Monday, 23 February 2015

Anosmia Awareness Day: 27 February 2015

This Friday, 27th February is Anosmia Awareness Day.  Ordinarily, this is a date that would probably have passed without too much comment at Lippie Mansions, but this year is different. Very different.  

Most people think not being able to smell is just a little thing, but please let me tell you that it is not.

When I lost my sense of smell last year, I had literally no idea just how devastating a condition it would be, and just how much my life would be changed as a result of the cold that caused my olfactory nerve to die.  I've had to give up reviewing perfumes, and beauty blogging has had to take a bit of a back seat to learning to deal with my condition. There are so many things I can't eat, there are activities I simply can't do, for example, I can't go to a coffee shop, I can't stand near someone who has been smoking.  I've had to avoid eating out. I can't drink wine, I can't just go to a sandwich shop and pick something up for lunch.  Even brushing my teeth makes me puke! I can't tell when my oven is on fire - and this has happened recently.  I can't tell when food is spoiled.  Worst of all, for me, I can never predict the things I'll have a reaction to, which means I've lost control over my life, and it has been an incredibly difficult 12 months as a result.

On top of anosmia and its attendant conditions parosmia and phantosmia, I've also suffered from a crippling depression, and no little amount of social anxiety as a direct result of losing my sense of smell.  I never expected this to affect me so badly, and to say it has been difficult to deal with would be a mild understatement. Without the help of my family, my friends, and especially Fifth Sense, I'm not sure how life would be right now.  There was a point last year where I didn't really know if I could cope for much longer, as there simply didn't appear to be an end in sight, and my medical diagnosis was, basically, "wait it out, you'll laugh about this one day".  I'm still not laughing, and I'm not sure when I will.

I have been exceptionally lucky in that my doctors have taken me seriously, and I've been fairly informed in my own right about the condition because, as a perfume writer, research about olfaction has always been of interest to me. I'm now getting the medical help I need, but Fifth Sense have helped me in many ways that my doctors couldn't.  There was a conference for fellow anosmics and parosmics like myself last November, which helped me when I was very much at my lowest ebb, and I can now pinpoint this event as the date where I was able to start turning my life around.  

Life is getting better these days, but I still have a way to go, and I will need more support from my friends, my family, my medical team, and yes, Fifth Sense, which is why we're trying to make this year's Anosmia Awareness Day the best ever, because not everyone who suffers as I have has been lucky enough to have the support system I've been able to create.

This year, Fifth Sense are trying to raise funds to help others who are in a similar situation to myself.  There is very little research being done to either look at the causes of anosmia, or into cures for anosmia, or even into gadgets to help anosmics get by in every day life.  If you have a penny or two - every little helps, no matter how little - to spare, then, please, consider donating to Fifth Sense this week.  If not for me, then in the hope that you never catch a cold that turns your life inside out too.

In addition, all this week, Fifth Sense are asking you to tweet the smell you think you'd miss most if you lost your sense of smell, by using the #LongLostSmell hashtag, please get involved!  I shared  mine on the Fifth Sense Facebook page last week, but there have been some amazing tweets on the subject, and I've loved reading them - and occasionally weeping over them - over the last few days.

I'll also be featured in the Guardian this weekend talking about my experiences of anosmia and parosmia, so please keep an eye out for that, oh, and I'm working with Basenotes on something rather amusing too - I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Uninvited ...

Allegedly, I fart.  Only very occasionally, and obviously it is only ever the very merest toot that smells (faintly) of sunshine, lollipops and violets.  I had it checked. Most of the time, it is easy to discern that a little … um … gas needs to pass, and we can make arrangements to do what comes naturally in a manner that neither disturbs nor offends our fellow companions.  But there’s one situation that anosmics/parosmics/dysosmics fear above all others:

The Unexpected Trump.

We all know the ones, you’re taken unawares and, almost before you’ve even registered that you have to … go … it has already gone.  Gone out into the ether, potentially polluting your immediate atmosphere with methane, sulphur and all the other ingredients that combine to make that particularly unmistakeable aroma.

But, imagine that’s happened in the office – and this has, of course, NEVER HAPPENED – and you have no way of knowing how bad (or not) what you’ve just unleashed actually smells.  What do you do, when you can not only NOT smell yourself, but you can't smell anything you produce, either?

Do you:
Sink lower into your seat, and feign complete innocence? 
Walk away, potentially leaving a little whiffy gift for whoever remains behind? 
Apologise to your compadres and wish silently for death from utter humiliation (comes complete with risk of, if it is not a smelly boff, drawing attention your botty burp without needing to)?
or (my own personal favourite):  
Wait for someone to mention it, then deny, deny, deny all knowledge. (I would occasionally add a further fillip with the “smelt it/dealt it” axiom when challenged?  IF, of course, this had ever happened.  Which it hasn’t.  Ever.)

Man, I never realised I’d miss the smell of farts when this condition started.  Or why  This is a blog post I never thought I’d write.  Share with me your coping strategies!

What I think dysosmics need right now is a charcoal pad for special occasions that monitors potential whiffs and gives a reading of:

“Fine – stay put/Deny if challenged”
“Blame the dog/cat/boss/office nemesis”
“Run. Run quite fast”
And finally:
“Resign/leave the country/change your name immediately”.

 Any takers?  Odour Eaters, I’m assuming you have the technology.