“I am fated to journey hand in hand with my strange heroes and to survey the surging immensity of life, to survey it through the laughter that all can see and through the tears unseen and unknown by anyone.” ― Nikolai Gogol
“Not everyone reads comics, although most people know the major superheroes, but the majority of people play video games. “ ― Jim Lee
My father was born and raised in New Zealand, of Scottish and English descent. My mother was a native of Brooklyn NY, born to a family of loyal Italian heritage. Despite their divergent beginnings, their lives nonetheless intersected in 1960’s Manhattan. They met in a Park Avenue skyscraper. They fell in love. They married. And they had me, their only child.
So when it came time to bestow upon me a name that I would carry around in this world, they thought it only fair to honor both sides of my lineage. They crowned me “Alison” after my paternal grandmother Alice. They baptized me “Mary,” after my maternal grandmother of the same name. They added a second middle name “Fraser,” an homage to the Scottish clan on my father’s side. And naturally, I was granted my father’s patronymic “Main.”
In all this honorific nomenclature, I like to think they simply didn’t have time to doodle hearts + my initials on a 21 Club cocktail napkin. Because if they did, they would have seen that the sequential lettering of “Alison Mary Fraser Main” is “AMFM.” My parents could not have been that enamored of the radio. So, this had to be an inspired message from the divine above – a sign, a symbol, a signal… of a secret identity, a hidden illness <or power?> I would grow to discover in due time…
Talk to pretty much any teenage boy these days (or the writers for The Big Bang Theory), and you’ll learn that all self-respecting superheroes have a unique origin story, often tragic, involving a freak accident. Peter Parker had his radioactive spider bite. Matt Murdock, his blinding vision disaster. Tony Stark, his shrapnel blast. And me? I had a couch delivered. A gray microfiber loveseat I purchased from a prominent furniture retailer created an intense static electricity vortex in my Gotham City apartment, thereby electrifying everything inside the small unit, including me. This force field was instantaneously strong enough to fry the power port in my new MacBook laptop, and also drain the batteries in my TV remotes. Friends and neighbors who entered my lair were immediately sparked, having dared to touch a metal object or light switch. My handyman who removed said Death Ray Couch suffered repeated electric shocks as he carried it down the hall and into the basement, where it sat for several days, electrocuting anyone who passed within 3 feet of its perimeter. My silken clothes clung to my body. My hair stood on end. And from that fateful moment on, I have been Electro-Hypersensitive (EHS).
The World Health Organization defines EHS as “… a phenomenon where individuals experience adverse health effects while in the vicinity of devices emanating electric, magnetic, or electromagnetic fields.” What does this mean? Well, here are my “EHS 101” Cliff’s Notes: We are surrounded by Radiofrequency Radiation (RF) – WiFi, cell phones, cordless phones, Bluetooth, TV, radio, and smart devices; and Low Frequency Radiation (LF) – electric power systems (wiring), AC electric frields, AC magnetic fields, and dirty electricity. When exposed to these frequencies, a person with EHS will experience biological effects that worsen with duration and dose intensity. Symptoms and severity thereof vary amongst EHS individuals, but the full gamut includes neurological, cardiac, respiratory, dermatological, ophthalmological, urological, gastrointestinal, immunological, and other such manifestations. Severe reactions can include seizures, stroke, and paralysis. Entire textbooks can and should be written on this subject. And a physicist I am not. So I shall leave the intricate science to my esteemed Building Biologist companions, who majestically appear when you send up the bat signal.
“But what does it feel like?” This is the most common question I am asked, when I tell people I am EHS. In a single word: torture. Piercing, stabbing, screaming, pulsating, zapping, searing, scorching, raging, compressing, pressurizing, suffocating, tightening, exploding, all-consuming, unremitting, electrifying, manic, sadistic, begging-for-mercy torture. It feels like my heart is beating to the rhythm of an artificial radiofrequency. It feels like the neurons in my brain are firing along its wavelength. It feels like every single cell coursing through my veins is vibrating to an unnatural energy force. It feels like my entire body is conductive. It feels like I am fused with an electrical circuit. It feels like I am no longer me, but I am a digital pulse transmission instead. It feels like I am being irradiated by an invisible force. It feels like I am being tortured to death. In short, it feels like I am wired.
There are indeed some clever reduction and mitigation efforts to protect oneself from these dangerous fields. This involves shielding, grounding, filtering, and other such tactics – some of which are very helpful, and most of which I use daily. But, there’s no cure-all when even small town living means you’re surrounded by cell towers, WiMAX networks, smart meters, transformers, LED lights, and faulty wiring wherever you go. And if you’re as hypersensitive as I am, then really the best option is to become an “EMF Refugee” – unplug, disconnect, and live in a non-wireless, non-pulsing space – easier said than done in our WiFi and smart tech generation. And sure, I could post on a listserv, gather some equally suffering EHS folks, share a cottage in the remote wilderness, live like Laura Ingalls, read Walden by candlelight, and significantly reduce my RF and LF body burden. But to me, this sounds like a pitch for a new reality tv show – “The Real World: EHS” – This is the true story, of seven strangers, picked to live in a cabin, in the middle of nowhere, and find out what happens, when people stop using technology, and start getting real. (Hey MTV: If you slate this for production, you owe me royalties. Consider this my copyright).
