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Posts Tagged ‘curing no sense of smell’

girl smelling flowers 2I’m either heading for a breakdown or I’ve tapped a richer vein of words than usual, so much so I’ve decided to split the blog and spare my followers a too regular dose of the Rivendale Review, which could easily be several times a day at the moment and, I imagine, annoying. To this end I’ve begun another blog called Scent and Scentability, where the aim is to focus on, well, scent and the sense of it, or rather the lack of it in my case.

It’s of interest to me, not only because I suffer from anosmia and am keen to explore therapies for curing it, but also because I believe scent to be one of the most emotive of the senses, and vital in maintaining our awareness of the world about us, both physically and emotionally – also of course as an associative trigger and recorder of memory.

The spur in all of this is I’ve recently begun a fresh short course of steroid medication which ought to get me back to smelling things again pretty soon, so I wanted to record that experience, which, having been through it before, I know is wholly positive. The trick though is to maintain the sense of smell once the steroids are finished, which isn’t so certain a thing. Indeed, there will probably be a decline, which I must be prepared for, but I wanted to record that part of the journey as well – and that’s why I’ve subtitled the blog: journeys into and out of anosmia.

One cannot live a life on steroids, which is a pity because they give you one hell of a lift, and may be the reason behind my almost manic creative spurt these past days! This time last week I was feeling pretty late-autumn morose, no energy, lethargic, and wanting to hibernate until spring. Now I’m up for anything. Maybe I was just born a little low on corticosteroid, because this feels more like the real me, even though I know it isn’t.

I do have high hopes for some newly discovered alternative therapies, so it’s by no means inevitable I shall be hitting the buffers of total anosmia again, and risking burning the candle at both ends on yet another dose of steroids. Alternative therapies are legion and I’ve been through most of them, and all to no avail, but it’s always better to be interested in something, than interested in nothing.

The early days of Scent and Scentability has also shown me how far the Rivendale Review has come since I began it in 2008. We shouldn’t get too hung up on the stats, but RR is up to 90,000 hits now, about 3000 a month and rising – still a fairly quiet backwater, but it keeps me busy and stimulated with all your comments and feedback, which I very much appreciate.

Scent and Scentability went up at the weekend, and has recorded 5 hit. Suffice it to say it takes a while for blogs to gain proper traction and find genuine, interested readers, but I consider this a good start and I’m looking forward to the journey.

The Rivendale Review will of course continue unabated, featuring the same eclectic content.

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The short answer appears to be yes.**

I’ve been anosmic (no sense of smell) getting on for a couple of years now. Before that my sense of smell was intermittent to put it mildly – sometimes sharp, though mostly non existent. But to lose your sense of smell completely is a hell of a thing. Yes, it’s insignificant compared to going blind or deaf, because you can function quite normally, and the only danger in it is you might not smell the presence of life threatening things like gas or smoke. But for the sufferer, the world becomes a very bland place indeed.

Our sense of smell touches us in subtle ways, triggering memories, or adding immeasurably to life’s experience. To walk over a peaty moorland or through a rose garden and not smell it is to take away so much of what the world has to offer, disengaging you from it emotionally – because a sense of smell does connect you intimately with life – arousing you, comforting you, warning you, or even sometimes repelling you. And to take all that away? Well, you have to be without it for a while to understand what that means.

I’d reached the stage where I was thinking I was going to have to get used to it. My local GP was unable to offer me anything other than a steroid based nasal spray that made me ill. So, I decided to visit a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, who rather spookily turned out to be the spitting image of a character from one of my books* – we’ll call her Doc Lin**. I’ve had TCM before for a bout of tinnitus. That was a very positive experience and quite an education, so I wasn’t going into this blind – any skepticism I might have felt regarding TCM had already been banished during that earlier episode, some five years ago. I knew TCM worked for certain things, but would it work for anosmia?

Doc Lin reassured me that, yes, TCM could probably help – that she had helped others with anosmia and it was certainly worth a try. I’d need around 12 sessions, she reckoned, one each week. It would cost me £350 if I paid up front, then there would be herbal concoctions to pay on top – maybe another £100. Of course when you’re used to free healthcare, you balk at the cost of paying for treatment, and wonder if you’re being spun a line by someone more interested in your money than your health. So yes, it was a risk, but it’s not every day you meet a character from one of your books, so I gave the gal my card and I signed up.

The sessions involved an exam of tongue and pulse and some diagnostic questioning, then thirty minutes of acupuncture, followed by fifteen minutes of massage. I’ve also been taking a liquid mixture of Ginko Bilboa and Ginseng. I’m eight weeks in now. I’d found the sessions very relaxing, and energising, but my sense of smell had remained stubbornly absent.

Until a few days ago.

It was a jar of coffee beans. I flipped the lid off it and was overwhelmed by the scent. It came as such a revelation, I was quite emotional for a while. But alas, the experience was all too fleeting. Indeed, by the time I’d stuck my nose in the jar for another delicious whiff of it, I was back to my old anosmic self. However, these brief glimpses of a world restored to all its glorious scented completeness have been recurring with increasing frequency. I’ve smelled both strong odours, like coffee and camphor and tea-tree oil, but also what I’d describe as more delicate things like camomile tea, and toothpaste. I was also walking in the hills at the weekend and smelled the earth for the first time in years. It drew me up, and made me gasp with wonder at it.

As I write, it’s gone again, so my recovery is somewhat fragmentary and tentative but, even such as it is, I’m very grateful for it, and for once I feel I have some good news to tell Doc Lin when I next see her. I’m sure things can only improve further from here.

If you’ve lost your sense of smell, and western medicine has been unable to help you, it does seem possible that TCM, however it works, can achieve the  impossible, and restore it. So don’t give up, don’t resign yourself to a textureless world. Go and talk to a practitioner of TCM.

*If you’d like to meet Doc Lin, you’ll find her in my story “Push Hands” here.

**Update July 2013. It didn’t last. It was a glorious scented interlude, but all too brief – disappearing after only a few weeks. After that I tried the ENT department of my local hospital where I was diagnosed with nasal polyps and had more luck – all be it temporarily but for much longer, with a course of antibiotics and corticosteroids. That acupuncture worked was immensely satisfying, but that it worked for so short a period, was also disappointing. See my other blogs pieces on anosmia for more updates on my intermittent journey back to a scented world.

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