Taking Back Her Power

Photo by: Albert Watson

Photo by: Albert Watson

Winter is approaching the countryside. The cold makes you realize the need for shelter. There’s a remote cottage tucked away in the trees. It’s small and sparsely furnished. Inside you spy traces of modernity hinting at an unconventional relationship with our prevailing technologies. An Ethernet cord snakes twenty feet along the kitchen floor, plugged into a laptop for internet access. The Wi-Fi router is permanently disconnected. The alarm system is set to “wireless off.” There’s a curious gadget, not much larger than a matchbox, set on the windowsill. It’s a radiofrequency detector. Turn on your smart phone anywhere in the house, and the device buzzes.  

For Jolie Jones, this temporary abode, on compassionate loan from her friend, is a place to rest and heal. Only a dispossessed rest-stop for Jolie, it is nonetheless a makeshift haven from modern technology, from wireless transmissions, from cell towers, and from the pulsating energy of a life she once knew before she became Electro-Hypersensitive (EHS).

A woman who grew up to the melodic vibrations of jazz and pop, Jolie is no stranger to the significance of harmonizing frequencies. The first-born child of music legend Quincy Jones and his first wife Jeri Jones, Jolie’s youth and adolescence was one of captivating music, art, and fashion. From Manhattan to LA; from Paris to London, larger-than-life names orbited Jolie’s early existence. As a child, surrounded by musical geniuses Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra, Jolie was welcomed into a world of infinite creativity. At the age of 16, fresh and beautiful, Jolie became the first African American woman to grace the cover of Mademoiselle and appear in the pages of Seventeen. Her subsequent years saw a thrilling whirlwind of modeling gigs, ad campaigns for Max Factor and Revlon, marriage at the age of twenty, the birth of her two sons Donovan and Sunny, art school in London, song-writing, vocal performance, and environmental activism. This was an animated and fulfilling life.

Jolie took her first activist steps with SANE, Citizens for a Sane Nuclear Policy. She later joined The Hollywood Women’s Political Committee; became a founding member of Earth Communications Office (ECO); then formed her own non-profit environmental organization, The Take It Back Foundation. In 1990, recycling was yet to be “a thing.” So to kick off awareness, Jolie created an award-winning, live-action music video “Yakety Yak, Take It Back!” with the participation from some of the world’s leading musical artists. 

Decades later, Jolie is now pivoting her focused passion to a sobering and escalating environmental health crisis: the dangers of wireless radiation, and awareness for Electro-Hypersensitivity. Jolie’s up-close and all-too-personal experience with this debilitating illness stole seven years of her life. “In my heart, and with my whole being, when I believe something is dangerous, or important, I consider myself an activist. And this is important. This is a big deal.” Heed these words from a woman who foresaw earth’s urgent need toward sustainability more than three decades ago.

Electro-Hypersensitivity is a functional impairment in which a person experiences a crippling degree of neurological and immunological symptoms when in the presence of electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Triggers include radiofrequency fields like wireless routers, wireless transmitting devices, mobile phones, tablets, Wi-MAX networks, and smart tech gadgets; as well as low-frequency electric and magnetic fields from sources like televisions, kitchen appliances, car engines, power lines, electric blankets, and heating/AC systems. Symptoms get worse depending on dose and duration of exposure, usually improve only when the individual removes the EMF source completely, but quickly recur when the individual returns to an irradiated environment. EHS is a condition shared by 3-5% of the world’s population, and those numbers are swiftly growing. 

Jolie suffered with EHS for years, unsure where to turn, while her health, bank account, and social network deteriorated. “This is what happens when you become sensitive. One EMF source agitates your system, then you become sensitive to another source. I didn’t have sensitivity to electrical things at the beginning. It was just Wi-Fi, cell phones, flat screen TVs, and minimally computers. But, looking back, during the last two years of my impairment, I couldn’t even have the lights on. Any small amount of exposure really put me in a position where I couldn’t function.” 

