Scenting my mental illness

Basenotes Robot

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 20, 2000
Every now and again, in what might be referred to as a “lifestyle” magazine, I run across the following article: “A Scent For Every Occasion”. The title varies, but the content does not. The reader is given a run-down of important occasions, and which perfume they might wear as they mark it. And so, we are told, a scent for a job interview must project confidence, but not be overpowering. Wedding guests must be ever mindful of not upstaging the bride, and should thus stick to soft, romantic florals. A Christmas party calls for something warm and spicy.

Read the rest of the article here


Well-known member
Mar 8, 2016
I also have mental illness the same thing Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys has "love and mercy" the movie shows what it's like, and I also get comfort in the colognes I wear each day. Each days a new day live and love life.


Always be smelling
Basenotes Plus
Sep 28, 2015
Interesting read. Mental illness (unlike say cancer) is one of those things that you never care about until it hits you or someone you love.


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Aug 10, 2015
Great article - wishing you all the best. And I love Black and this makes me really want to try Vanille...


Well-known member
Feb 15, 2011
I think there's something to aromatherapy... and meditation, cognitive therapy, etc... When you change your beliefs it changes your physical brain chemistry and neural pathways eventually... i.e. the habit gets "ingrained", you gain "muscle memory" learning sports or crafts. It's possible to ingrain positive and constructive beliefs that will replace ones that are negative or unhelpful.


New member
Dec 4, 2016
All I can say is that your article has helped me more than I feel like openly disclosing at this moment. Thanks for the honesty.


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Jun 2, 2006
Smell being our most affective sense what would make more sense than making them a conscious part of our feelscape! I hope meditation and mindfulness are helping you accept that mental illness is a part of you, but not you. It is hard to swim when you fear drowning, but at some point comes the realization in soul, heart and mind that you cannot sink, you cannot drown, because you are the lake.


Well-known member
Apr 13, 2016
While we don't seem to discuss much the therapeutic aspect of our particular hobby I'm sure many of us use fragrances partially for that reason or at least have been pleasantly surprised to find they help. Whether it be manic-depression, anxiety, struggles with sobriety, etc. there appears to be more to this then just wanting to smell nice. I've even found myself sharing samples of particular scents with loved ones who struggle with most of the above mentioned in the hopes that it will help them on days where there seems to be no light. Thank you for a great article. All the best to you.


Well-known member
Aug 16, 2015
Wonderful article. Thank you for your honesty, courage and strength to share.

Scent has a remarkable ability to transform, comfort, armour, and envelop us; it can lift us when we're down, soothe when we're unsettled, help us reflect in times of chaos, speak up when we're withdrawn, or fight when we feel fragile. It is an anchor in the storm. A link to past and present. A language when we don't have words.

Knowing what lifts or makes you greater is a result of knowing yourself. Sharing with the intent to help others is a gift.


Well-known member
Sep 3, 2010
I'm confused by this:

Mental illness has been my constant companion for thirty years.

If you're 37 now (diagnosed in 2014 at 35) and believe your symptoms began at 17, wouldn't that make it twenty years?
A typo or am I mis-reading?


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Jan 31, 2010
I saw a completely wonderful quote just this morning that brings it all into perspective....

2006: Doctor Who:

“What’s life? Nothing. A quirk of matter. Nature’s way of keeping meat fresh.”*


Well-known member
Nov 24, 2013
Laurin, great article - thanks for the candid details of what you've been facing.

It is said that olfactory senses are "hard wired" into the brain, meaning that there's no pre-processing that goes on as with visual and auditory, and that they've got a more sophisticated connection than touch. They can evoke memories and feelings. I like to think of it as working like the needles of acupuncture. Fragrances CAN affect us, directly and promptly. "Aromatherapy" is appropriate in a general sense, but I feel most people look at this as just a "feel good" effect, rather than doing something more profound.

Scents can aid in memory retention. Thought provocation. Mental stimulation. Even physical effects, such as enhanced circulation (brought on by deeper breathing). And they "tickle" the mind. The complexities and variations possible with fragrances most likely challenge the brain in a good way. They say "something new" is always good for the mind. Some people try to diminish the onset of Alzheimer's by doing daily crossword puzzles in their elderly lifetimes. I have to wonder if exposure to a wide variety of scents helps sharpen the mind in some beneficial way.


Dear Laurin, thank you so much for your honesty and courage to share. I was diagnosed with BD in the summer of 2013, at age 35, having suffered for decades before (sounds familiar, doesn't it?) I can barely remember anything perfume-related during my severe depression episodes (there were days when a shower was considered heroism). But I can absolutely relate to my perfumes giving me a piece of myself back. My perfume wardrobe is full of melancholic irises - Hiris, Iris Silver Mist, Iris 39 Le Labo, 28 La Pausa, Mythique DelRae etc. - it's like feeling sad without the actual danger to fall into depression.
And suddenly I'm not scared that I don’t know who I am without my mental illness anymore. It's like your arm or foot. You just live with it.
Many hugs.

