Thinking yourself sicker
The author of the blog The Dainty Peach was eventually diagnosed with a congenital bowel condition completely unrelated to food and chemical sensitivities. Had doctors diagnosed it earlier she maybe she wouldn’t have suffered so much from anxiety or wondered if she had MCS at all. On 4 September 2011 she wrote:
I was researching non toxic, organic living room furniture when I stumbled upon some links for multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Sometimes I will research a condition and it will sound like there is some overlap with the symptoms I usually experience, and I will be a little freaked out that that could be what’s wrong with me. Not so with MCS. I’m convinced it’s what I have. Well, pretty convinced.
I downloaded the book Chemical and Electrical Hypersensitivity: A Sufferer’s Memoir by Jerry Evans, and read it on my iPad. I started reading it at 8 or 9pm last night, woke up at 8am and finished it off around 3pm today. …
I don’t want to get ahead of myself or anything….but I am scared/anxious/scared again. … Not sure how safe my work is for me. Working with a whole bunch of computers? Makes me think that maybe I shouldn’t go to work tomorrow. Or ever again.
On 13 September 2011 she described her reaction to chips and ice cream, and says that her thoughts about an ingredient made her panic even more. She wrote:
About eight hours after I had consumed the illegal chips and ice cream, I started feeling a little better and more talkative. This was a surprising turn-around time as I usually feel ill for days and days after eating corn or that ice cream. I started working on some art for my blog in photoshop. And then I really started to feel bad. I started to really feel like I was going to vomit. I went into the bathroom and everything started spinning like it does when you have had way too much to drink. It was hard for me to grasp which way was up. I could see things moving that weren’t really moving (I was hallucinating) and I was desperately trying to grab hold of reality. I got really scared and started breathing heavily and panicing. I started to think about it, that agave syrup (which is what the ice cream is sweetened with) is bad for your liver, and I obviously have problems with detoxification. Thinking this made me panic even more as I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of this and had done this to myself. This ordeal took about two hours, from development to back to my original not-so-well state. I went over to my husband and started crying and he held me for a long time, making me feel somewhat better. …
I’m fairly certain how I felt yesterday were symptoms of poisoning and that is what I was experiencing.
The next day, just ten days after reading Chemical and Electrical Hypersensitivity: A Sufferer’s Memoir she wrote that because of chemical sensitivities she had quit her job. There are doctors who can test for chemical sensitivities and advise on treatment, but she seems to have taken this drastic step based on her self-diagnosis. She wrote:
I just can’t believe that I suffer from such sensitivity to chemicals and food when I was going above and beyond on all the current mainstream advice. It just goes to show you just how helpful mainstream advice is on the subject of health and chemicals. Not very. Now I can’t wear make-up or use lotions or conventional personal care or cleaning products at all. I had to quit my job and am considering a potentially lengthy, expensive stay at a health clinic in Dallas Texas, and even relocating my life.
On 19 September 2011, in a post about her new safe bedding she wrote, “I can’t handle any smells”. People with real MCS don’t react to smells – they react to chemicals that they are sensitive to, which may or may not have a smell. Some people with MCS have no sense of smell at all. However, Annie Hopper, who “has years of experience as a Core Belief Counsellor, Life Coach, Workshop Facilitator, Keynote Speaker, Newspaper Columnist and featured guest as an Emotional Wellness Expert on talk radio” says on her website that the “most common primary characteristic of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is an abnormal and heightened ability to detect chemicals in the environment especially through sense of smell and taste.” She based her DNRS program on her own illness and treatment, and said in an interview, “With MCS, we develop a conditioned abnormal fear response to chemicals due to impaired limbic system function resulting from the repetitive brain trauma pattern. Fear stimulates the amygdala, triggering the fight or flight response.” (I wrote about Annie Hopper, MCS and anxiety here.)
I can do anything I want really….I don’t eat gluten or dairy still, but other than that I can do anything I want. I’m not afraid of things anymore, and I eat at new restaurants regularly, go shopping, wine tasting, to the store….I even went to IKEA recently and felt perfectly great.
I want to be clear that Annie Hopper’s DVD system is what got me started on my road to recovery, and made a huge positive impact in my life. I also had started seeing a therapist after I felt I had progressed as far as I could with Annie’s system. For me, Annie’s DVD worked fantastically for my chemical sensitivities and food allergies, but I still had generalized anxiety about pretty much everything. For that reason I decided to see a psychiatrist, and even started taking an anti-anxiety medication, which is something I thought I would never agree to do. I can’t tell you how much it has helped me thus far. I have actually started seeing my therapist less frequently–about once a month–and plan to continue with the anti-anxiety medication for hopefully no more than a year. At that point I can test to find out if my brain has learned to be anxiety-free on it’s own.
On 10 December 2012, she wrote that lactase enzymes solved her problem with lactose intolerance and she had also solved her gluten problem.
I really can’t digest gluten on my own. Without the enzymes (or without enough enzymes) I get pretty terrible stomach pain which lasts an entire day. But, all of the other symptoms I used to get: rashes, headaches, brain fog, nausea, bathroom issues….none of those things happen anymore. They were actually caused by my anxiety related to eating and being near gluten. I had recently been questioning if my previous gluten symptoms had been actually caused by anxiety, and now I know for sure that they were. For me, I didn’t used to be able to even go into a bakery or be around people drinking beer because I would start to feel ill from what I assumed must be me breathing in tiny particles of gluten.
In 2013 she wrote:
I have seen many doctors who I am very lucky to have come into contact with. The most important is my psychiatrist. I have been seeing her for over a year now, and I am doing so much better. It turns out that I had pretty bad anxiety, which was causing a lot of my physical symptoms. I am doing much much better now, and continue to improve every day.
Anxiety about food and chemical sensitivities can cause enormous distress and reduce quality of life, but it is easier to treat than real food and chemical sensitivities. Note that people can have both. Just because someone has some physical symptoms caused by anxiety doesn’t mean that all their physical symptoms are caused by anxiety.