Incapacitated by the modern world, how did Jolie interact with life around her? Simply, she didn’t. Because she couldn’t. “I couldn’t be in a room with a cell phone on. I couldn’t go to movies, yoga, restaurants, concerts. I couldn’t go to people’s homes.” And it’s not for lack of trying or asking for the safe space her body needed. “Even when people say they’re willing to turn off their wireless devices, sometimes they forget. Sometimes, they’re just not willing. There was no way I could be around anything emitting. I couldn’t be present in my life.”

It’s easy to disregard someone with EHS. It’s even easier to denigrate the voice who bravely talks about it publicly. Doubters will subversively shun her authority, dismissing her stacks of research reports culled from the world’s renowned experts. Critics will conveniently conjure an image of a wacky woman donning a tin foil hat hiding in an underground bunker. But Jolie is not at all this caricature. She is not someone to diminish. And she is most certainly not a crazy cat lady. 

Jolie is eloquent, intelligent, and compassionate. She speaks deliberately and thoughtfully, with a soft-spoken tonality that illuminates a musical soul. Her expert knowledge on Electro-Hypersensitivity, wireless radiation, and electromagnetic fields is highly-documented and science-based. And Jolie’s personal experience suffering with EHS grants her a unique vantage point to stand up to speak out.

The initial signs of her EHS appeared in 2008 while living in Santa Barbara, when she rented a small guest house in an old caboose train car. “The minute I moved in there, I started to feel sensitive to my cell phone, iPod, and other electromagnetic devices. I didn’t think much of it at first, but I couldn’t function.” She remembers experiencing extreme joint pain, vibrations in her head, and mental confusion. It was like a “big cloud was pushing down on my brain.” 

She spent some time in British Columbia, on an off-the-grid island where she owned property, planning to build a home for herself. Despites its natural surroundings, this island was starting to go wireless. With Wi-Fi beaming directly onto her property, she fell further ill. Thrown down a rabbit hole, disoriented and spinning, Jolie had to navigate next steps without a formal compass for direction. “I couldn’t function there. I had to sell the property. That started my seven years of running from EMF and radiofrequency waves.”

For anyone with EHS, attempting to find a safe place is a Herculean task, given the global proliferation of radiofrequency in the form of Wi-Fi hotspots, cell towers, smart grids, and other EMF-emitting sources. There are no real “safe zones.” There are no established communities for low-EMF, non-toxic housing. Jolie moved thirteen times in less than a decade, crossing over three different countries, from British Columbia to California, from Vermont to Italy. This expedition may read like a magical fairy tale. But this was no fancy jetsetter’s life of privileged VIP passes and first-class spa treatments. This was not living; it was merely surviving. 

Her lowest point surfaced while living in Italy, too sensitive and cognitively impaired to leave her house. “There was a bus route that came right by my driveway to go into Florence. I could not figure out how to find the schedule to find the bus that came to the end of my driveway. I thought, here’s someone who once produced concerts for 750,000 people, coordinated hundreds of people and projects at once, and created national campaigns. I was reduced to not being able to figure out how to use the bus.” 

Jolie’s life became insular, solitary and homeless. She gave away everything she owned. Her savings depleted, unable to work, Jolie was reduced to basic human needs – food, water, sleep, shelter – and even those were a constant struggle to meet. “I spent the majority of those seven years, alone, by myself, scared for my future, wondering how did I end up like this? How could this happen to me?” Rural farms and rustic barns still carried harmful electromagnetic frequencies – from nearby cell towers, neighbors with Wi-Fi, faulty power grid layouts, electric fences – all polluting the environment with electrosmog. No one thinks about this, because they can’t see it. And EHS is at core an invisible illness. But, turn on a Wi-Fi router next to someone with EHS, and you’ll see them crumble in pain, and flee for their safety, just like Jolie did. “This is what people don’t understand. People can’t fathom what it’s like to survive this.” 

