September 13, 2009

Celebrating MCS Improvements Part 4: Going Maskless

It seems like a very long time since I have posted on the blog! I've been living in clean air in the woods for the summer and it's been so healing... but more about that another time :-)

I came across this old draft of a post I began writing back in January. It was so neat to read it again today and realise how much things have changed since then and I wanted to share.

*Note* There are many different kinds of 'masks' that people with MCS use. When I refer to a 'mask' I am talking about a small 'respirator' I wear that has a layer of activated carbon in it which can adsorb a certain amount of VOCs and chemicals. It is not tolerated by all due to the synthetic materials it is made from.
This is not one of the large respirators that have canister filters - they filter much more and are excellent for MCS from what I hear IF one can get them outgassed enough so a
s to not react to the respirator itself.

Here is the January 2009 post:

I now have a few select places I can go without a mask - something I thought would be forever impossible. Just yesterday I was out without mask and realised that it no longer felt terrifying like it did when I first began doing so (maybe a year ago).

I know my body and intuition well enough now to trust them. If I have the feeling that today is a mask day, then I wear my mask(s). If not, I try to trust that feeling too although it's a bit harder (scarier).
There are some places that I expect will be quite a while before I go unmasked. Grocery stores (the dreaded detergent aisle that contaminates the entire store), malls (have gone unmasked once), department stores, hardware stores, anywhere that has air 'freshener'.

Fast forward 9 months to September 2009:

I was so excited to read that old post because it is inspiring to
realise just how FAST I am improving! it may feel like I am crawling along while I'm doing it, but things like this give me perspective. Only 9 months ago, I though it would be possibly years before I could go somewhere stinky like a mall or big grocery store.
I can now go to those 'dreaded' huge grocery stores, malls and department stores with no mask. (though I do not go down the aisles that have detergent, perfume, air f
resheners - that would just be stupid ☺)

There are days when I can tell it would not be a good idea so I go masked but generally, I can now go those places unmasked with no lasting effects. I get a so
re throat or nose - depending on whether I breathe through my mouth or nose - and I get varying degrees of brain fog still. Other than that, my reactions are almost none and my recovery time is almost immediate upon getting into clean air again.
Even one year ago, I would have a chemical 'hangover' for at least the following day if not longer. And that's if I went wearing a mask.

I can't imagine how bad it would have been without the mask. I know the recovery time was much longer if my mask was older and less effective at filtering out VOCs.

I waited a long time to post about this and here is why: people with MCS sometimes take risks like this when they are getting better and end up having it set them back.

I knew that some readers may be concerned I was taking a foolish risk. It's hard to communicate to anyone else what my relationship with my intuition is like and the decision to go places maskless could seem ridiculous and totally unsafe. I wanted to wait to post until a good deal of time had passed and I could say, with confidence, the following:

I am still improving while taking these calculated risks. I am not setback, I am not in a holding pattern. I am still getting better and better... and it's wonderful! ☺☻☺

I want to add a very important caution here.
Please, please do not try something like this based on my personal experience.
This is a big risk to take and should only be taken if you and your health care professional confer about it.
I only made the decision to do this after I had been steadily improving for quite some time. I began very tentatively with a lot of time in between exposures at first to assess how my body was reacting. I also listen very closely to my body and, if it is having a harder day, I either wear the mask or just stay at home.
I feel it is very important to move forward in ways like this only when it is
realisticly wise to do so - not just because we want to be able to. It is possible for people with MCS to be vulnerable to denial - to wanting our freedom so much that we take unwise risks.


  1. This is a great time for you, and this post is a real example of taking the time to listen and be with your intuition building on what my guide and counselor calls, "informed doubt."

    I have times in a day when I don't use my masks, and there are many of them. There are places I just don't go, and there are many of them, too.

    What's here is a story of your venture forward and that is a good story to fill the air waves. Thanks for this, Liberty.

    Congratulations. Mokihana

  2. Thank you Mokihana for the congratulations and also thank you for sharing parts of your venture forward.

  3. Well, I'll be darned!!!

    Also - Cool Beanz!!!

    Also Yayyyyyy for you.

    I'm pretty darned happy for you. Thanks for waiting a while to post this & for your comments about why.

    I'm noticing lately that I am not reacting as much as I used to, & I also am not feeling really anxious if I'm somewhere where there are scents (for example, at a meeting with various people there). I can't decide which is coming first the chicken or the egg:

    Am I less anxious because I'm getting less affected?

    Am I less affected because I'm less anxious?

  4. Hi Katie,

    Thanks for your being happy for me.
    I'm very happy to hear how you have been improving too!

    I think that anxiety can put very big stress on the body - physiologically. So if we have less anxiety in general, we may be better able to deal with toxins simply because our 'Total Load' is less.
    Of course it also makes sense to be less anxious once we are being less effected - so I think it's hard to say which comes first. Maybe both are happening?

    I am always interested in this aspect of MCS. I believe in Dr. Martin Pall's explanation of the causes of MCS and was so interested to read how he finds overlaps between MCS and PTSD.

    For me, PTSD came first so dealing with PTSD stuff, including anxiety, is an important part of my healing journey.

  5. I'm so happy to hear of your improvements, Liberty. Big smiles and congratulations!!!

    Of course nobody knows your body like you do. It sounds like you've got a lot of patience and common sense.

    I know what you mean by the warning, though. Little victories make it hard to be cautious. It feels like backtracking.

    I had a good run this summer so went into the grocery store maskless and ended up stuck in the pasta aile, staring at nothing in a complete fog for 20 min until a friend ran into to me, sent me outside and finished the shopping for me. Who knows how long I would have stood there :D

  6. hi Shayla,

    Thank you :-)

    That sounds like a great friend and I'm glad they came along when they did.

    I think caution is so important when moving forward on this journey. It's almost like we may need to wait until wayyy after when we think we are okay to try things out.
    I personally tend to get really impatient and I think that's common - especially when we are seeing improvements.

    I'm glad you had that good run this summer. Do you attribute it to anything in particular?

  7. Loved this post! Thank you so much for its positive message and the hope that it presents to me and others with reactions.
    I, too, am seeing improvements, in much less anxiety when I am exposed to chemicals and much faster recovery....I no longer spend the next day feeling lousy, but rather have energy and motivation to be up and out, doing the things I have planned for myself. Trying the Schizandra herbal has (I think) been the key for me, along with more of the B vitamins. Also, using the EFT has gotten me to a MUCH healthier level, emotionally, as I cancell out the old, traumatic events from my past. I stay current with it, also, such as the minor car accident I had recently...I used the tapping to quiet my anxiety in the emergency room and it helped tremendously! This shows me that there are things to do to aid my recovery besides simply avoiding all of my triggers. I just can't avoid everything in life anymore, and neither do I want to, although I certainly am staying as chemical-free as possible. Thanks again for posting such a positive message for us!! So glad for you, and hope that it just keeps getting better and better!

  8. You're welcome Ruth!

    Thank you for sharing how your journey is moving forward. That increased energy and motivation sounds great! I'm glad you made it through that car accident okay and that EFT helped.

    Schizandra has helped me a huge amount too and I plan to write a post about that eventually.
    I am glad it is helping you :-)


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