What Can My Friends Do To Help Me?

The best thing that a friend/family member do is combine being as scent-free as possible in addition to helping you to live as normal a life as possible. Even though the requests that MCSers make may seem extravagant or odd, we wouldn't ask anyone to go through so much trouble if it weren't so critical to our health and comfort. We don't want to live with MCS any more than we want our friends to, so it may be helpful to know that we only ask friends to make accommodations when they are around us; if a friend thinks that adjusting a bit for a visit is difficult for them, ask them to imagine what it's like to live with this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 1/4 days a year, with no guarantee of a reprieve.

A friend will accept your situation without constant "fixing" comments or dismissals of the problem; this is not to be confused with a helpful suggestion now and then. Ask your friends to read some literature on MCS to learn more about the illness, to trust you to make the appropriate decisions about what you need, and to ask you about the other important things going on in your life. For those that can tolerate the electromagnetic fields of telephones, phone calls often serve as the main form of communication.

Ask your friends to understand if you refuse to enter a building or room, or if you need to leave abruptly. Make sure that this is not a personal insult to them, but that you have to look out for your health. What most people find to be a perfectly tolerable environment may be toxic to us. That's why they call it environmental illness! For some, exposure to chemicals in the environment clouds judgement skills, and we really need friends to help us get out and get to fresh air. Sometimes, only a close friend can tell the difference between a reaction and us just being ornery!

Cigarette smoke and perfumes are the worst things we have to deal with; these two substances seem to linger on clothing and skin a lot longer than we realize. Just because someone doesn't smoke, it doesn't mean that they won't get cigarette/perfume odors on their clothing or in their hair. Contaminated environments are everywhere: cars, homes, restaurants, etc. A simple shower and change of clothing may not be enough to get the smell out--sometimes, it takes days of non-toxic living to get the odors out of skin and/or clothing. Just because the carrier doesn't smell it, it doesn't mean that the odor isn't there!

Be a good friend in return and remember the attitude of gratitute! Remember, no one is REQUIRED to help you with this illness; if someone gives you a hand, even if it's as simple as taking your groceries to your car for you, THANK THEM. A little bit of old-fashioned courtesy goes a long way with this illness, even when you don't feel well enough to be gracious. Be gracious anyway, and be thankful that you had something to be gracious about--that help could disappear tomorrow. Husbands, friends, parents--they could die in an accident at any time and you might be on your own. Be thankful and positivel--no one want to be around a whining person for long!

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