When you are seventeen years old, it's common to listen to your younger siblings running rampant throughout the house squealing at the top of their lungs and respond by getting irritated with how loud they're being. For some of us, noises that annoy the majority are noises like the clicking of pens, the tapping of fingers on a table and (strangely), in a vast majority, Nickelback’s music. I personally enjoy Nickelback. I find it fascinating, but that’s besides the point. Irritation comes naturally.
Dinner time is family time. It's a great opportunity to share with your family the events that took place throughout your day, the things you’ve learned, and about the new friends you've made. Dinner is the idealistic time when families can come together in one sitting and remain involved in each other’s individuality as a collective group. Unfortunately for me, I was around twelve years old when dinner time became a battleground of panic in a war for sanity.
As sudden as it seemed, I had somehow became overwhelmed by the sound of chewing. To any normal person, chewing is a normal sound that usually goes unnoticed because it is a natural human function. We eat with each other everyday. It's so true, it’s hilarious how simple the idea of that sound is. Unfortunately to me, chewing was more complex than that. Not to sound dramatic (I am a teenager after all), but chewing was all I could hear so far above the laughter and conversations about something crazy that came up on the news. Chewing was louder than the ceiling fan, the wind outside and the leaves of the trees rattling just outside the window behind me. So much louder than distraction and so much louder than my thoughts. The stress was unbearable internally.
At the table, I would sit in pain rolling over the food I had on my plate because I no longer had the appetite to eat the delicious meal that my mother had put in front of me. It would get so bad that I would get up from the dinner table as calmly as I could in the mindset that I had and pace to the bathroom where I’d then sit for 10-30 minutes until I could hear the dishes being cleaned in the sink to which I would come back out… and finish dinner alone. I felt as though I had disrespected my family. I thought I hid it well too, but apparently my leaving was quicker than my mind perceived and much more dramatic than I thought. My mother was the first to notice my unusual behavior and then is when I found out that there was something wrong inside my mind. If you couldn’t tell at this point, there was something very dysfunctional going on, and with a bit of research, I came to find that I suffer from a mental disorder named “Misophonia.”
Misophonia is considered to be rare, to my surprise. It is usually self-diagnosed to be fewer than 200,000 cases in the US per year. A person such as myself has one or multiple trigger noises that can cause reactions such as becoming irritated, enraged, or panicked to severe circumstances. The causes of the mental disorder is undetermined. Chewing is where this started for me and I am not sure why or how this occurred. There was no reasonable explanation for this "out-of-character" reaction and certainly no warning. The sad part is, chewing was only the beginning conflict of my disorder that would last me years without end to present times.
Today, I am nearly eighteen years of age… and noises that bother me are now not only chewing, but are also overly amplified laughter, popping of gum, constant sniffling, scraping of dishes, snoring, squealing, slurping, gulping, constant belching, loud TVs and yelling. Let’s face it, I haven’t lived a very long life, but Misophonia has made each day of it a long one since then. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t have my earbuds in at full volume or around me at all times. At home, I sit in my room on my bed with my earbuds plugged into my laptop or in my phone. When I am asked to do chores, I listen to music because I fear that I am going to get so upset that my chest will begin to hurt and I will begin to tear up. On rare occasions, we will go out to eat, but anytime we do I MUST bring my earbuds because heaven forbid I left them at home… I would break down and cry outside the restaurant. Throughout all of this, I’m feeling like a psycho and like all eyes are on me. As a performer, I enjoy grasping people’s attention, but not like this. This wasn’t the attention I wanted. Having anxiety (literally) since birth did not contribute well with this conflict. My problem was beyond repair as it was.
The relationship I have with my stepfather is very complex, and it has been for years since before any of this appeared in the first place. I used to believe things were bad between us until I witnessed the way that Misophonia had detonated any bridges left between he and I. Hell had basically frozen over. For years we have fought and fought because most of my triggers revolve around him and he couldn't understand why. I have reason to believe that it’s because of how difficult our chemistry has been and that perhaps it’s caused by the anger that I had felt for him throughout my childhood. My stepfather had practically raised me since I was three years old and took me in as his own for all these years and I love and appreciate my father with all my heart. I am not sure exactly why my disorder revolves a lot around him, and I really wish I could just make that go away, but I believe many of my triggers revolve around him because unfortunately our chemistry is a tad frayed. It just had been a really dramatic point of destruction in the family.
My siblings know the drill when they’re around me. When getting a snack, they always give me the look like, “are you alright with this?” I really appreciate my siblings for being empathetic about my disorder and for working around it for me. Often times, I feel a lot like a burden to them. Just the other day, I was on the couch watching the movie Matilda with my little sister when my older sister entered the room to make herself a bowl of cereal and sat down next to me when it was made so she could eat and watch the movie with us. Cereal is a common enemy of mine because it involves a lot of *crunch,* *slurp,* and *clank.* My sister looked over at me (and naturally I don’t want to be rude and show my worry), but she could tell by the look on my face that I was panicked, so she said “alright” and went to her room. As you could probably imagine, my heart broke. I wanted her to stay. “Why do I have to have this problem?” I’d ask myself in anger. Sadly, I feel this way often.
I feel awful for causing so much of a struggle within my family's home life. I am responsible for so much argument between my parents. I am a topic of negativity in the house often and as a teenager, my sensitivity is super high. Misophonia has practically driven me to be someone new I had yet to learn about.
Naturally, like anyone else, I searched and searched for answers and solutions. I wanted so badly to find a resolution to this disorder, but I didn’t understand that it really wasn’t something I could control. What really needed control was how I handled it. I needed to stop looking for ways to medicate myself to feel nothing and start looking for ways to control my panic attacks instead. I needed to learn how to be prepared.
As hippie as it sounds, meditation, walks, and music are great ways to ease the stress of sound. It may not get rid of your conflict, but it’ll make your situation livable. What I mean by that is don’t try so hard to eliminate the inevitable. Be easy on yourself and teach yourself ways to keep yourself busy. Make yourself happy or do things that make you happy. At the end of the day, all you have is you and your thoughts when you’re alone. I have come to learn that Misophonia has taught me how to be patient and how to look deeper into the natural world. Don’t let this problem define you as a person though it might change you in many ways. Learn more about yourself, but also leave room for the person you are inside and past it all. Be you and that’ll be a good enough cure. Maybe then someday we won’t fear it any longer.
With hope for better days, I choose to keep moving forward in life because life goes on beyond the problems we posses and I want to be able to live in the present with Misophonia as a part of me now and not in the past of what it was before. That is my experience from having the mental disorder none other than “Misophonia,” and I’m not letting it stop me from being me and loving a cool breeze, iced tea, and good music.
Despite it all, I am still very happy.
Keep moving forward. You are ENOUGH.