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I am anosmic.  It's a fancy way of saying that I do not have a sense of smell.  I was either born without it, or I lost it when I was an infant or toddler.  It's seems to be a difficult thing for other people to comprehend, which I totally understand.  They find it difficult to believe that you have NO sense of smell at all.  They also tend to forget that you can't smell.  I have no clear reason why I have no sense of smell, and I don't know anyone else with the same condition. 

The story behind my discovering that I was different from everyone else is a bit funny.  When I was in elementary school I didn't really KNOW that I was missing the ability to smell and would always just agree with people when they put something up to my nose and would say something like, "oh, doesn't that smell awful?" or, "this perfume smells soooo good".  I know it sounds funny that I didn't know I was missing this sense, but if you think about it, how do you know you're missing something if you never had it to begin with?  I was at the hospital for a different reason when I was in probably 3rd or 4th grade.  I remember sitting on the high table with the white paper draped across it.  I think I was waiting for my doctor to come in or waiting for her to come back.  I remember another person coming in saying they were doing random smell tests on patients at the hospital that day.  They had several viles filled with liquid and a list of different smells.  I was supposed to smell each vile, and then match it to one of the items on the lists.  I could not distinguish between all the different viles and just randomly picked something from the list each time.  I failed miserably.  They basically told me that I had no sense of smell and then have a nice day.  I can only remember 3 itmes that were on that list; peaches, roses, and  mothballs.   The only one I got right was mothballs.  They informed me that this was not because I could smell them, but because I could sense it through the pores in my face. 

At first I did not want to tell anyone.  And I continued to pretend to people that I smelled what they smelled.  I think it was sometime in high school or college that I started to tell people whenever they asked me to comment on a smell.  By the way, if you haven't noticed, people comment on smells A LOT.  There are a few common reactions that I get when I fist tell someone about my being anosmic.  The first is, "oh, you are stuffed up?".  Another is, "you have no sense of smell AT ALL?"  And finally I also get, "wow, that's awesome!  you don't have to put up with all those nasty smells out there like when people fart or have awful B.O.!"  Infrequently people will ask more questions about it.  Have you ever had a sense of smell?  How does it affect your life?  Does it affect the way you taste things?

I recently confided in my boyfriend that I wished I could smell him.  I've been told that each person has their own unique scent.  I wish I knew what his was.  He kind of laughed and told me that I was weird.  And then he said I didn't want to know what he smelled like because it was probably bad.  Haha. 

There are definitely some negatives to not having a sense of smell.  I've heard that the sense of smell is strongly tied to memory and that nothing can bring back a memory as vividly as a certain scent can.  I kind of wish I knew what that was like.

It's a bit of a pain in my day to day life.  I can't just sniff a shirt or other piece of clothing to know if it is clean or dirty.  I always have to err on the side of caution and wash it anyway.  I can't just sniff something from the fridge and know if it is still good or not.  I have to err on the side of caution and go strictly on the expiration date.  I can't tell when I am cooking if something is burning or not unless I am right there looking at it.

When I was in junior high or high school I remember one day that my mom had put the laundry basket on the kitchen counter right next to the toaster oven and then left to do some shopping or run some other errand.  There were papers on top of the toaster oven and the edge of the laundry basket and hit the lever to start toasting.  When my mom came back she came running into the house.  She could smell the burning from the porch.  I was sitting at the kitchen table just a few feet away with my back turned to it and I had no idea anything was happening.  The papers were about to burst into flames and I didn't know.  

I think it was November of 2005 where I actually think I smelled something for the very first time.  I went to the refrigerator at work to get a morning snack of 2 clementines.  I punctured the first one to start peeling off the skin and I got a puff of air.  I also got a very strange sensation that was what I imagine smelling would be like.  Apparently clementines can have a very strong scent, especially if they are cold from being in a refrigerator.  I have no idea if what I experienced is the same as what everyone else experiences, but my guess is it was similar, but not the same.  It unfortunately only lasted about 5-10 seconds.  I sat at my desk for several moments in shock.  Asking myself if it was possible that what I thought had just happened, had actually happened.  After a few minutes I got up and started telling a few of my coworkers around me.  This same thing happened once or twice more within the next week or two and hasn't happened since. 

The only other experience I've had with smelling happened shortly after that.  I was in my old apartment and decided to cook some garlic chicken.  I cut up a clove of garlic and put in in a pan with some olive oil.  As soon as I added the garlic and it started to heat up, I got another stange sensation.  This one was a bit stronger and lasted a bit longer.  I actually bothered me to the point where I tried to open all the windows to air it out. 

About a year ago I finally decided to go see an ear, nose, and throat specialist.  I also have severe ear trouble on planes and thought I could ask about that as well.  I had high hopes that maybe he could tell my why I couldn't smell.  I had high hopes that there may be something he could do since I had the recent moments that I was actually able to smell.  I read about different tests they could do for smell and taste.  I was highly disappointed.  The doctor took a peek up my nose and said he didn't see anything abnormal.  No polyps.  He said since I had had the problem since I could remember that there was no way to determine the cause and no need to look into it.  I felt as though he trivialized the condition.  He also made several comments that made me feel like he thought I was faking.  Faking?!  Are you kidding me?  He said I could do the smell and taste tests if I really wanted to, but he didn't want to put me through that and didn't think it was necessary.  "It will probably just show what you already know anyway," he said.  He made some comment about only doing that for people they didn't believe.  So yeah, I got absolutely nothing out of that appointment.

I often wish I had a sense of smell.  I wish I could smell my boyfriend, roses, coffee, the ocean.  I think I would enjoy food and cooking more if I could smell it.  If I were told there was some surgery they could do to restore my sense of smell, I'm not sure I would do it.  It would take a lot of serious thought before going ahead with it.  I imagine at first it would be quite overwheling and every smell would bother me at first.  Smells are everywhere and I would just be bombarded.  I guess I'd eventually get used to it though, right? 

When people ask me if it affects how I taste food or if I can taste food, it's not usually a yes or no answer.  I tell them that I can still taste some stuff.  I can detect if something is sour or salty or bitter.  But I can't distguish much finer than that.  I usually put salt on everything.  Otherwise, it will be very, very bland.  So I think I do taste things, just not the same as everyone else.  I've heard people say if you are sick of stuffed up you can't really taste very well.  Or to get something nasty down your throat, just plug your nose.  I suppose my ability to taste is similar to that.

And that, my friends, is the longwinded, disjointed story of my experience as someone who is unable to smell.  It feels kinda good to get all that out there.  I'd love to hear the experiences or comments of anyone else who is in the same boat I'm in.


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About Me from thirty-something on December 22, 2008 1:08 AM

Hi.  My name is Erin.  I currently live in Upstate NY where I recently purchased my first home.  While I technically live there alone, I do have a significant other (referred to in this blog as The Boy) who also... Read More


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About This Blog

Stories, advice, and random thoughts from a thirty-something female.

Many people in their thirties are dealing with common issues and concerns. Some of these include buying a home, establishing a career, starting a family, and dealing with aging parents. I will blog about all these things as well as other every day stuff as I make my way through this third decade of life.

You can read more about the author behind thirty-something blog on the About Me page.





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