Leaving MCSville: Using real life to retrain my brain

by | Apr 28, 2013 | Articles, Julie Genser | 37 comments

by Julie Genser

Leaving MCSvilleChange happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” ― Tony Robbins

The time had come for me to leave. I moved to the chemically sensitive neighborhood in rural Snowflake, Arizona in June 2008 for a four month trial period and stayed almost five years. The community had provided solace and refuge for me when most other neighborhoods in the U.S. had been tortuous due to my severe chemical and electrical sensitivities. I found a low-EMF, chemical free warehouse-like home built for my sensitivities with high ceilings, a concrete floor, and foiled walls on 40 acres. The space was full of light and incredible rolling views, and its Williamsburg industrial loft aesthetic reminded me of my NYC roots. I felt like a very lucky girl.

But over time, as I slowly healed and my opportunities for life expanded ever so subtly, the chemical free open loft and all the restrictions that came with living in it felt more and more like a cage. This bird’s clipped wings had started to heal and I wanted desperately to fly again. The risk of staying had started to override any risk of leaving. It was time to fly.

I have nothing but gratitude for the brain retraining programs and EFT modalities I had been using for several years in order to heal my environmental intolerances. However, for me, the regimented repetitive nature of these programs began to feel like an obsession in themselves that felt unhealthy to me. I wanted to use real life to retrain my brain. I decided to go to Santa Fe to see if I wanted to move there. My four day trip was life changing.

I stayed at a place that was green-minded, but had WiFi, an active solar system, and a 24/7 fan on its compost toilet. All things that in the past caused unbearable neurological reactions for me. I figured I had done a lot of healing and it was time to reevaluate my triggers. Plus, I had no other options for chemical free overnight accommodation, and I needed to stay for several days if I had any hope of finding a place to move to. I had to take the chance if I truly wanted change in my life.

The first night I got no sleep. The EMFs turned off my sleep center completely. I was a zombie the next day. My instinct was to run. To return home so I wouldn’t have to drive the 6 hours on several days of no sleep. But I needed to stay in order to find a new home. My backup place to stay fell through. I decided to try another night. The second night, I didn’t sleep fully but must’ve dozed because I woke up refreshed, although I felt as though I was conscious all night. The third night, I slept 8 hours straight. This gradual progression over the first three nights was a big miracle breakthrough for me. Wow!!

What I learned on this trip: 1) My body had the ability to adjust to a new environment over time; 2) I could sleep with WiFi, a solar system, and other forms of high EMF radiation; 3) I had healed immensely in the years in Snowflake and no longer had severe neurological reactions to the old triggers; 4) When triggered, my brain still went right into catastrophic thinking and protection mode (e.g., still a lot of retraining work to be done!). Maybe the biggest lesson of all was how important it is to test your boundaries every now and then and reevaluate your limitations, to avoid over-protecting yourself and missing out on the richness of life unnecessarily.

Leaving MCSvilleThat’s all I needed to know. When I returned home, I immediately gave my landlord 30 days notice and announced to my community I was having a moving sale (which I lovingly referred to as my “going-out-of-MCS-business sale”). I sold almost everything I had amassed in the prior years to help me cope with and manage “my illness” – my oxygen tank, my sauna, my metal shelving and furniture, my rebounder, and so much more. The decision to sell everything was solely based on not wanting to put a ton of stuff into storage, but it forced me to focus on and release all attachments to my protective gear (for example, acknowledging that I had not needed to use my oxygen tank in four years, so most likely I would be okay without it). I had a few freak-out moments but overall was able to stay in the light and the positive energy of my choices. I was choosing to live again. This was my rebirth. I finally had come to the point in my life where I truly felt like the butterfly emerging from the cocoon. It was my time to fly.

I am making a conscious choice to turn environmental illness inside out and to surround myself with only positive influences. It’s time to replace the old traumatic memories and experiences with positive, life-embracing ones. The environmental sponge that I am, I will set myself up for abundance and love, and soak up only positive rays of energy and light. My first stop is a beautiful gift to myself: a two week raw food prep class at the Tree of Life. I’ve been aching to do this class for many years. After that I will go back to my nomadic roots and travel around Arizona and New Mexico, spending time in various communities that appeal to me to see which is the best fit for a longer-term relocation. I am very much committed to living a non-toxic, chemical free lifestyle and taking all of my hard earned wisdom with me from my experience with environmental illness, but my emotional/spiritual bodies will be given top priority in the next few years since those are the parts of myself that were not attended to so well in years past. I will continue to share about my life decisions as my story unfolds. To be continued…


  1. Sarah in Albuquerque

    Some of the best retraining is going through an experience and having the knowing you can do it. It’s very empowering on so many levels to be able to look back and say I got through that and I’m ok. (and I’m not saying we need to push ourselves to do these things; you know when it is right.)
    I wish you well on your journey.

