When my dietitian first suggested that I might be reacting to chemicals apart from just foods, I actually responded quite angrily.
While I still knew very little about multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) at this point, I had read a bit about the extreme measures people with chemical sensitivities take to avoid exposures and that was enough for me to adamantly state that:
1. I definitely wasn’t reacting to chemicals and
2. Even if there was a remote chance that I was, I didn’t even want to think about it because it would make my life so much more complicated than it already was at that point, and so she shouldn’t even ever mention that again.
Until just about a week later I had to eat my words and tell her she was right and then attempt to find alternatives for the products we used to use.
But my reaction highlights how little I knew about MCS at the time and how I thought it just couldn’t be possible.
In fact MCS is a very poorly understood condition and as a result unfortunately many sufferers aren’t understood by their loved ones and often end up isolated.
In this blog post, I decided to write about the top 10 uncanny things that happened when I had MCS.
Just because I’m writing about these strange things I’m not trying to say that the illness isn’t very real and I’m also obviously not trying to make fun of anything related to the illness.
It was a very hard time for me and my family but it was also nice to find things to smile about through it all and so I decided I’d share the most uncanny things that happened at the time with you.
I was lucky that although such strange things were happening, everyone around me was extremely supportive.
But since as I said that isn’t the case for so many sufferers, hopefully this might make you smile and might also help to raise awareness about such a poorly understood condition.
So here are the top 10 uncanny things that happened when I had multiple chemical sensitivity:
1. Some of our clothes had to be “exiled” because they kept on smelling of our old laundry powder no matter how many times I washed them.
2. Dermot once accidentally used bug balm instead of hair gel. He spent all day wondering what the smell was until we realised his mistake (in his defence the containers were identical) and realised the smell was citronella.
3. I used to be able to smell people before I saw them and could recognise people by their smells. This kept happening even when I was getting better and my sense of smell was starting to “normalise”. Once I even smelled something someone was spraying from a different room. Apparently an enhanced sense of smell goes hand in hand with MCS.
4. Funnily enough even Dermot and my mother developed a heightened sense of smell. They’d notice smells they never used to before. And my mother says her sense of smell is still much stronger than it was before I developed MCS.
5. I wasn’t happy when it clicked that I couldn’t eat or drink anything while friends were here if I was in my mask. When Maltese people meet, there’s always lots of food around. So it was hard not to eat anything all evening.
6. I gave out bags with laundry powder, toiletries and instructions for things to do and avoid when coming to see me to the few people I managed to meet when I was ill.
7. I left the bags behind the door and only spoke to my friends through the intercom when they picked them up because I was so ill and worried about reacting to something on them.
8. We sat with an air purifier switched on the whole time (noisy and pretty cold brr!!) to try to reduce the chances of me reacting to any smells when anyone did come over. And I often used to be ill just the same after anyone came over.
9. One night I ended up sleeping on cushions on the floor when it clicked that I was reacting to the fire retardant chemicals both in our sofa and mattress. I then slept on an inflatable mattress on the floor for a couple of months until we replaced our sofa with an organic one and bought a specific chemical free mattress cover for me to be able to sleep in bed again.
10. I couldn’t hug any of my family and friends when they came to see me. This was more sad than uncanny but now that I’ve recovered, I still find it hard to believe that for so long I wouldn’t even dream of hugging my loved ones because of the fear of their smells making me ill – even though they would have used all my toiletries.
And today I feel so lucky and grateful that I’ve recovered completely and that things which made me so ill when I had MCS are now so normal again.
I can be out in the world, I can travel again, I can do things like stopping for petrol and going into shops again and perhaps most significantly, I can hug my loved ones again without even thinking about reacting to any of their perfumes or toiletries.
So if you or anyone you know suffers from MCS, I’d really recommend that you look into DNRS. It changed my life and it can change yours too.