My Life with Chemical Sensitivities
by guest blogger Gary Lovelace
I have suffered from migraines for as long as I can remember. I don’t know exactly what started my spiral into hypersensitivity and constant head pain – it could have been the diesel fumes from the school bus I rode every day or the new paint and building materials in our home.
Young Adulthood and Migraines
As I grew older and entered the world as a young man, I started losing energy and was tired all the time, suffering from sore muscles and bones. For years I searched for the cure. I went to numerous doctors and therapists and tried all sorts of remedies. Still, nothing worked except to take several painkillers as soon as I felt a headache coming on. If I missed this short window, I slowly spiraled into a more severe pain in my head. My stomach would start to wrench violently. Soon I would begin to dry heave and, if I was lucky, vomit, which would relieve some of the pain. Surprisingly, no one could give me an answer to my problem. Some said it was mental or depression, and I would try their depression pills and therapy with no relief. Others said it was allergies, but when tested for allergies, I came up clean, and the pills only made me more tired.
Taking Charge of My Health
One day, I decided to stop listening to common medical and social ideas of what is healthy and what is not. I thought that perhaps everyone’s body is different and maybe I was negatively reacting to something in my environment. I started with food. I began a long process of reducing or removing certain items from my diet and re-introducing them. I noted how I felt with and without each item. I also noted any foods that I ate before getting sick. I slowly removed many items that Americans eat daily and believe to be safe and even healthy. I realized that all the foods I have problems with are heavily processed and are filled with preservatives and synthetic chemicals. The longer the shelf life, the worse I felt. I switched to an organic diet and felt much better, but I still had pain, and, though more infrequent, I still had migraines.
I began to evaluate my surroundings, thinking, if I have problems with chemicals in food, then why not in the air? At the time, I managed a graphic design and sign studio in New York. I always assumed that what I was doing was safe and that someone regulated the materials we used. I began reading labels and realized that all the paints, inks, vinyl, and glues we used were labeled hazardous and even thought to cause cancer in California. Though I did not live in California, I was pretty sure that the rest of the US was not immune. What could I do? This was my job, and I loved it. I tried getting around it. I sealed off my office and ran an air purifier 24/7, yet I could not hide in my office all day. It became clearer that the longer I stayed off the work floor, the better I felt.
I decided to resign and find cleaner employment. I tried my hand at managing a large corporate furniture store. I really enjoyed training the sales associates, taking care of customers, and meeting and beating goals. It was exciting. Though I felt better, I still had my bad days. I noticed that furniture and mattresses gave off the same noxious fumes that I was exposed to on the work floor of the graphic studio. How could this be? It was just furniture, after all. I began to do more research and even visited the plants where the furniture was made. I realized that the paints, foams, and synthetic fibers made up of furniture and mattresses were all derived from the same hazardous chemicals with the same labeling. I also realized that these items were then packed with chemical flame retardants, making the product unbearable to smell when first delivered. The smell would subside a little with time, but it was still there and never fully went away.
Transition to Clean Living
After realizing I had traded one bad environment for another, I began researching alternative options for employment. One day I stumbled upon an ad for a manager of The Clean Bedroom. I was intrigued. This small but growing company dedicated its resources to providing customers with the cleanest, most organic sleep environment made possible by manufacturers like Savvy Rest and Royal-Pedic. I took the job and quickly realized that when in the showroom, I had no pain and never left with a migraine. This was amazing. I continued to research using the multiple resources The Clean Bedroom had available and found that these hazardous chemicals were everywhere – deodorants, perfumes, dryer sheets, clothing, you name it, and hazardous chemicals are there.
I cleaned out my whole house. I switched to organic cleaners, soaps, shampoos, got rid of most of my carpet, and stopped using fragrant candles and sprays. I replaced my furniture with new organic and natural options. I also stopped using the air conditioner as much and kept my windows open more. Now I feel like a new man! The energy I had when I was a teenager is back, and my migraines have gone. I notice that I sleep less yet wake refreshed. My mood has become more positive. I struggled to fill some void in my life with constant shopping and purchasing trivial items to entertain myself. But no longer – I now feel content and look forward to a long healthy life with my family.
A Final Word
All that was good about our food and furniture has been replaced by cheaper materials to produce synthetic versions that greatly affect our health. Yes, they are tested for ‘safety,’ but to what extent? Each item may pass the allowed human tolerances, but what happens over the long term? Furthermore, we do not just live with just one single chemical-laden item at a time. We live in a sea of manufactured items spewing out their ‘tolerable limit’ of poisonous gasses. Who tests the impact of the whole picture? Bottom line: before purchasing anything, whether it’s new dishes or an adjustable bed, do your research. Don’t take for granted that someone is protecting you because there is no such person.
Sleep healthy. Sleep better. Stay well.