I believe MCS was a form of PTSD, at least for me
republished from T-Can’s Planet Thrive blog with permission
I remember when I was in the thick of hypersensitivity with MCS, almost everything man-made set me off with some level of reaction. Heavy perfumes and cleaning chemicals are one thing–even when I didn’t have MCS I found some of those products unpleasant, sometimes leaving me with common-cold-like symptoms or itching. With MCS, however, even my office colleague chomping on an innocent stick of gum would spark a splitting headache and brain fog.
One day last spring (before I realized that chewing gum had become off-limits for me) I purchased a pack of orange-flavoured gum. I had put it in my jacket pocket and forgotten about it while working at my desk. All day long I was battling headaches. My face and lips were burning to the point of numbness, my eyesight was blurred, and I kept smelling a strong, most horrible chemical scent. Later that day when I picked up my jacket, I realized the source of my body’s overreaction was the pack of gum! I gave it away. It’s really crazy how sensitive I was.
I threw out virtually all of the cleaning products I had used in the past in favour of bland, sometimes ineffective natural-based products. In the trash went my toilet cleaner, laundry detergent, lotions, shower gels, hair gel, toothpaste, even essential oils. I couldn’t tolerate anything with a scent at all, even if it were of a natural source. Even some clothing and a pair of comfortable, brand new running shoes were tossed. Now that I am better, the only regret I have with this purge is throwing out those shoes. If I had known about brain retraining at the time I would have asked someone to store them for me until I got better. A lesson learned perhaps for someone reading this: Take note!
Now that I am better, I have to admit (with a big grin on my face, by the way), that I find it thrilling to be able to use Palmolive dish detergent again! No headaches, no burning face, no brain fog… effective cleaning and a lovely smell (anything smelling lovely was a distant memory when I had MCS).
I mentioned a while ago in the FasterEFT group on Planet Thrive that I can now comfortably stroll through the fragrance department of retail stores, unaffected. I shared how one day I even sprayed myself with Hugo Boss Sport because it smelled so good–and because I could. Isn’t that incredible?! If anyone saw me that day, grinning from ear to ear while sniffing various fragrances, they must have wondered if I wasn’t a few bricks short of a load, or at the very least suspected I had previously smoked something green. I didn’t care; the experience for me was probably close to what it feels like for a climber to finally reach the top of a mountain.
I can’t say that I will ever buy a bottle of cologne or make a habit of wearing it anymore, but it sure is terrific to have the freedom to do so now if I want! And it’s even more wonderful not to be restricted by what other people around me choose to use.
Finding FasterEFT in May was the key to finishing off my healing from MCS. Annie Hopper’s Dynamic Neural Retraining System™ (DNRS™) provided the foundation for me to believe I could change the way my brain and body were automatically overreacting to everyday chemicals in the environment. I had rapid changes in the first few weeks that I was practising the DNRS exercise; one only needs to look back on the beginning of this blog to find more details of my progress. It was pretty remarkable.
But I did reach an impasse in my healing by January of this year. I was about 65-70% better by this point after only two months of practising the DNRS brain retraining program. I could ride city transit again without a scarf wrapped crazily around my face, go out for dinner with friends, generally be more comfortable, but most things still smelled a little “off” even if they didn’t seem to hurt me otherwise, and certain things (like geranium essential oil, which I will talk about later) still invoked a reaction.
I wanted more; I wanted faster healing. Every person, every brain, is unique. I believe some people get better with DNRS alone; others with the Gupta Amygdala Retraining™ Program alone; still others with a variety of different brain-calming techniques and therapies. And though they may exist, I have not known or heard of a single person who has been healed of MCS by avoidance, taking supplements, sauna therapy, or other similar treatments–not without some additional form of brain-calming therapy.
When I found out I had MCS, a friend of mine from the States shared with me that she had suffered from chemical sensitivity in the 1970s. It took her two years, but she managed to recover. She told me she believed part of her recovery was due to isolating herself on a countryside property, in a chemical-free home. She had a partner who was 100% supportive in not using chemicals of any kind. She also changed her diet to include only organic foods. She cut out all grains. One of the most important things she said she did was to practise yoga every day. I know my friend; she is a deeply reflective, peaceful person. I am without a doubt that all of these things worked together to provide a means for her brain and body to relax and feel safe in the world again.
When my friend shared with me her MCS recovery, she said to me, “I don’t believe it is a coincidence that you have gotten MCS while you are still grieving.” I was grieving over my mother’s recent death, but I didn’t want to hear what she said at the time. It didn’t make sense to me then how such an obvious cause-and-effect, such real and sometimes debilitating physical symptoms, could possibly be the result of emotional trauma. But now I believe she was correct. My MCS was a Post Traumatic Stress response.
The trauma of my mom’s horrific illness and death stayed with me after she was gone. I truly believe that my brain–the amygdala, or fight-or-flight centre to be more precise–was set on high alert because of this trauma. I had become more susceptible to sensitization than if I had not witnessed such trauma. Here I was, emotionally traumatized and grieving and at the same time being bombarded with chemical exposures. These chemical exposures probably would have annoyed anyone else but perhaps wouldn’t have affected them otherwise; but my amygdala was already set in emergency mode by the trauma of my mother’s illness. So my amygdala responded violently to protect me from what it perceived to be life-threatening. And so it did, to my detriment. It cross-wired emotional trauma with external stimuli (i.e. scents, everyday chemicals, etc.) and left me battling the intense, inflammatory after-effect.
One of the most blatant examples of how my brain cross-wired emotional trauma with external stimuli was when my mother was alive and I was washing her feet (she had severe edema and could barely move; washing her feet was one of the few things that could make her smile). I had read that lavender and geranium essential oils were not only relaxing, they were also suggested for cancer patients. So I had put a few drops of each in the water one day as I washed her feet. Unfortunately, the drops incited a reaction in my mom so that she couldn’t breathe and almost had to be taken to the hospital. I banished the oils.
When I was doing my brain retraining with DNRS, I decided to fish out the old essential oils to see if I had a reaction. The geranium was INTENSE!! Just taking it out of the box with the lid still on made my face burn, body itch, and head ache. And then it hit me–the geranium oil from the incident with my mom had become cross-wired in my brain with that trauma–my brain had stored that scent as something dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. I used brain retraining to mostly desensitize myself to geranium oil. Yet it was by using EFT, WHEE, and FasterEFT to release the stored emotional trauma of that traumatic experience with my mom that has allowed me to now use geranium essential oil as a household air freshener! With no reaction.
My experience with MCS and the recovery out of it has left me believing that MCS is at its root a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I am, of course, of no professional authority to posit that. It just makes sense to me, with my personal experience especially. Once I was able to identify the emotional trauma that was cross-wired with the MCS reactions, I could use the various techniques to release and resolve the trauma and train my brain to calm down and turn the emergency response to the off position. Took a heck of a lot of persistence, hard work, and time, but absolutely worth it. Without a doubt.