Shifting the paradigm

Sitting in my doctor’s office, propped up in the chair, unable to support my own emaciated weight I asked the question that would change my life. Through exhausted breaths that laboured to push through the carbon filter mask I needed to manage the extreme chemical sensitivity that plagued me, even in this building impeccably designed for the environmentally sensitive, I asked: “But what can I do? I have to live in this world. How do I do that?” My doctor looked me straight in the eyes and responded, without hesitation: “You don’t have to live in this world…” she paused, allowing the weight of the premise to cascade through my cognitive haze. The words registered and my mind resisted, confused, and scared “is she telling me to kill yourself?” it asked, incredulous “…you can create your own world” she continued. I cannot adequately describe what happened next. Everything inside me shifted. I was relieved of the weight of being a square peg in a round hole, forever spinning around, unable to gain traction and helpless under the centrifugal force.

Years of distress at being unable to be in this world that we have collectively created collapsed down into nothingness. I no longer needed to be in this world. I could create my own world. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t be anywhere near a cell tower, a powerline or someone using a cell phone. It didn’t matter that the VOCs* in most stores, products and places meant I couldn’t go anywhere near them. It didn’t matter that the particulate matter on our choked roads rendered me mute, unable to voice the pain they caused me. It didn’t matter that humanity had chosen to poison itself in a chemical soup that few others had yet noticed. I didn’t need to learn how to change myself to fit in. This world was broken, I didn’t even want to be a part of it, and now I didn’t have to.

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I left that office in a state of muted delirium. There was nothing wrong with me. I was surrounded by poison and my body was telling me that it didn’t like it. That was normal. That was an appropriate response to the environment in which I found myself. It was the people whose bodies weren’t protesting that were the ones who were in trouble. I was just fine. I was awash with gratitude to my body for protecting me, and remorse that I had previously cursed it for doing so. Later that day in a store, in the vicinity of someone whose mold-tinged-laundry-soap-smog permeated through my mask my response was “Thank you body, you are right, I should move away from these toxins. Thank you for protecting me.” I left, abandoning my place in the line-up, not in frustration at the inconvenience but marvelling at the wisdom of my body.

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The coming weeks and months weren’t easy, but they were infused with a hope that I hadn’t felt in years. They were laced with the certainty that I would get well. I was not a disabled person learning to live with it, I was a vibrant, healthy person who was finishing up a temporary detour into ill health. I had been ignoring the wisdom of my body for most of the thirty years I had been on the planet and it had been screaming louder and louder to get my attention. Now I was listening. My body and I were a team again and I was ready to do whatever it told me to get well. Together we were going to create our own world…

Next time I’ll be focusing in on EMFs, sign up to be notified on the release of future posts

* Most scents and odours are caused by Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). That ‘new car smell’ that salespeople want us to enjoy so much is the result of freshly manufactured items off-gassing their VOCs, many of which are highly toxic and harmful to human health, into the environment

 

Photo credits: Mandy Koolen and Lynn Friedman

When it all began

I remember when cell phones entered mass production in the late 1990s amid a flurry of warnings about the harmful impacts of their radiation on the human brain. I was living in London, England and the marketing industry was doing everything it could to overcome the image of the mobile phone as a huge, unwieldy brick attached to the face of yuppy investment bankers.

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Nokia ruled the roost and phone companies were offering attractive deals unheard of in the days of landlines. My mother came home with a Nokia 2010 complete with unlimited evening and weekend calls. As a teenager this was my passport to freedom – I could call my friends to my heart’s delight without my parents nagging me for clogging up the landline each and every night.

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I remember the vaguely disconcerting feeling of a burny-hot cheek and ear and a humming vibration in the hand that held the phone as my body was inundated with electric and magnetic radiation for the first time, but who cared? I’d just spent two hours on the phone with my best friend and it hadn’t cost me a penny. Catching up on playground politics had never felt so good!

It wasn’t long before speculative news stories started warning about the potential dangers of this liberating new technology – about the total unknown-ness of its effects on the human brain, of the potential impacts of long-term exposure and of the effects on the still-developing brains of young children. Like many others I was vaguely aware of these issues and used a hands-free kit in a half-hearted attempt to protect my teenage brain. That worked well for a few weeks until another round of speculative news stories came out suggesting that hand-free kits might actually be worse because it was hypothesized that they might channel the radiation right into your ear which is even closer (and potentially more damaging) than holding the phone in your hand. The science was all so theoretical, so speculative, the potential dangers so far off into the future when the convenience and benefits of a portable phone were so immediate, so alluring and felt so liberating. So, like everyone else I filed considerations of electromagnetic radiation under “not my problem” and embraced this new world of digital connectedness.

Twenty years later I would find myself the metaphorical canary in the coalmine – instead of fainting at exposure to carbon monoxide I would writhe in agony in the presence of electromagnetic radiation, feeling like my head was being crushed in a vice. With a medical condition unrecognised by most doctors and with no support available I was forced to reevaluate my relationship to modern technology, to modern living and the very nature of what it means to live in the twenty first century. Through a unique set of experiences that I will go into later, I found myself – a young professional – unable to come within a one metre radius of a cell phone, wifi router or anywhere near a powerline or smart metre. By now I was living in Canada and, so reactive to EMF that I wasn’t able to go into cities, I was forced to quit my job and move into the wilderness where the trees would shield me from anthropogenic radiation and show me how to regain my life. I would later learn that the Japanese call this “forest bathing” and its therapeutic benefits are well-documented. At the time I didn’t know this and, robbed of my cognitive abilities, I was functioning entirely on instinct. This is my story – it is one of hope and recovery. I am now a healthy thirty-something who lives in an apartment, in a city, who owns and uses (with moderation) a cell phone and a laptop – a situation that would have been unthinkable for me, even two years ago.

I’ve learned so much along the way, but perhaps the most striking is that EMF sensitivity is not a niche condition inflicted on the most sensitive among us – it affects each and every person in the modern world. We now have a generation of kids who have grown up with Bluetooth, wifi and cordless phones and anxiety, sleep and behavioural disorders affect huge swathes of the population. Electromagnetic pollution affects the birds and the bees, it affects the fragile biodiversity on which humans are so reliant and if we don’t act soon it will be too late. If you are reading this and thinking “well this is rather interesting but it doesn’t affect me” here is my challenge to you: put your cell/mobile phone on airplane/flight mode every night for the next two weeks and see how you feel. I invite you to let me know how you get on.

In this blog I’ll talk about my personal experiences, provide (from an intuitive rather than scientific perspective) information on EMF and how it affects us and also talk about some of the strategies I have successfully used on my road to recovery. These strategies have included reengineering my internal landscape and, occasionally, embracing technological innovations as supports. I have found that both approaches work and complement rather than compete with each other. That said, my personal preference has always been to go it alone and I try to use technological supports only when they actively lift me up, rather than simply as crutches. This isn’t so much a survival guide as a sur-thrival guide. For those of us with electro-magnetic sensitivity we shouldn’t be aiming just to get by, the real question is: how can we be in this world and flourish? If we aim to thrive then we will not be disappointed.

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