I was thinking about hooks for this year’s Anosmia Awareness Day but I got no further than a list of five fairly pathetic bullet point ideas.
I looked over what I ran last year and the year before that; #pegyournose in 2019 which asked non-anosmics to hold their nose when eating, drinking or hugging a loved one at some point during the day. The intention was to physically illuminate what a loss of smell or taste could take away from everyday moments.
In 2020, I asked a question: what would you miss most if you couldn’t smell or taste? This brought about answers full of sentimental memories; of favourite dinners and of loved one’s jumpers. The intention here was to ask participants to imagine what it would feel like if those certain smells or tastes no longer emanated from their treasured items.
This year, I’m stumped. It no longer feels OK to tug on the heartstrings of those who aren’t affected, asking them to step into an anosmic’s shoes for a day. It no longer feels OK to ask them to imagine what it would be like to lose the scent of something they go to for comfort. It no longer feels OK to ask them to hold their nose while they hug a loved one – because most of us haven’t been able to hug our loved ones since March 2020, let alone peg our noses while doing so.
In a year where so many things, experiences and people have been taken from us; to ask you to imagine get more loss seems barbaric.
June 2020 saw a loss or change of smell and taste finally recognised as a symptom of COVID-19. This came three months after sufferers cited anosmia as a common side effect of their illness, and led to thousands of missed cases as unknowingly-infectious bodies continued to circulate.
In the months that followed, the word that was once confused for insomnia began to enter everyday vernacular. The word I had been told was too niche to be written about in the public domain was suddenly splashed on the front pages. I felt numb. The awareness I’d fought for was finally being realised – but at what cost?
People experiencing sensory loss for the first time were getting in touch, asking how to cope. It was overwhelming – and during what was the first of many UK lockdowns, my usual responses felt completely futile while anyone with symptoms was having to stay at home and isolate.
We’re just about to enter March 2021, and my suggestions haven’t got any better. Because truly, I don’t know the answers. Some days I’m desolate; some days I’m fine. There isn’t rhyme or reason – and there isn’t anything special I’ve been doing to navigate my three-year smell and taste loss.
So, I’m not suggesting anything for Anosmia Awareness Day this year. Instead, I’m going to spend the day with the little rituals I’ve come to rely on during lockdown: pressing the plunger on the cafetiere and pouring black liquid into a blue mug; going for a run and getting dressed afterwards in pastel colours.
I suppose if you take anything from this piece it’s that – to spend the day doing whatever you can to make your day a bit brighter, willing the past year’s pain away.