me (Okay how could he miss me with my white charcoal mask with strings hanging down on the sides?), offered to help and once more reminded me that I should never hesitate to ask for help. While it is difficult to get out and do these short trips, I believe I am bringing some awareness to the plight of those suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity and environmental illness. I also I believe that I am showing my strength by venturing out in public with this mask covering my face, walking tall, and not allowing the mask and the looks on the faces of others to make me feel less than I am.

We who suffer with MCS and other environmental or “invisible” illnesses are much stronger than we realize. This is evidenced by the stance we take and the growing number of blogs and articles being written to raise awareness. We are STRONG and we will continue to raise awareness one blog or one article at a time. As I type this post, I am reminded of a song by Sister Sledge.

YES, WE ARE FAMILY!

Paying the price for a good time.

Is knowing you might not feel well worth the price to pay for a good time?  Last night members of my graduating class were getting together outdoors.  I knew there would be perfumes, etc.  There was a good breeze going so I thought I would okay.  I didn’t attend my tenth reunion choosing to wait until my 20th.  I didn’t have as much fun as I thought I would have then.  I was overweight and wearing braces on my teeth.  I vowed that by the 30th, I was going to go and have a good time.

Then my exposure at work changed that.  I have missed the last two reunions and reunion pre-parties.

I managed well enough with some of the fragrances (or so I thought) because the breeze (ok it was more windy than breezy) was keeping the worst of it away from me.  Then towards the end of my evening, the cigars came out.  I was fine as long as everyone was behind me and the wind carried the smoke away but when everyone changed spots the wind carried it right to me.  I immediately grabbed my charcoal mask, finished my conversation, and decided it was time to leave.  By the time I got home, my chest was uncomfortable, my eyes were itching and burning and I just didn’t feel well.  I took Vitamin C, put drops in my eyes and eventually gave myself a histamine injection and went to bed.

This morning my eyes are still a little itchy, my brain is a little off kilter, my arm muscles are aching (but they were a little achy yesterday before I went) and my legs just plain hurt.

Knowing what I know would I have attempted to go?  Yes!  It was wonderful seeing friends from high school (some I hadn’t seen since the 20th reunion and some I hadn’t seen since high school graduation).  I may have tried to stay further away from everyone and visit from afar but that wasn’t any fun.  So, I am resting and letting my body calm down today.

I learned while visiting with a classmate that she can’t tolerate gluten, is lactose intolerant and the fragrance department in stores cause confusion.  I do not like to hear that others suffer with similar sensitivities.  No matter how severe the sensitivity, their lives have been impacted much as mine has been impacted.  I promised to share my blog and information I have gained about gluten intolerance and celiac disease.  So while I am under the weather today, I was able to touch someone with my story and in turn learn of hers.

Have you chosen to participate in an activity (indoors or out) knowing you my not feel well after?  Was it worth it to you?

What does target shooting have to do with my asthma?

Last weekend my husband and I drove to our daughter’s house for a visit. They live in the mountains and have acreage. My son-in-law and husband both hunt. They decided to do a little target shooting in the back field. When we left the house my husband also brought a handgun that he wanted me to practice with. It had been quite a while since I had last fired the gun myself. I took the gun, aimed it at the target and fired. Immediately I smelled the sulfurous odor from the gun powder as my lungs began to burn and an asthmatic cough was about to begin.  It is the same reaction I have to lighting a match.

I told my husband that if I was going to fire it any more I would have to walk back to the car to get my charcoal mask to prevent me from inhaling any more sulfur.  He replied, “If someone were to break in and attack you, do you think they would stop for you to get your mask before trying to defend yourself?”  If I truly felt my life were in danger I guess I wouldn’t be worrying about whether or not I was going to have a severe asthmatic attack.  I am not going to be doing any more practice shooting without a mask though.

As I was starting this post last night, another thought came to my mind.  That of my sulfite sensitivity.  I have printed out some material that I want to read over before I write my post on sulfites.  I had a huge amount of paperwork on sulfites back when I first learned about my sensitivity.  Alas, like everything else I had, it has been discarded and I am forced to start from scratch.

I am curious how many of you have a reaction when striking a match?

Why is that lady wearing a mask?

Me wearing my mask.

I have watched as little children innocently ask their mothers this very question. The answers vary from a mother suddenly noticing that I have a mask on and answering I don’t know to a mother replying maybe she is sick and doesn’t want to get us sick. My chemical sensitivities are such that to be able to go into the grocery store for a short period I must wear a charcoal mask to lessen the severity of what I breathe in and lessen my reactions to those chemicals. I have had people see me and suddenly veer off in a different direction for fear that I could spread some dreaded disease to them when in fact they are the ones I am protecting myself from (the cologne, laundry soaps, fabric softeners, etc.). When I was in Dallas in 2003 a friend and I who also wears a mask had made an excursion to  window shop at a store we had seen that had very nice clothes in the window.  We decided to stop because she wanted to see if she thought she could tolerate the clothes or if the store would be too fragrant for her to be able to get the smells out of the clothes.  I write about this in my book. 

By this time Lisa had begun gaining weight and needed clothes.  We had driven by this store that featured clothes in the window that she thought might be safe for her.  We decided to stop by there one morning.  So here we were both in our masks knocking on the door to get the clerk’s attention.  We finally got her attention and asked her to come to the door.  We wanted to ask her if she would be willing to bring something out for us to look at.  She cautiously opened the door; the whole time she kept looking at us in our masks and back to her register.  I think she thought for sure that we were going to rob her.  When we explained why we wearing the masks, she was very accommodating.  There was also a time when we were standing outside another store waiting for a clerk to bring something out and a man approached us and asked why we were wearing masks.  We tried to explain it to him.  So, he said you are allergic to perfume and we just said yes.  As he walked away he asked if we were sisters because we both had on masks.  That generated a good laugh by both of us.

The mask presents many issues.  In winter it causes my glasses to fog up.  In warm weather the heat from wearing the mask is so stifling that I feel as if I could pass out.