Eyes Front, Chin Up!

I was groomed to not share opinions and feelings, as that is considered disrespectful to my parents. Then, I am a domestic violence survivor, as my first husband was an unkind man, to word it “nicely.” Due to this, my self-esteem  never has developed. In fact, that is a new goal, as I am no worse than anyone else out there, yet I have not given myself that grace.

 

Two days ago, I needed a screw for my spectacles. Furthermore, I was not taught how to use these transitional lens. I learned on my own while waiting for my husband to stop using his frames and have lens placed in his older frames. I noticed that if my head was raised I could lower my eyes and read a book far better. This new realization caused two thoughts. The first was hearing Mary Poppins telling the two children, “Chin up!” Then, I have a memory from my time in the military with a command “Eyes Front!” This command came after a command for us to look right or left. Between the two mixed with the understanding of good dancing skills, one’s head is raised, and the chin is not angling to the ground.

 

I have begun walking even before this experience with transitional lens and reading, and I have begun to learn how body language can help one’s own being. For instance, many of you have heard that if you smile, then it will happen inside of you. You will find a true smile. The same is true with having a more confident stance. If you practice it, it will happen. I am not happy to have a body that is declining in its abilities; however, I am pleased to be finding my way with living a healthier emotional life… believe it or not, largely due to my TBI.

Happy New Nose! by Debbie Jinks

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2016 and here’s hoping you’re still with me on this blog! I wonder what this year will bring? The eating thing wasn’t too bad over Christmas, I managed, but it definitely wasn’t the same, and a lot of thought went into what I could or couldn’t handle, which was great of  my family. I may not have eaten much at all otherwise.
Will I get my sense of smell back? Will I get my sense of taste back? Will I give up? No to that one. But 2015 ended up being a very bad year for me and I really don’t know what to expect this year, how much fight I’ve got left……I’m not starting on a very good note really.
Good grief snap out of it Debbie you’re going to scare everybody off before they even start reading the first post of 2016. Sorry, finished telling myself off now. Are you still here?
As I write this post it’s the evening of January the 2nd so I may not finish it tonight. I had a bit of a moment when I thought I wouldn’t even be able to start it……and now my heads gone so I’ll try again tomorrow, sorry.

That’s better, I’ve been talking to some of my Anosmia group friends which has bucked me up. Thanks to you all as ever.
I think I’m finding the start to the year frightening as I really don’t know if I will ever heal, I know I keep going on about fighting all the time but it doesn’t mean it’s going to work. I make a lot of daft jokes on this blog sometimes to give my self some positivity, but also so it’s not going to depress the hell out of you all.

Thankfully I have people that keep me sane and these are three of them, (apart from the one on the bottom left), being me, and I look insane despite this.

There ya go I’m getting positive again, nothing like a bit of family support to cheer me up. There are many more supportive and wonderful family and friends out there of course, but this is a cool picture so I thought I’d Share it with you.

However, I think next month, February the 7th to be exact, will be a very testing time for me as that date will be my first Anosmic Anniversary. One year ago on that day, I banged  my head and came round finding I’d lost two of my senses. Anyway onwards and upwards as they say, but be prepared for a few tears on that day, even though you can’t see them……no I will not post a photograph of it!
Mulling it over I think I’m coping ok at the moment, for those who haven’t read my first few posts have a look and you’ll see what I mean.

(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.)

Appreciation for One’s Age

Every day my husband works, I take a walk to the store and visit a friend who is working as a security guard. I am open to meeting new people in those moments, to sit and talk with them and hear what they have to say. Monday, I was leaving the store and saw a man of color with a “Vietnam Veteran” cap. I passed him and thanked him for his service. From athere, I wound up sitting beside him and talking with him. He is seventy-six years of age and talked very quietly, but he offered so much. One thing that impressed me was him stating that he asks for help from those younger in age when the person seems down. He needs help but tries to pick the person to help him to not only aid him but to help give that person a lighter heart that seems heavy. I thought this was noteworthy.

After we talked about how he helps the young help him, he then spoke of how he asks younger generations for knowledge about things that he does not know. For instance, he will ask for knowledge from middle-aged individuals or younger as we know more about such compared to many geriatrics. I then commented how I am the perfect age… able to rely on those younger than I regarding new technology and knowledge yet rely on older, wiser people to teach me more about life. Following that, it dawned on me that I will always be the “perfect age”. The reason I say this is that I love learning: about life, science, history, people, etc. We all have things to offer and teach others, and if we are willing, we can always learn something new, if we desire. That has always been a desire of mine for as long as I can remember.

It is a moot point to wish to be older and know more, for when we are older, there is newer science and knowledge. Furthermore, when we are older, our bodies also grow older and more decreppit. It is a vain point to also wish to be younger. People younger do not have the experiences that older individuals have and are still developing wisdom. I am happy with my age, and I believe I always will be, for I am mindful of what I have my own self and how I can glean both from younger and older people than I.

