Stink Eye

Yesterday, I went with my mom for her MRI. She has hEDS, too, and we think she subluxed her shoulder back in October. It isn’t getting better, so it was time to get a look at it. While I was waiting in the lobby trying to get some work done, the receptionists were talking about their New Year’s diets.

My God. That went on for an hour and twenty minutes uninterrupted. And even after it was interrupted, it continued off and on until I left 2 and half hours after I arrived. It was so striking to me how much of our work culture, particularly among women, is centered around this performative ritual. And. It is so incredibly disordered. They were drooling at the thought of cupcakes, lamenting their chosen restrictions. Nothing wrong with cupcakes. If you want one, eat one. I take mine vegan and gluten free! However, to be thinking about and talking about food so extensively … for hours on end, beyond meal time, does not demonstrate a good relationship with food. As someone who used to be similarly disordered, I tried to tune it out. But it was hard not to listen. And, frankly, it was triggering.

At one point, the worst offender in the diet talk got up and started spraying air freshener around the lobby. I was already irritated, but now I was literally irritated. I’m lucky I don’t react too badly to scent, but I felt my lungs start to tighten up. And I couldn’t just leave! Fortunately, I still had my Vog mask in my purse. So I got it out and put it on.

This is the first time I’ve used my mask for anything other than wildfire smoke and in such a public space. I thought about being embarrassed for a minute. But then I thought, “Who sprays air freshener in a MEDICAL office?!” Between 20% and 30% of the population is sensitive to scent–not just those with MCAS, but migraine sufferers, asthmatics, etc. So, I wore my mask proudly and gave the receptionist a little of the old stink eye. (Fitting, I think.) Given that I had been sitting there with out the mask for several hours, I hoped she would notice and make the connection. But I didn’t have the spoons to actually go over and advocate.

Giving the stink eye in my vog mask.

When it was time to go, I was relieved to leave that toxic place. Walking out into the cold January air was refreshing. It is disturbing that a place of healing was filled with so much toxicity. I would like to see the world of medicine evolve so that patients (and their care givers) are not assaulted with both metaphorical and chemical toxicity while seeking health and healing.

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