  2. earthwalker

    So true, Sarah. And thank you for reminding me… to emphasize that I am not telling anyone to sell all their MCS protective gear and leave the safety of their safe home. Each of us must decide for ourselves what kind of life we want to have, what kind of risks we are willing to undertake in order to achieve that, and how ready we are to move forward with those plans. Risks can backfire and we each must take responsibility for our own lives, and make change in our own time, on our own terms. I hope my story can serve as inspiration for others to reevaluate their own boundaries from time to time and stretch the limits of what they think is possible. Sometimes it is our own thoughts that are limiting us and not anything in the real world. Hugs and blessings. xx

  3. kimmergy

    beautiful recreation Julie…sprinkles of light & love

  4. Kath

    I’m tremendously happy for you as well as proud of you. It only gets better…

  5. earthwalker

    Thank you Kimmergy and Kath, so much. xxxx

  6. Christine Weeber

    Julie, I am on a parallel path in some ways!!! So having goosebumps here, reading about your journey. Thank you for sharing your story. And blessings to you as you explore and soak in all the beauty and light that is *also* here for us.

  7. Syrena

    Sooooo happy for you, Julie. Tears of Joy! Syrena

  8. earthwalker

    Thank you Christine and Syrena!! xxxx

  9. earthwalker

    I just want to publicly thank my mom for being there for me in a big way the past few months as I wrestled with all the decisions I was making and had my moments of anxiety in the midst of dreaming big for myself. My mom was there for me every single day to talk to even if just for 2 minutes. Having her to bounce everything off of was really crucial for me and she is still providing me with immense support as I make huge changes in my day-to-day. Thank you Mom, I couldn’t have done it without you! xxxx

  10. Ruth Ruddock

    Julie, I was thrilled to see your story posted on my Facebook page today…can’t tell you how many times I have pictured all of my belongings in my car and hitting the road! You are an inspiration to me and to so many, I am sure, as we continue to work out our wellbeing through the DNR and other means of healing. Will eagerly await your future posts, and wish you God speed on your journey.

  11. Catherine Hollingworth

    I am so happy for you!! What a journey you have been on, and more to come.

    It is often remarkable to me that those who live this life in survival mode, have learned much from a “different” type of University…..the Universe, itself. Our path required us to learn much and we could not have found a school to teach us these lessons. We literally had to walk through them to learn. I, for one, would not have wanted to study this major….and I am so grateful that I did. What blessings there have been, what fabulous people I have met, and how I have come to love the Planet I live on, the air I breathe, water I drink and food I need. My eyes have been opened and I have found my tribe.

    Eventually one must graduate from the university. So, to that end, congratulations upon your graduation!!! You will continue to be the beacon for others, no matter where you find yourself.

  12. sharman

    Take these broken wings and learn to fly. Godspeed, Juie

  13. Pat

    Julie – you are wise beyond your years – the very best of good fortune and lots of love for you on your journey!!

  14. Kat

    Wow .. Julie! Courageous woman.. Look forward to reading your next installment.

    And I was relieved to read that I’m not the only one who’s felt this too:

    “I have nothing but gratitude for the brain retraining programs and EFT modalities I had been using for several years in order to heal my environmental intolerances. However, for me, the regimented repetitive nature of these programs began to feel like an obsession in themselves that felt unhealthy to me.”

    Yep, get that!

  15. earthwalker

    Thanks everyone for your supportive comments!! Appreciate you all, so much!! xxxxx Much love, Julie

  16. kendra

    May your journey nourish your life’s purpose and passion.
    May joy, understanding, and peace grow and flower
    as you expand your roots and wings.

  17. Amaya

    Dear Julie,

    go for it!!

    I understand your words 100% and agree with them all!!

    welcome to the other shore where healing is not only possible, it is a reality!!

    take it easy and enjoy it!


  18. Jeny

    So wonderful to read this, Julie! And beautiful words from you, too, Catherine H.

  19. Melissa

    I just found this Julie! You go girl! I’m planning something similar this fall. Rudimentary plans so far, but unloading stuff, simplifying, expanding and change. All good stuff. Like you, retraining is taking a while. I’m so grateful for it tho. I look forward to reading more of your adventures in health and thriving. Hugs!

