I’ve been feeling a growing sense of loss. And sadness, fear, discouragement… That’s SO not me! I’m the sunshine in the crowd, the one with the life and energy, the sometimes irritatingly always-happy-person, the bubbly one. Well, my bubble burst, so now I need to move forward. To do that, I need to figure out where I lost that part of me, why I lost it, and what to recreate OR create to feel whole again.
My health issues have kept me mostly housebound for the past six months. I have a hyper-sensitivity to unknown chemicals in fragrances due to being bombarded in three of the classes I taught in high school. Just a few girls, but no one would come forward to say who was doing it, as there’s a great deal of bullying that goes on. According to the kids who shared their concern about it and wished they could help, they told me the perpetrators thought it was funny to watch me have an allergic reaction; huge itchy, burning, raised, red hives on my face, and eventually my eyes would burn, itch and start to swell. They hoped I would have to miss school, because !!! everyone knows that when you have a sub, you don’t have to do anything and can’t be held responsible for learning anything. Therefore, you don’t have any tests, and ultimately don’t have to take a final. Wrong. Administration didn’t back me when I asked for support in November of last year, in a way that I thought would be effective. I had asked if I could send a letter, (approved by the lead principal,) to my student’s parents about the seriousness of the situation with severe repercussions (which would have to be done by administration,) if additional fragrance misuse was done. Also, I wanted to post signs in the hallway and in my classroom stating they were Fragrance Free Zones. Admin’s response was that I needed to tell them which classes were doing this, and principals would come and “catch them.” If I couldn’t catch them, how would they? Doesn’t that make it even more of a game? I’d already told them what class periods were doing this to me. I never followed up with any more requests. Why bother? I posted signs myself. But that made things worse. It was now a deliberate assault that I was unable to prove. But I’m experiencing the aftermath–the inability to be in most public places.
I haven’t taught since the middle of January. I’ve been on FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act,) so no paycheck, but at least I had health insurance. The human resources department extended my FMLA until the end of the year, because we’d hoped for miraculous results with the shots of Xolair. It’s oh-my-goodness expensive, has to be given every four weeks, and is preventative, not curative. No such luck. As of this past Monday, I still have negative reactions to good smelling people. An odd outcome is how often people take offense that I’m allergic to something they use that smells nice. It’s not at all personal, yet people often act as if it is. I know they didn’t do this to attack me. But an offense is done toward them, unintentionally. And if you knew me, that’s the last thing I want to have happen. It hurts me that people don’t understand I’m not attacking them, but what makes them smell good is extremely dangerous for me, possibly deadly. Not by choice. Trust me. I’ve lost the freedom to go anywhere at any old time because there might be someone who smells good. I have to decline parties/gatherings/functions where there might be people who smell nice. Isn’t that insane?? I’ve lost the “me” who is social. And I’m SOCIAL. As in Butterfly.
There’s more that I’ve lost. I can only think about this for a little while at a time because this is so huge, trying to figure out the new me. At 53. Hey, that rhymes. tbc…