The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast

Episode 6: A Marriage Story

June 26, 2022 The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast Episode 6
The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast
Episode 6: A Marriage Story
The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast
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Thank you for listening to The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast!

New episodes twice a month. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts to never miss one.

And follow us on social media.

This episode features a conversation with a man who has severe MCS. We take a deep dive into how the illness affected his marriage with his former wife and ultimately contributed to the end of their relationship. We've kept his and his former partner's identities confidential.

Folks with MCS will understand the challenges MCS can create when it comes to being in relationships. And for people without the illness, hopefully this episode will shed light on what it can be like for individuals and couples navigating these issues.

I hope you enjoy the conversation.

If there's someone you would like to hear interviewed on the podcast, please let me know. Email: info@chemicalsensitivitypodcast.org. 

Thanks again for listening!

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Special thanks to the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation for its generous support of the podcast.

Aaron Goodman  00:05

Welcome to the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast. It's a podcast that amplifies the voices of people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS and highlights emerging research about the illness. 

 

Aaron Goodman  00:18

This episode features an in depth conversation with a man with severe MCS. Together, we take a deep dive into how the illness impacted his marriage with his former wife, and how it ultimately contributed to the breakdown of their relationship. 

 

Aaron Goodman  00:33

In order to keep the guest's and his former wife's identities confidential, we don't mention their names, the places they lived, where they went to university or where they worked. But they're from the U.S. 

 

Aaron Goodman  00:43

Listeners with MCS will know the illness can add to the challenges of dating and relationships. So even though my guest talks about events that are specific to his former relationship, I think folks with MCS will be able to identify with a lot of what he shares. And for people without MCS who may be listening, hopefully my guest's experiences can help shed light on what it's like living with this illness. 

 

Aaron Goodman  01:06

I'm grateful to my guest for being willing to speak so openly about such difficult experiences. I really appreciate his humility, open heartedness and how he doesn't ever seem to blame his former partner for how she navigated the relationship. 

 

Aaron Goodman  01:19

I hope you enjoy the conversation. We release new episodes twice a month, the best way to never miss one is to subscribe for free wherever you get your podcasts. 

 

Aaron Goodman  01:29

So, I just wanted to thank you for taking time to come on the podcast to talk with me and to share your experience with listeners. Feel free to let us know a little bit about you, where you're coming from. 

 

Anonymous Man  01:39

So I grew up on the West Coast of the United States, very much ensconced in nature, pretty idyllic childhood, which was nice. In college, I studied psychology, and I really fell in love with that. And so I spent my 20s doing research and pursuing an advanced degree in that. So I ended up getting a PhD. 

 

Anonymous Man  01:59

I've had some health issues even apart from MCS. So, when I was towards the end of my degree of my PhD, I think I had about one or two years left to go, I got restless leg syndrome, which is also a condition that people question whether it's real or whether it's worth worrying about, because the name sounds so innocuous. But basically, like I was trying to get a dissertation together, as I was not sleeping at all. And then once we finally found out what I had, we had issues around the medications, the various cocktails of medications, we tried, really zonked me out. 

 

Anonymous Man  02:36

So, I like fought through and got my dissertation done, despite all of it. And so I was with my partner at that point. And so I do want to emphasize, she stuck with me through some physical hardships, you know, that automatically meant that I was less fun to be around. 

 

Anonymous Man  02:53

You couldn't necessarily like go out late all the time, because I had to stay up late, like stretching and stuff and my restless leg syndrome. When we finished with that, we went off and moved over to the East Coast. And we spent some time there as she was building up her career. And then we moved back to being near home, back to the west coast a couple of years ago. And so that's kind of a quick trajectory of my life. 

 

Aaron Goodman  03:16

Yeah, thank you. And so how would you just sort of characterize the relationship in the early stages? 

