Monday, May 17, 2010

Oh, the humidity of it all

It's not fair. The way psychology works sometimes. The defense mechanisms we build up to keep ourselves from feeling things, from thinking about things, from working through things. How sometimes we have conflicting feelings; we want to try to work through something, get it out there, hope that using words will deflect and decrease its power over us. But then we start to write, and we freeze up. And just can't go there. But if not now, when? If I wait too long, it'll get to a place where it's intolerable, and if I can help alleviate that by writing about it now, I should.

It is no secret that my emotions, physical well being and feelings of stability are very much affected by environmental influences. I am not just talking about chemicals here. Everything in my environment, I am beyond sensitive to. And when I feel a certain way, I often seem to lack the mental ability to imagine feeling a different way. I don't cope with feelings of distress very well. I wish I did, and I wish had the ability to do so; it would be perhaps the most helpful coping technique ability etc that I could possibly have.

So because of that I am very scared of situations that will make me feel sick either physically or emotionally. I just lack perspective. Once I start feeling like that it feels like everything in my life has gone to hell and nothing will ever be good again. A few hours later if the stimulus is gone I can be perfectly happy, but, it doesn't take away from how terrifying the feelings from before can be. I wish I had a way to change that.

If you're worried about and/or hate something, one of the surest
way to increase your fears of it to huge porportions is remove the item for two years and then bring it back. Yup. Nothing like being out of practice.

But it is May 17. I don't know how much time I have left. I am scared. I am scared! Oh so scared. But I must not let my emotions get the best of me. I know where that leads. And it's not good.


Three years ago, approximately, my biggest problem in life was humidity. Granted, a seasonal problem, but a problem beyond belief in the summer. Humidity didn't used to bother me much before my junior or senior year of college. When I came home from school after my senior year though, WHAM!

Maine is probably the least humid state on the East coast, by far, but you wouldn't know it to look at me. My memories of this time are despicable. How can I describe the symptoms? The feeling of someone sitting on my chest, on my head, the feeling of so much pressure being exerted on my joints, on my body, that I felt like I couldn't walk, I couldn't breathe? I still don't know if for sure humidity is the culprit, or the entire culprit, here; because some days when other people said it was humid I was fine, and many, many, MANY days when I said it was humid, no one else thought it was. So perhaps it is some other kind of atmospheric conditon besides humidity, or in addition to. Whatever. For the purposes of giving it a name, and a more than likely but who knows correct name too, I shall call it humidity.

You can't imagine what this feels like unless you have been there. Maybe others have, and if so I'd like to hear about it. I know a lot of people have trouble with humidity too, my dad included, but I highly doubt they have trouble to the same level I do (unless they're I dunno just stoic about it, less sensitive to it, or can brush it off more easily, who knows).

In Baltimore, I have memories of trying so valiantly to walk from the student center to the academic buildings, a distance of mayne an eighth of a mile... maybe five or six minutes. And feeling like I was going to die before I got there, having to stop, kneel down, sit down, and just mentally yell at myself to keep going. Watching all the happy go lucky people easily walking around me, laughing, and talking about *what beautiful weather* it was elevated it to a level of pure torture.

I remember it being so bad once in Maine that walking from the Maine Mall entrance to the Borders next door, a distance of again maybe three to four minutes if that, was pure torture, a a slow race of endurance, every step an enormous effort. People have used analogies such as "swimming through molassess", and never having done such a thing, I do not know how it would compare.

Even at this early time in the season, there are plenty of mildly humid days, and when I step outside, IF I step outside, I step back immediately. It's a feeling of all the air being sucked from my lungs. It's like someone inserted a tube in my chest and pulled out all the air. I feel faint and weak. Not dizzy per se, but just like I'm not getting enough oxygen. My mental faculties are dulled, I have trouble talking, I'm extremely irritable.

The feeling was at once both horrific and, if I could view it from an outsider's perspective, stunning and slightly curious. At my worst, I mean. The weirdest feeling was simply, as I said, *the amount of pressure being exerted on my body.* I felt like I could not move through space nearly as easily as before. Like my body was being weighted down by something. In addition to the whole feeling like I couldn't breathe thing. Now where in the world could those feelings come from?

Frizzy hair, which seems to be most people's chief complaint in humidity, is the least of my concerns. Or feeling sticky. No, I wouldn't mind either one of those.

But let's fast forward a little. After two summers of battling severe humidity problems, a new little problem showed up. Well, not so little. In fact, it's the one that's defined my life the last three years or so. October of 2007 is when I developed my severe chemical sensitivity problems. And obviously, after that, I had a whole other can of worms to deal with. But it was interesting, in some ways, how some of my symptoms seemed to mimick the symptoms I got in humidity. The pressure on my head after an exposure, the brain fog, the shortness of breath - why, in some ways, it was like having all the fun of the summer, only not in the summer, and with a million other problems to deal with at once! Ha, ha, ha. Obviously, those were not the only symptoms of my MCS; the other ones were far more devastating. Those particular symptoms were much lessened in their MCS provocation, but were made up for by other worse MCS symptoms.

