A lot of people may not realize this, but PTSD messes with your brain. I know, I know, but give me a second to elaborate.
It re-wires it. Permanently. Again, I hear you say you knew that already. But I’m not talking about emotions or flashbacks or unexplained anxiety. I am talking about your senses.
That’s right: Sight, Smell, Taste, Hearing, Touch. The five things you rely on every day to help you determine the state of the world around you. In particular, PTSD survivors most often report a complete rewiring in their sense of Smell.
This ‘weird yet true’ fact is something I live with constantly. MiniSir endures me “do you smell that?” questions without comment, and attributes it as more evidence that I am in fact a Wolverine-esque mutant. (And since I completely healed myself without need of surgery or medical intervention after the accident, he has a point.)
But honestly, living like this sucks. Or rather, it stinks. Three days ago I had MiniSir smell the kitchen garbage can because I thought it smelled like cigarette butts. It didn’t, apparently. I swore the blind in the baby’s room smelled like really strong male body odour, and I believed it so strongly that I eventually asked that we moved the baby into the spare room instead. When we make tacos, I am grateful that I enjoy the taste because the house fills with the smell of feet.
I don’t understand why this occurs, but it does, particularly if the trauma causing the PTSD has been severe. And I wish I could at least explain why I smell the noxious odours that I do – repressed memories from the scene would make it much easier to bear. But the truth is that when we survivors smell weird things, it is probably just that: a weird thing with no reason behind it at all.
I am also sensitive to other smells: poop, vomit, etc., but I don’t smell them often like I smell the others and they are always attributable to an actual cause. Don’t know why, but living with the smell of strong body odour, feet, and snuffed out cigarettes in your home when they aren’t truly present is something I have had to get used to.
So if you visit, and the house smells just a little *too* much like vanilla candles, let me know. I will gladly tone it down – it’s just that I can’t tell over the smell of phantom cigarettes.