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I have MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities).I became disabled from the scented products other people are wearing. I get sick. Very sick. It is difficult if not impossible for me to go the bank, grocery store, even for a walk. So I spend a lot of time at my house. I no longer start the day planning an activity away from home.

Lunch with friends.

Seeing the latest movie.

Taking a vacation. 

Stuck at my house I could have a pity party and go through all the reasons this isn’t fair. All the reasons this could have been prevented. After all, it is simpler for a person to not wear perfume/cologne then to wear it. And equally easy to buy unscented vs scented products.

But a pity party would be a waste of time. I asked for five years where I worked for changes to be made and only a few people stopped wearing it.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! To all that did.

For a time I was really, really down and trust me – the loss of my career, colleagues, financial security, my health and some friends – rocked my world.

A friend told me that one of my colleagues said it was as if I just disappeared. Trust me for many months this is exactly how I felt. A few weeks ago, I returned to the building I worked in for almost two decades to the overpowering smell of perfume. Seven months, I had been using my sick days and nothing was done to fix the issue. After an hour in the building, I almost passed out.

After going through a grieving process for the life I lost. After working on forgiveness for the people who could have helped me and did not. After talking to doctors and lawyers about my options. I decided for once to be happy right where I am. I stopped looking at all the things others could have and should have done if they cared about me. And started looking at the things people did do. About ten people from work reached out to me either by phone call, email, card, text or visit. My family and closest friends had long ago stopped wearing cologne/perfume, but now they turned their lives upside down for me. They changed out their toxic cleaning supplies for vinegar and baking soda. They changed their soaps from toxic petroleum-based products to natural plant-based products. They pick up my groceries and take my car to put gas in it. 

And this week on Monday of the start of Invisible Chronic Illness Week, the superintendent where I taught, pledged to make it a priority that the entire district will be fragrance free. I am so glad that I used more energy to educate others than I did to pity myself.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE – DO SOMETHING – ANYTHING – FOR SOMEONE GOING THROUGH A MAJOR LIFE CHANGE

Select a colleague, friend, neighbor, relative or even a stranger that you know that has had a hard year.

Maybe they got laid off.

Or have been sick.

Or they got divorced.

Or got injured.

Especially if you feel you should have done something but you were too busy and now too much time has passed so you haven’t done anything at all. It is never too late. Send a card. I received four cards while I’ve been out of work. I cried when I got each one in the mailbox. I’m not a keeper of sentimental stuff, but I have all four cards. Bake a treat. Pick some flowers from your garden. Take their kids to the park.

Unless this is a super close friend – don’t say – “call if you need anything”. When people are down and out usually there is a certain level of shame or guilt going with it. Having to call and ask you for help will only add to that shame. Try instead saying “I’m available to do one of the following things:

1.       Pick up your groceries Thursday

2.       Mow your lawn Saturday

3.       Pick up your kids after school when I pick up mine

Which one do you most need me to do?”

You get the idea. A friend of mine, that has helped me greatly during my issues – doesn’t like to accept help. I thought about things I could actually do to help her. One day without telling her I went to her house and weeded her garden. It made me feel great. If I had asked if she wanted me to do it — the answer would have been, “No, I’m fine. I’ll get to it.” It drove her nuts when she found me out there weeding – but I know when I was done she appreciated it. And felt great having helped her.

Please don’t assume that someone else is taking care of the issue. I now know what it’s like to disappear. They call MCS an invisible illness because you can’t see my symptoms. But many with MCS become invisible in the lives of the ones they love because they can no longer go anywhere in public or be near most people. Because others wear toxic scented products, those with MCS are given  an undeserved sentence of life-time solitary confinement in their homes.

Fortunately, for me I have a few close family members and friends that remind me every day that I matter very much. Let’s make sure everyone in this world is seen and appreciated and loved and cared for.  It is estimated that close to half the population has a chronic illness. Statistically, you must know someone who needs to feel as if they matter.  Invisible and ill is unacceptable.  Concerning MCS EVERYONE reading this has the power to prevent others from becoming ill. PLEASE STOP USING TOXIC SCENTED PRODUCTS. IF IT SAYS FRAGRANCE OR SCENTED ON THE CONTAINER AND THE COMPANY DOES NOT LIST THE INGREDIENTS — THIS SHOULD BE A RED FLAG — TO STOP — ASK QUESTIONS.

A great website to check out the toxicity or safety of cleaning and personal care products is: EWG. Make sure to click on fragrance for each product, this is usually where the most toxic stuff is in a scented product.

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