Let’s get straight to the point: I have no sense of smell. I wasn’t born like this, but I have been what I like to call ‘nasally-challenged’ since I was in high school. I couldn’t say when I lost my ability to smell because it was a very slow and gradual process. Losing your sense of smell is not like losing one of your other senses, I think we rely least on smell and taste out of all of the senses. So when it starts to fade, you don’t even notice it in the beginning. Then one day you find yourself in a freshly painted office and have absolutely no idea it was just painted. That was quite a shocking experience: to come to the realization that my sense of smell was pretty much non-existant.
It has been quite a journey since then, trying to regain this lost sense. A few years back I had an appointment with an ears/nose/throat (ENT) specialist doctor, and discovered I had nasal polyps. After a speedy recovery from nasal polyp removal surgery, I asked my doc when I could expect my sense of smell to return. You know what he did? Shrugged his shoulders at me, saying he really didn’t know if or when it would return. How wonderful. To this day, don’t try to shrug your shoulders at me, it will not go over well.
My next route to explore was naturopathy, and so I received a combination of osteopathy, acupressure and acupuncture treatments. Several months (and dolla bills) later, I began to have moments — albeit very brief moments, like in the 1-2 minute range — of smelling bliss! Typically occurring within the first hour of waking up in the morning (though not every day), I was able to smell again. You better believe I would run around my house picking up and smelling everything I could get my hands on! Oh, and especially going to the backyard and taking a whiff of fresh air — could I smell the rain in the Spring, the flowers blooming and chlorine from pools in the Summer, the pumpkins and leaves in the Fall, the snow and chimney smoke in the Winter? You don’t always appreciate it until its lost. I know I didn’t.
These moments of nasal nostalgia were few and far between. It seemed to be an incredibly slow process to regain this lost sense. Though I suppose it makes sense, because it had taken years and years to fade away in the first place — I suppose getting it to return would be just as slow.
In recent months I have found that intense physical activity can also trigger a breakthrough. While out running I have had the experience of suddenly being able to smell the ocean, smoke from wood-burning fires, and BO (hey, I didn’t say everything I was smelling was necessarily pleasant!). Again, this doesn’t happen every time I run, but sometimes.
I have also noticed that the more I fall asleep while lying on my back (versus my stomach, with my head squished into my pillow, thereby crushing my face somewhat), the greater the chance of having those few moments of being able to smell in the morning.
This post is titled “the sacrifices I make for my nose”, because there are a lot of things I am trying to do to recover this lost sense. But it isn’t easy. It is frustrating, time-consuming, energy-draining, money-spending, and at times hopeless. There are times I am resigned to a life of non-smelling and accept my nose as merely a tool for breathing air. But then I have a breakthrough moment and am able to smell freshly cut oranges: zesty, bright, citrus, giddy, bold, juicy, sweet. Vanilla: soft, warm, baking, grandma, rich. Boyfriend: happy, musk, cedar, comfort, salt. Masset: ocean, damp, woods, moss, smoke, grey, fresh, endless. It’s funny how much I draw on other senses now to describe smells — as if smells have become so foreign to me I don’t know quite how to describe them simply on their own terms.
I wrote this post — and will probably continue to write more posts like it — as a way to monitor my own thoughts and feelings and progress on the issue, but also to reach out to other people who may be experiencing similar smelling deficiencies. Have you lost your sense of smell? Have you figured out why? And most importantly, were you able to regain it? Please share! I’d love to hear other peoples’ experiences.