Partial anosmia

Around the beginning of May, I noticed that I was dropping things more than usual. Having no associated physical problems, I quickly self-diagnosed that it was caused by mental distraction. Thus began a series of (relatively minor) misfortunes. I dropped my phone and it shattered in the back. (A few days before that, a friend had just commented how “brave” I was not to have a case for it! Well, it has a case now.) Then I dropped my crystal nail file and it broke in half.

I hadn’t ridden my bicycle in over a year, but my other half had meticulously organized a group ride with friends to celebrate one of the friends’ birthday—I had planned to just ride then, but he suggested that I go with him for a “shake-down” ride a week before to get used to the motions again. I thought it would be good at least to find out if my bike had any issues after being mounted to a trainer and used as a stationary exercise bike for so long. Sure enough, when I tried switching gears, the derailleur got stuck and so did the pedals. Instead of braking to a full stop like a sensible person would, I braked partially and then tried to tap my foot on the ground to slow down, and down I went on my right side, onto the edge of asphalt and dirt.

My first panic was for my hip, because I’ve fallen on it 3 times over the past several years (mostly courtesy of East Coast winters with slick or molten ice—it’s one of my #lifegoals to move somewhere warmer some day!) and it hurts sometimes if I haven’t exercised enough. Fortunately, most of the damage this time was to the knee in the form of a large skin scrape. It took about 3 weeks for the scab to come off.

We’ve both been feeling the need for a vacation for some time, and at one point we kind of spontaneously decided to book a trip to Puerto Rico for Memorial Day weekend. Neither of us have been before. We were going to stay in colorful Old San Juan and maybe visit some caves and tour the Casa Bacardí distillery. I couldn’t quite visualize it, but figured it would be a low-key adventure without having too many expectations. I even started packing the suitcase early.

Then, we managed to get covid that week. The partially-filled suitcase sat mocking us. I had already stayed home for the better part of more than a month starting in mid-April because of spring tree-pollen allergies, and now I was forced to stay home even more. The flights were non-refundable. Only by a stroke of luck did we not also lose money on the hotel, because the first hotel I had booked was non-refundable, but they ran into some issues and offered to let me cancel; the second hotel I booked after that happened to be refundable.

So, the weekend was spent mostly watching shows on Netflix or curled up in bed with a cough, nasal congestion, fatigue, and flu-like sensations of skin irritation and muscle ache (and later, headache). On Memorial Day, May 30, 2022, I woke up mid-morning to a message from my brother that his dog, Bagel, who was also “my” dog even though I had not been able to see him in person in years, had passed away.

May was a lousy month and I am glad it is now June.

I don’t seem to be dropping things recently.

We’re both past day 10 of covid symptoms, recovered, and free to roam again.

Having been triple-vaccinated, I never really worried about developing severe illness, but I did fear losing my sense of smell. As soon as I developed symptoms, I was on the lookout for any changes. One night, I briefly lost my sense of smell entirely. Granted, my nose was blocked, and I could smell things again the next day. However, over the last few days, I noticed that it was duller. Weaker. Less intense. My nasal cavity felt hollowed out and also unnaturally smoothed (I know that doesn’t make physical sense, but that is the best way I can describe the sensation.)

Smells just felt simpler, without any sharp points. Compared with my memory of how things smelled before, they were now like realistic 3D animation versus live action. Like numbers rounded to 1 decimal place instead of 5. Like reading the same story at a lower grade level vocabulary.

I sniffed my synthetic aromachemicals and botanical materials. They had lost their complexity and were like “the gist of” what they were supposed to be, more one-dimensional. Narcissus absolute was still a heady, sweet floral, but the greenish, vernal aspects that added texture were gone. Peru balsam was sweet and vanillic, but had lost the pungency around the edges. A few aromas smelled different—methyl laitone no longer smelled like milky coconut but was now almost identical to massoia lactone, like a mix of wood and slightly curdled milk. Citral did not smell lemony, but was bitter, as though it had gone off. Rose oxide, normally highly metallic to my nose, was less intense.

I remembered that some people are anosmic to musks, which are larger molecules. Going through my musks, I had trouble smelling Exaltolide, Galaxolide, and Zenolide. Hedione never smelled more like jasmine, and Iso E Super never smelled more like dry woods (now that I couldn’t detect the background smells of those compounds that always got in the way for me).

Becoming partially anosmic to musks also meant that I started to perceive some perfumes differently. Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio was less figgy and greener at the opening, along with a burst of lemon. Jeroboam Vespero, a leathery fragrance blended in the brand’s signature cocktail of musks, smelled much fruitier as the fruit notes became more perceivable. Masque Milano Ray-Flection smelled more deconstructed, with what I always perceive as blackcurrant (but is probably mimosa and violet leaf) standing on its own, as though some “fillers” that provided structural support to the composition had been removed.

What had first tipped me off to the alteration, however, was taste. The water dispensed from the fridge suddenly tasted sweeter. Pastas and noodles became relatively bland. Perhaps analogous to not smelling musks, I also couldn’t taste cream sauces or mozzarella cheese on pizza. While I could taste more strongly flavored foods, I got nothing on the exhale. It was as though the back of my palate—which also had a “hollow” sensation—had lost all of its taste receptors.

I am grateful to report that today, my senses of taste and smell seem to have reverted to their normal levels, even though my sinuses still feel slightly congested. It’s noticeably different from yesterday. Ninfeo Mio smells figgy again. My noodles weren’t bland. Aroma materials more closely match my memory of them. And I can smell the musks again quite well. Hedione and Iso E Super have regained their annoying backgrounds. I am thankful that it did not take weeks or months and really feel for those people who had to wait that long or longer.

I hope you all are enjoying perfumes that feel right for the cusp of the season. I’ll be figuring out what those are for me!

9 thoughts on “Partial anosmia

  1. I’m glad you are on a mend. The thought of losing a sense of smell scares me a lot.

    I know that there is some sweetness in perfumes that I do not smell. For example, Le Labo Santal 33 for my nose isn’t sweet at all (while I read that some people think it’s too sweet).

    I recently fell on a street walk without a good reason. I was upset by the fact (and my scratched knee hurt for a while. Now I’m waiting for it to heal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear you also had a fall! The scrapes do sting for several days, especially when the healing tightens the skin and it doesn’t like being stretched just from the knee being bent while sitting on chairs.
      I don’t find Santal 33 sweet either, although it can feel relatively sweet when compared with other, drier perfumes with a similar papyrus note (such as Maison Crivelli Papyrus Moléculaire).

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I hope the dyspraxia is resolving. If it’s new it might be worth getting it checked out.
    To my knowledge, neither DH or I have had it. My being something of a hermit has some benefits after all. Fingers crossed we can continued to steer clear to be able to keep caring for my 91 yo mum.
    I’m pretty sure I am anosmic to some larger musk molecules. MKK, to my nose, is less unwashed Ghengis Khan more the florals of his harem with a rough, musky texture I feel rather than smell

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I looked up “dyspraxia” as I wasn’t familiar with the term, and it looks a lot more serious. Now that I’m paying more attention when holding things, I haven’t been clumsy.
      I’m glad you and your DH have stayed virus-free and hope that continues. Every time our guidelines relax the restrictions, we seem to get another rise in cases.
      I’ve never tried MKK, but it sounds like your nose is making it smell better than intended!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, OH! I certainly read about others’ experiences of anosmia with interest, so I hope that some of the specifics here can be relatable to some people as well. Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

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