Living in the Present and Watching the Present Pass Exercises

I took a walk today and reminisced about my time admitted at West Florida Rehabilitation Center on the 2nd floor. I remembered some of the patients with whom I was closeby eating a meal and how some of them seemingly did not know I was next to them. I was puzzled as to why this was, but today it dawned on me that they could have been overcoming TBIs as well. Due to this, I called the receptionist and asked if the second floor was where brain injury patients and other patients with brain conditions stayed. She basically agreed this to be true. Upon the end of the phone call, I caught myself nearly in tears.. I didn’t know there were others like myself, and to be honest, I did not understand at that point how traumatic my accident was.

So here I was walking down the road and nearly crying. Then, I remembered the idea of “living in the now” and not the past along with mindfulness exercises. So then, I began focusing on my walk, the breeze, the trees and the cars passing by me.

I, then, pursued an exercise focusing on the cars, watching them pass by me and then not looking behind me to see them. The idea was to help me live in the present and to train myself that the past cannot be changed, and it does not live in the present. From that point, I began to note the present traffic passing by me and how seeing it was only momentary and then became part of the past. There were times I thought of turning my head, but I did not. I recalled the story of Abraham, Lot, and Lot’s wife. They were told to move away from Sodom and Gomorrah and not look back. Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. As I mulled this idea, I realized how unfruitful it is to look back on the past and not be focused on the present.. that I, myself, am as productive as a pillar of salt when I do this. Here we are focusing on the past and future which do not exist and do not focus enough on the present. I believe I am going to continue exercising in this fashion on my walks to help train my thought process to be in the present and mindful of each moment as it happens versus causing wear and tear on my mind and body through depression and anxiety over the past and future.

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.

 

Forward thinking! by Debbie Jinks

Back to reality folks. I was determined to be strong and practice my smell training every day, but its been a bit of a rollercoaster ride these last few weeks to say the least so I haven’t really stuck to it.
This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up, but Chris Kelly herself said you have to be in the right frame of mind to do it and well, not to put too finer point on it I have had some crap going on so lets leave it there! In fact so much so I’m kicking Anosmia out of the door for this post at least!
I have to heal in more ways than one. Not just my rubbish nerve fibres that are being stubborn sods and not trying hard enough in my opinion, but my whole being. My head = big mess at the moment. Life can really chuck it at you sometimes and its throwing everything at me including the kitchen sink!  So I suppose this is why I am sitting in front of my laptop now without a clue what to write about. Self doubt is a biggy for me at the moment. I need to write something so –

Questions
Have I got anything to say….yes
Do I know where to start….no
Have I lost my self worth….yes
Have I lost my sense of smell and taste….yes.  Oops, I know I said no Anosmia mentions, but I couldn’t resist that!
Have I lost it…not totally or I wouldn’t have managed a funny just then.
Can I still write this blog….yes but it may change so I hope that’s ok with you guys.
Am I waffling…I hope not

Ok the ‘self worth’ question is a bit heavy going because deep down I know I am good at things, I’m a singer, a lyricist, a singing coach, a writer or at least trying to be!  (By the way this is a rehearsal photograph, we do usually have an audience honest!)  And I’ve done all of these things successfully as a career for a long time, including the writing eventually I hope. Now all I have to do is convince myself that I canstill be this person, even after everything that’s happened.  Oh that sounds better already doesn’t it?

I also have a cunning plan…..a Website, yep my very own. Focussed around what I’ve just written on here.On-line singing lessons for a start, what do you think? The ideas are starting to form, and are not bad ones at that, now all I need to do is stay motivated for long enough to put them all into practice.  I hope you lot are with me on this one, this little blog of mine was what kept me sane when I first became Anosmic and your kind comments and the fact that you stuck with me and read the posts has all helped. So if you’d like to hang around some more, that would be great! Let’s do this!

(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.)

“The New Me” vs. “A Changed Me”

Since my return home in October 2014, I’ve been fighting the idea of “the new me.” It wasn’t until reading the Oliver Sacks’ preface to “An Anthropologist on Mars ” did I learn a new perspective. The concept is that there is “a changed me,” with my body and mind compensating for the changes in me that I have obtained.

The idea of change is more forgiving and accepting than fighting for the old me, whom I will never have again due to mind and body changes.  Mr. Sacks articulated how the mind and body are wondrous, compensating with and even underneath awareness. It’s s losing battle to fight for what cannot return.  I am invigorated to find a substantial view with acceptance instead of pursuing insanity filled with an impossible dream .