 

Anonymous Man  03:22

So we met, I was 25. At the time she was I think, 22. We met actually, at the college I went to there were co-ops. And so I had gone off to grad school for my first year, and I was in the Midwest then, I didn't really love where I was. And so I kind of wanted to get back to where I had people who are familiar and friends and all that. So I went back and I stayed in my old co-op along with a friend of mine who hadn't graduated yet.

 

Anonymous Man  03:49

She simultaneously had gone to an Ivy League and had not loved it, hadn't had a great social experience from it. So her best friend from high school said, oh, you should come join us at our co-op. And so it was the same one. So she was there looking to finally have a positive social experience. 

 

Anonymous Man  04:07

I was back trying to basically reconnect with you know, familiarity and things I enjoyed. And we spent the summer living together in this house when it was full, like 60 people. A converted hotel from around 1900. 

 

Anonymous Man  04:20

Yeah, so we had a whole summer together. We like slowly built up a flirtation. And then at the very end of the summer, unfortunately, we threw a big party, basically at the end of every semester at that school, they take whatever is left in the food budget and basically have a blowout or like you know, whatever people want to make that's really special. They'll have money for it. We call it special dinner. And so we had that. And so by the end of the night, we realized we had this mutual attraction that we'd been kind of like building up over the whole summer and so we decided we wanted to be together. But that was only like two days before I had to go back to the Midwest for grad school. 

 

Anonymous Man  04:54

So I went there and she had just graduated from college and she's a very adventurous person. So she knew the professional track she wants to go on. But she didn't want to be the kind of person who goes from college to school to career and not really have much life experience besides that, which I respect about her. 

 

Anonymous Man  05:14

So, she decided what she wanted to do was to go off to France and spend a year teaching English there. So she found a program, they put her in this cute little tiny community in Southern France. And she spent the school year there. And so we tried to connect as best we could. I think it was right before she ended up leaving for France, she and I met in Chicago, which was kind of near where my grad school was. And my uncle, who is fairly wealthy had an apartment there that he wasn't using. So we had it to ourselves for a weekend. And so that really, like cemented our relationship. And we spent a lot of quality time together there. 

 

Anonymous Man  05:52

And then she went off to France, I took my first ever trip to Europe to visit her during my spring break, and I got to spend a week with her then. And at that point, I hated the idea of holding her back from like having fun and exploring if this was like the main time in her life, she's going to be able to do that. 

 

Anonymous Man  06:08

So I think I was the one who insisted that we have an open relationship for that period, just so that like, you know, she meets some handsome Frenchman, she doesn't have to say like, no, I met this guy. And we've been together for three days. And so I can't do anything fun. So we had that kind of arrangement for that year, then again, because she didn't want to do a direct path, she got a master's degree in something that was somewhat related to what she wants to do on the East Coast when she came back. And so I was pretty much finishing up with one degree and the rest of that degree I could do remotely. And so I flew out, and I lived with her illegally in her dorm room.

 

Anonymous Man  06:46

So her school, you had to like flash pass like a student ID in order to access those rooms. So I just bought a library card for the library, which looked identical to the student ID with the exception that like there's just a little thing on the back that says it's a library card. But I basically made that work every day knowing that like if the guard had known to like turn the card around, he would have been able to immediately like spot me and kick me out. 

 

Anonymous Man  07:11

I'd be just like homeless in an East Coast city. So we did that for a while.  I guess the other thing related to her going to France is she's always more adventurous than I was like, not that I don't enjoy learning new things and stuff. But I just never am so driven to do it that I actually make it happen. 

 

Anonymous Man  07:31

So early on in our relationship she wanted to go on a trip to Italy. So we made that happen and spent a month in Italy together. And so we traveled from Milan down to like Cinque Terre, which is really gorgeous. And then like Rome and Florence and down to Sicily and had the best pizza of my life, that sort of thing. 

