Lindsay Anne Black: canary in the mine

Whether your Kafkaesque fate is to wake up to the discovery you’ve turned into an insect, or merely that you have to hide inside your house because of coronaviruses and lockdowns, I think we’re ready for Eldritch Theatre’s current theatrical double bill adapting two of the 20th century’s most acclaimed novellas of the uncanny. Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis and HP Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness are their Two Weird Tales, created and performed by Eldritch Theatre’s artistic director, Eric Woolfe.

Eric Woolfe in Metamorphosis (photo: Adrianna Prosser)

Lindsay Anne Black the designer was also a source of inspiration. Indeed she did the work from her home in Stratford, where she’s largely housebound due to a diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), interrupting her hugely successful career. This project was conceived as a way to bring her talents if not her actual presence back to the stage, allowing her to collaborate remotely while in isolation.

Zoom was often her pathway to work, and it was the method used for our interview. I had to find out more about MCS and about her virtual design work for Eldritch Theatre.

*******

Barczablog Are you in Stratford?

Lindsay Anne: I am. It made sense to move back here when I had left my career in theatre already. And my ten year relationship broke up and I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in Toronto, by myself, to any degree of safety. I had been living in Parkdale for ten years.

But I had lived here in Stratford when I worked for the Festival in the early aughts, had loved living here. It made so much sense because I grew up in abject countryside. It melds the convenience of the things you can do in the city (I could walk to get groceries) but then I could also see more than three stars at night, and we had a pond in the backyard. It was the right balance when I lived here before and it absolutely made sense to come back. When it didn’t really matter where I lived anymore, it was a place I loved where I still had some friends. That’s the drawback of Stratford if you’re in the arts, sometime your friends are only here for fleeting moments.

Barczablog: I love Eric’s work, and I was so excited and interested to read about your part in these shows.

So the first thing I always ask is
“Would you say you’re more like you father or your mother?“

Lindsay Anne: I am absolutely more like my mother in terms of my day to day affect, my sense of humour, my interest in the arts and my work in the arts. Anyone who knows me would say that of me, but my father was the one who taught me carpentry, perhaps a bit too young with things like a lathe, it was something I learned and absolutely shaped the kind of work I wanted to go on to do as I was starting to work in the arts myself and figure all of that out. He also taught me some basic electronics.

He has a company that makes radio remote controls for heavy machinery and mining equipment and locomotives.

Barczablog: Sounds like something Eric could use! I’m picturing remote control creatures crawling the walls.

Lindsay Anne: That’ll be next.

Barczablog: Robots?

Lindsay Anne: Except I can’t solder anymore.

Barczablog: Forgive me for not knowing your resume and all that you’ve done. So have you done hands on construction of props and sets in Stratford…?

Lindsay Anne: I was primarily a scenic artist and a props builder for the first little while but I was designing at the same time, doing children’s shows, the way you do when you’re starting out as a designer. And I had picked up calls as theatre electrician for many years. And had done carpentry mostly as being a props builder, but also did a few gigs as an assistant carpenter for full shows. I worked primarily in Ontario, a few things in BC but all over Southern Ontario, and in the later years, largely in Toronto.

Barczablog: So I wonder if you could talk about Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: what it is, how it impacts you, your life and what you do.

Lindsay Anne: Sure… ES/MCS….The “ES” is “Environmental Sensitivities”, that’s the umbrella, and “MCS” or “Multiple Chemical Sensitivities”, is the condition that I have.

Aphasia is one of my symptoms. I have to find the right words.

Electromagnetic Sensitivities, (EMS) is also under the umbrella of ES. I only have minor issues with that.

I probably had a predisposition. That seems likely. It is heritable to some degree, we know that for sure.

I probably inherited “genetic damage”, for want of a better word, from my mother. My family is all visual artists back four generations on that side. So starting with my great-grandfather constant exposure to oil paints and solvents, and then the next generation did the same and my mother was a visual artist for most of the 80s. Watercolors: but they were also renovating the house, because they bought an old farmhouse and restored it back to what it might have looked like when it was new.

