Tag Archives: Christmas with multiple chemical sensitivity

Meet The Author

IMG_2142_1

Yesterday I did a “meet the author” at High Country Health Foods and Café.  I didn’t sell any books but I had the opportunity to speak to others about molds, chemicals, and food allergies.  I had someone talk about family members that had developed cancers and they were sure the environment played a role in it.  I had someone tell me that a friend suffered from something called Chronic Fatigue and I told her that was one of the diagnosis made on me.

The staff at High Country Health were wonderful and while I didn’t make any sales, I felt that I had the opportunity to share about this illness and my story.  I handed out book marks and samples of dish soap.  You never know whether any of this will equate sales through direct contact and conversation or through second-hand contact (something sharing my story with someone else).

How Isolation Affects Others

I have been posting on how isolation affects me during the holidays and others with MCS and chronic illness but I haven’t mentioned how it affects those closest to us, our families.

All my life we had Christmas at the home of my mother and father. When my sister and I grew up and got married (within four months of each other) Christmas Day was still spent with my parents. My husband, daughters and I always spent Christmas Eve with my husband’s family and Christmas Day with mom and dad, often going back over to his parents’ home for dessert later in the evening.

Suddenly I am sick and everything bothers me including my parents’ home. Suddenly every major event has to be held at my home. Everyone suits up (tyvek) or wears new clothes that have been purchased for them to wear and laundered here so that they don’t smell like the stores they came from. Is it fair to my mother and father that I cannot come into their home and see their Christmas tree and spy the presents that gently lay below it? Is it fair that my daughters no longer get to participate in that tradition as well. My grandchildren have never had the experience of sitting on the warm and carpeted living room floor of their great grandparents’ home and open presents or gather in my mother’s homey kitchen for a wonderful dinner that she has so generously prepared? No it isn’t fair to them.

When we talk of our isolation we need to remember how this isolation has not only affected our lives deeply but forever changed how family traditions are observed. My mother and father and family come here without grumbling. They suit up if necessary without complaint. They step into the cold garage and exchange their clothes for those that have been especially prepared for them to wear. They sit on my wicker or metal chairs or the cold tile floor to open presents as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

So to my family, I am deeply grateful that I have you in my life. I am grateful that you have never questioned this illness of mine, the crazy way I have to live and the crazy way I need to do the things I do. You are the most amazing family any one person could hope to have. Thank you, I love you and Merry Christmas to them and to all my followers and fellow sufferers.

My sister and I on Christmas Day.

My sister and I on Christmas Day.

This picture of my sister and I (I am the brunette) is of us with our dolls in our arms and at our feet suitcases filled with clothes that my mother and grandmother made for them. It is one of the few that I have found and had scanned for me and I treasure this picture.

The holidays are approaching; are you ready?

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.