Here is how it happens:

You get a new pair of shoes. You take them out of the box and put them on. They are black sneakers in leather and suede, and you love them. They feel good on your feet, and they look good, too.

Two hours in, you feel the headache coming on. It’s that same old headache—the one that starts behind the eyes and then seems to inflame your brain so that it squeezes against the insides of your skull, and because you have multiple chemical sensitivity, you look around and wonder why. What has changed in the air? Nothing, it seems.

And then you look down and you remember your shoes. Your new shoes. You lift one foot up to your nose and take a whiff. You recoil at the sharp, acrid odor. You don’t know what it is, but you know it is a chemical and that the way out of this headache is to remove the shoes. You are not happy to take them off, but you do. You put them in the next room and close the door. You crack the window even though it is winter and bitter cold outside. The headache fades and you forget about it. But it is not far away.

Later, you tear the plastic wrapping off your new calendar and start paging through, admiring the photographs of dark clouds and powerful storms. Suddenly you ask yourself, Why am I getting the headache again? You can’t imagine the reason. You keep flipping through the calendar, and then, when you get to the month of May, you catch the scent. A potent chemical odor. But you want to see the photographs. You flip through faster. Then you hurry out of the room, new calendar in hand, and take it to the furthest reaches of the house. The headache is back, full on. You try to read but all you can think to do is regret that you didn’t run the calendar out of the room the instant you noticed that it was toxic.

This is your life, and you’re so used to it you barely think to make note of it. But then you do. You want others to know.

Maybe this headache will be gone in the morning. Probably it will.

  1 comment for “Exposure

  1. Julie Silverman
    January 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    How true. I choose not to go out today or do much of anything because I already have hives. I am fatigued from slowly coming off of steroids for my hives.

    Yes the shoes…. I had a pair of sneakers for 3 years and they were torn. It took me 8 months to chance going to Roys’s shoe shop to get them repaired. I finally went to the shop and told them a bit about my hives and asked if they could sew them while I waited. They said yes and I was thrilled. I decided it was best for me to get out of the shop and wait in the fresh air. It cost me $8.oo which I thought was pretty high for doing a 3 minute , 1/4 inch stitch but I knew I would have paid anything. That is another part of having CFS, we have to pay more for less.

    I have been trying on shoes for over 3 three years now and cannot find a pair that doesn’t give me contact dermatitis or pressure hives. I did find a boot at Beans that had no outgasing problems at all.

    So here I sit with a boot and a sneaker in their original boxes costing over one hundred and forty dollars. I don’t have the energy to try them out or air them out today. Lamey shoe store lets you wear them only in your home to try them out. Now that isn’t the best help is it. I want to throw the sneaker in the wash but if I did I wouldn’t be able to return them if they caused me any problems. Some days I don’t want to bother getting dressed because it is so depressing to have clothing cause hives and have to re-wash by hand causing hives to my hands.

    As I write this story I have to put a pillow under the computer so I will not get a physical pressure hive on my lap. And people wonder why we are so tired after doing what some others might think of as “nothing much”.

    Thank you Lunden

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