Blithe spirit - The hallucination that saved us
Type of spiritual experienceHallucination
A description of the experience
I lost my sense of smell after using a nasal spray. It went completely, there was no intermediate distortion or strange changes, it just went. As a lover of nice food and nice smells and as someone who loved cooking this was a truly appalling blow. My sense of smell before this happened was very acute and sensitive, which is presumably why the nasal spray was so effective at destroying it. I used it because it said on the label that it helped with allergic reactions and I was having problems with my over sensitive nose and its reaction to toxins, fumes, household chemicals etc.
Well I had no allergic reactions after using the spray, that's for certain.
For a while I plunged into depression. Cooking was extremely difficult because I couldn't taste whether the food was OK. Most of my cooking before it happened was 'inspirational' - a bit of this a bit of that. I was reduced to following cookbooks to the letter, not something I had ever done before and I found it very boring.
My husband at the time had a boat. A lovely old wooden sailing boat. We decided that we would sail to France in this old boat with some friends. It was an exciting trip with high winds then no winds, then ripping currents and tides, and it rather tested the boat and the engine. On the way back from France to the UK, we were forced to use the engine almost from the start, as the wind dropped completely.
We were not far from the UK coast when it happened. It was dark, everyone was up on deck watching out for large boats who might not see us. I was down below. I am easily seasick and that day I also had an appalling headache so was lying down on the bunk near the chart table.
Suddenly I smelt smoke. At the time it never occurred to me that I could not have smelt smoke because it was physically impossible, instead I just called out, not 'I can smell smoke' because it would have seemed laughable, as they all knew I couldn't smell anything. But I seem to remember saying something along the lines of I can smell something strange.
My husband was helming, so the other chap in our party came below and he too realised straight away that indeed something was very wrong. He opened the door behind the chart table and flames leapt out from the interior of the boat.
We had fire extinguishers, we had a life raft, we had equipment to call for help, so whilst this chap let off our fire extuingishers, another prepared the life raft and gathered all the communications equipment together so that we could take it with us if need be.
We managed to extinguish the fire, but it was clear that although the boatyard had been asked to check the boat and its engine on its service, the one thing they hadn't checked was the insulation round the exhaust. The exhaust for the engine was resting on the hull of the boat, as most of the insulation had rotted away and the heat from the engine exhaust had started the fire.
We couldn't use the engine, there was no wind, so we had to radio for help. To cut a long story short the Lifeboat came and rescued us by towing us in. The boat had never been that fast before, it was quite exhilerating and I completely forgot about the fire and the circumstances in which it was discovere, until one of the Lifeboatmen asked me, as we sipped hot tea back in their warm headquarters, how we had found out about the fire and I said without thinking 'I smelt smoke'.
And I have been thinking about this ever since.
I was helped.