I have chemical sensitivities, and live life quite differently from how most people do. The way I live is not normal; however, it is normal for me. The purpose of this blog? To help others like myself and hopefully, bring about some understanding and normalisation of this condition. For me, it is important to laugh, live joyously, and not take life too seriously—even with the trials and tribulations that come with navigating my way through the labyrinth of chemical sensitivities.
Why use the metaphor of a labyrinth? Because for a person with chemical sensitivities, improving ones health can be like meandering through an intricate labyrinth: there are many paths to navigate, a mass of lanes leading nowhere, and sometimes the way out—and it does exist—appears to be elusive.
Note I say appears. I’ve read about people recovering from this condition and I’ve even met a few. Hell, two years ago I had almost recovered myself. Now I’m back to wearing a mask when I go out, and circumventing my way through this, once again. I tried many things and I’m yet to work out which one(s) worked. I just know that something did…
As I recover, I’m hoping this blog will be like a map, a map of what works and what doesn’t. And when I’m well again, I can look back and say, “This is how I did it!”
The mask I wear over my face (to avoid symptoms from breathing in chemicals I’m sensitive to) while out shopping, going to university, or anywhere else that requires it, is no fun; however, it’s what I must do if I want to actually ‘get out there’ and actively live my life. The chemical ingredients in *fragrance based products make me ill—sometimes for days—so do the solvents and the petro-chemicals the manufacturers put in them. When in a room with someone who has applied these products to themselves using a spray can/bottle, the chemical ingredients (used to disperse and atomise the fragrance) as well as the fragrance itself)) stick to my hair, clothing and personal belongings, which later, when I’ve have left their company and remove my mask, affect my breathing.
Sometimes my mind boggles with incomprehension thinking about the general population using these products (especially when in enclosed spaces like a bathroom, which in effect, actually turns it into a kind of gas chamber). Do they know about the effects of the chemical ingredients in fragrance? Or what has happened to people like me? Or do they think it’s all an urban myth? And that people can’t get sick from using them? And, what about the manufactures? Do they have no souls?
Anyway, this blog’s not about that; it’s about writing, books, life, oh, and living with chemical sensitivities… (There is the possibility it might be about dogs and birds somewhere along the way too.)
*The perfume/and fragrance industry is self-regulated; therefore, the only ingredient a consumer can identify in a bottle of perfume is, yep, you guessed it, fragrance! The chemical components in fragrance are protected under the Trade Secrets Act and they are described on the label only as ‘fragrance’. And, the term ‘fragrance’ is a generic word used to describe the mix of any of up to 5000 chemicals within these recipes. Because the manufactures do not disclose the product’s ingredients to the consumer, it is difficult to identify which chemical component(s) of the fragrance is causing symptoms.
(Go on, if you use perfume/aftershave—especially ‘Big Name’ Brands—read the label, find out what’s in it (besides ‘fragrance’). I dare you!)
The etymology of The Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities:
The word ‘Labyrinth’ from the Online Etymology Dictionary:
“Labyrinth: c.1400, laberynthe (late 14c. in Latinate form laborintus) “labyrinth, maze,” figuratively “bewildering arguments,” from L. labyrinthus, from Gk. labyrinthos “maze, large building with intricate passages,” especially the structure built by Daedelus to hold the Minotaur near Knossos in Crete, from a pre-Greek language; perhaps related to Lydianlabrys “double-edged axe,” symbol of royal power, which fits with the theory that the labyrinth was originally the royal Minoan palace on Crete and meant “palace of the double-axe.” Used in English for “maze” early 15c., and in figurative sense of “confusing state of affairs” (1540s).”
The most famous labyrinth (see image/link below) is an underground maze thought to be the mythological labyrinth where the half-bull, half-man, the Minotaur was kept. Born of a union between the legendary King Minos’ wife, and a bull (yes, she copulated with a bull), the monstrous creature was kept prisoner in the specially built labyrinth known as ‘the Minoan palace’ near Knossos on the Greek island of Crete. (Another site, known locally as ‘the Labyrinthos Caves’ with three miles of tunnels and dead-end rooms, has been discovered by archeologists, near the town of Gortyn, 20 miles away from Knossos and the original site hypothesised to be the labyrinth.)
Nicolas Howarth, an Oxford university Geographer, who has visited the caves, reports that although they feel like this “dark and dangerous place where it is easy to get lost”, the idea that any of these places are actually the legendary labyrinth needs to be treated with scepticism.
At times, coping with chemical sensitivities can be a dark and dangerous place where a person can get lost amongst the mis-diagnosises, misinformation, discrimination, and alienation of, an often, misunderstood human condition that can also be (however, much less so in the present day) treated with scepticism.
“Mr Howarth added: ‘If we look at the archaeological facts, it is extremely difficult to say that a Labyrinth ever existed … I think that each site has its claim to the mystery of the Labyrinth, but in the end there are questions that neither archaeology nor mythology can ever completely hope to answer.’
Chemical sensitivities may be like being caught up in a labyrinth but unlike the recent findings of archeologists, and the old mythology of ancient times, we, luckily, have science on our side.
If I can find my way out of this modern day labyrinth, then others can too. Just follow me as I share what works for me, the things I do, and the things that make me laugh. And, hopefully, I can share with you, the way out of here…
Oh, and by the way, my name is Michellina Van Loder (aka Misha) and I’m a budding professional writer, studying Professional Writing and Editing at Victoria University, and this is where I’ll be practising my craft. Welcome!