Smell Training – Three by Debbie Jinks

This is the last of my three posts about my smell training sessions with Chris Kelly, and do you remember me finishing my last post with the words……”So in my next post I get lazy and have a kip”?  Well let me enlighten you on that little snippet.
Mindfulness quote from ‘Greater Good’ website “Maintaining a moment by moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment”. I thought this was a really good way of summing it up. We all live in a crazy fast paced world where taking time out for ourselves is hard work, which is where mindfulness plays its part, because it’s so relaxing, you can do it anywhere and it doesn’t take long at all. It can also help in so many different areas of your life such as the situation I am in now with my Anosmia. So we ended on the following.
Mindfulness exercise: colour, smell and texture visualisation.
This was a great finale for my smell training! I was asked to lay down on an extremely comfortable chaise longue, close my eyes and try to visualise certain tasks to trigger my smell memory. That’s the best way to describe it really as its almost like watching yourself experience the smell and taste of things and in that way remembering what they actuallydo smell and taste like.
One of the memories I was asked to visualise was eating a tangerine, the colour, texture and feel of it. Then to imagine peeling it, remembering the smell of the peel and fruit itself, then biting into it and remembering the taste. It was very relaxing and certainly triggered something, because even now, as I’m writing this I can remember the sweet tang of how a tangerine would smell and how juicy they used to be. I haven’t tried one yet as they were not very pleasent after Parosmia decided to enter the scene all that time ago, but maybe it’s about time I was brave and went for it! We also carried out some other visualisation exercises and I just outlined this one for you as an example.
This last part of the training took about twenty minutes and left me feeling calm andrelaxed, which for me is an achievement in itself. After this we had a good chat to summarise everything I’d learnt and experienced throughout the day. I left feeling a lot more positive and ready for the new challenges that lay ahead, armed with my bounty of scent jars!
If anybody reading this suffers from Anosmia, I really would encourage you to get in touch with Chris Kelly. She has been such a help to me and is a very strong, caring and compassionate person. You can get in touch via her website at http://www.smelltraining.co.uk.
As for me, well I’m going to keep trying and give this a go. It works for Chris so I think I’d better kick myself up the arse and get on with it. Stay tuned for the next post to find out how I’ve been getting on!
photograph courtesy of Chris Kelly.
(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.)

Smell Training – Two by Debbie Jinks

This is the second post about my smell training experience with Chris Kelly. If you haven’t read the previous two posts, (the first one is an introduction to it), I would suggest you do that first so that you can understand what I am talking about.
The next stage of smell training involved, yes you’ve guessed it, smelling things! The first thing I did was to smell four different citrus scents of Yuzu, Orange, Bergamont andGrapefruit, then four different wood scents of Larch, Swiss Pine, Cedar and Spruceeach one was made up from a weak to strong concentration, and I was asked to describe how much I could or couldn’t smell of each one. I wasn’t told what they were so couldn’t pretend to know. The bottles all had a different coloured star on them also so Chris knew what I was smelling. Some of the scents I could hardly smell anything of, others were pleasent, and others not so nice…..unfortunately. It was interesting to know however and seemed as though I could smell more than I realised. Chris noted all of this down as we went along so I had something that I could take back with me and refer to when I did my own smell training at home.

The next stage was for me to try and identify smells and see how near they were to the original smells that I remembered.  I kept getting frustrated and writing them off saying “no cant smell anything”, but Chris pushed me to keep trying as sometimes it takes a while for a smell to come through. She was right, as with some of them, if I kept sniffing long enough something did start to materialise, often quite faint, but at least something! I can be quite an impatient person at times,so this took a bit of concentration on my part but at least I didn’t get grumpy! At this stage I was getting smell overload so to clear my head and Chris’s too probably, we went for a walk with her dogs and just chatted.  This was nice and informal, giving my head and my nose a chance to have a break, (not literally of course)!
When we got back nicely refreshed, I went through Chris’s smell library to try all the different smells, and make some up to take home with me which I could train with.  She told me not to go for the obvious ones that I could smell quite well, but to choose the ones I couldn’t smell at all or were very faint, so I could keep trying these at home to see how and if they developed or strengthened, this would be the best way to tell if the smell training was having any affect or not.
I was by then starting to understand that my smell may not necessarily get back to normal but get back to being pleasant. Chris said things may not smell as they used to in some cases, but I would start to associate this new smell with a certain thing.  For examplelemon. It may not smell so much like the original lemon smell I knew before myAnosmia, but the new smell would be what lemon smelt like to from then on, as that was what my brain would get used to associating a lemon smell with. I know that Chris wouldn’t mind me saying this, (well I hope not because she’ll be reading it at some point no doubt), but at the time I was pretty confused and a bit disheartened.  I suppose I just thought things would smell the same as before, but that isn’t always the case it seems. When I got home things did start becoming a bit clearer over time, I’m jumping ahead however, I haven’t written post number three yet…..So in my next post, I get lazy and have a kip…..well not quite, you’ll find out what I mean!

 

(photographs courtesy of Chris Kelly smelltraining.co.uk)
(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.)