But the idea did cross my mind that if I felt that way as my normal state, what was going to happen when summer came and I got to experience all the fun of humidity in addition to my already compromised state, without the ability to go into any buildings for air conditioning or entertainment? Oh man the nightmares I had over that one. Or would have if I'd allowed myself to think about it for very long.

As fate would have it, I ended up in Missoula, Montana the next summer (where my mom lives). I stayed from April to November, perfectly missing the East coast humidity season. I didn't know before I went that Montana has no humidity, but boy did I love it. It was the first time in my entire life I had ever truly enjoyed being outside. It could be 80-90 degrees and I wouldn't care. Living in Missoula had other problems, of course, but the one great thing about it was the weather. The next summer, as things turned out, I ended up going to Oregon from May to September. Again, this was not planned to have anything to do with the humidity and was purely incidental to my whole MCS finding a place to live thing. But I remember thinking on the plane on the way there, and before I left, "If nothing else comes of this whole crazy venture, at the very least I will have gotten out of the East coast for the summer."

So, for two years, I dodged the bullet. But now ( I hope ) my traveling days are over and I am rooted in my beloved state of Maine, and I want to stay here. I absolutely love Maine nine months of the year. I love the winter. I go outside almost every day in the winter. It's without a doubt the place I want to be, and I value my stability, and the, knock on wood, relatively stable and much more functional than usual last few months I have had here very much. It was a mild winter and a mostly beautiful spring. But nearly every day since I got here in December, I have been dreading the summer. Man, those six months went by fast! On the one hand, I should be happy - I couldn't have hardly imagined in December that I'd still be here and happy six months (six months!!!!) later. I am thankful for that.

But every day forward on the calendar feels a little to me like a prisoner on death row flipping forward the pages to the day of his execution, if you'll pardon the analogy. April 15. May 1. May 15. May 16. May 17. Less than two weeks until June. A sinking feeling appears in my stomach when I think of that. When will it start? When will be the beginning of the end? It has already started; I know that. I only go for walks about twice a week now and I have to force myself to do even that. I just can't deal with the air or wondering how the air will be the rest of the days. The humid days affect me even inside, although not nearly as bad as when I was at my dad's; this house has much better insulation.

So here I am. On the East coast for the summer for the first time in three years. Wondering how best to deal with the upcoming summer season. Three to four months is an AWFULLY long time to be miserable, in my opinion. I could say "Maybe it won't be so bad," although I'd be lying. I do think it will be better because of the insulation in this house. And I am thankful for being able to watch TV to get my mind off things. Of course, a window AC in my room might help (if cost is not prohibitive and if I can tolerate it), but I'd rather not spend the entire summer in my room. Although I may have to. We'll see. Nate and I used to do summer activities in air conditioned buildings, like see plays, go to arcades, out to dinner, and so on. Can't do that anymore. Haven't been able to for almost three years. Oooh, what fun! Summer recreation plans dashed. My dad lives on a beautiful lake, but even though I absolutely love to swim in it, the year I was living there during summer I went in only a handful of times - I simply couldn't bear being out in the humidity. Whole Foods may be the only option; at least I have that!

I did at least finally manage to see a doctor (progress!) who has referred me to a pulmonologist, who is going to do a pulmonary function test on me to see if he can find anything. He's going to do it both with and without asthma meds to see if there's a difference. Of course I hope there is and I hope they can find something that can be helped, but who knows. On the one hand, most people who I have described these symptoms to over the years say it sounds just like ashtma, although with slightly different symptoms (no wheezing or coughing). Others don't think so. Considering that I had a lung collapse at age 13 and was very premature as a baby, I wonder if there is some kind of congenital lung issue that is causing these problems, but of course that's very vague and hard to pin down. I also wonder why I never had these problems till the middle of college, about a year before the onset of my chemical sensitivities - somehow they have to be related. Something was weakened in my body, somehow.

The only other medically interesting note is that I remember once for some reason holding my nose and realizing that most of the symptoms, or maybe half of them anyway, went away while doing this. Of course this not a practical long term solution, and I have no idea whatsoever that could mean.

Barometric pressure has commonly been described as causing feelings of pressure on joints, but I only have these symptoms i in the summer, so that doesn't make sense.

Buying a dehumidifer might help though....maybe more so than an AC...who knows.

Anyway I am totally losing my train of thought focus here so I am going to stop now.

Although on one last note I just discovered something called Biometeorology. It is "the interdisciplinary study of increasing importance as correlations are being drawn between certain types of meteorological conditions and the health of plants, humans, and all other animals." (

And don't even get me started about mosquitos. They didnt have them in OR or MT either ,or at least not many of them. New England mosquitos are the worst.

Yes, I am just *so* looking forward to summer, lol

Perhaps writing this will have made me a little more prepared and mentally ready, maybe not, who knows, at least I tried. One more thing to cross of my to do list.

I shall go read some blogs now.

1 comment:

  1. Maine sucks. The constant choking humidity makes me gag and throw up sometimes.