Misunderstood by friends and family with the best intentions, Jolie persevered to find answers. Toward the beginning of her impairment, one of Jolie’s doctors discovered that her mercury levels were ten times the accepted safe levels. Overly-toxified with mercury and other heavy metals, her body was like a little antenna, and her immune system was totally compromised. “I did everything. I was taking thirteen supplements per meal to build myself up. I tried alternative healing, acupuncture, ozone therapy, UV therapy, IV infusions, glutathione. I went to doctors, to a homeopathic clinic in Germany. I bought equipment, I slept in Faraday cages, I had phone jammers, I had healing necklaces. I couldn’t work. I spent all my money just surviving and trying to get well.” 

At the end of her rope, Jolie was depleted emotionally and physically. Not actually part of “life” anymore, but merely existing, she questioned how she could continue living, unsure if she even wanted to. It was at that point when she found her way to Annie Hopper’s neuroplasticity program, Dynamic Neuro Retraining System (DNRS). Jolie accredits this methodology for mostly healing her from EHS. 

Now almost three years after commencing DNRS, Jolie says she’s about 90% healed and able to concentrate, function in the world again, and rejoin community. However, she’s hauntingly concerned about the emerging public health crisis that looms due to the global influx wireless radiation. Those with EHS may very well be the canaries in the proverbial coal mine… a warning of what is to come. 

While the Internet of Everything may be changing our socio-cultural climate, this not-so-smart tech is also harming our bio-electrical bodies. People are mostly unaware of the significant health risks, yet there are thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies providing evidence. Jolie is now working to educate the public on this environmental health issue through speaking engagements and her new website JolieTalks.com. 

“I want to begin a dialogue with people, so they know what this wireless technology is, and what it can do, until we develop safer technology. I believe once people learn a little bit, they will want to learn more, lessen exposures, and take precautions. When you experience these frequencies like I have, and you feel how strong they are, you know something that other people don’t viscerally understand.” 

The extreme impairment and existential isolation of EHS forces a person to journey through the dark night of the soul. There’s heart healing entwined in the physical healing. “The spiritual and inner work that you have to do to get through something like this is beyond comprehension. I had to do a lot of work about not blaming myself. I didn’t do this to myself. I didn’t choose this. It’s not my fault. Why couldn’t I keep my life together? I couldn’t. Or I would have.”

When asked to describe her chief characteristics, Jolie’s answer speaks to the identity-stripping experience of Electro-Hypersensitivity. “Describing myself is hard. Which self? The one before? The one now? Because I am not what I want to end up being. And I have felt for so long that I am trying to get back to me ... or to the new me. It feels like such a long road. I lost ‘me’ somewhere way back, and parts of me are fine left behind, but I am still picking up the pieces.”

Jolie is profoundly grateful to have found a way toward healing, and a new way to use her voice for positive change. Reclaiming her spirit and identity, she’s returned to her art and music, working on commissioned paintings and entertainment production. But, in a world now overpowered with wireless radiation, and a subsection of the population silently disabled from it, now it is time for Jolie to talk. It is also high time for people to listen.


 Alison Main is a freelance writer with a focus on environmental health, EMF safety and natural living. You can read her published work at alisonmain.me and her personal essays at uncommonalchemy.me

©2017 ALISON MAIN ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this document may be reproduced without written consent and permission from the author.

I Am an EMF Refugee

By Alison Main

Published: June 23, 2016 | Notre Dame Magazine


I can feel Wi-Fi.

And power lines. And smart phones. And electric heat. And LED lights. But, before you get too excited about my real-life “Spidey sense,” let me warn you, it does not feel good. And I didn’t always possess this extrasensory perceptive power.

Illustration by Elizabeth Baddeley

Illustration by Elizabeth Baddeley

I was a New York City media maven for 15 years. I strode into dazzling skyscrapers with Don Draper and Peggy Olson wannabes. I clinked glasses of dirty vodka martinis with beat reporters and fedora-wearing publishers. I dwelled in an overpriced studio on Manhattan’s sublime West 57th Street. I stressed over deadlines, sipped wine on rooftops and hopped subways in heels — all with a sparkling, enchanting metropolis of international envy to call my home.