But despite my brief sojourns into an outward bound nature quest, I feel called to remain here in the midst of civilization to protect the public from this modern phantom menace. Because, there are very real, yet unseen dangers lurking in the space between hot spots. Electromagnetic fields have been documented to cause a spiraling list of health conditions, including: leukemia, brain tumors, breast cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, ALS, genotoxic effects (i.e. DNA damage), compromised immune function, miscarriage, heart disease, chronic insomnia, cognition changes (memory & learning, behavior, attention, concentration deficits), and altered brainwave activity. The average citizen cannot physiologically experience these frequencies with their senses, but we’re swimming in them. And the dastardly tricky part is: You can’t see WiFi. You can’t touch cell waves. You can’t smell dirty electricity. You can’t taste Bluetooth. You can’t hear a magnetic field. But, me? I can feel it all. As can others with EHS. And it feels evil. And so, as much as my EHS makes me physically weak, I cannot help but wonder – why doesn’t this extrasensory superhuman ability make me a superhero?
Aside from their spandex outfits and deification at Comic Con…What do most of our fabled caped crusaders have in common? Extraordinary powers and abilities (often of heightened sensory perception), a distinctive back-story, a strong moral code, a motivation to fight for justice and protect the public, an array of enemies, and quite often a tragic past accident or storyline that served as the catalyst for their powers. Short of dressing in primary-colored Lycra, it seems to me that I personally meet all these qualifications.
When you think about our beloved Marvel and DC superheroes – those we’ve entrusted to save our fictionalized worlds – I find that a significant number of them are EHS. Spiderman’s “spidey-sense” is a tingling feeling at the base of his skull, alerting him to danger. This precognitive neurological spinal inflammation gets more intense in proportion to the level of danger present. He can feel vibrations and currents in the air through his web lines, and detect certain radiofrequencies. His EHS is why he appears on the scene at the slightest sign of peril. Daredevil lost his sense of sight in a radioactive accident. This heightened his remaining four senses, granting him a type of “sonar” radar to fight crime and vanquish his enemies. Superman’s powers of flight, super strength, xray vision, speed, heat vision, and other superhuman senses are derived from electromagnetic radiation stored in his cells from his planet’s explosion. What is Kryptonite after all? It’s a radioactive fragment from the planet Krypton. When Superman is exposed to green Kryptonite in particular, it biochemically alters his cellular energy process and weakens his powers. Prolonged exposure can lead to his death. And Iron Man’s character eventually extends his armor with a techno-organic virus injection, allowing him to interface with satellites and wireless frequencies in order to augment his powers.
At least the citizens of Batman’s dark metropolis saw The Joker coming. You can’t miss a homicidal maniac with a sinister clown-face dropping into black tie galas with purple laughing gas, or bombing City Hall with neon-colored acid spray. But, our society has a far more terrifying arch enemy to fight, and its name is Electrosmog. This super villain is a criminal mastermind genius, because he is everywhere, he is invisible, and he masquerades as our digital play toys, our shiny sleek phones, our streaming movies, our “Free WiFi,” our Internet of Things, our Big Data, our green energy, our “apps for that,” our “iEverythings,” our keyless entries, our wearable communications, our nebulous “cloud,” and our addictive “smart” devices we’ve all come to love and crave like a drug. This formidable adversary strategically splits his identity, hiding in headquarters at Verizon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, AT&T, GE, ConEd, PG&E, and other such industry giants. He’s got the world’s governments and agencies under his spell, as our political leaders deny any clear and present danger. He’s brilliantly waging a psychological warfare, having tapped into our base fears of isolation and solitude, keeping us anesthetized with digital hyper-connectivity. He is the incarnation of Dr. Doom, Lex Luther, Magneto, Two Face, and Kingpin rolled into one. And the global population is allowing itself to be manipulated and destroyed by something they quite literally cannot sense….and by something they can no longer fathom living without. I doubt even the great Stan Lee could have imagined such a ruthless and villainous character in his wildest dreams.
What today’s very real superheroes have been tasked to do is: Stop the expansion and proliferation of wireless technology. End world-wide electromagnetic pollution. Create civilized and thriving safe havens for those disabled and sickened from these damaging frequencies. And expose microwave radiation for what it is – not a cool, hip flashy gadget to envy, but an amoral and hazardous foe, primed to control humanity and poison the earth.
And so. I’ve unmasked my alter ego. I’ve revealed my Kryptonite. I’ve challenged my nemesis. My weakness is also my power. My illness is also my strength. I’ve been wired from birth to sense danger around me. I’m standing with my brave allies. I will not be overpowered.