And if that's the level of coherence I can achieve here, maybe I should wait a while to talk about what's been happening. And maybe I should divide it into sections instead of pouring it all out. But I'd like you to know why I haven't been saying much here -- not much that's original, anyway.
Apparent openness private processing
Yes, I openly discuss things many people would hide. But I am much more likely to talk about things (A) if they're relatively unimportant, or (B) after I've got some grip on the problem. I also share some things only with those likely to understand, and even then I may wait months. Which is why I've waited most of a year to tell you about the issues that I have been trying to grasp. The good news is that I can talk about it partly because life is getting better.
First, the physical.
About a year ago I noticed that I couldn't smell my lovers' personal scent. The heady individual fragrance I'd always found so intoxicating was gone. OK, maybe it's perimenopause, I reasoned, and said nothing. After all, the changing hormones of pregnancy can cause supersensitivity to smells. Maybe I was losing the ability to detect pheromones as my hormone levels changed.
Then last July I went home to visit my family back east. Nice trip. For a month or so before I left I noticed a strange pervasive smell in my apartment. It started out smelling like rotting meat, but I had no such thing on the premises. When I still smelled it on the airplane, I knew it was in my nose or brain. And somewhere on the trip I recognized that it was all I could smell. My sense of taste was gone too, except the basic sweet, salty, sour. Oh, and hot. Though there was a point where I could not even taste jalapenos.
I did eventually start to talk to my partners and closest friends about it, after a few months. But I needed that time of dealing with it alone. Of grieving the loss of one of my great pleasures.
I have always lived by my nose. I was a super-smeller who revelled in scents. How can I convey the new bleakness of my life without this deep sensual pleasure? Imagine a world without color or music, just muddy grays and loud static. Smell was one of my strongest attachments to the world.
It was also a safety measure for me. The chemical sensitivity that made me a supersmeller may also have been linked to my body's extreme allergies to too many substances. But if I could not *smell* things, how could I protect myself against accidental poisoning by celery?
I've seen a doctor, been through a course of antibiotics (and I have another set ready, in case the problem starts getting worse), rinsed my sinuses with a NeilMed neti bottle, read a history of noses by a woman who suffered two years of anosmia, corresponded with a friend who had lost her sense of smell, and done a dozen other things. Slowly, slowly it is coming back, although I may never regain my full range of sensitivity.
But imagine my joy last Friday when I said to Michele, "Is it just me, or does everything smell like red Gatorade?" And she told me she had just spilled some.
Losing my sense of smell was more than just an interesting but non-dangerous medical anomaly. It was being out of my senses -- profoundly out of touch with the world and myself. And just one of a series of events and issues that made last year one of the most difficult in my life. I was mired in unemployment. Every tactic I tried to improve my situation failed. I felt I had no traction -- nothing I did had any effect. Worse, it seemed like external things kept coming up to stamp on my fingers. I was drowning.
Maybe that's enough for now. The anosmia and dysosmia were one factor in a year that tested me to the limits. Talking about them is a start.
So -- how do you process this kind of physical and emotional earthquake?