And of course, I had all the digital toys to accompany this persona: A creative director’s dream of a Mac computer system, the smartest smart phone of the moment, the fastest of the fast wireless networks, the streaming tunes, the apps for that, the iEverythings and the incessant surge of digital pings directing and announcing my every move.

That was my life until a few years ago. And now, I am an EMF Refugee.

I wander in exodus seeking asylum from a fierce and escalating worldwide storm of artificial and damaging electromagnetic fields (EMFs). I’m a fugitive on the run from wireless frequencies. I’m an émigré fleeing persecution from dirty electricity. I have relinquished any concept of possession, ownership or permanent residence, ready to pack up and escape for my safety on a moment’s notice. But in a world now filled with overlapping, omnipresent radiofrequency and pulsed microwave technologies, where exactly should I flee? Where is it safe? That is always the question. And there isn’t always an answer.

With my bank account drained from decades of undiagnosed illness and failed medical intervention, I must rely on the kindness of friends and strangers to grant me temporary safe haven — to disable their Wi-Fi, to unplug their cordless phones, even sometimes to shut down their energy-efficient electronics or entire circuit systems — just so I can sleep, so I can eat, so I can rest, so I can work, so I can think, so I might possibly heal. And then, inevitably, energy forces me to move again.

So how does a Notre Dame alumna, the editor-in-chief of the 2000 Dome, who graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with an astounding network of friends and loved ones, wind up as an EMF refugee? Quite simply: It is estimated that 3 to 5 percent of the world’s population suffers from a very modern, very real, yet controversial physiological condition known as electro-hypersensitivity (EHS). I am now one of them.

This means I experience debilitating neurological and immunological symptoms in the presence of radiofrequency transmissions (think wireless routers, cell phones, Bluetooth devices, tablets, game consoles, smart tech and cell towers), low-frequency fields (think computers, televisions, engines, wiring and power lines), and dirty electricity (the high-frequency microsurges that ride on top of our otherwise clean electric current, such as our power grid, LED lights, variable speed air conditioning units, and other seemingly innocuous items).

We are humans, and we have evolved with a broad spectrum of natural electromagnetic fields innate to our Earth and the universe. But we are also now being barraged by harmful, man-made, unnatural frequencies — all invisible to the human eye but irradiating us nonetheless. And it is this electrosmog that quite literally makes me sick.

I’ve always been a sensitive individual – emotionally, physically, creatively — so in theory, I was a prime candidate for this condition. But, there was a catalyst. In my mid-30s, I considered my college futon days finally behind me. My apartment needed a grown-up comfy cushy sofa to welcome my guests or my solitary midnight TV screenings. So, I ordered a plush microfiber loveseat from a prominent furniture retailer. No sooner was it delivered than I began to experience a frightening, systemic, neuro-immunological breakdown. In a scene right out of a Marvel comic book, this electrically-charged, chemically-infused synthetic couch created an unusually powerful static-electricity vortex, thereby electrifying and shocking everything inside my apartment — including me. From that moment on, I’ve beenEHS.

I see the stares, the glances, the disbelief, the doubt. I see people humoring me. Terrified of me. Placating me. Dismissing me. I hear the hushed tones: “That’s the girl who thinks she can feel Wi-Fi .” Everyone wants proof. But you can’t see what I feel. And when I present the hard evidence — the myriad international, peer-reviewed studies on the harmful biological effects of EMFs, for instance — people turn a deaf ear. Because no one wants any of this to be true. No one wants to imagine for a second that their digital devices might be harming them; or that their smart gadgets might not be so smart after all; or that their hyper-connected homes, offices, cars and transport systems might lead to a public health crisis of epic proportions.

