Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bare Wire

Two months ago I exchanged an isolated, almost cloistered, life for a wildly extroverted existence conducted largely among nude resort guests. This is not what I imagined as the result of electrical sensitivity (ES), but so it has been. In the past I've avoided thinking about ES. I've denied its creeping encroachment upon my life. I vaguely thought I would just give up if I acquired it. It would simply be too hard. The few people who had believed my report of my experience so far would fall away. But, as it turns out, one soldiers on (naked but not alone) and perhaps lives to tell the tale--always stranger than fiction.

Yes, only my awareness of ES has developed suddenly. I've had trouble using a computer for years. Then I lost the ability to use a cell phone, a T.V., then a cordless phone, and finally even a plain old retro phone, which was the signal to panic. Tedious attempts to be precise about my symptoms have gained me nothing. I'll just name the main problem "unpleasant brain." There have also been metallic taste, bizarre heat sensations (calf, ear), ringing in the ear, tingling, twitching, dizziness, and, in the chest, quavering and constriction. The experience overlaps with chemical sensitivity, but is distinguishable from it--at least it is now, in its full-blown glory.

On a positive note, ES is, for me, less cognitively debilitating than Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). I have less sense that permanent brain damage is occurring. On the downside I feel like a seizure or a heart attack is an imminent possibility. If I set aside my emotional response it is interesting to experience directly that the body--the nervous system--has an electrical nature. I feel my wiring.

It's a drag that ES involves disabling symptoms in response to things other people can't even detect. You're guaranteed to be branded a loony. On the other hand, electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are more easily measured than airborne chemicals. One of my first moves was to get an expert, Michael Neuert, out to my apartment to assess matters. (He's not only expert, but a sweetheart.) I grumbled beforehand that I knew he was just going to tell me I had to move. He did, but it was helpful that he did so with an irrefutable array of denial-crushing data. I was chagrined to find out that the worst spot in my electromagnetic hell-hole of an apartment seemed to be just above my pillow.

When I thought about it, I could only conceive of one course of action: look for a new home in the country using the clothing-optional hot springs as a base. Although it wasn't a social environment I had managed well I knew the place was relatively tolerable to me physically--mostly for accidental reasons. The guests are constantly bathing so they aren't highly perfumed. Laundry products aren't a big problem because folks are wearing much. There are not pets, no cell phone towers, and, crucially for me, no campfires allowed in the campground due to fire hazard.

I don't want to unfairly categorize a whole diverse group of bathers, but let's say tattoos are common at the spa--also raw food diets, astrology discussions, massage trades, disconcerting moans of release at unexpected moments, pornographic Yoga postures, poly-amorous relationships, and rapid intimacies established through extended, dreamy eye contact. In this milieu I've been heading out early each morning, toting my lunch box, for concerted house hunting against long odds in temperatures around 100 degrees. Agreement that I need to loosen up is the one point of consensus I can discern among the barrage of unsolicited advice that also seems to be a feature at the springs.

Truth be told, I was getting better leads on habitation from hanging around the communal kitchen than I was from the conventional legwork. The countryside surrounding the resort is more a word-of-mouth kind of place than one to be plumbed through Craig's List. So, I began networking among the locals with a vengeance. They are a mind-boggling set of improbable characters, from followers of the late "Promised God-Man" guru to hillbillies I would have expected to be in the Ozarks. If my sensitivities hadn't improved rapidly away from the city I wouldn't have had the pleasure to meet them.

My best source of information has been an aroma therapist I'll call Yenta. She is a Jewish New Yorker "to the nines," as she would say. She does the best anyone could to whip an uncooperative selection of individualists and misfits into a community. "People don't want to gather," she laments in that nasal New York way. She is severe with me when I beg off attending functions due to chemical sensitivity: "You can't live like this. Have you had your mercury levels checked?"

I had lunch, in the open air, with a former rodeo cowboy turned businessman turned new-age metal sculptor. He was sitting nearby, incognito, when I picked up a free postcard picturing a Native American healing symbol he had cast in steel. He asked slyly if I'd found anything good.

Another lunch, on the same deck, was with a pot-dealing poet/investor. He rents out property, but usually for more lucrative purposes than I had in mind.

My new realtor is a Japanese woman who used to be a librarian and faculty wife at Cambridge. I am guessing that she banished herself to the boondocks in some self-imposed penance for the disgrace of divorce. She was a picture of refinement, in white linen, looking utterly out of place on the steps of the foreclosed "manufactured home" she was hawking.

A grubby young man of 23 (who could only name sleeping as an occupation) sweetly offered me the spare room in his family's old vacation home rent-free. When I found out his name was Ulysses I had to go check it out, but, predictably, it presented a health hazard, and I mean for anybody. He turned out to be a poet too--in a psychedelic stream-of-consciousness vein.

So, has any of my schmoozing landed the non-toxic, low-EMF holy grail of a shelter? It has not. I have landed flat on my bad back on top of an ice pack in the same old lonely apartment in the middle of the metropolis. I cannot imagine what comes next, but when in this amazing life can we?


Rix said...


I have recently recovered completely from MCS after living more than 20 years with the condition. I have posted my story in a few places:


hope this can help you and your readers!

Matt Rixen

Mokihana and Pete said...

Masked Avenger, I am so glad to see your summer '09 post. The content of which is awesome stuff! Your escapade into the whirl sans clothing is perfect alter/altar reality. I have missed your posts so this one leads me to conclude that the unpredictable nature of life on Earth today is JUST THAT ... unpredictable. We live in our safe for us home on wheels, and I know 'safe' is a changeable condition.

Take good care of you, you're a valuable being ... with or without those clothes. Mokihana

Zoletta said...

Love your Blog!

Hi, I am a fellow MCS sufferer, who, right in this very moment, as a matter of fact, is sitting at the computer wearing a mask!!!

A routine ten day dose of Levaquin for a mild pneumonia did me in four years ago.

I can so easily relate to all you've gone through in trying to find a place to breathe and relax without reacting all the time. I'm actually about to enter a divorce because I'm allergic to the house my husband bought and he refused to sell it! Then he started saying I was imagining the brutal relapse it caused me.

What are the chances...I mean, what are the chances, that the house my husband bought (we closed on it the very day after we married!) would be contaminated with a chemical from a long term propane leak and that I would be the lucky wife to end up there?? It's got to be one in a million!

Oh, it's a long story. Too long to write in a comment box. But it sounds like you have a great sense of humor despite all you're going through. I like to keep laughing, myself, otherwise...I will for sure lose it! Or so the voices in my head keep telling me :)

Anyway, I'm Zoletta from Chicago. Nice to meet you!