Monday, February 1, 2016

"You Can Hug Me"

Are you a hugger? I'm a hugger. I like hugs. I think hugging is more than a mere show of affection. To me it can be therapeutic and comforting. With a fragrance allergy you can be are cut-off from the physical affections of others, like a simple hug. 

My friend Ashley gives these giant bear hugs so strong you might lose a bit of oxygen if only for a moment. I miss those hugs as she lives thousands of miles away. You see, Ashley doesn't wear fragrance or perfume of any sort. 

Drawing by Lana Willison.  Copyright, All Rights Reserved

I found as my fragrance allergy worsened, I was not able to give or receive hugs from others wearing perfume or cologne because the toxic chemicals would transfer to my clothing, face or hair and I would be sick the rest of the day. I found myself not being able to find the oxygen in the air, my chest would compress and my breathing would be compromised. 

Sometimes Benadryl® would help, however that is not a viable alternative if I am the designated driver. I'm a Realtor® and mom of an 11 year old. I'm on the road quite a bit. 

At times, I would have to go home, shower, change and go to bedAs I say to my family I'm "done for the day." 

This "transference" can pose a huge problem if I am some distance from home or in a situation where going home is not possible.  Now, before I hug, I've learned it is best to stop and ask if a person is wearing perfume or cologne. 

Recently, overcome by not seeing a long time friend, I went in for the "Ashley bear hug".  Unfortunately, that mistake...that hug led to "transference". I had to immediately change plans, go to the nearest retail store which in this case was "Ross" and purchase a new blouse just so I would not be ill on the drive home.  My symptoms can range from vomiting, a headache, chest pains and excessive spitting.  I know, I know "gross" as my daughter would tell me. 

So even though I haven't seen a person in decades, I've found it best to let them know I love them, not hug and be as the old cliche says "better safe than sorry".

Some years back, there was an incident that changed me forever.  At weekly meetings that I attend, I was having a particular wearisome time coping with this fragrance allergy. One day, a friend, whom we affectionately call Grandma Kate pulled me aside and said, "you can hug me today."  I know I had a perplexed look ~ to hear someone say that to me, I didn't understand.  She said again, "you can hug me today, I stopped wearing perfume for you". 

I don't think she truly understood what that selfless act meant to me. She put aside her own wants and preferences for my safety. I gave her a huge hug. I wanted to do and say more, however, I don't think I could truly respond in the way I would have liked without actually sobbing and going into the ugly cry. I understood that statement to signify, "you matter to me", "I love you". Grandma Kate I will forever love you and what you did for me that day. Thank you for allowing me to hug you free of fragrance and harm. 

Without hugging, we can assure our friends that we love them so as not to compromise our health and enjoyment of day by stopping, asking and then resuming the hugging position. 

So if you are a hugger, like me, hug in a way that you can be savvy and scent free.