This is not a typical blog post from me. Trust me, this one is a little “out there”. Definitely off brand for my writing. But I’ve been chronicling an oddity in my life, and I want to share, partly to see if anyone else has experienced anything similar, and partly to record about it for the future. So, here I go…
Do you ever have something pop into your mind with seemingly no trigger and no related conscious thought? Maybe you’re watching a show about dogs and suddenly an image of a purple rocket ship is in your brain in perfect detail. Or you’re cooking dinner and the words of the preamble to the Constitution forms instantly in your mind, like someone held up an imaginary flashcard that you weren’t expecting. For the last few months, I’ve frequently had a similar occurrence, sometimes many times a day, only it involves tastes and smells. I experience very vivid and very specific tastes and smells, in my mind, at random times. I’ll be going about my day and suddenly, I'm acutely aware of the taste of popcorn or the smell of gasoline. Sometimes, I find the event interesting. Other times, I'm befuddled, and I question if I’ve somehow tipped the scales of normal brain processes.
I don’t call the tastes and smells memories because they aren’t associated with a specific place and time, but they are memories in the sense that my brain recalls a particular taste and/or smell just before it identifies the specific food or item to which the taste and/or smell is associated. These tastes and smells are so vivid and sudden that I've been tempted to call them sensory hallucinations, but I am able to distinguish that I’m not actually smelling or tasting what my brain evokes.
There are two life events that I can loosely connect to the onset of this phenomenon: 1) Contracting and recovering from Covid, and 2) Changing to a low carb/keto diet. When I lost my smell with Covid, it was only for a few days, but it nearly drove me crazy. I cried because not having any sense of smell felt overwhelmingly strange. Around the time I got better, I completely changed my eating habits. Could the phenomena be a brain quirk caused by the virus? Maybe my diet has altered my brain somehow; some (certainly not all) of the tastes and smells could be triggered by normal cravings for foods I've given up. Or maybe I've developed a form of synesthesia, but I haven't identified the triggers for the sensory perceptions.
There was a day in early January where the tastes and smells occurred so many times that it started to get on my nerves. It had crossed the line into distraction. To try to make some sense of it, I decided to document what I was “smelling” and “tasting” and the time of day it happened, to see if there were any patterns. I did this for one month, and the results are fairly interesting (at least to me.)
I'm tempted to share my log for the month, but that might be too much. Let's just say, there are some odd things documented. Some of the items on the list I haven't actually tasted or smelled in years. Deviled ham? A tanning bed? Chinese donuts? Dried tobacco? Others are common for me, like ketchup, ranch dressing, and apples. Some of the tastes/smells are very specific, like Ivory Soap, Smarties candies, and Fruit Stripe gum, while some are more general, like toothpaste.
Are these perceptions here to stay? Will they become less distracting over time? Maybe they aren't so odd. Perhaps there are lots of people with the same experience, who don't talk about it because it's their normal.
The human brain is an amazing thing. No doubt, we are all "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14,) despite our quirks or differences, or perhaps evidenced by them. As we change and get older, we learn new things about ourselves, and that's one of the things that makes life interesting.
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