 

Anonymous Man  07:51

So then what happened, my graduate program basically fell apart. So in graduate school, for those people who don't know, you don't go to a school, you go to work with a particular advisor and you apprentice under that person. And so my advisor decided that he wanted to leave my school. His wife and his kids were at a different school elsewhere. And he didn't think the program was good enough for me to follow him. 

 

Anonymous Man  08:14

And also the following year, he ended up just moving to teaching where his wife was originally from. So that got thrown up. So what had been a PhD program, turned into a master's program, and then I had to re-apply to a different school. And I ended up at a different school in the Midwest. 

 

Anonymous Man  08:29

So, when I did that, my then girlfriend decided it was time for her to apply for the actual career path that she wanted for the professional school that she wanted. But she only applied to my school, which was really sweet. Like, you don't really have great odds of getting into any one particular school. She's very, very intelligent, very impressive person. Went to good high school and college and all of that, but still, you never know. 

 

Anonymous Man  08:53

And I was going to a state university, and they had preferential treatment for people who are actually from within the state. But nonetheless, she only applied to that school. And I haven't mentioned this yet, but she's Black. And I was in a part of the Midwest where racism was pretty endemic. And so they looked at her one way or another, they decided she wasn't right for the school. 

 

Anonymous Man  09:12

And so she decided, okay, I'm still going to make this work. And so she lived with me, she volunteered in a research lab on campus just to like have a toehold into the school. So she did that for a year under a person who was awful. It was like a rat lab where she had to just be like, murdering rats all the time and stuff. And the woman running the lab just like worked all of her research assistants really hard. 

 

Anonymous Man  09:37

So, she did that just for the sake of the next time around her being able to apply to the same school maybe get in this time. And so then she did and she got in and so that was great. So we got to go to the same school for a number of years. She got her degree and I got my PhD at the same time and we had a really sweet life there. 

 

Anonymous Man  09:55

Our first year together we rented this little shoebox of a house which wasn't too great, but it was still nice to be together. And then a friend of ours noticed that her neighbor was selling her house and said, oh, there's a house, you know, cost of land is cheap in this part of the country, why don't you just buy the house right next to mine, and we can be neighbors? 

 

Anonymous Man  10:16

And so we actually, like got the money together and made that happen. So we're homeowners in this cute little bungalow, next to a close friend of ours, who threw great parties, and it was nice. 

 

Anonymous Man  10:26

We had a few years like that, I guess, maybe like two years like that when we got our degrees. And she ended up having to do one more step on her path to actually being able to practice in her profession. And we got placed in a city on the East Coast. And so we lived there for four years. 

 

Anonymous Man  10:45

Like I said before, I'd gotten restless leg syndrome just briefly before that, and I was still figuring out how to cope with that without either being totally sleep deprived or totally zonked. And so while she was doing that, I spent two years figuring out how I was going to work. 

 

Anonymous Man  11:00

I applied to some research labs to try to see how I could use my PhD. But I wasn't really able to, you know, show myself off as being particularly impressive because my brain just wasn't working right at the time. 

 

Anonymous Man  11:11

And so she put up with that. Me being unemployed for two years, that's a lot to ask of a person, we still had fun when we could, we had a nice little trip. At one point, we drove all the way up to upstate New York by the Finger Lakes, and we had a nice vacation there that we made work, we made some good friends out there. 

 

Anonymous Man  11:29

And when we moved back to the West Coast in a town that was about a three or four hour drive from family, because both of us originate from around the same spot. And so yeah, we got to live in this really sweet little college town, which was nice. We were so excited because we moved from like shoebox house after like, you know, dingy apartment. 

 

Anonymous Man  11:52

And finally, she was making enough money that we were able to at first rent and then eventually buy a really nice house. We rented one house for a year, we bought another house the next year. 

 

Anonymous Man  12:02

And it just felt like everything was on a really positive trajectory. And like all that time, we kept putting off having children for the sake of her career. And basically like, oh, I can't during this portion of my school because I just don't have the time or energy to dedicate to it. And okay, well, now at this part of my training, it's still going to be really hard, so I can't really do it now. 

