Someone asked me about what I mean by flipping the switch from normal to horrifically fucked up/multiple chemical sensitive. It's because I can pin the point it happened to the hour. January 17, 1995, about noon. I worked the noon-8 p.m. shift at the newspaper, laying out the Living section.
I was house painting since I could hold a brush. My parents have a camp in the wilds of the Adirondacks, and we go every summer. I have painted every building, every walkway, every dock, and a couple of boats of the place at least once, some things as many as 3 times. I started painting canvases regularly when I was 20. I *loved* oil painting. The summer of my 25th year, I think I painted a large canvas every weekend with acrylics- out on my porch in the moonlight. My walls are covered with completed canvases. But that's not the only toxic thing I've done. I worked in the nickel plating room at Smith Corona for a summer- no ventilator, gloves, etc- just open vats of acid. At 25, I worked for a newspaper - I was in and out of the press room, the paste up area, and had a desk way too close to the the laserprinter. I volunteered for an animal shelter cleaning cages with the industrial cleaner, Quat. I started dating a smoker and drinking too much booze. I did not take care of myself and thought myself capable of handling anything. Perfume did not bother me, though I still I did not wear it. I adored roses, and would often buy one for myself. I went to a ren fair that summer and chewed on a rose the whole time with no ill effects. I had two kittens and scooped their box every morning.
When they redecorated the office in vinyl wall paper and put in new formadelhyde soaked (for fire-proofing) carpets, that was the final straw. Something clicked off. I could no longer stay in the building longer than 15 minutes without experiencing symptoms.
I could not do *anything* that I used to do. I didn’t know what I could even eat without fearing setting off a reaction. My reactions vary widely - from joint pain to gastrointestinal cleansing (with or without serious crampy pain) to simple inability to breath (which starts with coughing, goes to hyperventilating, and then I pass out from lack of oxygen- a state I have fortunately only reached once). My physicians were of no help and did not believe this was real. I was treated as a nutjob. Therefore I was fired from the job for inability to think or breathe in the building. I did not get a lawyer. I should have. I am completely fine in a controlled environment. But I can’t live in a cage, so I dance along the edge of controlled and uncontrolled. The depression and paranoia are just side-effects in trying to cope.
So if I vent here about being depressed, it's mostly just venting here. This whole mess is very frustrating. It's been more than 10 years, and I am NOT better than I was. I have found many things that set me off, and yet I still have unexplained things happening. It's very hard to say if a symptoms is caused by a disease or by a reaction and the line is very thin.