In honor of Thinking Out Loud Thursday, I though I would share something that is very close to me. This is one of the hardest posts I have ever written, but I hope it brings comfort to some people.
I doubt that many people have heard of misophonia. I didn’t know what it was until I found out that I had it. Misophonia explained the chaos that was going on in my head that was unexplained for years.
Misophonia is a neuropsychiatric condition that literally translates to “hatred of sound”. To put it simply- one gets extremely strong emotions when he/she hears a “trigger sound”. The most common is repetitive sounds such as tapping, swallowing, chewing, clicking a pen, etc. The list can go on forever.
Misophonia is a hard concept to understand when you yourself doesn’t have it. Why does it annoy you when I they swallow? Annoyance doesn’t even begin to explain what goes on inside somebody when there are trigger sounds around them. However, not only is misophonia extraordinarily hard on the sufferer, but it affects those around the individual.
There are many helpful links and videos that you might find helpful. This link explains misophonia and triggers. There is a helpful video that helps those who don’t have misophonia understand what it is like to go through a normal situation with it. You can watch it below.
I started to notice I would get sensitive when I would hear my family eat when were eating dinner together. I was only 11 years old. Progressively, the sensitivity got worse and worse.
Not only did I notice it at home, but I noticed it at school. I remember distinctly in my sixth grade Language Arts class that there was a boy that refused to use a tissue to blow his nose. He would sniffle constantly class. I found I got distracted so easily. Every time I would hear a sniffle, my mind would fog and my hands would clench. A new emotion came- anger.
Throughout middle school, this unknown thing would happen to me day after day.
It was unbearable to eat at the dinner table with my family- my dad and beautiful sister’s chewing were my biggest triggers. Scared to confront my dad, I kindly asked my sister, “Can you chew nicely, please?” I didn’t know what else to say. But it still continued.. there wasn’t anything that she could do to soothe it. Nothing brought relief to my aching ears and head.
My mother stepped in when I would ask my sister. She was angry because she thought I was nit-picking her. I wasn’t. I was just trying anything I could to make it the noises stop bothering me. It had nothing to do with Rachel. My mom was annoyed and mad for my behavior. I don’t blame her for thinking that way. She didn’t understand. Honestly, I didn’t even understand.
Not only can sounds trigger someone with misophonia, but movement can also. So when people sit and shake their leg or wiggle their toes or the movement of chewing of the mouth would result in the same emotions I would get from the sounds. Misophonia is not limited to sounds. Some people who have misophonia don’t suffer from this but I do.
This went on for years. The worst of my misophonia happened during my last semester of my sophomore year in high school. I would dread going to school where triggers followed me every minute of the day. People chewing gum, sniffling, chewing/swallowing put me in a constant state of panic. I would go home and cry every day from the anxiety of the day.
I began to isolate myself to escape the trigger sounds of others. It was unbearable to be around people I loved. That hurts. I wanted so desperately to be around them, but I couldn’t. When I would get triggered by the noises or movement, I would have a range of extreme emotions such as crying to becoming angry. Thus, I distanced myself from my family and friends.
One day my mom told me to come watch a video she found. I sat down at the table and began to watch the 20/20 segment on a girl, around my age at that time, suffering from a condition called misophonia. It all made sense. I cried with relief because I could put a name to the thing that has been changing my life for the worse.
My mom watched it and she understood a bit of what I was going through. We immediately started to do research on this new term. The thing I wanted to find out most of all was if there was a cure.
There is not a cure and it is not well known in the medical community. I was heartbroken. I just wanted this awful thing gone. I wanted to be a normal teenager chewing gum with my friends or going out to eat with them (my ED didn’t help with that. But that’s a whole other story.)
Now that I knew what was “wrong” with me, I could tell people, right? Well, it wasn’t that easy. I was so ashamed of my misophonia. When I would build up the courage to tell people what it was they would laugh it off and scoff. This was why I was scared to tell people. I was scared that they would react just as they did.
As my misophonia got worse, so did my health. I was growing weak with the mounting anxiety and I was beginning to get depressed. I started to get frequent panic attacks. I felt like a mess.
I started seeing a counselor (I still go to her, she is wonderful!) for misophonia. She was the first professional that didn’t scoff at what was going on with me or doubt me. She wanted to help. She referred me to a psychiatrist. As it turned out, my counselor specialized in eating disorders. So that was another God-send.
The psychiatrist was kind and didn’t disregard my condition. She prescribed anti-anxiety medication in hopes of decreasing my negative reaction to triggers as well as the growing anxiety and depression. After a couple of months of use, I started to notice that my feelings when I was triggered were less severe than before. When I was around triggers, they still bothered me, but it took the edge off of the mental pain.
After a year and a half on the anti-anxiety medication, I’ve had good times and bad. I am currently at a place right now that it is starting to become unbearable again, just like my sophomore year.
Misophonia is an exhausting, not-well known disease that affects one’s whole life. If you or someone you know that has misophonia- I want you to know that what you are going through isn’t just a “quirk” or you’re just being “snobbish”. It is very real and you aren’t the only one with it.
I encourage everybody to spread the word of misophonia. The more the world knows about it, the more people will understand misophonia and maybe there will be more research on it. Hopefully, more research will result in a cure.