The good, the bad and the ugly smells

Reluctantly, I was travelling in a packed train the other day. I was back home again with my parents and we were on the way to the hospital for my dad’s surgery the day after. I cursed as I walked down the stairs to the train station, fully aware that it was peak hour and anticipating a hell of a ride. We were in the last compartment and after a few stops, I was lucky enough to find a vacant spot in the corner between the emergency exit and seats where I could fit myself in and stand without getting into physical contact with others. Before that, we were in a bus loaded with students who smell of sweat like milk turned sour. With its tropical climate, heat and humidity, Singapore is a city where things, even people take on a bad smell easily. That weekend before, we had dinner in the mall and as we walked into the busy restaurant, I sensed the lack of air-conditioning and the smell of stale air. I didn’t smell the aroma of food, I smelled the body odour of the people in the restaurant lingering in the air. It was off-putting but I tried not to let these unpleasant sensory experiences overshadowed the family time although I sometimes lose my temper.

When I say I’m sensitive to smells, many people can relate on a level, my friends complain about the smell of body odour on public transports too. I get it, most people would agree that body odour is unpleasant, there is nothing unusual with my aversion to smell in this respect. But I’m not just talking about unpleasant smells. I caught the morning bus to the hospital the next morning. The bus was full with commuters to work. A passenger took up the seat in front of me and immediately I felt the blockage of air flow. It was a different kind of smell to the after-school/work transport but I was equally put off by the smell and here I’m talking about smells like perfume, deodorant, shampoo, body wash ~ smells that are pleasant to most people, even smells of products that I use. ย The thing is a smell may be pleasant on its own but when it is mixed and overloaded with the smell of hundred others, it turns bad and so do I. Sensory issues are common amongst autistics although I do not know enough about the research in this area to explain why. But if you ask me what is it about smell that I find disturbing, other than they are unpleasant, I’d say they are unpredictable and intrusive. Perhaps they stem from my needs for space and solitude. The same can be said of noise and unwanted physical contact. The smells are distracting and an intrusion of my space. I always bring a travel size perfume with me or a scented lotion or hand sanitiser. When I have too much of the smell of others, I sniff or sprinkle a few drops of perfume. I know adding more smells into the environment is hardly the best solution, I’m likely to end up overpowered by my own smell but this is me trying to assert some control over the environment. Sensory sensitivities and sensitivity to smell isn’t necessarily just about the bad and ugly smells but the good smells too.

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5 thoughts on “The good, the bad and the ugly smells

  1. I don’t know if it’s on the same level but when I was pregnant my sense of smell went into the super powered bloodhound range and it was awful. I used to put Vicks vapo rub under my nose just to combat the onslaught. ๐Ÿ˜ท๐Ÿ˜ฌ That pic with all those people crowded together…. I couldn’t be in a space like that for more than 10-15minutes max. I hope your dad is doing well๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ’Œ and I hope you’re getting some time for solitude ๐Ÿˆ๐Ÿ’ž๐ŸŒด๐ŸŒป๐Ÿž๐ŸŒŒ๐Ÿด๐Ÿด๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿ–๐Ÿฝ๐Ÿ†

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    1. My lovely angel!!! ๐Ÿ˜‡ ๐Ÿ˜
      I took that pic and I was in that crowded train! I had the same thought in my mind, while I could do this once in a while, what if I have no choice but take up a job that would require me to do this on a daily basis? I’m actually terrified that I might have to sacrifice my solitude for work and $$$ but beggars can’t be choosers ๐Ÿ˜•
      My dad’s heart surgery went ok although we were worried that he was suffering from post-surgery delirium. He has since been discharged and seems to be doing better at home. My mum is actually complaining about his incorrigible habits so I suppose he is recovering and back to his old usual self lol๐Ÿ˜‚
      Thanks for reading! I hope you are sleeping better. Here’s to a great week ahead!! ๐Ÿ’ ๐ŸŒท ๐ŸŒน ๐ŸŒป ๐ŸŒผ ๐ŸŒธ ๐ŸŒบ

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  2. I totally understand everything you said. Smell and noise lock me up and I get trapped in the meltdown until they stop or I can get away.
    One theory explained to me years ago makes sense. The baby and infant mind is absorbing and learning from every sense experience until it learns how to filter out what isn’t necessary for daily life. NTs filter, we don’t. Every human with fully functioning senses is capable of our “superhuman” sensory abilities but are switched off or tuned out. If they experience what we do on a daily basis many NTs would breakdown from it.

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    1. You are right! I read about it in the context of explaining why autistics have difficulty listening in noisy backgrounds and that’s because they can’t filter out what is relevant and what isn’t. It didn’t occur to me straight away that the same reasoning applies to other senses. How dumb of me lol ๐Ÿ˜‚ Thanks my friend!๐Ÿ˜Š

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  3. Yep, if your dad is bugging your mum he must be doing ok๐Ÿ˜ I’m still sending good thoughts out into the universe for you.๐Ÿ’Œ๐ŸŒ  I don’t want you stuck on that train๐Ÿ˜Ÿ๐Ÿ’ž๐Ÿž๐ŸŒŒ๐Ÿ’๐ŸŒป๐ŸŒด

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