One Night Changed my Life Forever by Debbie Jinks

I didn’t think going to a friends for dinner would turn out to be a life changing experience, (yes she’s a great cook, but not for that reason!) It is a day that has been burned into my memory for the rest of my life. Saturday 7th February 2015 – the day my life came crashing down, or should I say I came crashing down, quite literally!

I had been at her house for all of five minutes when I bent down to get something from my bag. I stood up too quickly, went dizzy and fainted. As I crashed towards the floor I hit the back of my head on the wall. Not just a little knock, a large thump.

When I came round again, I had a major headache and a huge bump on the back of my head. But other than that I was perfectly fine. Or at least I thought so at the time. It seems that may have been a little naïve.

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It wasn’t until a short while later that I realised things were not quite right. The curry that my friend was lovingly attending to was bubbling away, but I couldn’t smell it. The scented candle burning on a side table next to me looked pretty, but yet again, I couldn’t smell it.

But that wasn’t all. As we sat down to eat and I raised the ‘scentless’ curry to my tongue, I discovered that not only was I missing its heady aroma, but I couldn’t taste it. At all.

That was when my nightmare began.

My little fainting turn had caused me to contract what the professionals call ‘Anosmia’.

I’m won’t bore you with the ‘science bit’ but in a nutshell, Anosmia is a complete loss of your sense of smell. It can be congenital, meaning you are born with it or, as in my case, acquired. This can happen for a number of reasons, a severe sinus infection for one or (in my case) a severe head trauma!

Unfortunately for me when I fainted and hit my head, the impact was so hard that it rattled my brain, (yes I do have one) so violently that my Olfactory Nerve Fibres were severed.

These tiny delicate fibres are attached to my Olfactory Bulb. A structure in the brain that processes information about odours. So as they were no longer attached to it, they couldn’t tell my brain what things smelt like anymore.

But to add insult to injury, as smell is very much interlinked with the taste receptors, (think about when you have a bad cold, your taste is often dulled or almost non-existent, isn’t it?) I stopped being able to taste as well. It is important to point out that this isn’t always the case but is a common occurrence.

The next few months were excruciating. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. At least not the me who used to relish the smell of freshly cut grass when I was out running in the sunshine, or the me who liked nothing better than to bury my now bloody useless nose into a bouquet of scented flowers – honeysuckle, lavender. I could bore you with a list, but the fact of the matter is that you never realise what you love the smell of until all of a sudden you can’t smell it anymore.

My perfume for example. I would stare at the bottles and think “may as well chuck that out now” and my scented body wash “I should probably just use unscented soap.”

Even my husband’s aftershave. The one I buy him every year for Christmas. That’s the smell of ‘my husband’, isn’t it? That special smell we associate with the ones we love?

Right I need to stop reminiscing or I’ll cry all over my keyboard.

My whole life changed and it was devastating.

I was unhappy. Resentful. Angry.

Why me?!

Oh yes and let’s not forget the food thing. Ever since I was a kid I loved my food, but what is the point of eating when everything tastes like… well… nothing!

It didn’t taste anymore!

The ‘flavour’ has disappeared from my life and Anosmia had robbed it from me.

I hate that word. Anosmia. It’s like that mean girl at school whose very name makes you frown and growl.

If I was blindfolded and food was put in front of me even now, I couldn’t tell you what it was unless certain obvious textures gave it away

I had to force myself to eat, and sometimes I just didn’t bother. Cue the lovely little added side affect of this condition – yep you guessed it… the weight started to fall off. Slowly at first, then as I got increasingly defeated and unhappy, more quickly until I pretty much stopped eating altogether.

This is when the doctors started to worry! Protein supplements were now the order of the day, and yes I was ordered! But it wasn’t until I collapsed at work and ended up in A&E with such low blood sugar that I could have fallen into a coma, that the severity of my condition really hit me.

In a crazy way this was a wake up call for me. I now try to eat sensibly, or at least try to eat enough! I’m still a skinny little wimp, but better than I was and no longer at death’s door, yes it sounds melodramatic, but that is how bad it became. Who would have thought losing my sense of smell could result in me almost losing my life? It seems ridiculous to those on the outside, but trust me, walk a day in my shoes and you quickly realise just how much you rely on this under appreciated sense.

no apetite

Almost a year and a half down the line, I’m still here. Still fighting and still Anosmic. There is no cure, you see. Sometimes the nerve fibres can heal, (for instance, I can now tell you if it something is sweet or savoury – that in itself is a massive leap forward) depending on the extent of the damage.

