Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I smell dead people.

Two posts back to back, I know. I'll go back to sporadic updates after this.

Thanks to Engrish.com for this prize.

For five days (ever since the 4th of July party), I had a phantom smell in my nose. Burning and cigarette smoke, so strong it was like being in the Lima bus station, only without the watering eyes. Absolutely unmistakable. Nothing it could have been but cigarette smoke.

The only problem? Nobody else had it.

Yesterday, finally sick with the virus I'd been nurturing since the party, I gave up and Googled "phantom smell." I was going out of my mind, crazycrazycrazy. It's amazing how much torture one little sensation can be when it just... won't... fuck... off.

If you Google phantom odors, you find a lot of forum posts telling you to seek the help of a neurologist, ASAP! Because you have a brain tumor, or epilepsy at best. Maybe brain damage. The people who have this strange symptom for those reasons are understandably urgent in their exhortations that you get to the doctor RIGHT NOW and it's a little overwhelming.

Scary? Sure. Coupled with the dizzy spells that plagued me for almost 2 weeks LAST time I caught a bug (I wonder if I ever even got over that?) and the vision problems that worsened suddenly and radically when I had an oxygen crisis a year ago (I had pneumonia, maybe-- blood work say yes, X-ray say no). Could I have brain damage? Could I have a tumor?

I did what I always do when a bunch of unqualified, anonymous people tell me something. I looked for a qualified one. A paper on phantom aromas by a doctor.

Ohhhh, and it also occurs from viral infections or migraines. Thanks, doctor.

The same article told me that people sometimes kill themselves because of phantom smells. The smells can be anything-- smoke, often, but also flowers, or vile things like rotting garbage, or shit. Okay, I hate smoke, but I got lucky.

Why do they kill themselves? Because eating becomes torture.

You do not taste all the things you perceive as taste. What you REALLY taste is salty, sweet, sour, bitter, pungent (maybe--might be sensation + scent), and umami (maybe--might be snobbish perception of saltyness). EVERYTHING else is smell.

So if everything "tastes" like shit... yeah, that'd do it.

They cure it by cutting the nerves. Sometimes it works.

I made a weak brine of salt water and snorted it. Stunned out the chemical perception and proved to me that it was in the nose/sinus, NOT the brain.

Thank you, doctor.

Now it's coming and going, but it's not as death-grip as it was, and I know it could be worse. Anyway, fascinating thing, the body... and that's even without my usual prurient spin on that.

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