 

Anonymous Man  12:24

And so like we were forming for ourselves this really tight window of like when we try, and it takes time to get pregnant sometimes. So like, we were already like, cutting it really close. And then we decided, okay, now it's finally time, we were about to start a family. And that's exactly when my MCS kicked in. 

 

Anonymous Man  12:42

And so I just like got really brain foggy, really unable to do much work at all. And I was just miserable all the time. 

 

Aaron Goodman  12:50

It's really interesting to hear a lot of the good times if we can call that that you had together. And then you got MCS. Maybe was there one moment when you thought to yourself, like, I'm not sure how this is going to play out? This might be really challenging. Was there something that gave you a clue to like, how are we going to do this? How are we gonna make this work? 

 

Anonymous Man  13:10

So yeah, I knew I had MCS at that point. I was self diagnosed at that point. And I was looking into all the things that we would need to do in order for me to be able to possibly function. And one of the things that came up was that gas stoves are a no no for us, because they just like leak so much gas into our air. 

 

Anonymous Man  13:31

And my ex-wife just loves to cook. Like if she weren't doing her chosen profession, she would be a fantastic restaurant tour and chef. Yeah, back when we were doing school in the Midwest. She'd even just like throw these like semi professional dinner parties for our friends were like everything was just like, knock your socks off.

 

Anonymous Man  13:50

And so I knew that she had a strong prejudice against electric stoves, which I get, they're harder to work with. You can be less precise. You can't eyeball the flame the same way. And so, when I read that, I was like, okay, this is taking away something that she really loves. And that's really core to who she is. 

 

Anonymous Man  14:08

And so I think it was that where I realized like, okay, I can kind of see how this is going to play out. I don't want to really accept it in this moment. But it's really hard to see how I take things like this away from her and she still wants to have a life with me. 

 

Aaron Goodman  14:22

You and I spoke previously and you'd mentioned there was a discussion about furniture. 

 

Anonymous Man  14:27

We had multiple discussions around furniture, unfortunately, the one I think you're thinking about is the couch where we'd had this old leather IKEA couch. It was like a loveseat that we'd had since we moved to the city on the East Coast for years prior. And it was just getting kind of uncomfortable. And also just like it looked kind of dingy compared to like the fact that we now had a nice house and she was really just wanting to finally have all the nice things that I guess she'd been dreaming about all her life and that she worked so hard in order to have the money to afford. 

 

Anonymous Man  14:58

She got it in her head that the one thing that our house absolutely needed was to get rid of our old couch and get a fresh one. And so when she was talking to me about that, I said, oh, well, let's do our research. And let's find a couch that I can actually tolerate, because most of them will probably be really bad for me. 

 

Anonymous Man  15:13

And so she was okay with that, we went to My Chemical Free House, which is something that I use a lot in order to figure out materials that will work for me, and they had an article on couches. And so they recommended this one couch brand. 

 

Anonymous Man  15:26

So, I showed her the pictures of all these couches, and she just thought none of them were attractive enough for the aesthetic she was going for, which was a little frustrating. And so we looked around, and eventually she found one attractive enough, from her point of view, she's, she still didn't think it was her ideal. 

 

Anonymous Man  15:43

And so I told her leather was out because I'd had really bad reactions to leather before. And she really had wanted like a beautiful rich leather couch. So she was already having to not have that. And so we found this other one. 

 

Anonymous Man  15:56

And we found in a nearby town that there's actually a showroom where they were selling them. We picked a floor model that looks nice as this enormous sectional that she thought would look good in their place. And in the end, it looked pretty good. And we actually got compliments on it sometimes, but it costs even on sale, even with all these markdowns, it cost $7,000. And she had the money for it, technically, but she was still really upset about having to spend that much money. 

