Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ice Cream Parlor

I wanted to share a little bit about a unique symptom of my son's schizophrenia.

There are so many facets to this illness and one of them is hallucinations. The most common ones are auditory and visual with auditory being the most common. But my son has one of the lesser known (to the general public) hallucinations and I think it's worth sharing with you because it illustrates the varied nature of the illness.

Like a lot of things with my son's illness, I did a lot of brushing off of things I saw happening in him for the last few years. It wasn't like they were dramatic things that demanded my attention, it was more that I would see something or hear him say something and then think to myself that I probably wasn't seeing or hearing that right or that maybe I was worrying too much.

Then last Fall, I had to take him to the E.R. one afternoon because he was suicidal and I sat with him in a dim, tucked in back of the E.R., very plain room. While I looked things up on my phone and texted family, my son piped up and he said:

"It smells like an ice cream parlor in here."

As usual, I stopped for a minute to process what he was saying and then I sniffed the air. It smelled like a hospital room to me, kind of damp, kind of like chemicals but it definitely didn't smell like an ice cream parlor. I told him I couldn't smell anything but musty hospital room and he said:

"I can smell the waffle cones and vanilla ice cream."

Once I realized what was happening I couldn't help but find some love for this moment. How nice it must have been for him to be smelling an ice cream parlor complete with waffle cones and vanilla all in the midst of his crisis and that wretched hospital room.

You see, what he was experiencing is what is called an olfactory hallucination. He was smelling things that weren't there. I've heard stories of people smelling things rotting and other unpleasant odors but my son smelled waffle cones and over the next few weeks, things like pine trees in our house (even though there are no pine trees around us and I don't use pine cleaner or room spray) among other things.

There is so much that is just so awful about this illness. So much that is unfair and amidst all of that, I can't help but be thankful that if my son is going to have this illness then thank God he smells waffle cones and pine trees sometimes.

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