As is now traditional around this time of year, it’s time for me to point out that Anosmia exists, and list some resources for people who may be affected by this life-changing, but barely-known condition. My life was turned upside down in 2014 by the simple act of catching a cold. My olfactory nerve died as a result of that cold, and life hasn’t been the same ever since. I still feel the effects of that cold, and the resulting anosmia, every single day of my life.
Imagine never knowing if something smells bad, whether it’s your home, your food, yourself. Imagine never being able to smell your loved ones again, your babies, your partner, your family – not being able to bury your nose into their clothing and just inhale their essential scent. Imagine a sterile world where nothing smells of anything, and you feel completely isolated as a result. That’s anosmia.
Or conversely, imagine a world where things smell too much, but every single thing smells wrong. Like, for example, spending a year or two where every single thing you smell smells like it’s burned. Or rotten, or burned and rotten. Then imagine every single thing that you taste also appears to be burned or rotten, or both. That’s parosmia, and that was my life for a very long while.
Or imagine that you constantly hallucinate bad smells, and can’t think of anything else whilst it’s happening. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night thinking your house is burning down. Or that everywhere you go is covered in gasoline. That’s phantosmia, and it’s incredibly difficult to live with.
Then there’s cacosmia, and I have just one word for you here: sewage. Imagine your whole life smells – and tastes – like sewage. I have been there, and I can tell you it was the worst time of my life.
Tomorrow, many anosmics across the world will be wearing red and using the hastag #anosmiaaware on Twitter to share their stories of anosmia, and I’ll be amongst them. If you’re interested in finding out more about the condition, you can have a look at the following links.
Anosmia Awareness Day Official Site (with further links): https://www.anosmiaawareness.org/social-media/
Fifth Sense (advocacy group for people with smell and taste disorders) http://fifthsense.org.uk
Oh, and my story will be featured on episode five of “Incredible Medicine: Dr Weston’s Casebook”, which airs on March 22nd at 9pm on BBC2 where I’ll be talking about my struggle in learning to live with my conditions, and regain my sense of smell. I’m bloody terrified.