 

Anonymous Man  16:23

Whereas like if it weren't for me, she could have spent a lot less and gotten that much nicer couch. And so that was one of the things where I think she felt like, okay, I did my part I tried, I bought you this expensive couch. And eventually we ended up getting an electric stove as well. 

 

Anonymous Man  16:41

And so just having this feeling like, okay, this doesn't seem like it's going to end like I make these accommodations that I don't want to do, and it doesn't fix all your problems. 

 

Aaron Goodman  16:51

And there was another piece of furniture if I remember, right?

 

Anonymous Man  16:54

So, right when we moved to the place, before I even understood that I had MCS, i think. When she was finally about to practice, she met up with one of her friends fathers whose some sort of chemist, he makes that kind of money. But he said, oh, now that you have money, you know you really need to spend it on this one brand of recliner. That's just the most comfortable recliner in the world. 

 

Anonymous Man  17:16

And so it's a couple thousand dollars. So I wouldn't have suggested until now, but now you can afford it, so you should get that. And so while we were driving from the place, we've been renting to the place where we bought our new house, we happen to cross a store that actually like had these recliners in them. And we tested them out, we sat on them. They were extremely comfortable. 

 

Anonymous Man  17:39

And she picked out like beautiful coloring and got this recliner shipped all the way from I think like Sweden or Norway for her. And it arrived and I just like couldn't be in the same room with it. And so what she'd been planning to have just to be this great place where she could just sit and be comfortable and look outside our picture window out on the nature ramp where we were living.

 

Anonymous Man  18:00

 Instead, I insisted, you know, the only way we keep it in the house is if we take the area that was our study, and we just decided that that's going to be off limits to me. I won't go in there, but you can keep it there. But I can't tolerate having it in the same room as me. 

 

Anonymous Man  18:16

I did what I could to make it work without her knowing about it because I know she would have been upset. If she was out, sometimes I put it outside in the sun because that can help off gas things. And I mean, I only did a handful of times. I wasn't going to bleach it in the sun or anything like that. 

 

Anonymous Man  18:31

But I was hoping like, okay, maybe if it gets hot, like whatever it is that I'm reacting to will off gas and then maybe it'll be okay. But that never turned out to work. Yeah, it just smelled strongly of leather the whole time. And since then, I've also learned that leather, just the curing process often has heavy metals and stuff that we can react to. And then I decided okay, I'm gonna look for the same brand, but a used one on Craigslist. And I drove out I dropped I think $200 on this recliner, I got it in, she immediately commented at how junky it looks because it was used. And in the end, I couldn't even tolerate it anyway, either. Just maybe that type of leather never gets good for me because of how it was processed. Or maybe it was old enough that it had some mold in it. 

 

Anonymous Man  19:14

But yeah, I mean, I tried to give her the closest approximation and she didn't seem to appreciate that much.

 

Aaron Goodman  19:21

And if I recall there was also a record player stand?

 

Anonymous Man  19:25

Yes. It's really crazy with this disease like oftentimes things that you think are going to be fine just end up not being, so she did what should have been like exactly the right thing to do. She looked on Amazon, she found a record player stand from Russia that was gorgeous, made out of walnut, which is usually a good one for MCS. She didn't know that, she just knew that it was wooden and that should surely be fine. 

 

Anonymous Man  19:52

So it was just wood and metal legs. And so you think okay, wooden metal, that's fine. It was like six hundred or eight hundred dollars. It arrived and I couldn't tolerate being in the same room as that, and we tried shellacking it--no, scratch that, we didn't do that she wouldn't allow me to. We tried that with a, with another piece of furniture, which unfortunately didn't work. 

 

Aaron Goodman  20:14

I know, I hear what you're saying. You're trying all kinds of creative things. 

 

Anonymous Man  20:18

And like trying to adapt. 

 

Aaron Goodman  20:20

You're trying to adapt. And I also hear that you're being really clear on what your needs are too, but you're also trying to make it work. Did there come a point where the two of you, or you or I don't know her just said, like, we can't do this anymore? Was there a breaking point is what I'm trying to say? 