It seems my nerves are as determined as me to get back to their normal self. They have been trying to reattach themselves to my Olfactory Bulb, and I battle with the positive and negative repercussions of that every single day!

But that’s another story, if the lovely ‘Glass House Girls’ will have me back I’ll tell you more about Parosmia -ghost smells.

Have I whet your appetite? Oops bad choice of phrase!

(Note from The Editor: Many thanks to Debbie for opening up about her experiences with Anosmia. Many people live with conditions that most would never see, experiance or understand but to read about them allows us to open our minds to situations we cant comprehend. To read more from Debbie you can visit her personal blog (icantsmellathing.blogspot.com) or check out her author page here.)

Isolation, Self-Isolation Vs. Compensation Therapy

This portion was written March 27, 2016.

It has been 19 months and 2 days since my 20 foot fall onAugust 24, 2014. October 3,2014, I learned that I can no longer smell. My first reaction was shock. I learned when I whiffed my husband’schest to smell his cologne while we were watching a movie. I learned that it was not there. When we returned home, I picked up every bottle that had a scent: dishwashing detergent, bleach,shampoo,etc. Nothing..It was all gone. A short time later, I told my neurosurgeon about this find, and he replied that if it did not return six months from my accident that it was permanent. There was no warning of danger. There was no emphasis to keep eating and to find a way to enjoy it. Maybe he did not say anything because there is nothing he can do to fix a dead olfactory nerve.

As time passed, I learned I cannot “taste” flavor anymore. I learn that all I have is what my taste buds allow me to have and that flavors are stimulated from smell. This caused me to not want to eat. I would rather other people enjoy food than me “steal” it from them. After all, the enjoyment was and still is gone. Every time smell is mentioned, it has caused me to feel isolated. My response was to cut myself off even more, thinking that would reduce the pain. However, it only causes more pain to be isolated from the world and then to cut myself off from it even more.

My husband, Dan, loves fragrant flowers. He bought some for our new yard last spring. Every time the wind would blow and he could smell their fragrances, he would mention it. It is sad, I will not lie. Then, my granddaughter made remarks, so instead of letting it bring me down, I took her around our yard to smell every blooming bush we had. I did this for her, and I did it for me to help me to raise my head higher and at least for the moment not feel such loss.

This year we had mandevillas die over the winter. I decided to buy jasmine for my husband to give him what he loves: fragrant flowers. Was it difficult to open the store’s door? Yes. It was even more difficult to talk to the representative about my loss and my goal.. and how I cannot begin to sense what might be the most fragrant. I brought the dormant vine back, and we have planted it.

My whole reasoning behind buying this vine is to help me face what I will never gain. Furthermore, it is to give permission to my loved ones to enjoy what they have not lost. I do not have the end of this story yet; however, this seems much healthier than giving in to the natural isolation followed by me causing more isolation. I am the cause of this jasmine being in our yard, and I am the one giving pleasure to my husband. No, I cannot enjoy it as he can. Yet, giving to him beyond what I can personally experience does offer fulfillment. After all, I love him and my children so much that I do not want to keep them from pleasure.

I believe this is a concept that can be used by many, not just anosmics. We all have disabilities or deficiencies. We should not deprive others from what they still have. Furthermore, when we give to them in the ways we cannot appreciate firsthanded shows and gives loves beyond comfort; however, it helps us accept our faults ALONG WITH opens to door to forgiving ourselves of the shortcomings we have in our lives.


This part was written June 4. 2016.

I have given more thought into compensation therapy. I bought a jasmine plant for my husband for his pleasure and the hopes that I could slowly accept my olfactory nerve being dead for life. The thing is there are so many other people who have suffered loss or never functioned with all the senses and body parts as the average healthy human was born having. Writing about smell loss is not enough. Furthermore, this concept has not had enough articulation. Below is a list of losses and ways for each of them to be accepted and even vicarious appreciation that others have what we do not. I will be adding emotional issues onto this. As aforementioned, the array is vast and will take time for me to explore and articulate any conditions and challenges that come to mind to help us all to accept and forgive ourselves for things we cannot help. Furthermore, I will be posting ideas to help social issues, as they are correlated to many brain conditions, not to mention this may be how any one reading might already function without any biological / physiological reason known.