My nose KNOWS

My nose KNOWS. 

Why does it have to be so activated?

Why can’t it just take a day off?

I had had a beautiful day. My daughter and I sat outside. We got to see some sandhill cranes in our yard. The breeze was cool, the sun was warm. I mean, all and all, it was my perfect kind of day. The sheets were washed (love getting into clean sheets) the comforter still warm from the dyer. Watched my one guilty pleasure, How to get away with murder with viola davis(favorite actress). Then I went into the kitchen for a glass of water and I felt anxiety. I left the kitchen and it went away. I walked back into the kitchen and felt it again.I couldn’t breathe. My chest felt tight. I felt the all too familiar fight or flight response but there was no trigger for it. Made no sense. I sat down on the bench in the kitchen and tried to breathe. Deep breaths. Tried to do imagery. Nothing was freaking working! So I grabbed the recycling and took it out into the garage and there it was. Hanging right inside the door was my husband’s jacket. I smelled it right away when I walked past it. He had hung it on the coat rack with all the other jackets so I didn’t notice it. But smelled it right away. I immediately tossed it into the garage. Resumed my panic attack on the bench. It just was not going away. Then I realized the smell was on all the other jackets. I put them in the washer. But panics don’t just go away that easily. Once my body goes into fight or flight it takes time to come back down. I started shaking, thought I was going to have a seizure and snowballed from there. I started crying uncontrollably. And well, we all know the details of how PTSD moments go so I won’t go on and on with the details. 

But I am blown away by my nose and my brain. I did not smell ANYTHING! Not consciously. But somehow my nose did, sent it to my brain and had I not finally seen the jacket and made the connection I would have thought I was having some unrelated panic attack. But it was connected TO something. The cologne jacket. Very important side note here is that my husband does not wear cologne. He would never knowingly bring something that smelled of cologne in the house. But the WORLD wears cologne, so whenever you sit or stand, you will be exposed to someone else’s cologne. Those smells transfer and my nose apparently knows far more than I do. 

This disturbs me. If my nose is picking up on things far before I know what’s even going on, without even a warning, then I am a sitting duck for panic attacks everywhere I go! Something I will undoubtedly talk to my therapist about. 

But here is the fact of the matter, trauma is serious. Trauma has lasting affects. Our body remembers. Our brain remembers. Our NOSE remembers. So again, for all those who think a trauma victim can just leave the past in the past..it is JUST NOT THAT SIMPLE! 

I wish I could just remove all of the cologne makers and wearers in the world. Even my closest friends “forget” and load up on it, every restaurant, grocery store, it is there. I can even smell it on the jogger who passes me as I am out in my wheelchair going around the neighborhood enjoying fresh air. 

But then what. Everyone with PTSD has a different trigger. It could be the smell of alcohol, the smell of diesel fuel, the sound of an airplane, a voice, a sound, a smell. I have a few smell triggers, the smell of onions on someone’s breath, the smell of beer on someone’s breath but nothing is worse than cologne. We can’t possibly remove all trigger from the world I suppose. But I can wish. I can imagine being on a beach all alone with the sea breeze blowing on my skin, the sound of the waves drowning out all other sounds, the feel of the salt in my toes and the cool water as it rushes in and out over my feet. Really, at this moment, it is all I can do. 

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