Barczablog: I was going to ask you if living in Stratford is cleaner than living in Toronto, and that you’d left Toronto because the air is polluted or something like that.

Lindsay Anne: No it’s more of a lateral move.

Barczablog: I suppose farmland can be bad. You’ve got all that pollen

Lindsay Anne: Well pollen isn’t an issue.

The difference between an allergy and this kind of sensitivity is an allergy is your body, your immune system mis-identifying something as a threat and over-reacting to it, to kill it and try to get rid of it. This (MCS for instance) is my body accurately identifying a toxin. It’s at a much lower level. Most people can tolerate those toxins at those low levels, and I cannot. And it’s just a layering on of poisons, which then affect systems.

It can be cognitive if it’s something like a petro-chemical, that’s one of the worst exposures I can have. It will affect my heart rate, my circulation, my cognitive abilities: aphasia, balance, I just lose all of my faculties, which is not great.

[This isn’t the first time in our conversation I’ve seen Lindsay Anne describe something painful or even horrific in its implications yet giggling as she says this…]

Barczablog: Does it come on suddenly with an attack? Do you feel it coming?

Lindsay Anne: It depends on the trigger and how acute an exposure it was. So for example, a couple of days ago a neighbour (I think) was filling his gas-powered lawn mower. I don’t know for sure that’s what happened, because I didn’t see anything. But I was suddenly choking on what was probably gasoline that had drifted over onto my property.

And it affected my equilibrium. I couldn’t see clearly. I couldn’t manage my hands to type to my friend who watches out for me when these things happen. I had to have a shower right away to get the scent out of my hair because if it lingers I’m just putting it in the house.

Because I lose balance that’s kind of dangerous. I have a system in place so I don’t break my neck.

[again the laughter]

But then there are others things that can happen: because that’s a small part of the answer. The other things that can happen are asthma, which is one of the few things they can diagnose separately, and I have rescue inhalers for that. I actually rely on coffee much more.

I can also get headaches, rashes, my heart rate regularly goes over 80, sometimes over 180, again depending on the trigger. And so the other triggers might be something like hand sanitizer, Lysol, paint, adhesives, out-gassing plastic, out-gassing MDF like laminate wood. Things like that. Anything that is emitting a VOC, a volatile organic compound or a petrochemical, which includes a lot of plastics. It can transfer to food through packaging. That’s my food insecurity issue right now. Not so much food, but what food absorbs. I don’t have any allergies but there’s very little I can eat right now.

Barczablog: And there are things in food you might not even know about until they make you unwell. I was reading today that they’re even using certain microplastics as fertilizer, which blew my mind, the thought one could be poisoned without knowing about it. All of us! (here’s the link )

Lindsay Anne: We are all having this same issue, to some degree. It’s just that I’m symptomatic.

Barczablog: You’re the canary in the mine, as it were.

Lindsay Anne: In the support groups for MCS, we will sometimes refer to ourselves as “canaries”.

Barczablog: How long were you suffering some kind of symptom(s) before you figured out what this is? You’re an expert now, and I’m impressed with how articulate you are. You must have been going through times when you wondered “what’s wrong with me?”

Lindsay Anne: Absolutely.

Barczablog: How long did that go on?

Lindsay Anne: Well I remember having symptoms as young as eight. Having grown up in the countryside…

[pauses, turns to look at what I’m looking at]

Barczablog: I was smiling at the cat.

Lindsay Anne: That’s Zigfried Dander Stardust

We lived adjacent to corn-fields. We were there in the 70s, they were still spraying. Now it’s impregnated in the seeds I believe. But I would have been playing in those fields. And my father had the shop on the property for the first little while, and I spent time at his shop after it moved, so there was always heavy machinery, and oil around him. There was renovating the house, the things you’re exposed to, while you live in the place of a renovation.