  20. diane ensign

    HI IT’S DIANE IN TUCSON. I DON’T ALLOW MCS TO STOP ME FROM ENJOYING THIS AREA AS I GO TO A GREAT CHURCH & different functions ever since learning to control flight & fight PST reactions years ago . I just take care not to be stupid & be around chemicals or mold. If you are interested my apt. space is for rent now with it’s own bath/kit & some furniture & use of my salt water pool on 1 acre. It’s the end part of my home but separate & private. My neighbors are very nice & there is great walking & clean air here as I’m in the foothills at the base of the Catalina Mtn’s. Some wood smoke at Christmas & rare whiff of dryer sheets. Call me if you’re interested or you know someone capable of caring for themselves as I can’t take any more severe cases as I have always done in the past. (520) 8257273

  21. Molly

    Excited for you and it helped me process a little of what I did – though in not such an elegant and thoughtful way… I’m more of a ‘that’s enough of this crap’ kind-of gal :) But I think you are going to be amazed at how well you do, and that even though things may set you back at times and illness issues surface like they do for all of us (even normal folks!) you are going to be focusing on ‘goals’ not ‘healing’ 24/7 non-stop which is what really helped me move forward after my bad intro phase (was fortunate to get help/healing as you did that helped me clear to a more normal state).

    Can’t wait to hear more of your journey and the exciting things to come, thanks for your efforts with Planet Thrive… it’s a wonderful resource and will refer it to anyone who may find it useful. best, Molly

  22. Corky

    So glad for all you have achieved for your health!!!

  23. Brenda

    Dear Julie,

    It is truly a delight to hear of your progress. It is a very remarkable life when, even though stripped almost bare, one can help and support others the way you have done , and I hope your journey becomes ever richer. Wishing you lots of good luck ( which always helps ! ).


  24. Julie

    Thank you so much everyone, for your kind words and loving support. It warms my heart so deeply to have my community show up for me here. Although I’ve been super isolated these past many years, I always feel embraced by you all and that makes all the difference!! Much love to each and every one of you reading about my journey today. xxx

  25. Mokihana

    Dear Julie,
    I am once again inspired by your example of a woman fully being. Your courage is undeniable and then there is application. How beautiful is the canvas of your life. We share the traveller genes with you though we are parked, and send you loving winds as you find your next best place. You have filled so many cups, no doubt someone will fill yours too. Bon voyage.
    Much aloha,

  26. susan

    Whoohoo, whoohooo, whoohoo!!!!! I’m dancing with you, I’m dancing with you!
    Love and light and grand adventure.

  27. eioutreach

    Even through the midst of your years of struggle with this illness, you still managed to create this beautiful site for people to share and enjoy. Thank you for contributing such an important tool and gift to people all over the world. Best of luck in your new adventures!

  28. Kelly

    Julie, I’m intrigued by your statement “Sometimes it is our own thoughts that are limiting us and not anything in the real world.”

    I agree with you, but of course to some this kind of statement will suggest to some that you’re saying “it’s all in your head”. I’m guessing that you mean maybe something along the likes of it’s in our heads and our bodies, after all, our head (mind) is connected to our body.

    Or, how about this analogy — the famous ‘pavlov dogs’ experiement — where every time a bell was rung, the dogs began to salivate whether food was presented to them or not. Are you saying that after some traumas, especially repeated traumas…that one can go into this automatic subconcious reaction whether the offending substance or trauma or circumstance is benign or not.

    Is that kind of what you’re trying to say by the statement I quoted?

  29. Julie

    Hi Kelly,
    I was not commenting on MCS in so much as adaptive behaviors that can come when one experiences trauma, especially with an illness like MCS that causes severe reactions to every day products and activities. Sometimes we can adapt a very restrictive lifestyle to shield ourselves from the symptoms we experience from the real world. My comment “Sometimes it is our own thoughts that are limiting us and not anything in the real world” really refers to the fact that I kept myself very isolated for years, but who knows at what point I would have been able to be okay in situations that previously caused severe symptoms. So my point was only to caution people from being too protective. If you are doing a brain retraining program, you can test your limits from time to time to see if your symptoms have abated or are less severe. Not sure if I am explaining it right. But obviously I did not mean that MCS is all in one’s head. It’s a very real syndrome with serious health consequences.

  30. ellen rosner

    Julie: Beautiful! I’m so happy for you.