Well, why can’t this be true? Humans are bioelectrical beings. Our bodies, our hearts, our brains operate based on electrical impulses. Maybe the most sensitive of us humans can actually feel the difference between good energy and bad energy.

People always want to prove me wrong. Some have covertly turned on their Wi-Fi routers in my presence, just to see if I can feel it, when I don’t know it’s transmitting. Guess what? I can feel it. I always do. And they’re always astonished. But that’s not a fun parlor game for me.

People like to prove the science wrong, too. They call out “non-specific symptoms.” They cherry-pick the data. They call EHS a “nocebo” that is leading people to feel ill because they think they have been exposed to something that might sicken them. But I challenge those doubters to delve into the published research. And maybe to consider that in 2011 the World Health Organization reclassified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer.

“But what does it feel like?” This is the most popular question I’ve been asked in the last three years. In a nutshell — it feels like unremitting, wired, electrified torture. It feels like I am fused with a force field, that I’m no longer human but part of a circuit. It feels like my body is pulsating to an artificial frequency. If I were to check off some boxes in a physician’s waiting room, my symptom list would include numbness, tingling, muscle twitching, vertigo, loss of balance, pressurized headaches, spinal pain, rashes, insomnia, memory lapses, cognitive dysfunction, altered heart rate, tinnitus, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress and urological spasms — just for starters.

My symptoms worsen to torment based on dose and duration of EMF intensity, and diminish only with distance from the offending source. Which means, if there’s something energetically hurting me, there’s no waiting it out, there’s no “maybe I’ll get used to it,” there’s no “Alison, can’t you just deal with it?” And if I can’t shut it down, there is only one thing to do:


And then find another safe space . . . any safe space . . . even if that space is a neighbor’s backyard. Or a converted workman’s shed on an upstate New York farm. Or a remote cottage on a dirt road in Rhode Island. Or a friend’s car in her driveway. Or a pew in a local church. All of which I’ve called sanctuary when left with no other recourse.

You’d be surprised how many loved ones are unwilling to unplug their digital worlds, even for a few nights. You’d be astonished how many people choose their streaming movies over your very existence. Or maybe they simply don’t see it that way. Maybe it’s not a lack of caring. But it is a lack of awareness. A lack of understanding of what EHS means for the suffering individual. And how there is yet to be a network of safe houses for people with my condition. And how there’s no pill or drug infusion or hospitalization that will magically “cure” the individual or make the symptoms disappear. And how it’s not “just a headache” that’ll go away by morning. And how at its most severe, an EHS individual can suffer a heart attack, a seizure, or a stroke. Which is why — roof or no roof — like all war-torn refugees, I always leave when under siege.

In living my very own dystopian novel, I’ve discovered a hidden network of EHScomrades around the globe. Former designers, lawyers, bankers, pilots, teachers, students: brilliant, accomplished, hard-working, highly educated individuals of all ages who have been forced to leave their career, school, home, family, friends and community, their financial worth, their entire reality, to go off the grid in order to heal. To seek peace within their bodies, to make the pain stop, to be able to breathe again, think again, sleep again, exist again.

These people have become my lifeline. They answer my panicked messages at 1 a.m. when a sudden change in energy makes my sanctuary no longer safe, when I’m in pain and scared and need a friend who just gets it. They’ve given me tips and tricks on how to use a computer (here’s one: get an internal “solid state drive,” and use with a wired external keyboard and mouse), where to sit in a car (usually in the back, farthest from the driver’s seat), and what type of light bulbs are best (incandescent).They’ve urged me to keep going, to overcome all obstacles; told me that I’m strong enough, courageous enough, and resilient. They can tell me this because they’ve endured it all as well. Because to survive, they’ve slept in their own cars and in shacks and tents in the wilderness. They also feel the immense power of energy. Brave new world, indeed.

You don’t become electro-hypersensitive without spending some serious time contemplating energy in all its forms — scientific, metaphysical, spiritual. According to the laws of physics, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. But, leaving the intricate calculus formulas for the textbooks, what this theorem means to me is: Energy is everywhere. And energy is everything.

