Compensation for Anosmia in Autumn

This is a very difficult topic to write, as this offially the first autumn that I have experienced with more of the understanding of having anosmia. I have a friend who was born with it, so he never has smelled anything ever. Once my husband, Dan, asked me which is worse, to be born with it or to lose your ability to smell. I told him BEFORE knowing my friend, Jim, that I felt that they were equal cases with different aspects.  I still agree with that stance. Here, Jim has never had the experience of smelling food his mother has prepared, the smell of a woman naturally or with cologne and many other natural scents. Whereas, I had a sense of smell, and now it is gone. So, congenital anosmia cases never smell from the day they are born, and then most anosmics had it and it’s gone. Some of us never know anything about flavors (as the only thing anosmics taste is bitter, sweet, salty, and sour versus smoky, pungent, etc.) and most of us must learn to cope with learning how to face our losses and find other ways of enjoying life.

There are many different aspects of autumn: the smell of a cinammony pumpkin pie, smoky food grilling in the barbecue pit, roasted turkey, hot chocolate and hot apple cider with cinnamon and cloves. Autumn is full of pleasant weather, and has many family and friend activies: barbecues, Thanksgiving dinner, football at the park and lots of steamy drinks to warm our chilled bodies.

For anosmics, hearing about smells and tastes is stifling. It is like sitting in a room filled with people who are speaking a language even you never knew or even forgot. How do you speak about something you cannot determine? Do I speak from what I remember? Does Jim speak about what he does not even understand? Or do we simply say we cannot relate, which isolates us even more from the conversation? It is a tough call. How can you speak from your being about a gardenia you never smelled or can no longer smell? How can you speak of only 4 tastes and no flavors? It is debillitating and very depressing.

There are some things we have, or at least most of us have: sound, touch, and sight. Focusing on these and even talking about them can help us deter from conversations that make us sad, while offering attention to ourselves and others about what we have in common. Not all jokes are about smells and odors. Pranks, blunders, and even embarrassing moments are worth laughs. This is what we have. This is a way for us to enjoy each season. We hear the rustling of colorful leaves falling from the trees, see the pets trying to steal our barbecued foods and enjoy all the topsy-turvy events in football and many other sports events. Also, birds are calling to the other sex for mating… even female birds do this in autumn. I am sure they are delighted they have their empty nests. This is what we have. This is what we have not lost, and while we have these abilities, we should be thankful for that and focus on what we have in common instead of what separates us from other people. Maybe eating is a chore. For me it is. Maybe we can’t articulate how wonderful the cook worked, but we can share memories, insight and listen to what others have to say and enjoy being a part of a moment that can be a memory if you SELECTIVELY CHOOSE TO MAKE IT ONE. The problem with anosmia and what little we think of as bonding us to others versus US PROACTIVELY BONDING with EVERYONE in the ways that we can WITH THE ABILITIES WE STILL HAVE.

Think of it this way: my husband is dyslexic. He is not one good in spelling. However, he is good with renovating houses, teaching dance through the concepts of physics. He has taught me that I teach people how to treat me. Does he have a disability? Yes, he does. We all do.. dyslexia, blindness, stuttering, limping, etc. None us are perfect, and we must grow to accept our imperfections in ways we form, every season, all season long.


2 thoughts on “Compensation for Anosmia in Autumn

  1. I really connected with what you said about them being equal! I’m congenital, and never knew flavor. to me, smell is based on taste (like if you tell me and texture (like, humid is sickeningly sweet or cold is “fresh smell” and smooth drinks like milk smell sweet/”soft”). But like the people with temporal dysplasia who learn emotions not by experience but by memorizing facts (like smile looks like this and it people do it when they are happy), I learn what stuff smells like by what I’m told. I’m 21 and I just learned coffee has a strong smell. I memorize what alcohol smells like by how it stings on a wound.

    I was reading an article on the Deaf and one person said “I didn’t know I was deaf until I entered the hearing world.” I never knew I couldn’t smell until people talked about it. I have no idea what it’s like to smell, just as they have no idea what sound is. it’s just an idea to them.

    Though I’m kinda glad I grew up not smelling rather than losing my smell, since like you, many who lost it find food is more bland. To me, the most bland foods are tasty because nothing is missing from it. everything is in my tastebuds and the texture of the food. The worst is if I burn my tongue because THEN foods taste bland and unpleasant. Or if I have odd mouth sores than makes things taste a little bitter


  2. Thank you for replying, Lily. One thing I love about both you and Jim is being exposed to the other side. It helps dissipate the anger while causing compassion for all of you congenital anosmics. I appreciate your comment to help not only myself but all the other readers be able to learn more about you. Feel free to respond to any post of mine. I look forward to learning more both because I am a newbie and also because you have a different perspective.


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