It can be difficult for people to understand what is necessary to protect myself from direct, or even reflected, sunlight. A level of subconscious awareness is required that can appear as obsessively compulsive, which, judging by reactions, seem to paint my condition as only mental rather than physical. Although I may concur on occasion that my mental status may warrant examination for irregularities, I must affirm and self-advocate that, at least in this instance, my brain work is the result of a physical condition.
Consider this simple mental exercise (be warned, however, that engaging in this exercise may elicit a diagnosis of mental instability from amateur-experts): try to guess in a split second exactly which direction the sun will cast a shadow relative to your position should you step out your front door right now. If it is night-time as you read this, add 12 hours to the clock. Imagine how the golden lances of light streaming through the windows will fall across the floor in the morning. Visualize in your mind’s eye how those angular slants of light are different in the evening. Now picture how evening during the summer contrasts to the winter, or the spring, or the fall.
Feeling insane yet? Let’s get crazier.
Consider what should happen to those same sunlight rays during the winter after a fresh snow on a sunny day. Perhaps on a hot, summer day you drive into a parking lot lined with cars’ windshields and mirrors, all reflecting sunlight at different angles and levels of intensity. Does your commute require you to drive directly into the sun, or is the sun to your sides? If the sun is to to the sides at any time during your commute, are there buildings with windows that reflect the sunlight on the opposite side of your vehicle at any time during your trip? Can you picture where the sunlight will fall through your vehicle’s windows onto your body at every point of the commute?
If you were able to successfully complete this mental exercise, congratulations! Thanks to the superhuman perception of your acquaintance who hadn’t even heard of EPP until they met you, you can now correctly be diagnosed as suffering from some mental condition that causes you to think you’re “allergic” to sunlight. It is possible, however, that you instead suffer from a condition that causes you to lie about being “allergic” to sunlight, but that condition is far more rare, so you’re probably okay. Either way, the road to healing is possible, because it is all only in your head.
To be honest, I am not entirely sure that I could accurately perform each of those mental exercises at this moment myself. But I am always subconsciously aware that I need to know where the sun is in order to stay safe, and that, when it is necessary, I will know. I continuously assess in the back of my mind the sun’s position and the shadows as they fall across the landscape relative to where I am or will be. It’s like that scene in the Bourne Identity where Matt Damon rattles off minute details about the exits, car license plates, and patrons of the diner to Franka Potente over supper, except it’s not nearly as cool, dramatic, or bodacious.
I was asked by a friend last week before dinner, at dusk, if the sunlight streaming through the north-east facing window of his home, from which soared the scene of a beautifully green-wooded mountain, was too much for me and if I should like him to draw the drapes. I was touched by his concern and declined, preferring instead to look out at nature over our meal as we talked. This friend of mine is very dear and trusting, so that was the end of our exchange.
I am reminded how like exchanges in the past have drawn strange looks my way that clearly communicate, “So, you can be in the sunlight! It must be an act!” Some have even tried to accuse me of hypochondria after accumulating enough encounters similar to the one I just described as “evidence.” Making good use of their superior skills of deduction and the medical license issued to them by the Dunning-Kruger Medical School, they unveil truth and discover that I have been living a horrible lie. Apparently Sherlock is not aware that, in the northern hemisphere at dusk, the sun is in the south-west.
I choose to surround myself with people who love, trust, believe in, and believe me. Where naysayers and doubters are unavoidable, their words have that much less power to tear me down. But ultimately, the power to decide how and what I think and feel about who I am comes from within.