Plus it was the 70s and 80s, and there was Aqua Net…

[I had to look this up, it’s hair spray].

It’s a wonder anyone’s okay. The first symptom I remember was being unable to climb the stairs because of heart palpitations, and having to lie down halfway up the steps. I went through testing all the way through high school with no definitive answers because there was nothing mechanically wrong with my heart.

But the heart palpitations were frequent.

Then I went away to university, to Queen’s for theatre, and transferred to the university health services. My doctors there never asked any questions like “to what have you been exposed”: which would have solved everything. But instead they said “we don’t really know what it is but we’re going to refer you to psychiatry.”

And so I went through the psychiatry department, where they said “But maybe it’s panic disorder“.

Barczablog: Your body was signaling you, how did you handle it?

Lindsay Anne: The psychiatry department gave me drugs: for something they already knew I didn’t have. Because you’re so desperate for answers. I accepted it at that point and said “I guess I have panic disorder” said very calmly while she had heart palpitations. So I tried to take the things I had prescribed. But I ended up being harmed by the drugs, because I can’t metabolize them. Genetically I can’t metabolize most pharmaceuticals.

Barczablog So they were also a kind of poison.

Lindsay Anne The cure was also harming me. So for years I just didn’t have a doctor. And I just accepted: sometimes I have heart palpitations, sometimes I have asthma and rashes, sometimes I get very confused and sometimes I can’t remember anything. And to be honest, in that period I didn’t know how ill I was, because I never felt good, and there was nothing to compare it to. It was just this long accumulation of harm.

At some point I remember coming home with a burning rash, some paint spatter had landed on my arm, and I said to my partner at the time “I think I might be becoming allergic to paint”. And you know the panic? you suppress that because it was my primary job. Kept painting. Kept designing. Did all the going into poisonous places all the time, like Canadian Tire. I don’t know how anyone survives working in that place. But then in 2010 that was when the symptoms were so bad I couldn’t deny it anymore. I was having kidney pain. Whenever I opened certain types… It was Benjamin Moore Stays Clear Semigloss. And every time I would open it, specifically that can, I would be in crippling pain.

And that was 2010, and that was when I retired from painting and props. I kept designing with assistants and associates. And everyone was really great about trying to keep that going for me and make it accessible. But the process just doesn’t make it possible no matter what you do if you’re keeping the same process.

But in that time I did get a diagnosis. I went to the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital. It’s the only program we have like that in this part of Canada. It was a 16 month waiting list. And I was allowed only three visits: because the demand is so high. There are close to a million people in Canada diagnosed with MCS. And that doesn’t include people like me who didn’t realize how sick they were because they didn’t realize, they just felt that way.

So the diagnosis happened around 2011-2012. And I had to retire from designing by 2014, because even with everyone doing their best, I was still being harmed on a regular basis, just accidentally, inevitably. It was too much.

Barczablog: So let me ask, right now, you’ve done this show with Eldritch Theatre. I’ve seen the pictures, it looks like a great show. What would you like to be doing? Do you see yourself doing more like this?

Lindsay Anne: Not necessarily. It was a bit frustrating, and the only reason it was possible at all was because we adapted the process.

Eric Woolfe (photo: Adrianna Prosser)

We began work on this before the pandemic, working over Skype and FaceTime well before remote work became ubiquitous. When I had quit designing, it was partly because I was never able to see each colour or texture in person, or feel the hand of a fabric, and I had frequently been disappointed in the finished product. That had also felt like I was letting down my collaborators. Here, we decided that if Eric was the primary writer and I was contributing, and I was the primary designer but he was contributing—he was obviously doing the building of the puppets—if we built the show up together over the full process, it meant that I could still trust Eric was making the choices I would make once they got in the room without me. Working in tandem was the key. This wouldn’t be replicable in a standard process or timeline.

