When it comes to compassion, be a Josie

Today I had the opportunity to chat with an amazing person online. While scrolling through some Facebook posts I came across a teacher, “Josie” reaching out for some answers. One of her students, Jimmy appeared to be suffering from Misophonia. She witnessed his reactions of rage to repetitive noises in the classroom. The matter was discussed with the occupational therapist, who brushed her concerns aside blaming his outbursts on behavioral issues. Josie did not accept this explanation, she knew there was something more to his misery and she wanted to find out more about Misophonia and how she could help provide Jimmy with some relief.

I read and re-read her post and thread of comments that followed in absolute admiration. This was not her child, but she recognized that there was some other issue, and was proactive in finding out more information. Throughout the day I thought more and more about everything that was posted. Josie showed so much compassion, spending her Saturday trying to learn more about Misophonia so she could help this young man.
I see so many students struggling through their classes, desperate for some kind of relief. They are either afraid to ask for help, or even worse afraid of the outcome. When you suffer from Misophonia, no one can tell, so it must not be real? It must be something they are making up. WRONG! The struggle is real, and it is absolute torment.

If Jimmy is lashing out in the classroom I can only imagine the intensity of the rage inside this young man. Maybe he doesn’t know how to explain what he is feeling. You cannot blame him for that, he is a child. Even as an adult I was not able to explain how I was feeling and the explanations do not make sense. Most of us have grown up thinking that we are monsters. We have this anger and rage “for no reason.” Makes sense, right? I mean why would someone get so enraged because your friend is crunching on a carrot? With Misophonia, our brain interprets sounds differently, sending a signal that results in a “fight or flight” response. We cannot ignore the sounds. In fact, our ears seem to turn into a microscope, zooming into the triggering sound, tuning out everything else. Often that sound will continue to echo in our heads long after it has stopped.

Without knowing about Misophonia, Josie tried to teach Jimmy to remove himself from certain situations. One day a stack of Jenga blocks fell (one of his known triggers) collapsed and he immediately left the room. Josie understood. She did not reprimand him, she did not shun him. In fact, she was so proud of Jimmy. It is the little things that count and mean the most.

The key to living with Misophonia is to recognize and know your trigger sounds, making it easier to be prepared. If Jimmy sees some other students playing Jenga, he can go play at the opposite end of the room. When music time comes, and the other students will be singing and humming, Jimmy can be excused from the activity and take a book to the library. Now that Josie knows Jimmy suffers from Misophonia, she will be able to be more understanding to Jimmy’s needs. I have no doubt in my mind that she will continue to advocate for him.
I have never met Josie, I do not know anything about her. But I do know that she is my hero. When I approached her to ask if I could write this article about her story, she was honored. Josie thought she was doing what any other teacher would do, try to “assist a suffering child.” I think we all know that is not the case.

I am a “Jimmy.” Josie, there are no words to describe your compassion and determination for going above and beyond. On behalf of all of the other Jimmy’s in the world… thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You are truly an inspiration.

In a world full of people who do not know, who do not understand or who dismiss our pain and suffering… be a Josie.

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.