By Amy, England
(Blogs are written by LightAware supporters in a personal capacity)
Around ten years ago I started getting several peculiar symptoms every time I walked into my local supermarket; a strange, rising feeling in my tummy; a dizzy, whooshing feeling in my head and a panicky, sickly feeling that made me want to get out of there asap.
It only appeared to be me affected by this, and only in one particular supermarket. Then it started happening in another shop, and then another until it was pretty much happening wherever I went. In 2015 I enrolled at the University of Central Lancashire as a mature student, to fulfil a lifelong ambition to study archaeology. I was overjoyed, I had been putting it off for a long time due to family responsibilities.
I started my degree in September on a two week placement, at the Roman fort town of Ribchester in the Ribble valley. All was well, it was physically tiring but as the weather was good and this was predominantly outdoor work, it was a great way to get to know my fellow students. The issues began in the classroom, the strange feelings were happening again, only stronger now and much more apparent. I found it virtually impossible to concentrate, the feelings were intense; nausea, head spin, pain behind my eyes, a feeling of being disconnected from the world. I loved the course but this was definitely taking the shine off it, I found it hard to concentrate and was in so much discomfort.
I was feeling particularly unwell one morning, dizzy and nauseous, I held my head in my hands and out of pure frustration looked up to the ceiling, as I did a burning pain seared through my eyes straight to the back of my skull. I put my head back in my hands, feeling totally overwhelmed with the pain and that’s when I got the light bulb moment (pun intended!) it was the lights!! it seems so obvious now looking back, but at the time I didn’t know about artificial light sensitivity.
It was such a relief to finally work out why I was getting all of these extreme symptoms. Looking back now I know this relief was pretty short lived, naively I believed there would be a simple solution and that life would return to how it was before. I never dreamed that the next seven years would be spent desperately searching for a cure, some kind of relief, anything to allow me to participate in everyday life again.
I believed these reactions must have been due to a rare undiagnosed condition so pursued various tests through the NHS and privately including MRI and EEG scans, but these produced no answers. I came to the realisation that the issue wasn’t mine, it was the LED lighting that was the problem. With the help of UCLan and the archaeology department whose support was outstanding, I managed to finish my degree from home. Rick Peterson, the then head of the archaeology department showed such kindness and patience towards me at the early stages of this battle. He went above and beyond on many occasions, I simply couldn’t have finished my degree without his support.
I felt so happy to graduate but it was tinged with sadness as I knew I couldn’t attend the graduation ceremony. I knew that because of these horrid lights I couldn’t celebrate my win with my fellow students and friends and family and this has been the theme of my life ever since. I feel sad writing this, thinking about the things I am missing out on, sometimes I feel overwhelmed with sadness and grief and sometimes I feel angry.
I’m sad that I can’t attend my children’s parents evenings or a romantic meal with my husband. I can’t even nip to the shop for a loaf of bread, my husband has to do all the shopping. I can’t take my kids to the cinema, I can’t go to the spa with my mum. I have to put a blanket over my head if my husband needs to fill the car with petrol, even in the daytime!!
I can’t leave my house once the sun goes down because all lamp posts which were previously sodium and emitted a warm, soft orange glow are now LED and emit a harsh, cold laser-like white light. All car head lights are now LED too and these are unfortunately also on all day and night.
I am one of many people around the world who have had no choice but to retreat from society. Ultimately we just want to be able to participate in normal, everyday life and not be trapped in our homes dreaming of better times. Is this too much to ask?