The other thing we did in terms of process that made this possible was normally you would build the puppet, and you would then build the costume to put on the puppet. That’s the logical thing to do. The way that we did things so that I could actually put my hands on something, was I built the costumes for the puppets, and sent them to Eric and he just retrofitted them with puppet.

[huge laugh]

Because obviously if he had sent me a fresh foam glue latex adhesive painty thing I wouldn’t be able to tolerate that, or even have it in my house. But this way it meant that I could contribute to the actual building of these puppets.

It is frustrating because it is backwards, and it is difficult, to be honest, building a period costume to that scale was beyond my existing skillset. Because as a costume builder, I’m more of a draper. I put things on a model, pin things until it looks right and then I stitch it down. I don’t really know how to draft patterns, and it’s that much harder when they’re only this big [hands 6 inches apart].

So that’s one of the reasons it wouldn’t necessarily work with a more standard kind of theatre piece or performing arts piece, there’s just so much I can’t do, and if I can’t be present for shopping or for fittings, it gets back into that trap of not being able to do any quality control or even accurately know what it is I’m seeing or contributing to.

I have already been engaged to … see writing is different than the designing. You don’t have to be present in the same way. Because you’re using actual language, as opposed to non—verbal language. I’m working on a piece for Prairie Theatre Exchange that is not about my experience but from my perspective. That was the pitch. It’s very much about some of the issues that I encounter in day to day life. But it’s also about the fact that (per the UN) we have to rewild an area the size of China, in order to not have the planet die in a horrible heat-death. How local bylaws push back against the rewilding of certain parts of land and consider native plants to be “weeds”.in some circumstances and how a citizen can make small steps to… you know, corridors for our native birds to help sustain not just their lives but ours. All of that is from my perspective.

Barczablog: Let me ask how your project with Eric was born. You said it started before the pandemic. What seems so interesting to me… When I see a project that begins with that famous first sentence, of The Metamorphosis that seems perfectly matched to what many of us were living with.

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

The alienation, the mysterious transformation, life turning into something unrecognizable and strange, a metamorphosis. You’ve been talking to Eric about this since before the pandemic. And then along comes this reason why everyone suddenly should be working this way (on zoom) from a distance, with masks on, concerned about things coming at us that will make us sick. It’s such a perfect parallel.

Eric Woolfe and his world (photo: Adrianna Prosser)

Lindsay Anne: Yes. We were chatting over Messenger and over a period of more than an hour, I think we had been improvising the story of a play and making each other laugh.

He disappeared for awhile, and so I thought he’d gone to have dinner or something, or become bored of me. I didn’t know. And he came back, and said “sorry I was looking up the grant deadline dates”. And it was too soon to write the thing we had been improvising but he had already had the adaptation in mind to do some day. He had done a version of it when he was very young, and he wanted to do a professional version of it now.

So Eric pitched it to me because he saw the crossover, the Venn Diagram of That Story, and My Life. And so we did start to flesh out how we could specifically help young people. We were planning to target at the time, high school students, how to build empathy for people who live with chronic illness and disability.

Because there’s so much we have in common. You know, your body changing, and your not understanding why and it impacts everything you do, impacts how people react to you, perhaps there are things that you used to do that you loved to do, and you’re feeling the loss because you shouldn’t really do those things that kids do anymore. There are so many ways we thought we were going to be presenting this almost educational piece to the general public, but also go into schools. And the conversation at first was very much about building empathy. And I don’t think it’s changed much now that it’s become this other thing informed by a global pandemic and the isolation everyone has felt in general and the fear and loss that everyone has had, loss of agency. All of those things are now a bit more universal but we all still need to work on the empathy. So the goal, in a way, has not changed: despite everything that has happened in the last few years.

Barczablog: Can you talk about the project? I’m dying to see i. I don’t know the Lovecraft story. There are two stories (“two weird tales”).

