Some of you may know, and some of you may not, that in June of 2008 I lost my sense of smell. This evening walking from one room to another I stopped dead in my tracks as the claustrophobia of this condition hit me suddenly and completely. I'm not writing to be descriptive of what this is like, as I fear both my ability to articulate it accurately, as well as the social repercussions of dwelling on a topic that most will be lucky to never understand.
I'm writing because realizing that I felt "claustrophobic" made me wonder if there is anything from the wonderful world of medicine that may alleviate that aspect of this condition. Which then made me realize that I would have to clarify this type of "claustrophobia" as "metaphoric claustrophobia". Claustrophobia is generally and acceptably defined as "the fear of enclosed spaces". I have to delve into a brief description of why lacking (and specifically, losing) sense of smell results in a sensation of claustrophobia. To describe it one way, it agrees with the general definition of claustrophobia if one wants to consider one's own body as an enclosed space. But more descriptively, and personally, to not smell means to lose the constant update on environment that smell provides.
One closes the door to one's apartment and notices the distinction between the smell of "home" and the smell of "hallway". You then walk outside into the outdoors and are greeted by the smell of today's air. Is it rain? Is it crisp Autumn? Is there a hint of Spring? Will snow be coming? Was there an animal nearby recently? Was the trash not picked up? Has a car recently screeched its tires on the road?
You then continue to the subway station and, though maybe unappealing, feel comfort from the assured sense of space that the smell of the air provides. Like "subway smell, here we go...". An instant smell-snapshot in your mind of the most common denominator attached to the people of the city as they come and go: the various smells left behind by people, trash, and dirt. It may not be pleasant but it is the one and only smell of the city. Then, on the subway car, you may know that one corner of the car should be avoided because it smells of urine. Or you are tipped off that the man who has just sat down next to you may be a potential problem (alcohol), or perhaps (and harmlessly) living in unfortunate circumstances ("homeless" smell). Or
--difficult topic to find words for; end attempt