Next to fibromyalgia, chemicals are my worst enemy. They have interfered with my life in a variety of ways. The most bothersome are all the medications I cannot tolerate. For me, their side effects are much worse than the symptoms they were meant to treat.
Chemical odors also are a problem for me. The usual result is just a headache, but I’ve also developed dizziness, nausea, and weakness after spending too long in the soap aisle of a grocery store or in a freshly painted room. Fortunately, there are unscented laundry and body soaps available today. Unfortunately, they are located in the same aisle as the scented ones. I avoid freshly painted rooms at all costs. They make me nauseous and cause my eyes and nose to run.
Chemical food additives are even more challenging than odors, as they’re not always easy to detect — sometimes not until I’ve eaten them. For example, many headaches I get are caused by sugar substitutes. Aspartame and other sweeteners are often hidden in foods advertised as being low in sugar. I now avoid those like the plague. And I only buy organic fruit, because I can clearly taste the pesticides that are sprayed on the non-organic choices, especially apples. The taste of that chemical stays with me for hours, reminding me of the terrible things it’s doing to my liver.
I guess it was inevitable that I’d be affected by the chemicals in fabric. During a recent cleaning frenzy, I noticed that all the shoes and clothing that had been pushed to the back of my closet were items made from chemicals — polyester or acrylic shirts and sweaters and man-made shoes. The reason I hadn’t worn them is that they were either too hot in the summer, not warm enough in the winter, or just plain uncomfortable.
My favorite clothing items are made from either cotton, linen, silk, or wool. These clothes breathe. I swear that my skin feels clammy when I wear synthetic clothing. My favorite shoes have either leather or fabric uppers. Again, it’s a breathing issue. Other shoes cause my feet to perspire and to swell. The result is that the shoes feel tight and hurt my feet. Items made from natural materials may be a bit more expensive or more difficult to find, but the extra money and effort are worth it to me. I’d rather own just a few comfortable things I want to wear than a closet full of things I push aside each day.
And I just donated the last of my cotton-polyester blend sheets and towels. The towels were little used simply because they weren’t as absorbent as my all-cotton ones were. The sheets had found their way to the back of the cupboard, because they were too warm on hot summer nights, and I much prefer the feel of an all-cotton pillowcase against my cheek.
It’s not that I made a conscious choice to eliminate synthetic materials from my life. It’s that I will always choose what’s most comfortable. My life has enough discomfort in it already. The last thing I want to do is add more.
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