I had just been selected as Assistant Principal of a middle school. Little did I know how my life was about change.
Long story, short version. Due to an environmental toxic exposure, my nearly 20 year education career and personal life were turned upside down. I had to leave work because the toxic exposure caused a brain injury that required out-patient neuro-rehab. I spent several months receiving speech and occupational therapy due to my newly acquired
cognitive deficits, and I spent close to year with a neuro-psychologist to try to understand how and why my life had gone crazy, or, maybe, more appropriately, why was I feeling crazy.
I’ll never forget Dr. K’s response, which he repeated over & over: “You’re not crazy. You are reacting normally to a crazy situation.”
Eight years later, I work hard to navigate each day in terms of my cognitive deficits, but there is an additional challenge I must navigate every day. You see, my immune system was altered by that toxic exposure, and my body can no longer handle any chemical exposure.
I have become one of those people who can’t stand being near people wearing perfume or cologne.
I can’t tolerate being in a room where there are people who have used fragranced laundry detergent or dryer sheets and the residue is on their clothes. When my neighbors have their dryers on, and they used fragranced laundry products, I get sick.
New furniture. New cars. New carpet. Car deodorizers. Cleaning products. Shampoo. Soap. Floor wax. Gasoline. Paint. Planes. Malls (what’s with the stores that spray some sort of fragrance all day?). Hotels. Yup, they all make me sick.
For years now, I would battle this illness, this “multiple chemical sensitivities” those like me call it. I used to be angry about it. My personality changed because I couldn’t go most places without getting sick, and that made me angry.
The tide (and I’m not talking laundry detergent) is changing, though.
Now, I realize that I should be avoiding all these “smells” because at the root of them is some inorganic or synthetic chemical or toxin that not only makes me sick, but is most likely impacting everyone in this country. Our livers, our bodies, our brains are absorbing all these chemicals, every second of every day.
And so, my journey has turned a corner. I have taken up the cause, to the best my brain and body allow, to fight back against the onslaught of unnecessary chemicals we breath every day.
I don’t want your immune system to shut down like mine has. I figure the best way I can help you stay safe is to help get rid of the everyday toxins we have filled our homes, schools, workplace, and environment with.
Thus my volunteer involvement with the Environmental Health Strategy Center. Thus this blog entry which I plan to be the first in a series I’ll be writing for EHSC. From the perspective of a middle age man who was at the “top of his game.” . From someone who is convinced we are truly poisoning ourselves. From the angle of a very concerned father of 2 beautiful and special teenage girls. From someone who was ashamed of his environmental illness and brain injury.
Along the way, I’ll share some personal stories, some insight, and some humor.
I’ll ask questions. I’ll seek answers. I will think aloud.
You are welcome and encouraged to do the same by adding a comment.
Welcome to my blog series which I’m calling “Living with Chemical Sensitivities: A Blessing in Disguise.”