Confessions of a therapist
PUBLISHED: 17:05 06 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:00 20 February 2013
Complementary therapist Helen Skene on how our modern environment played havoc with the life of one of her patients
As a therapist I get some bizarre requests, but being invited to wear unwashed clothing while carrying out a full body massage was definitely one of the strangest.
However, this clients email did state: I should like to reassure you that Im not at all as mad as I sound and do not pose a danger!
That being so, and me being broad minded, I read on.
I would like to book a full body massage at your home address, but I have an extreme intolerance to artificial musks or oils used in such treatments.
I will bring my own towels and oils as I have very considerable problems with all washing products and particularly fabric softener. So much so, that I will have a problem with your own clothes!
If it were possible for you to wear any garment that hadnt been washed at all or one with no fabric softener I would be extremely grateful.
I emailed a reply, stating that I mainly used natural sweet almond oil for massaging, but confessed to regularly using detergents and fabric softener and to a fondness for my scented oil burner, candles and air fresheners. Well, with two children, three cats and a hamster (which the children reluctantly and spasmodically clean out) it is a constant struggle keeping my home-cum-treatment-area, smelling of daisies.
However, the appointment was booked and my clothes went through a non-detergent non-softener wash and were hung on the line for three days before being placed carefully away from possible contamination until the appointed day.
That morning all animals were banished; children were asked not to spray anything remotely artificial in the house; a dry duster was used around the woodwork; windows were flung open; and I dressed in my specially prepared clothes, ensuring I used no soaps, creams or perfumes on myself.
All that preparation was for no more than a two hour visit from Jane Bramhall, of Stonham Aspal.
However, for Jane, who is a wife, mother, grandmother and former teacher, ridding her world of chemical smells has become a way of life.
Jane said: Unfortunately, though so many people seem not to notice the invasion of chemical smells, I do. Certain manufactured smells invade me and create mood changes. I experience the elevation of adrenaline levels, which is described in some animal behaviourists as flight or fight. I do want to get away from the smell and I do feel heightened levels of anger. I am unable to ignore the smell however hard I rationalise it because it seems, to my senses, that Im being poisoned.
In the cinema, theatre or concert hall people come out for the evening and men and women alike splash on large amounts of perfumes, which with body heat end up as chemicals in the air and up my nose and into my brain! Being near someone exuding perfume will ruin my evening.
If I go to stay at a bed and breakfast I will inevitably find the sheets washed in a musk laden washing powder, some foul deodoriser in the loo and perfumed hand wash. If Im really unlucky there will be a pot pourri in the bedroom and a plug-in in the hallway to let me know that all is clean. I cannot sleep at all in these circumstances and will get up the next morning in a really distressed state.
Janes story is continuous and includes travelling miles for suitable skin creams; being allergic to newsprint and detesting the smell of plastics in shops and on carpets. She cant even sit at her own computer without sneezing.
Jane said although it complicated her life, her extreme reactions to chemical pollution made her acutely aware of how damaging artificial substances were for the human race in general, and especially for children.
The day after I met Jane I read about Darren Young, from South Yorkshire, who was allergic to his wife!
The 45-year-olds body would swell alarmingly and his heart could even stop beating if he came into contact with large enough amounts of a chemical used in many cosmetics.
He dared not cuddle up to his wife Sue until he was sure she was not wearing any creams containing polyethylene glycol.
As well as cosmetics he had to beware of certain foods, toothpaste, soap, shaving cream, suntan oils and air fresheners.
If you are affected by Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome or would like to know more about chemical pollution contact Jane at firstname.lastname@example.org or Google Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome.
By Helen Skene of Complements Mobile Health and Healing for Suffolk Women
Tel: 01473 743038