Phantosmia (That’s Posh for Something’s Up With my Sinuses)

Something very peculiar is happening to me at the moment. I am being haunted. For real. But not by a ghost. By a phantom smell. Yes, really. Apparently, this is an actual thing. Being pestered by a smell that isn’t there. It even has a name. Phantosmia. Which sounds very pretty and glamorous, like the name of an Italian ballet or the latest version of Cirque de Soleil. But don’t be fooled. It’s neither pretty nor glamorous. In fact it’s downright annoying, at times really quite unpleasant, and in the wee small hours of the night when it wakes me up, its quite worrying. What’s the smell I smell? Chocolate? Roses? The keen scent of a nubile young man who splits his time between modelling for Abercrombie and Fitch and winking seductively at tired, middle-aged women with three kids? No. I smell smoke. Acrid and cloying. Like the smell of a student smoker’s bedroom, all overflowing ashtrays and unchanged sheets and old takeaway cartons forgotten beneath the bed. For a while I think it’s the smell of our house. I buy Febreeze. I open the fridge and search for putrefying cucumbers. I even clean. But then the smell begins to follow me out. I can smell it whilst shopping, at the cinema, in the car. So I do what any sensible person afflicted with an unusual symptom does. I Google it. We all know it, don’t we? Never – EVER – Google unusual symptoms. Amid the apocalyptic proclamations of my sense of smell never properly returning and the suggestion that it is probably sinusitis, the words BRAIN TUMOUR leap out at me. Of course. It can only be this. My self-diagnosis sends me into a frenzied panic. I imagine my funeral. I write letters to my children in my head. I tell my husband that he can remarry if he absolutely has to – though obviously I’d prefer him to board up the windows, buy ten cats, and forever be the man that ‘never quite recovered from the demise of his beloved wife’ – but not to anybody under the age of twenty-eight or an Abercrombie and Fitch model. My husband has a friend from school who – brilliantly – is an ENT consultant. Tired of my hysterical wailing and suspecting the smell might be more likely sinus-related, my husband duly contacts Doctor Steve. Doctor Steve suggests that, yes, indeed, my sinuses are most likely to blame. Apparently Doctor Steve has seen over hundreds of patients with Phantosmia and not one of them was afflicted by a brain tumour. (Doctors must LOVE Google…) So now I need to sort my sinuses out. And this is really the reason I’m sharing my issue with you. I’m basically writing this post to put off having to rinse my passages (which sounds ruder than it should) with squeezed saline, which is quite the weirdest thing I’ve ever had to do. You sort of hang your head over the sink and force liquid up one nostril until it flows out of the other. Rank! Anyway, I’m hoping this peculiar exorcism will finally rid me of my smoky phantom, because frankly, if I had to choose to be haunted, I wouldn’t go for smoke. I’d go for a highwayman galloping through my bedroom every night. A gentleman highwayman who also happened to do a spot of modelling for Ye Olde Abercrombie and Fitche in his spare time…

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