As I have previously mentioned in another article, I try to start my day on a positive note. I wake up, stretch, take my vitamins, my generic Lexapro for anxiety, and a pain reliever for my joint and hip pain. I eat breakfast, and then I do something busy and productive, to fully wake up my mind. Only then, am I mentally ready to start my day. If have to go out of the comfort and solace of my home and be a human that day, am constantly talking myself out of anxiety. I know it sometimes is irrational, or unneeded, but it is still there, and I have to consciously get rid of it. It is a waste of my time, and is mentally exhausting; I know this, and I am disappointed in this, as well. I just try to focus on breathing and thinking positively.
I work at a preschool 5 days a week, from 8:45am to 3-5pm. So this means being in a classroom with 5-6 toddlers that don’t tend to sniff, they just let the snot roll right down their face, and I just wipe it off. Also, their chewing and eating noises don’t bother me either, I actually, find it cute. Usually, I just drive straight to work, go directly into my exterior classroom door, and then mentally prepare myself to walk into the main entrance with everyone, sign in, and get a fresh bleach and water bottle to clean the lunch and changing tables. However, today, I had to stop by a dollar tree on the way in, to get a drink, a hair tie, and some marshmallows for an art project I wanted to do with my class. It was camping week and I was going to let my kids paint a fire, using marshmallows on a stick.
I walked into the store, pensively. The cashier greeted me in a nasally voice, so I kept walking, quickly, away from her. No thanks, potential trigger. I walked over a few isles to the hair accessories, grabbed what I needed, and started over to the food to find marshmallows. On the way, I noticed that the store was pretty busy, to be 8am, I spotted a larger woman with her kid, an older couple, maybe in their sixties, and a younger man with very long hair. I rushed through, finished my shopping, took a deep breath, and approached the nasally woman at the register. Things were going fine, I was having minimal anxiety, and doing a good job staying calm around all of those people.
Until, the reality of my condition set in. The larger woman and her kid had gotten in line behind me, and right in my ear, she produced the loudest, grossest, most booming and reverberating sniff, I had ever encountered. A jolt of shock rushed through me, and my blood ran cold. I couldn’t leave yet, I had to pay. Money. The nasally voice was asking me for money. I don’t even remember what happened next, except for incessantly and ridiculously sniffing, myself, until I got out to my car. I found myself sitting in my car, for five or ten minutes, yelling and cussing at the woman for subjecting my ears to such a cacophony. Its all I could hear in my head, so I had to smack my ears to get rid of it, and scream to get the adrenaline out. It is only 8:30am.
At work, I am occasionally greeted with a few triggers by coworkers, parents, and sometimes children, but it is usually manageable. I will either retreat to my classroom, turn on music, or politely rush them out of my classroom. There is, however, a specific coworker, that I hate to admit, I actively avoid. She is a very sweet lady, but I cannot stick around her, because she is a chronic sniffer. Chronic sniffer is a term I use for people that sniff at least once every ten or so minutes. I hear her in passing, in staff meetings, through my old classroom walls, when all the classes were napping, and she was on her break in the hallway. There is a little anxiety about being at work, but like I said, I just take deep breaths, stay positive, and have fun with my class.
If I’m not working, and still have to go anywhere, it takes lots of mental preparation and self motivation. Running errands, making appearances, hanging out with family, or anything that involves being in public, or around others, inevitably gives me some degree of anxiety. Doctors, and dentists offices, or waiting rooms in general, are the worst, but especially when everyone waiting is sick. Restaurants are stressful, and quiet settings like church, school, or libraries are petrifying. No matter what I tell myself, I am gun-shy and stressed, anytime other people are around me, or even on the phone with me.
I find that it is easier to deal with a trigger when I can see it coming, and mentally prepare, so I am constantly on the lookout for a sign that a potential trigger may occur. This causes me to be slightly distracted, odd, and too observant. Being so hyper vigilant is draining, and the constant intake of stimuli is too much for my system. By the end of the day, I am exhausted, and strung out from Misophonia alone, on top of normal human stress.
All I can do is fake a smile. “Fake it until you make it,” right? I refuse to let myself be depressed. Yes, my disorder beats me down many, many times through out the day and makes me feel stupid, and crazy, but I know that I am not. I’m bigger than my disorder. Sometimes, when I am triggered, I am so exhausted, that all I can do is just laugh. It’s a frustrated, exaggerated laugh, but it is all I can muster. I go to sleep at night with my mind whirring. My sensitivities cause me a lot of pain throughout the day, but it also allows me to observe and process more of the world around me. Fighting this battle just puts life in a different perspective for me. It gives me inadvertent strength, and courage, and a unique viewpoint.
Want to learn more? Join a Workshop with Dr. Jennifer Brout or Duke CMER at Misophonia Education.