 

Anonymous Man  20:38

Well, first of all, last summer, I proposed to her that why don't we just give me a six month period to try to do everything I can to get better. And if I can't, then we can reassess where we want our relationship to go. Because she was clearly miserable. 

 

Anonymous Man  20:53

You know, I was still fairly early in the course of the disease. And from what I'd heard avoidance to maybe like reverse it or get much better if you caught it pretty early. So I consulted with a person I knew who was more knowledgeable about MCS and she suggested that there's a woman in New Mexico, who has MCS who actually had a house that she built for herself for MCS, and it has a little tiny house attached. And she was trying to rent that out. So why don't I try to stay with her. 

 

Anonymous Man  21:25

So I contacted her, and I decided, okay, I'm gonna spend the next six months in New Mexico and hopefully, you know, giving my body and my brain a chance to just like, not react for a while, maybe I can come back and we can figure out some version of normalcy, where we can be together again. 

 

Anonymous Man  21:42

So I went out there. And sadly, I didn't even do well in that house. And this woman said that was common that like she often tries to rent out to people with MCS, which is really frustrating, because about half of them just won't do well at places she does well at. And like, even though it's an MCS safe house, it was concrete, mostly and old. 

 

Anonymous Man  22:04

When I was off leaving for that place, my then wife was just really broken up, she couldn't go into work for a couple of days, because like, she was just so sad. And I think at that moment in her mind, that was kind of like, okay, our relationship is over and that was her time that she grieved our relationship. 

 

Anonymous Man  22:24

And so when I left, and tried that out for about a week, and then it didn't work out, so I came back, like from that point on, the relationship kind of changed its tone, where basically, she'd already grieved, she was already in the mindset, even though she wasn't willing to say it out loud. She was already in the mindset that like, you know, our relationship has an expiration date, and it's not much longer. I think that was when at least psychologically for her, like our relationship was over. 

 

Anonymous Man  22:52

And then what ended up working for me is some months later, I managed to go off to Aruba, which actually, I did do well in and this whole time, we were seeing a marriage counselor remotely, which we'd never needed before MCS. 

 

Anonymous Man  23:05

But this was basically a way to cope with that. And so we decided to keep doing our marriage counseling when we were apart. And when we spoke to the marriage counselor, my first time, my first week in Aruba, my then wife said, basically, I've slept better now than I've slept in a year. You know, she never had sleep problems. But this last year, she's had to, like, take lots of melatonin and various things to get to sleep. 

 

Anonymous Man  23:27

That was the moment that she let me know, like, I can't go back to life like this. Like, I've been holding so much stress. And now that I feel like what it's like to not have it on my shoulders anymore. Like I just don't want it. 

 

Aaron Goodman  23:41

So, your ex-wife was very clear on you know, it was tough for her she was experiencing a lot of, you call it stress and challenges trying to adapt and deal and I wonder though,  what was it like for you in those moments when you were really trying to make it work with the furniture, and you were trying not to upset her but you have needs too because of your illness? How are you feeling in those moments when--because in a way, like when I listen to you, it almost sounds like the couch was more important than your health? 

 

Anonymous Man  24:12

Yeah, so the way she put it to me and I can kind of wrap my head around this, although it's still frustrating. She does work extremely hard, long hours, her only relaxation is to come home and just like have a house where she feels comfortable.

 

Anonymous Man  24:28

I had stripped so many things out of our house, we couldn't have our shoe rack. At its worst point, so, shortly before I left, we developed some mildew in the kitchen that was really messing with me. And she wasn't willing to spend the money on remediation, I think because after buying the couch she just felt like it was good money after bad to try to help me. You know, I make a lot less money than she does. I teach part time at a college and she would say to me when I bring up like oh, we really need to fix this. Even if it's not for me like you shouldn't let mold just like fester behind your sink, you need to fix this. And she'd say, basically like, oh, well, it is mostly to help you. So like, if you can get the money, that's fine. 