Thoughts are energy. Words are energy. Movement, breathing, sound and creativity, love and faith are all energy. Energy can be blocked, stuck, fragmented, balanced, depleted, stolen, open or closed. Energy can fuel you, or it can enervate you. It can attract or repel. It can be positive or negative. But no matter what, energy is constant.

And now, despite my profound physical and material losses, I have nonetheless found connection within disconnection. I’ve discovered stillness, hope, heart, infinite love and divine compassion. There’s transcendence in embracing such impermanence, in letting go of surface desires and goals. I’ve become grounded within my present. That is where I can dwell, regardless of what physical structure (or lack thereof) serves as my fleeting peripheral residence.

So I put my bare feet in the dirt. I stretch my hands around a tree. I look up beyond the power transformers and see magnificent cloud formations. I feel the pulse of earth and the ebbing frequency of the wind. I find the healing rhythms within nature, within love, within a gracious power guiding me through it all. And I can sense, within every fiber of my being, that we are all one, entwined in spirit, and connected by energy.


The Beauty of Aging

Jolie Jones (57)

It's a fact that models routinely begin their careers as teenagers. But 12? Before model-cum-actress Brooke Shields hit it big as a tween in the 1980s with her controversial Calvin Klein ads, there was Jolie Jones. Her gorgeous face became sought after by dozens of magazines and fashion houses — all at the tender age of 12. Discovered at a party in New York that she attended with her music mogul father Quincy Jones, the young girl quickly leaped at the chance to model.

Jones says she hit her peak in the late '60s. “When I was 14, it started to really pick up. By 15, I was working all the time.” One of her favourite jobs was a photography shoot called Anatomy of a Model, shot with big cats, including a male lion. “It was a long job, a day or two. But it was so exciting because all [the models'] menstrual cycles had to be co-ordinated because you can't work with wild cats a week before or a week after your period. There's one week a month that you can work with them,” she explains. “And I got to work with a tiger, a cheetah and a lion.”

Now 57 and the mother of two grown sons, Jones describes the aging process as interesting. “I'm really into that aging thing and trying to be graceful about it.” For her, that means consistently exercising and eating right, avoiding things like alcohol, sugar and white flour. Still, she admits, “When you're used to feeling like you look perfect all the time without any work, then it's an adjustment when you get older.”

Another adjustment came in the form of her sensitivity to EMF (electromagnetic frequencies) and RF (radio frequencies) — meaning she has trouble being around cellphones and electronic devices. The crew was asked to shut down their mobiles while she was onset so she could concentrate.

“I am extremely sensitive to radio frequencies from cellphones and wireless networks,” she explains, citing high levels of heavy metals in her system caused by eating too much tuna. She says in its early stages, the condition made her feel in a heavy fog. “Like a heavy, thick cloud entered my brain from the temples and being totally disoriented,” she explains. “It was painful in fact. My joints would tingle and ache. Also, at times, I would get palpitations in my chest and I was very drained.” She points out that even when phones are on silent or vibrate, they are still emitting RF waves; in areas with poor reception, the devices blast RF waves, trying even harder to find a signal. She is in the process of writing a book on her condition and says, “Most brain surgeons when pressed will admit that the rise of tumours in young people is a direct result of phones up against the ear.” She is convinced that these frequencies with which we are bombarded will be discovered to be as dangerous to our health as asbestos and cigarette smoke was years ago.

To combat her condition and to allow her spiritual side to flourish, Jones lives in Vermont alongside her dogs and horses. Jones also uses medical grade essential oils and is in the process of developing a skincare line called Joie de Jolie. This simpler lifestyle makes her trips to Los Angeles a bit jarring. “I came here from eight months in Vermont, being with my horses every day. We're supposed to be living around trees and nature,” she says. “That universal life force is what makes us happy and clear and calm and healthy and adjusted.” Shirt, Lafayette 148, $225

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