Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chemical Sensitivities and Church Activity

Mormons (and members of other church communities) place great value on church attendance and activity. However, for a person with MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities), regular church activity is dificult and sometimes impossible. There may be cleaning products used in the building that are a problem or new carpeting or uphostery. Probably the worst problems come from the general use of perfumes and other scented products by church members.

In order to stay well, church members with MCS usually find it necessary to limit their church activity, often dropping out entirely. Needless to say, this is very isolating. It's easy to feel rejected by those we feel should be reaching out to us. Often, well-meaning church members will give advice along the lines of, "Just take some kind of medication before you come to church," or "Just sit in the back, and the rest of us will stay away from you so our perfume doesn't bother you." I have even had the experience of walking down the hallway at church and having someone see me coming and say,"Oh, I'm wearing perfume, so I won't talk to you." Or, they just turn and walk the other way, saying nothing.

From my own experience, I'm learned that anger in these types of situations is counter-productive. I have to try to understand the other person's point of view, even if she/he is not making any visable attemple to understand mine.

MCS is a chronic condition that is often misunderstood, even by those who have it, and much moreso by those who don't. There are many things that can be done to help a person with MCS and that a person with MCS can do to help himself or herself. I want to share my experiences with others, but I especially want to learn from the experiences others have had with MCS in a church community setting. How can we help each other as MCS sufferers? How can we help others help us? How can we educate other church members and motivate them to take the steps necessary to help people with MCS, as well as those with other disabilities? How can we teach and motivate church leaders and employees also?

These are questions with no simple or quick answers, but they are worthy of our thought and discussion. As more people hear of this blog, I hope they will respond. I am open to any and all suggestions and discussion, as long as it is respectful of individuals and their religious beliefs and practices.


J. Max Wilson said...

Thanks for your interesting blog.

Growing up, there was an older gentleman in our ward (I think his lats name was Gardener) who had very strong sensitivities to all kinds of chemicals. Because of his sensitivities he had studied pharmacology and had invented his own antidotes.

I remember in particular that he was allergic to the sacrament water and every Sunday, after taking the sacrament, he would immediately take an antidote that he carried to church with him in a vial.

My sister is very sensitive to perfume and has had to speak with local authorities a number of times to arrange to have the members of her ward educated.

Jon 'Cra-Z' Mahoney said...

My mother has the same thing goin' on I believe. I don't know what the technical name for it is. But she had to leave conference here almost as soon as she got there (our meetinghouse) because she couldn't handle it.

No good.

Maybe I'll refer her to your blog.

CatherineWO said...

Thanks Max & Jon for commenting. Please refer the people you know to the blog. I would like to get some discussion going. This is really a common problem.