 

Anonymous Man  25:06

So, that was her mindset at that point. So I ended up just trying to create a barrier, which looked ugly. But I didn't have an alternative where I basically like taped up trash bags between the kitchen and the living room. Because that was my last safe space.

 

Anonymous Man  25:19

I was reacting to something in our bedroom at that point, probably her nightstands and stuff, which were like all nicely lacquered, or stained. So all I had was the living room which connected to the kitchen. So I put up this barrier. 

 

Anonymous Man  25:31

And it just really got under her skin like this idea that she couldn't have a pretty house where I guess having like a pretty neat house just was a necessity for her to feel relaxed at that point towards the end. Like since I couldn't even be in our bedroom. I was just like sleeping on the couch that we bought and sequestered it off with those trash bags. 

 

Anonymous Man  25:51

And I wake up to this ripping sound after a few days. And apparently she just like got up in the morning and tore them all down because she was just like so frustrated and disturbed by the fact that that place looked kind of junky. 

 

Aaron Goodman  26:03

When you look back on it, do you think that the MCS brought some deeper issues to the surface? 

 

Anonymous Man  26:10

I think what it revealed about my relationship was that it wasn't a totally equal relationship. Or maybe we didn't approach love in exactly the same way. But like, yeah, we went off on these adventures together, like I said, to various foreign countries. And they're always the trips that she wanted to take, which I was happy with, because she has good tastes. So she wanted to go see these countries. And I'd be her companion while she did it. 

 

Anonymous Man  26:34

She had to go through all these hard years of school, I would, you know, when I could give her house to stay in. Like I said, I bought that house back when we were in the Midwest, and didn't ask for rent or anything, obviously, it just seemed like from the way she sees her life. Or at least, this is her take on our relationship, which was basically like she was off living her best life as best she could. And I was there to like, accompany her and be her companion while she did the things she wanted to do. 

 

Anonymous Man  27:05

And it didn't feel as much like she saw us as a single unit where when I get sick, it's her problem, too. So I think that's the difference. Like I think the way I approach relationships, my mindset on that is basically like--I get not wanting to share this horrible life, because MCS really makes you have to live this pathetic life, that's no fun. 

 

Anonymous Man  27:27

But for her to also just more--more or less kick me to the curb and just like not want to help feels more like she's doesn't have the same kind of caring connection to me as I thought we had all this time. 

 

Anonymous Man  27:39

And again, I don't want to make it sound like she's heartless like she--she stood with me and never raised an issue when I was unemployed for two years. She wasn't happy about it, but she didn't give me grief about it. When I said no, I can't make it to that music show. It's too late, I have to stay home and stretch for my restless leg syndrome. Like she was patient up to a point and I I don't want to be unfair to her. The MCS was just too much, I guess. 

 

Aaron Goodman  28:03

After having been through what you've been through, do you think it's possible to be in a long term relationship as someone who has MCS with someone who doesn't? 

 

Anonymous Man  28:11

So that's the hard thing. Like it's hard to ask a person to join me in this. So what I always thought was like, oh, well, you know, us folks with MCS should date each other because we're all going to avoid fragrances and stuff. 

 

Anonymous Man  28:23

I mentioned that to an older person with MCS, in just like a little group chat. And she was like, oh, that's the worst idea because they often tend to be sensitive to different things. And so like the face cream, that's the one cream that works for you will be like something that I can't stand and that sort of thing. So there's that. 

 

Anonymous Man  28:40

But to answer, to go back to your question about someone without MCS, it seems really hard. It's one of the reasons that I hoped that getting ill after I'd already dedicated a lot of my life to this relationship would mean that it would stick around. So right now, I'm visiting my brother in the South. And it's like winterish time. And I'm actually not reacting here in his house at all. And it's not even like a specially built house. It just like has high ceilings and hardwood floors. And I guess it's new enough that there's no mold. And so, you know, one thing that that makes me think is that it might not be impossible, given my level of sensitivity that if I just find the right place, both the right location and the right house that another person could just like not wear perfume and do like a handful of things and actually make it work. 