  31. Mary Hill

    Julie congratulations and I hope you are enjoying your raw foods class. Thanks for founding Planet Thrive and supporting the amygdala retraining site as well. I completed Gupta’s webinar, have done some homeopathy for mold allergies and some other modalities for anxiety and PTSD.
    I was able to stay in Portland, OR because I purchased a different home with much more light and near the top of a hill so lots of fresh air.
    I am leaving for my old favorite hotel on the Oregon Coast tomorrow for two nights to celebrate my birthday. This is a big step towards freedom for me.
    I have been meaning to write on the brain retraining sight about my own recovery but haven’t. It’s personal, humbling, and unique for each person .
    Best wishes to you and enjoy your time looking for a new place to call home.
    Mary Hill, Portland, OR

  32. sharon

    So excited for you julie!
    For me after spending about 4 yrs as a shut in,freaked out and afraid, I finally started GUPTA.
    But I was still to fragile and frightened to test myself.
    My world started to open, kind of by accident, but it was that thing happening that I didn’t plan, that let me realize, I didn’t have to keep all my Windows and doors shut, dead bolted all the time!
    In fact I’ve found, li k e you did in the ” green accommodations” that SOMETIMES, I can kind of assimilate to/ with where I am!
    My latest venture was excepting a weekend visit with a friend, in her new multimillion dollar home.
    It’s a gated community.
    UN unbeknownst to me it was also a golfing community and her house Sat about 30 feet from the edge of the golfing green!

    I had just driven several hours to her home, I didn’t want to go back.
    Like you the first nite was tough.
    Everything they use on golf courses to keep them green and bug free was in the air.
    I could taste it.
    But I pushed myself to stay. The next morning, tho wiped from no rest, I felt SHOCKINGLY better than when I first got there.
    This one experience along with previous GUPTA, tho I didn’t do it as much as I thought I would, has opened so many doors to me.
    I know my body better now.
    I don’t just say NO I can’t do that, or go there, or wear that or use that or eat that anymore, like before.
    My body still ” talks” to me, it still tries t o tell me NO, but it’s a whisper and its not constant.
    I still listen to it, but it’s not the boss of me anymore.
    In fact sometimes when it finally does start “talking” to me, I have to think for a minute what’s going on, what’s that feeling or noise in my head mean?
    I’d say I seam to adjust to my surroundings maybe 70% of the time.
    There are still some biggies for me, I do NOT put myself in danger on purpose.
    You r so talented julie, even tho I don’t chime in much, I’ve learned so much from you and everyone here, I’m so grateful for your website and your courage to start it, and maintain it.
    I can’t wait to hear about where your new freedom takes you.
    The new peeps you meet, I hope we will be able to hear about your world unfolding as you walk back into the world.
    A Brave strong dedicated to LIVING LIFE without boundries anymore!

  33. Katya

    So Julie, did you end up still in AZ? I’d love an update on your story!
    I’ve gotten so much better over the last year. I credit it all to nutritional changes, supplements, and to finally having a safe and comfortable place to live, which has allowed me to fully relax for the first time in… all of my 34 years, probably. Still, I’m curious about neural retraining. I think physical nutrition and environmental health is essential to healing, but I also can see how freaked out mental patterns could actually block the body’s healing. Therapy did nothing for me, and I do not enjoy revisiting old traumas, but realistically, I’m still probably in an instinctive self-protective pattern set long ago which should be detangled and replaced.

  34. earthwalker

    Sorry for my delayed response. Mary Hill, that is so exciting and freeing – so happy you were able to visit the Oregon coast and treat yourself for your birthday. How fun! xx Julie

  35. earthwalker

    Sharon, that is amazing you were able to turn around that pesticide exposure. Good for you, girl! Thank you for sharing and for all your kind words. xx Julie

  36. earthwalker

    Hi Katya, Yes, I remained in northern Arizona. I’ve landed in Sedona, been here a year and a half now and love it. Congrats on all your gains over the past year. Yes, nutrition and environment are the foundations for health, for sure! But with a neurotoxic injury to the limbic system, it’s important to somehow take ourselves out of faulty thought/emotional/nervous system patterns and create new healthy neuronal pathways and ways of processing stress. That could be brain retraining, or modalities like EFT, FasterEFT, Matrix Imprinting, etc. Meditation is helpful. Anything that calms our system and builds new pathways in the brain. It’s important to remember that these modalities work on patterns that are entirely unconscious. It’s not just about emotions or thoughts, but automatic body processes that happen on an unconscious level. Excited to hear about continued improvements and life upgrades from you as you continue your healing journey. xx

  37. Nicki Greenham

    Hi Julie,
    Thanks so much for this inspiring article. I am finding myself in a similar place now trying to move on and find peace with a new way of living. I am going to print this out to remind me to keep going… and keep coming back to my good place!
    Nicki x

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