|My nightmare began with a dream, a dream common to all men and women of successfully running my own business... and as is required of anyone beginning a new venture, I dedicated myself to it totally driving 40 miles to and from my shop with baby in tow and putting in ten hour days six days a week for months... until like almost all new businesses, my dream fell on it's face, but the failure of my business isn't the real tragedy here. I was totally unaware at that time that the failure of my dream was, by far, the very least of my problems.
I had owned a plastercraft shop and I was almost constantly involved in hand-mixing plaster, pouring molds for figurines or wall plaques, and painting and spraying sealer on finished plaster items. During this time, I began to have problems with severe choking at times. It was always when I was eating, so I attributed it to constantly being on the run and getting in the habit of wolfing down my food, but then it began to happen when I wasn't eating. I would get this sharp, severe pain in my throat like someone had just stabbed me in the neck and as tears poured down my face from the pain, my throat would tighten and I would cough uncontrollably. If my throat tightened enough, I wouldn't be able to breath and, at age twenty-three, I realized how truly simple it could be to die. Simple was the only word for it. You're sitting on a chair talking, all's right with the world, you get a severe pain, begin choking, stop breathing, double over in your chair and then fall when you pass out. As you lay on the dirty floor, you die. Even if someone called for an ambulance at the very second I began coughing (which wasn't going to happen), I would still be dead by the time the paramidics arrived. If you stop breathing, it happens that quickly.
Then I began to have other problems, perfumes (specifically musk, which was what I had worn for years) began to cause my throat to close. Then scented candles, detergents, and cigarette smoke began to give me migraines... and that was the beginning of the end... the end of a healthy, productive, constructive life still full of dreams. Because of my exposure to all the toxins in my craft shop, I developed a health problem which totally destroyed my life. It can be called by many names: environmental illness, 20th century disease, chemical sensitivities....