Interview of Solona Armstrong
Interviewed for the UCLA Center for the Study of Women’s Chemical Entanglements: Oral Histories of Environmental Illness series. Born in Montreal, Canada, Solona is a software developer who is living with MCS and is extremely avoidant to mold. Solona has written to government officials and participate in everyday activism.
- Chemical Entanglements: Oral Histories of Environmental Illness
- Social MovementsEnvironmental Illness
- Biographical Note:
- Interviewed for the UCLA Center for the Study of Women’s Chemical Entanglements: Oral Histories of Environmental Illness series. Born in Montreal, Canada, Solona is a software developer who is living with MCS and is extremely avoidant to mold. Solona has written to government officials and participate in everyday activism.
- Armstrong, Solana
- Persons Present:
- Armstrong and Yiu
- Place Conducted:
- The interview was conducted using the Zoom video conferencing platform.
- Supporting Documents:
- Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
- Interviewer Background and Preparation:
- This interview was conducted by Wei Si Nic Yiu, a graduate student researcher, for the Center for the Study of Women in cooperation with UCLA Center for Oral History Research; PhD student in Gender Studies, UCLA. Yiu’s dissertation focuses on queerness and archives of Asia
- Processing of Interview:
- The interviewer prepared for the interview by reading a pre-interview questionnaire completed by the narrator. The transcript is copyedited transcription of the recording. It was first auto-transcribed by the speech transcription software Otter.ai then reviewed by staff and students on the project in three phases of review, using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the principal investigator. The interviewee did not review the transcript, and therefore some proper names remain unverified.
- 1.5 hrs
- Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
- Series Statement:
- Chemical Entanglements: Oral Histories of Environmental Illness is a collection of interviews with over seventy individuals living in the U.S. and Canada whose family history, occupation, art practice, or activism have brought them into direct contact with illness experience and disability related to chronic, low-dose exposure to toxicant chemicals. The procurement of this collection (from March 2019 through September 2020) was sponsored by the UCLA Center for the Study of Women under the directorship of Rachel C. Lee, with interviews conducted by six undergraduates, five graduate students, two career staff, and two faculty members at CSW.
Chronic illness in childhood – practicing chemical and mold avoidance – years-long process of discovering MCS and mold illness – growing up in moldy homes in Montreal – early lung issues triggered by fumes from nearby tape factory – family disbelief around sensitivity to fragrances – visiting various healthcare providers and failing to get accurate diagnosis – receiving referrals to mental health practitioners – learning not to disclose MCS to mainstream doctors – role of gender in experience of MCS – impact of chronic illness on social life and school during adolescence and young adulthood – symptoms treated as behavioral rather than health issue – estrangement from family as result of their dismissal of health issues – social isolation due to illness – participation in online communities – choosing career path that enables remote working – seeking accommodations in the workplace – navigating illness in social situations – private nature of personal care products and challenges with making requests of others – meeting partner with MCS – difficulty traveling due to illness – practicing chemical and mold avoidance and impacts of avoidance on daily life – engaging in advocacy and activism to seek accommodations and provide education – speaking up so as to increase visibility of MCS and mold illness – significant challenges of navigating housing – living in an ambulance – writing autobiography to help others navigate illness – reflections on necessary paradigm shift for responding to chemical sensitivity