Living with long Covid: 'Everything I enjoyed eating and smelling is now distasteful and nauseating'

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Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are suffering from the lingering effects of Covid-19 – from severe fatigue and struggling with fatigue to coping with smell and taste loss. This is Beulah's story.

Beulah, 53

Contracted Covid-19 in July 2021.

It's truly difficult. The growing knowledge that people all over the world have similar symptoms does not make it any easier. The reality of feeling isolated and like a misfit is ever present. How is it possible to shift my mentality to make room for my new disability? Am I destined to live out the rest of my life never being able to smell anything beyond nauseating garbage?

At times I'm lulled into a false sense of ease, and I forget that I'm no longer able to smell and taste all the things that I used to enjoy. It shocks me that my brain can sometimes block out this newfound feeling of disconnectedness.

'A stranger in my own body'

With a bang, I'll be knocked out of my cocoon when a pupil complains about a bad smell in my classroom. How is it possible that I can smell nothing? Previously, I could instantly detect the slightest smell, but now I'm completely dependent on others to smell for me.

How can I not feel like a stranger in my own body? Who is this new person I'm confronted with? Why is the new me battling with shaping up and dealing with my inadequacies? Am I less of a person, after Covid-19?

Will I ever regain my former sense of smell and taste? Everything I enjoyed eating and smelling is now distasteful and nauseating.

long covid
Image: Supplied

'Something had died'

Where I found joy and solace in my favourite food, liquids and odours, I now have dirty, unfriendly, rotten and, at times, invisible tastes and odours as my new companions.

This death of my sense of smell and taste leaves me with an insatiable desire for my life before I contracted Covid-19. Without any warning, something had died.

I find myself in the grip of grieving and an all-consuming fear that I will never be able to enjoy the wonderful sensation of certain smells and tastes.

Is my despondency evidence that my brain is also impacted? The literature is pointing me down this dark path.

'A painful journey to self knowledge'

A thought has occurred to me. Is it possible that my senses were killed when I went for my Covid-19 test?

I vividly recall the immense discomfort and accompanying pain in my head, soon after the test. In my befuddled Covid-19 brain, my survival instinct led me to believe that the pain was normal. I consumed copious amounts of pain medication in the hope that I was experiencing last symptoms of the disease. Furthermore, I believed that I would be back to my former self once the excruciating headaches abated.

Two weeks after the headaches left me, and countless pain killers later, it had still not dawned on me that I had just undergone a death. A death involving my smell and taste. No one had warned me. It was and remains a painful journey to self-knowledge.

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here. You can also sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here.

READ | Distortion and loss of smell after Covid: Smell training can help, expert says

READ | Living with long Covid: ‘The loss of taste means that I often stay hungry the entire day’

READ |  Living with long Covid: Losing your sense of smell can be dangerous - 'I worry about my unborn baby'

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