For the last week, I’ve been suffering from one of those head colds that won’t go away. The worst part of the cold isn’t the raw nose, or the sinus headaches, or the scratchy throat – it’s not being able to smell. I really hate not being able to smell. A world without scent is just so much less interesting, like a color photograph that’s faded to a monochromatic gray. You know something is missing but you don’t know what it is. Just this morning I was frying bacon and was seized by this peculiar feeling that something was wrong. That’s when I realized: I couldn’t smell the bacon. The most comforting of morning associations – the sizzle of lard matched to that hickory, meaty perfume – had been severed. I had the sizzle but no smell, and so my brain let loose a tremor of anxiety.
And that’s when I remembered this passage from Rachel Herz’s quite interesting The Scent of Desire:
In one study that contrasted the trauma of being blinded or becoming anosmic [losing you sense of smell] after an accident, it was found that those who were blinded initially felt much more traumatized by their loss than those who had lost their sense of smell. But follow-up analyses on the emotional health of these patients one year later showed that the anosmics were faring much more poorly than the blind. The emotional health of anosmic patients typically continues to deteriorate with passing time, in some cases requiring hospitalization.
Hopefully, I’ll regain my sense of smell soon. I miss my olfactory cortex.