Posted on in Todd Talks by Todd Johnson

Recently, like many people these days, I gained a new perspective on just how much we take our senses for granted.

Most of us go through our entire lives enjoying things like the ability to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. We don’t often think about how lucky we are to be able to see our way to work, hear birds and dogs, feel things like the cold snow against our skin, taste milk after a bowl of cereal, or smell that milk before we pour it to make sure it hasn’t soured. True, there are many people who can’t see well, or at all. There are certainly some who can’t hear. But I would be willing to bet that those people don’t take their other senses for granted as much as someone who has all five of their senses.

In October I became one of the many who have contracted COVID-19. I was fortunate enough to recover quickly and not suffer from some of the most consequential symptoms such as breathing problems or high, persistent fevers. But the symptoms I did have made me acutely aware of what I was missing — something I had long taken for granted. I couldn’t smell anything. And I mean NOTHING. My sense of taste was relegated to only being able to distinguish if something was sweet. I couldn’t tell what the sweetness was. Basically, the best way to describe my sense of taste would be to say anything that was sweet tasted just like a cube of plain sugar. Maple syrup, gummy bears, a candy bar — they all tasted the same to me. Everything else was just plain water flavored. It was a struggle.

I realize I was lucky, but at the same time, it was a very difficult thing to deal with. There was no pleasure to be had in eating. It was just something you had to do. There was no point in having my favorite foods. I found myself worried about fires since I couldn’t smell smoke. I had trouble sleeping until I was reminded that we have smoke detectors. I just had to trust them more than before. I paid closer attention to what I was eating and drinking before I ate or drank it since I couldn’t smell or taste if it was bad. I did some quick research to see if there was anything I could do to get my senses back faster or about how long I could expect them to be gone. That was a sad day. I found that it could take anywhere from a few days to a few months, or worse. A portion of people never recover their lost senses, or what they do recover is not what it once was. Generally, it appears that the longer it takes to recover your senses, the greater the chance they won’t be what you once had. There is even a chance that things will always smell differently than they once did.

Many studies have drawn correlations between the loss of smell and taste (40% of our senses) and depression and anxiety. When you can no longer smell the shampoo in your child’s hair or taste your favorite dish, life starts to lose a dimension that used to give life a vibrant hue and add a lot of texture to otherwise mundane functions of our days.

By now most people know a few individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. We should keep in contact (safely) in any way possible with anyone we know who is dealing with the virus, regardless of the severity. Especially in these times when we are encouraged to isolate from one another. Use technology to keep in touch and help your friends and neighbors through what can range from a simple cold to a serious illness.