Archive for the ‘nasal nostalgia’ Category

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.

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It started with strong-smelling cleaning products and eucalyptus oil. Then grew to include coffee, bananas and perfume. It even got to the fainter-smelling flowers and rain. Yes folks, just last week my nose was pleasantly surprized on about 5 different occassions where it was full-on smelling! FULL-ON! Mind you, these episodes lasted only about 3-4 minutes, but for those few moments I was on cloud 9.

Did you know that before now, if you held a cup of coffee under my nose and my eyes were closed, the best description I would be able to give would be: “It’s hot…”

People really take their sense of smell for granted. It’s actually astonishing how many times a day someone says to me: “Here, smell this”, to which I smile, take a whiff (being a good sport), and then remind them that I could be smelling a rotting corpse and not know it. It is easy to see how losing your eyesight or sense of hearing would affect your life, but nobody really stops to think about what it would mean not to be able to smell.

When food goes bad, if it isn’t visually obvious, you tend to smell it, yes? If you’ve left the stove on and something is burning, you would smell the smoke/burning smell. If there is a fire in the house, you might wake to the smell of smoke. Plus, smells are strongly connected to memory-retrieval.

Perhaps I’m admitting to being an overly-sensitive wuss here, but being able to smell the rain — the damp, cool, earthy smell of rain — kinda got me a little teary-eyed. Okay a lot teary-eyed. It was almost like those Claritin commercials, where the fuzzy, muted picture of the world suddenly becomes clear.

Why a picture of Owen Wilson's nose? Well for one, when you type 'nose' into google image search, he is one of the first images to pop up. And second, his nose is just too cool.

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People tell me that I am lucky for not being able to smell. They say that most of the time things either don’t smell much like anything, or what they can smell is not pleasant. One friend even said that 70% of things she smells aren’t enjoyable.

But just a few weeks ago, while I was at placement, I opened up my lunch and BOOM, I was hit with the sweet sweet smell of fresh strawberries and bananas! I kid you not when I say that I literally ran into the neighbouring offices to make sure everyone knew that I was able to smell the sweetness of my fruit salad.

It seems then, that my accupuncture and osteopathy sessions are working.

Except at the moment, cause I’ve got a cold and my sinuses are blocked. Really, really blocked. But it IS working!

I’ve had around 8 or 9 sessions by this point, and the body work is usually the same thing: 1-2 needles in my left hand, one in my right hand; sometimes a couple needles on my arms between my elbows and wrists; 2 needles on either side of my nostrils; 1 between my eyebrows; and around 6 needles on various spots on my head.

The Pin Cushion Queen will smell again!

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A roasting turkey
Hot outta the oven homemade cookies
Fresh cut grass

These are just a few of my favourite smells. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to smell them for years now. I’ve lost my sense of smell. I wouldn’t say it’s completely gone, but on a good day, I’d say my sense of smell is maybe working only about 10% of what it should be at.

I started losing my sense of smell probably during highschool. I cannot say for certain because it was such a slow, gradual process that I barely noticed. On top of this, I have asthma and an allergy to dust, so I’ve always been ‘nasally challenged’. My friends know they can always count on me to be carrying Kleenex, and it is a rare occassion to hang out with me and NOT witness me blowing my nose.

And so, in June 2009, I went under the knife and had surgery to remove nasal polyps that had formed in my sinuses. I figured that once the polyps were removed, my congestion wouldn’t be as bad, and my smell would return. Nope. I could definitely breathe much easier, but when I asked my ENT specialist about my sense of smell, he basically shrugged his shoulders.

Last week I went to the Comprehensive Health Recovery Centre, and had osteopathy and accupressure massage. This week I had more accupressure as well as accupuncture. So far there hasn’t been any noticeable change in my sense of smell, but my breathing and lungs are doing surprizingly well. I think that because my sense of smell has been gone and blocked for SO long, it will take time for these therapies to create noticeable change. But I’m staying hopeful!