Lindsay Anne: The first half is Metamorphosis and that’s the one on which I worked, and the second half of the night is Mountains of Madness and that’s the Lovecraft. Melanie McNeill designed that one. And I was laughing when we did our tech run, it was the first time I’d see a run of our show and then their show, and realized that what we’re really presenting is the story of a man who lives with chronic illness, comes to terms with it, befriends the physical manifestation of his chronic illness and then goes off on an adventure through the mountains where he ultimately goes completely insane. I love this story. They go together in the most interesting way. They aren’t intended to be understood as the same story, two different plays that we’ve presented at the same time.

Lindsay Anne Black in Stratford, watching her opening night in Toronto

Barczablog: Could you talk about your influences, teachers?

Lindsay Anne: Yes.

Professor Natalie Rewa

Natalie Rewa was my professor in “Women in Theatre” which I believe I did for two years. She was influential for some of the conversations we had out of the class, even more so than in class, just for shaping how I engaged with all sorts of work I did later, not necessarily design.

Natalie said something that stayed with me and has served me in a lot of different capacities, that “meaning is found where repetition fails”. In the same way that Philip Glass gives you a pattern but changes it slightly or brings it back in an inverted way, that’s how you know where you are: to whatever degree, and to whatever degree that matters.

Natalie put to us that meaning is found where repetition fails. If you are a stage manager or house technician as I was for a time and you’re watching the same show, what is supposed to be the same show night after night: but it isn’t the same show. If you are a person who doesn’t like that kind of repetition the way to avoid the boredom is to look for the things that are different and ask why: and that’s always interesting. And if you are a designer working with pattern line colour texture sometimes the choice that best supports what you are presenting is to create a pattern and then break it. Or use a pattern that tricks your mind into thinking something is larger or smaller than it actually is. That’s the all-encompassing thing that she gave to us.

Craig Walker was a fantastic professor but I also designed for him. Some of the first designs I did were for Theatre Kingston, and plays he directed.

Fred Euringer was one of my playwrighting professors: and he was a huge influence.

Out of school the person who influenced my work the most was Karen P Hay , she had been the head scenic artist here [unconsciously pointing out the window because she’s in Stratford, and I’m not] at the Festival. And she quickly became one of my best friends as well I was hired by the Festival, but she really (indirectly) taught me how to run a department, how to manage a department. The way that shop ran was the ideal. It was the best place I’d ever worked. The Stratford Festival paint-shop was the best place I ever worked. But it was not because of the Festival at large, because if there was something going on in the greater company, stressful upsetting things perhaps, that didn’t enter the room. But: it also wasn’t a secret. There was the respect. If you asked she would explain what was happening. You could have a conversation about it. You were shielded if you needed to be shielded. And you were let in if you wanted to be let in. And that allowed everyone to engage with the work, with the company at the place where they were most comfortable. There was also a lot of frivolity and joking in the room, and the rule was you can be as silly as you want but: your brush has to be moving.

Barczablog: The work has to get done.

Lindsay Anne: The work has to get done. And so the way the tone was set I realized early on, was really important: and I tried to take that forward, wherever I was the head scenic artist. I don’t know that I was always successful. But those were some of the most important lessons.

Barczablog Did you migrate from one area to another, so did you start in props or design and then move…You kind of did everything eventually. But what did you do first?

Lindsay Anne: Well I was a dancer first.

[pause after picking my jaw up off the floor]

Barczablog: Wow, I wouldn’t have guessed that.

Lindsay Anne: No you wouldn’t. My mom was a visual artist, my whole family on that side, visual artists. Photographer, sculptor. I think I wanted to do something in the arts that wasn’t exactly what my family already did: so I wouldn’t be told how to do it, which in retrospect, wasn’t a great choice. That was how I felt at the time.

But I did start in dance, and was doing some paid gigs, was approaching semi-professional: but then had a car accident where I couldn’t walk for four months, and left for school to do theatre, so that was sort of the end of that. I couldn’t continue to dance at the level, the frequency of classes that I would need, to work, in order to stay at the level at which I had been, let alone improve. That was just dropped. That was the first career where I had to just forget about it and go on to do something else.