Maria guest

What a wonderful article...Dear Laurin, don't scan the horizon waiting for the storm to come. You are a beautiful and delicate person, and through your words I see that you are also a strong one. These things are a part of our personality, our soul. We just have to learn to live with them, to surf these waves. There is a crack in everything, this is how light gets in (c)


Well-known member
Jan 2, 2011
Beautiful, evocative piece. Thanks, Laurin.

Plus, three of your four are favorites of mine also. I need to try Hellstone.


Well-known member
Mar 19, 2016
All I can say is thank you; thank you for writing this and sharing it. I relate so closely to so much of what you have written, just...thank you
Dec 2, 2016
Well done on a courageous and eloquently written article, some very interesting comments added also. The fragrance industry is geared towards lifestyle aspirations (and understandably so), but not everyone always has the time to reflect on how fragrances can help people through challenging times, even if only for short periods. I develop 'aromatherapeutic' fragrances and believe that if a fragrance uplifts someones mood (perhaps only momentarily), then that is aromatherapy working at the most basic level - something I have to remind myself of all to often.


Basenotes Plus
Jan 1, 2005
Thank you for this honest, brave article, I really enjoyed reading it. Perfume has helped me through many a dark day myself, so I can relate to your scent journey. Be strong, try not to let the fear be in control - that's what I tell myself when things seem bad. Big hugs to you.


Frag Bomber 1st Squadron
Basenotes Plus
Jun 28, 2009
Thank you for such a heartfelt piece of writing. I was once in a relationship with a woman with such a disorder. I remember feeling helpless whenever the illness kept her captive within its claws. Now I wonder if a fragrance could be used as an olfactory cue to keep one centered in the face of emotional upheavals.

sands1974, amsterdam

Oh my goodness. This is the first time I have ever read an article like this. It's absolutely perfect. I was diagnosed as bipolar in 2003 after a six month psychiatric evaluatory hospitalization, although I had been ill for much longer than that as well. The ONLY thing that brought me out of my deepest, suicidal depression was the experience of fragrance. One of my best friends brought me to Annick Goutal's "Eau de Charlotte" in 2004 and that literally saved me--the innocent wonder of that perfume with chocolate, rose, and cassis, and started a perfume collection that now equals just over 400 bottles. All representing a mood, a personality, a moment, a decision, a dream. I am an artist and I consider my collection an artwork with title "Monument to Depression". Medicine, therapy, and mindfulness work with perfume to keep me going, in addition to my work as an artist (there is an artist book, "Art In Everyday Life" by artist Linda Montano which is worth searching out...another which really helped me is "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron -- it includes practical exercises that really helped me's+way+julia+cameron). Thank you 1000 times for writing such a beautiful piece. This is the brightest side of the internet: SHARING / WE ARE NOT ALONE.
All warmest best wishes to you for December and the year to come. And just for fun, here is my Fragrantica profile:


Well-known member
Oct 1, 2013
Thank you, thank you, thank you Laurin! Fellow fragrance lover who also has bipolar (never said that on the boards but I will now). The last time I was an inpatient we weren't allowed to have perfume, but I still remember what a comfort my scented soaps were when I was in there. I packed a sage bar and a tee tree patchouli bar into a backpack in the middle of the night, afraid to go to the hospital but even more afraid not to. All that week I would linger in the shower to be with those scents. In the days after, when I was home but still not back to work, I wrote a (moderately bizarre) perfume concept paper and sent it to one of my favorite Indie perfumers. I knew it was kind of ridiculous, but it helped pass the time and challenged my jumpy mind to stay on a discrete task. The magnanimous fellow responded!

That was just over a year ago, and I use scent all the time in my mood management. Making sure I get enough sleep is important to avoid manic upturns and volatile mood, so I get myself ready for bed with Japanese incense (shout out to Shoyeido, Nippon Kodo, and Cinnamon Projects). It's a good ritual that envelopes my bedroom with delicate fragrance and calms my brain. Similarly, frankincense perfumes help me stay sane and feature heavily in my collection: Messe de Minuit (Etro), LAVS (Unum), Calling All Angels (April Aromatics), Fire from Heaven (CB I Hate Perfume), Cilice (Euphorium Brooklyn), Reve d'Ossian (Oriza LeGrand), Encens Chembur (Byredo) ... you see my point, tons of incense!

Those are the notes and products that I think most directly relate to my mental health, but I am also a big fan of herbs/greens/aromatics, resins, and spicy/sweaty fragrances just from personal taste.

It makes me really happy to hear you speaking honestly about scent in your life, difficult parts included. I hear you sister. <3 <3

queen cupcake

Well-known member
Jun 20, 2009
Thank you for writing this piece. I happened to find it today, just when I needed it most.
Peace and love to you, from someone who cries every day.

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