I was also doing some research on the nose, our sense of smell, and its relation to memory. Here are a few interesting tidbits:

“We all experience surprise flashbacks, brought on by the power of smell. An unexpected aroma can transport us back in time with amazing effect. The bog, or the scent of coconut oil on the beach, for example. More than any other tricks of our imagination, such as a voice, picture, place or story, our sense of smell seems to be the greatest emotional link with past experiences. Take the sweet smell of freshly mown grass: all some of us need to do, in order to be drinking bottled tea in the middle of a hay-field, is to close our eyes. When my children brought home white chalk from school, they also brought my first teacher, Mrs McCormack, into our kitchen. A whiff of Johnston Baby Powder, reminds me of my own children as babies… Smell is the only one of our senses which is wired directly to the brain and odours are very powerful stimuli. As soon as an aroma hits your nasal membranes, it immediately impacts on your brain. A smell – call it a scent or aroma, has the greatest ability to recall emotional memory. The power of smelling is probably the most underrated of all our senses. Even what we taste has more to do with smell. We talk about our taste-buds and palate, but in actual fact, 75% of what we perceive as taste, comes from our sense of smell. Have you noticed that when you have a cold, your food doesn’t taste as good? This has nothing to do with taste, but the fact that the function of smell is impaired. Smell arouses our appetite, elicits deep seated memories, kindles sexual desires, and warns us of danger – such as the smell of something burning, as well as constantly sending bits and pieces of useful information to the brain. Of course our sense of smell has to deal with offensive or repugnant smells as well. We shan’t dwell on these too long, but sewage, vomit, rotten fish or eggs spring to mind in passing. Any of you who may have upset a skunk (no, the other one, Alannah!) will go to great length to avoid one in future.There is some evidence that pleasant odours, such as vanilla or lavender, will reduce stress in the workplace, and even lead to increased productivity. The study of the effects of odours on behaviour is called, aromachology. This science is relatively new, but the healing powers of aromatherapy date back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians. The term “aromatherapy”, was coined in the 1920’s, by a French chemist called Rene Maurice Gattefosse, to describe the practice of using essential oils, taken from plants, flowers, roots, seeds etc., and used in healing. Gattefosse conducted experiments with wounded soldiers during WW1 and deduced that the aromas benefited the soldiers by imparting a psychological and physical feeling of well being.”


“We’re talking about the harmonious mixing and matching of potentially hundreds of individual aroma chemicals,” Papas said. “Composers have their musical notes, and we actually use what are called ‘fragrance notes’ that unfold over time to the nose like stanzas of a symphony to the ear.”


“Pa­pas said that few peo­ple are aware of the all-pervasive na­ture of smells. Scents are a part of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence from the time peo­ple awake in the morn­ing to the time they fall asleep at night. Child­hood mem­o­ries stay with peo­ple through­out life. And smells can have a pow­er­ful in­flu­ence on hu­man emo­tions.

“Fra­grances can make peo­ple feel good,” said Pa­pas, who is vi­ce president-executive per­fum­er at Gi­vau­dan Fra­grances Cor­pora­t­ion, in East Hano­ver, N.J. He spe­cial­izes in de­vel­op­ing fra­grances for eve­ry­day prod­ucts, in­clud­ing laun­dry prod­ucts, scented oils and can­dles, room sprays, and house­hold clean­ers. 

“Fra­grances are part of what has been called ‘nasal nos­tal­gia’, bring­ing back long-forgotten mem­o­ries of pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ences for peo­ple to en­joy once again,” he added. “We strive to con­nect with an emo­tion that makes the con­sum­er feel good and could be per­haps a lit­tle nos­tal­gic.”

Pa­pas cites as in­spira­t­ion the computer-animated film Ra­ta­touille, which is about a rat, Remy, who dreams of be­com­ing a gour­met chef. In one scene, Remy im­presses a prom­i­nent food crit­ic with a del­i­cate, but plain, meal that evokes fond mem­o­ries of his child­hood.

“It was a very sim­ple meal, but it dealt with emo­tion,” Pa­pas said. “It’s the same with fra­grance. A suc­cess­ful fra­grance, much like a fa­vor­ite mov­ie, food, or song, must cre­ate such a strong con­nection with the con­sum­er. It is im­por­tant for fra­grance de­sign­ers to try to trans­port cus­tomers to an­oth­er, per­haps bet­ter, place or time.” “

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