Choose to Understand

misophonia
Life is about making choices. When you want a new you, a makeover and new wardrobe can do wonders for your self-esteem. I was always believed that if you want something bad enough, you need to work for it. Interesting in theory but in real life, there are some things that you will never be able to choose. For example, if you suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes, you can choose a new lifestyle, and with diet and exercise you cannot cure these conditions but you can control them. People do not choose their medical conditions.

I suffer from Misophonia, a disorder in which I am tormented by sounds, some loud, some repetitive, but most of them are just regular everyday sounds that no one normally would even notice. This condition is not one that I chose, it is not one that can be cured and most importantly it is not one that I can control. Sounds are all around us. The difference between you and I is that my brain processes these sounds differently. Birds chirping may be peaceful and relaxing to you, but when I hear them I am overwhelmed with anxiety and anger. Negative thoughts fill my head. If they do not shut up I just want to shoot them. I would never in a million years harm an animal. Misophonia tends to be a very “heat of the moment” disorder. When the sufferer is “triggered” he/she may experience extreme instantaneous agitation or desire to get away from that sound as quickly as possible. This is considered the “fight or flight” response.

I did not choose Misophonia. Do you know what I DID choose? Awareness. I made the decision to share with people that I suffer from Misophonia. My husband made a conscious decision to do his own research on Misophonia. He made this choice for the sole purpose to improve my quality of life and to help our relationship from being damaged by the negative effects of Misophonia. We need more people who choose to try to understand and share that information with others.
In all honestly, if I did not experience Misophonia first hand, I would probably think it was fabricated. I mean come on, if the sounds bother you so much “tune them out.” If only things could be so simple. Unfortunately, that is not how the brain works. When someone with Misophonia tries to “ignore” the sounds, the sounds become louder and more bothersome. Think of it like a volcano, the pressure in the molten rock begins to rise and needs to escape resulting in the volcanic eruption.  This is similar to Misophonia, the anger, and negative emotions build up inside of us and needs to escape. People are all different, they have different triggers, different reactions. Imagine holding in all of those feelings, the pressure and anger pent up inside, building and building. What do you expect to happen?

Triggers, reactions, meltdowns and leveling out vary for each person. We are all individuals, after all. Someone who does not suffer from Misophonia probably thinks that if they stop making the offending sound that all is well.  Although this would be ideal, sadly it could not be further from the truth. Once I am triggered it can typically take me at least an hour to level out. A meltdown takes me much longer. In many cases, the trigger sound continues to echo in my head. Why can’t we just “get over it” and go back to our happy selves?

Here is some food for thought… imagine you are on your way home from work or school after a long stressful day. You just want to get home, put on your warm and fuzzy slippers, kick your feet up and relax in your favorite chair. All of a sudden a wild animal starts charging towards you. What do you do? Your reflex reaction is to run as fast as you can to safety, your heart starts racing as you sprint home. Once you open that door and you are safely inside, are you instantly calm? Is your heart rate back to normal? Or does it take you time to calm down? That is similar to how a Misophonic feels when we are triggered. We need time to “calm down.”

How can we make others understand what this is like?  Many people consider someone with Misophonia allergic to sound. Let’s say your child has a skin allergy to a certain soap. You are bathing this child with the soap and that rash is getting more severe. In reality, would you really bathe your child with something that causes a severe reaction?

Do you really think we would choose this condition? Living on the verge of an emotional breakdown at any given moment because we hear the crinkle of a bag of chips.

How can you help? Make it YOUR CHOICE to try to understand. This one decision would be so meaningful to those of us that suffer from Misophonia. Knowledge is power.

Vicki Sladowski
My name is Vicki and I am a lifetime sufferer of Misophonia. I grew up thinking I was a mean, hateful monster, only recently did I learn that I have Misophonia. Like most sufferers, when I found out I had an actual disorder I was so relieved to know that it is not my personality, and most importantly there are people who UNDERSTAND what I am going through and I how I feel. We are not in this alone.