Parosmia has had a huge impact both physically and mentally on Elise, but the support from the AbScent community has helped her navigate to a more positive place.
I was infected with Covid in February 2021 and lost my sense of smell completely. It returned briefly; however three months later I developed parosmia and it’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since.
At the beginning, it was very disorientating and confusing. Quite honestly - dark. I didn’t personally know anybody else who was experiencing this. For at least a week, I thought that I had used an expired mouthwash at the gym, because I could not get a chemical taste out of my mouth.
Prior to developing parosmia, I loved dining out - Washington DC, where I live, has a beautiful restaurant scene - I loved cooking at home with my partner and friends, hosting people for parties, stuff like that. So that was a loss that I had to navigate.
I avoided restaurants for a long time because of the way they smell. Thanksgiving and other holidays were pretty hard - you’re sort of an island and everyone around you is enjoying a big beautiful turkey and I wish I could enjoy a nostalgic meal and cook with the people I love.
Not being able to consume onions, garlic, meat - they’re my huge triggers - also had a major effect as I was really hungry all of the time. Nothing tasted good and I lost weight. I couldn’t exercise as I normally could, I stopped going for runs. I developed anxiety and depression during this time and the lack of nutrition compounded those issues.So my mental health was not in a good place after getting parosmia.
Having parosmia can be an extremely lonely experience. So the supportive community of other people who have parosmia and other smell disorders within the AbScent Network is just delightful, it’s really powerful. There are folks from the United States, from the UK, from other places in Europe who are dealing with the same thing and who are extremely understanding, kind and generous. I’m also thankful for all of the resources on the AbScent website.
At the beginning, I grieved the loss of chicken wings, pizza and other foods that I used to love. However, I made a promise to myself earlier this year that I was going to start to cook for myself more, even if it’s a vegan recipe or something I would not normally have tried before I developed parosmia. I also promised myself that I would try to make my plate colourful and beautiful - substituting the loss of taste and smell with a positive experience and engaging other senses like sight and touch, by enjoying the appearance and textures of food.
I wish people knew the level to which it changes your life. My diet changed, the way I perceived the world changed, the way I eat and fuel my own body changed, the way that I interact with other people changed, the way that I socialised changed, my perceptions of other people changed. And that is a lot to deal with all at once.
I don’t want to go to a pizza shop for lunch because I don’t want to smell pepperoni. It’s really gross to me, it makes me feel sick. When my work colleagues say “let’s go out to lunch together”, well, I don’t really want to and it can be awkward.
I consider myself fortunate that I have understanding people around me, who are supportive and have been accommodating. But it’s something that’s so personal and difficutlt to explain. Your senses are extremely personal, obviously, but there’s so many other things that are affected by your senses and the way that we live our lives every day.
Thank goodness there is research into smell disorders.