But then theatre seemed to be the thing I really wanted to do. But I went in thinking I was a dancer – director and it turned out I didn’t want to do either of those things anymore, so I sort of got streamed for design. And I had been making masks since Grade 10. My high school actually sent me to some Theatre Ontario events with Theatre Beyond Words, when I was in drama classes. I had been building masks and working with them. So that was how I got into puppets. And I did a lot of puppets in university. But then I also ended up painting shows, just because in a liberal arts theatre program you have to do some of everything. And then I was hired from school by Thousand Islands Playhouse as head scenic artist there.

Barczablog: So you were working in that area around Kingston / Thousand Islands?

Lindsay Anne: Just after school I was there, but after I moved to Toronto shortly afterwards. I’ve moved a lot but ultimately not very far away. So I guess paint was the first thing that I did professionally at a higher level but I was also doing electrics calls, carpentry calls and whatever else.

[again the laugh]

Barczablog: I was thinking: if you hadn’t had the car accident you might have still been dancing. I wonder if you would have had the same exposure to paints and so forth, if you kept dancing.

Lindsay Anne: There are a lot of what-ifs.

Barczablog: I’m looking at you now wondering: are you able to go for long walks or jog or exercise? [shake of the head] Does that even interest you?

Lindsay Anne: Hiking interests me, but I can’t walk around town. I’m now completely housebound, at this point. It’s not safe anymore to just walk up and down the street, for fun. And it’s not fun. Because I’ll always get nailed by barbecues and laundry perfume, bonfires and people washing their car and whatever else toxicity is going on in the neighbourhood.

Barczablog: There’s a rising awareness of this. We’re not allowed to wear cologne or scents in the theatre anymore. Everybody is becoming a little more sensitive. And I wasn’t joking, this canary in a mine metaphor is very powerful for me.

Lindsay Anne: I think we’re all suffering from the exposure in some way but I’m one of the people who is symptomatic and most other people are not. So I think the damage is probably being done, it’s just that the bodies aren’t reacting in the same way because perhaps the predisposition wasn’t there, and there wasn’t the same level of chronic and acute exposure that I have had. Certainly if anyone in the medical field had asked me “to what are you being exposed” I would have changed courses, I would be doing music, or something else that would do less harm.

It’s a big question because the research isn’t really being done. There isn’t any money in researching MCS because if we’re not able to metabolize pharmaceuticals then there’s nothing to sell to us. So there’s actually more money in the grand scheme in discrediting the existing research. Because that allows people to continue to manufacture and sell the goods that are doing the harm, to I think, everybody.

Barczablog Do you ever go out or do your friends come in?

Lindsay Anne People come here now. I used to have some safe spaces. But all of that is now different because in order to be open at all, they’ve mandated certain other types of cleaning products. Without any safe spaces out in the world I can’t even try a new place because I’ll be trapped. It’s too dangerous.

Barczablog: Do you do a lot of home delivery (to your place)?

Lindsay Anne: Exactly. My friend Mike McClennan, who is the composer for Eric’s show, does a lot of my grocery shopping. We used to go grocery shopping together and he’s the friend who best knows my parameters, in terms of what I do and don’t buy, should and shouldn’t buy and he knows what questions to ask if he’s making a substitution.

Barczablog: I saw you with your keyboard, you did music for a show.

Lindsay Anne: Yes. So my dayjob right now –because it’s something I can do from home—is mostly social media. I have mostly dog-trainers as clients actually. Which is hilarious because I’m obviously a cat person.

The other thing that I do is to assist Donna-Michelle St Bernard, who’s a wonderful playwright. She has been very supportive of my transition into doing music as a sideline. I’d like to be making music that would then be licensed to people who are making mini-documentaries, or even youtube videos, in the way DW uses music in their documentaries. DW is like the German TVO. Creating that kind of music where it can he put in a place and licensed and just be a side thing. Donna has been completely supportive and that includes that she gave me some of her poems to underscore. “Here’s a project, let’s do this thing together.”

