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Confidence in Full Recovery, with Discharge

A couple of years ago, I developed a persistent rash over several months—itchy red patches on my hands and eyelids, near my mouth, and on my torso, and legs. My doctor insisted it was poison oak, which didn’t make sense to me, based on what I felt and what I read about rashes on the Internet. She prescribed topical steroid cream and encouraged me to consider taking Prednisone, an oral steroid. It didn’t make sense to me to depress the immune function when it seemed to be working fine to alert me that something toxic was hurting me and we didn’t yet know what it was. The side effects of steroids are horrible; so I chose itching over the drug. But the itchy rash was getting worse.

Finally, by my own detective work on the Internet, I solved the mystery: I have an allergy to latex, a common condition and a big problem for people who work in health care, because of exposure to latex gloves, surgical supplies, and other products. In retrospect, I’m surprised that neither I nor my doctor realized what the problem was sooner, but confusing factors obscured the obvious. My rash was originally triggered by latex gloves.Then I noticed a dotted line of rash on my torso—oh no! It was apparently a reaction to the latex elastic in my underwear! As I read more I began to realize the danger. Latex is everywhere: in clothing, rubber bands, toys, newsprint, kitchen utensils, garden hoses, tires, computers, sneakers, tennis balls. I read also that some severe food allergies can follow the development of a latex allergy, the overactive immune function run wild. The Internet offered hundreds of horror stories of people getting very, very ill with what I had, of the reaction expanding. Was I headed toward being allergic to the entire world?

I knew I wanted to minimize the use of drugs and use discharge as my major resource for healing. Over a period of about six weeks, I had to discharge, in mini-sessions and in longer sessions, several times a day, especially in the first few weeks of the most severe itching episode. The discomfort was excruciating, which helped motivate me to discharge. I found discharge very helpful if I kept at it.1 In sessions and mini-sessions, I focused on an early babyhood memory of getting hives from penicillin. I told the story and imagined the terror of my baby self as she experienced that itching, as well as my parents’ and doctors’ concern and confusion.

I cried and cried. I writhed in the bed and shook and shook. I also laughed a lot, and made myself laugh, even when there wasn’t much that seemed funny. My counselors and family made silly jokes about itching and unsightly skin. I groaned at their jokes, but kept laughing. I also discharged about disagreeing with my doctor and about my success in solving the mystery myself. Outside of session, I tried hard not to scratch and damage the healing skin. I rubbed a little herbal salve on my skin as a way to treat it lovingly and focus good attention on it. Some- times I brushed my hair vigorously to have a vicarious scratching feeling on my unaffected scalp, an area of my body that didn’t get the rash.

I had to find out everything I could about this condition, but that was also frightening. This allergy can become chronic, contributing to a wider range of allergens, such as foods and other common sub- stances that are around us all the time. It could potentially be fatal if the allergen triggered anaphylactic shock, as can sometimes happen with people allergic to bee stings and other substances. Because of my work in RC and my job in disability services, I know many people with chronic allergies, and I know how much they can limit people’s lives. As people try to avoid contact with the allergens they limit their activity and practice constant vigilance.

Because I’ve counseled many people about this, I had experience I could draw on2 for myself. I worked on the frightening thought that my environment was hostile to me. In session I yelled at latex things: pencil erasers, balloons, and rubber balls. My Co-Counselor chased me around the room with a rubber ducky as I shouted, “Get back! Don’t you dare hurt me!” (laughing!) I gave my immune system pep talks! “Go girl! You can do this! You’ve been triumphant before with many health problems!” (crying) I tried to discharge in every session on my earliest memories: about the babyhood hives, about medication-related decisions, about every memory I could dig up about my body and health. I discharged every day for more than an hour and sometimes two.

ATTENTION AWAY FROM DISTRESS

An important goal for my sessions was to keep my attention away from distress as much as possible, at least for the latter half of the session. I wanted to keep a hopeful and positive focus on connection, humor, play, survival, and flourish- ing (despite the discomfort, pain, miserable oppression, and threat of death and disfigurement)—not a small challenge! We have wonder- fully complex bodies and underlying biochemical states that are associ- ated with different emotional states. Hope seems to be pro-healing. Despair appears to suppress heal- ing function. We don’t know why, but more and more medical studies confirm this, and it seems reasonable from an RC theoretical perspective. While we really do need to cry and cry to release the grief that’s blocking our thinking, it is possible to keep it in perspective, with a major focus on reality: for example, we are very much alive, now! And at this moment, I am much, much more well and thriving than ill or hurting.

Over two months, I saw two allergists, a dermatologist, and my primary care physician, and I had a blood test and a skin patch test. I had to use my self-advocacy skills, at one point making a big fuss in order to be seen quickly—I showed up3 with no appointment and insisted I be seen! After a month of discharging and healing, I went back to one doctor and showed her the area of the rash that had been the worst. She said, “Oh good. You’ve used the steroid cream, and it worked well.” I took out the full tube and showed her and said, “I tried a bit of this and then decided not to use it. Instead I used emotional release, crying and laughing, and some of this herbal salve for the itch.” She didn’t believe me. She was polite and respectful, but I could tell she thought I was lying.

KEEPING IT FROM BECOMING CHRONIC

Besides the extreme discomfort of itching, my concern was that I might end up with a chronic emotional recording associated with the toxic latex substance, based on a fear recording, that could generalize to other substances. I now understand first-hand4 how someone in my situation could start generalizing the fear of the toxic reaction to more and more things in the environment, expanding the reactivity to other substances out of a kind of dread that becomes self-fulfilling.

Because of my leadership in disability matters, I have met many people ill with multiple chemical sensitivities. I’ve also read medical theories about the condition. The toxic substance triggers a physiologic immune function. Perhaps this may have a genetic basis for some people who are hypersensitive to certain chemicals, but clearly it is overexposure to the chemical that causes the problem. Latex proteins and the chemicals that are used to manufacture latex products are toxic to large numbers of people. The industry is being challenged to remove these toxic substances as well as to create alternative products for people who are sensitive. It is good that alternative resources are being developed. But still, I questioned the medical theories I was reading. Even if a test can detect an antigen (a substance that stimulates the production of an antibody that will fight the invader molecule), I don’t believe that the body can never recover from its hyper-reactivity and eventually adapt.

Now I can reflect on that frightening experience. Of course I will avoid extensive contact with latex gloves. But my regular contact with ordinary rubber and latex items in the environment has proven to not be problem long-term. I have a better appreciation of the fear that can come from perceiving the world to be full of hostile toxins and the effects this can have on people’s lives. And I have more confidence that with discharge, we can fully recover from these fears and live boldly in the world.


1 Kept at it means persisted with it.
2 In this context, draw on means use.
3 Showed up means arrived.
4 First-hand means from direct experience.

Marsha Saxton

El Cerrito, California, USA


Last modified: 2020-05-05 05:55:05+00