 

Anonymous Man  29:30

So, I guess that's where I'm hopeful. I also have some pretty extreme contingency plans. If I can't find a place like the two options that I'm playing around with is there's one person with MCS--actually the person who runs the My Chemical Free House. She's working with a Canadian company that builds basically prefab houses that are mostly metal and they seem to be safe, like very safe for MCS. 

 

Anonymous Man  29:53

So one thing that might happen is I might buy a small plot of land and like erect this like tiny home that is safe for me. So that already seems like it'd be hard to date a person. If it's like, oh, here's my 300 square foot house. It's basically just, you know, metal slapped together, that just doesn't sound too appealing. I don't want to say worst case scenario, because things can always get worse. But I'm thinking about getting a minivan, thinking that it might be a contingency plan. Like if no other place works, I can sleep in my car, and then that's very much bad for dating, unfortunately. Like I'm thirty-nine right now, I'll be forty in a couple months. Yeah, who wants to date a forty year-old guy living out of a van? 


 Aaron Goodman  30:36

Well they're kind of having a moment, right? 


Anonymous Man  30:38

That's true. I know, everybody keeps sprucing it up, talking about van life, that's trendy. So yeah, maybe I can make that work. But still, like, I feel like this disease has turned me much less appealing from like, it's not making a ton of money, but you know, respected college instructor to guy living out of van seeing if he can get part time remote work.
 

Aaron Goodman  30:57

Well, I really want to thank you for taking such a deep dive and being so generous with your time and sharing all that you've shared. Is there anything you'd like to wrap up with? 

 

Anonymous Man  31:07

I mean, I'm just feeling more hopeful now that I've discovered that there are houses that I can live in. And like, I was really not thinking that would necessarily be the case. I mean, mainly, I'm just interested and a little excited about like, where I might get to live next. So I might live in Utah, I might live in Vermont, like I plan to take this summer to basically do cross country road trips, and just like sniff out where I feel well, and there are some areas that have communities of people with MCS around, and there's the one in Arizona that everybody knows about.

 

Anonymous Man  31:40

But I have a friend with MCS in Vermont, where she has a whole Facebook group of people in Vermont who at least are fragrance free. And so it's makes me think, okay, well, even if I'm farflung, maybe I'll find other people who are similar to me, have some semblance of community. So that could be interesting. 

 

Aaron Goodman  31:59

Thank you so much for taking the time and for sharing all that you shared, and I wish you all the best. 

 

Anonymous Man  32:04

It was really good talking to you. 

 

Aaron Goodman  32:06

That brings us to the end of this episode of the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast. Thank you to my guests for being willing to speak on the podcast and for being so open.

 

Aaron Goodman  32:15

The podcast is produced by me, Aaron Goodman, Dani Penaloza, and Emma Bolzner. Please subscribe for free wherever you get your podcasts to never miss an episode. Leave a review on Apple podcasts or other podcast host sites. It's a great way to help others find the podcast, and follow us on social media. Just search for the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast, or Podcasting MCS. If there's someone you'd like to hear interviewed on the podcast, just let me know. Email me at info@chemicalsensitivitypodcast.org and I'll definitely respond. And thanks so much for listening.

Aaron introduces the podcast and episode.
The guest introduces himself.
The guest describes the early stages of his relationship.
The guest recounts when MCS first began to affect his relationship.
The guest describes conflicts they had about furniture.
The guest talks about the breaking point in their relationship.
The guest details how MCS played a part in the end of their relationship.
The guest examines the differences in how they approached love.
The guest touches on the difficulties MCS can add to dating.
The guest notes his hope for the future.
Aaron concludes the episode.