Barczablog: There are so many things you’ve done. Dancer, musician, painter, designer…. Puppet maker, prop-maker. And you probably have a few more up you sleeve.

Lindsay Anne: They all inform each other. It’s all part of the same body of work.

Barczablog: You didn’t mention sleep issues. I’m wondering because that’s often relevant for artists.

Lindsay Anne: Yes, that’s when asthma issues tend to build up from the day. I have a rescue inhaler beside my bed. But I sleep now far more than I ever did before. During my theatre career, I was working extremely long hours, going from one theatre 8-5 to another from 9-11 and possibly doing an overnight… it’s the way of scenic art. It’s the way of trying to eke out a living in indie theatre. The joke used to be: “Due to scheduling issues, I will be taking my day off overnight.” I would not be as sick as I am now if I had ever slept, and let my body repair itself as best it could. Now, I’m almost narcoleptic at times. It’s one of the only tools I have.

It’s learned, and almost addicting in a way. But it’s incredibly damaging in the long term. I learned it in high school. I would leave early for the long commute with my step-father, who taught music at the middle school, do a full day of school, walk to the dance studio and teach until 11pm, and then drive home for an hour and begin my homework.

Barczablog That’s probably hard on the body, and the brain.

Lindsay Anne: Absolutely

Barczablog: The moment of your diagnosis: did you feel a sudden blast of validation? Suddenly it all made sense, for the first time. I am guessing your life changed.

Lindsay Anne: Yes and no, because it was also rather a slow burn in the sense that I had to find a lot of the information myself. It took a full year of research before I was able to get the referral from my GP to go to the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital. Then there was a 16-month wait to be seen by the specialist. So all-in, I spent almost three years researching, and by the time I got the official diagnosis it was more of a bureaucratic exercise. That’s an exaggeration to some degree, because obviously they also helped me by doing the expensive bloodwork a GP is not authorised to do, but to some degree it did feel like I was helping them with their research more than they were changing my life.

What I wrote on the giant application to the EHC—while I was still working, and having horrible daily reactions to triggers—was very different from what I reported to them in person in my first appointment. So much time had passed that I had already begun to isolate and remove all the known triggers from my day-to-day life. Interestingly, I actually felt worse for a while. That’s because the baseline shifted. Once I was removing the toxins from my daily life, I was having moments of feeling much better. Unfortunately, by comparison, that can make the reactions feel worse than before.

Barczablog: Total elapsed time since first symptoms? Was it over 10 years? perhaps 20 years? or more? oh wait you said you were 9 and now you’re over 40, so wow…

Lindsay Anne: Yes, I’ve likely had this my whole life.

Barczablog: I have one other question, which is more of an observation. My wife always asks me why i laugh at some things that are painful. Throughout our conversation, you were laughing and guffawing while reporting pains and horrors. Fascinating. You’re so stoic coping with challenges. Are you even aware of your laughter? I feel a kinship & connection even if I think you are so much bolder in what you have faced.

Lindsay Anne: In first-year university I earned the nickname “The Plant” because I am an active listener. Ha ha ha. Yes, I am aware of it, and further to one of your first questions, it is one of the ways in which I am most like my mother.

Barczablog: You mean, they’d put you in the audience for comedies? To laugh at shows that needed support? You were “the plant” like a claque.

Lindsay Anne I also try to find the humour in everything. It’s the only way forward. I was cracking jokes to the nurses while they stitched up a puncture wound in my leg; I don’t know any other way to negotiate the challenges of life. It’s a defence mechanism at times, of course. But it is also just part of my personal lexicon, I suppose. It can’t be helped.


Lindsay Anne Black’s design work is onstage with Eldritch Theatre at Red Sandcastle Theatre this week until June 5th. For tickets or further information click here

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1 Response to Lindsay Anne Black: canary in the mine

  1. Pingback: To rewild | barczablog

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