When you read this, you may think that I am the worst person in the world, and I don’t think I would disagree. This is the story of how Misophonia ruined my relationship with my mom. I ask that you please refrain from judgement. If you suffer from Misophonia, you will understand. If you are a parent of a child, who suffers from Misophonia, view my perspective as a window into the experience and challenges you and your child will face. Misophonia does not only affect the sufferer, but also everyone involved in their life.
Growing up, My mom was my worst trigger.
One of my earliest memories, was when I was about three or four years old. I was sitting with my mom, when she leaned over and told me, “I want to tell you a secret.” I was so excited! “A secret!?” I thought, “Mommy is going to tell me a secret!” I anxiously leaned in to hear, only for her to pop a handful of potato chips in her mouth and proceed to crunch them in my ear, laughing. I will never forget that day, or the anger, and hate, that I felt at that moment. I wanted to hit something… hard. I wanted to hit, or throw something at my mom. That’s terrible, but why would she do something so rude? Isn’t she supposed to teach me manners? Did she really think that was funny? From then on, things progressively got worse. Mom’s favorite lunch was peanut butter sandwich, potato chips, and a tall glass of Pepsi packed with crushed ice. All of these involved triggers for me. First, she would break ice cubes up with a spoon clanging the ice against the glass. Afterward, her ‘dessert’ was crunching that ice when the Pepsi was gone. When she would speak, the sound of the peanut butter residue lingering in her mouth made the most awful squishy sound. Cringe!Another big trigger for me was her voice and her singing... I never liked to have the radio on because she always wanted to sing along. She had a bit of southern twang that drove me over the edge, especially when she would mispronounce certain words. Even though I would correct her grammar, she continued her mispronunciation, and I was convinced she was purposefully doing it to annoy me. She would snap and say, “I can’t help the way I talk.” I was only asking her to use the word the correct way. Why couldn’t she just pronounce the word correctly? Why didn’t she realize how bad it distressed me? I’m sure she saw my pain.
Because of the torment, I would often run and hide in my room. “Why? Why does she have to crunch everything?” I would think to myself, “this is worse than nails on a chalkboard.” These sounds would send me into fits of rage. I would throw things, punch my pillow, or bed. Once, I even put my fist through the wall. No matter what I did, I was never able to release that anger, it only seemed to build, and fester inside me. “Why are you always so hateful?” she would ask me. At one point, I overheard my mom telling my dad, that she thought I needed tranquilizers. Could you imagine hearing your mother say that as a kid? All I would think, were things like, “Gee, mommy, that really couldn’t make me feel like any less of a freak,” Why did she hate me? Why didn’t she understand, she was so mean! No, I did not need a tranquilizer! I just needed her to stop these terrible noises. Why couldn’t she see that it wasn’t my fault? Why do these simple things affect me like this severely?
My resentment towards her grew with each passing day…
It’s a shame, growing up thinking you hate your mother, the woman who gave birth to you. This is the woman that was supposed to love, and protect me from hurt, but she was the primary source of my pain. Sure, I loved my mom because she was my mom, but at the same time I hated her, and I had no respect for her because of the way she treated my brain ticks. Most people have fond memories of their childhood, but all I have are negative recollections of anger, frustration, rage, hate, and disgust. In my late teens, my mom and I got in a big argument. She triggered me with something, and I exploded. She said, “If you do not have anything nice to me, don’t say anything at all” So, I took her seriously. Mentally, I had, had enough. I literally stopped all communication with her, and my life was very peaceful. It was great! For almost two years, the silence between us continued. Two glorious years of tranquility. I was confused, I figured that I would miss having a mom, but I didn’t. Whenever she would extend the olive branch and try to talk to me, I justignored her. Why ruin the peace and quiet?
Then, my father passed away. We had to make arrangements for his funeral; We had to talk to each other. We put a Band-Aid on our relationship. Shortly after, I decided to move into my own apartment, near her, but I did not see mom much. My visits were limited to mandatory holidays and an occasional phone call. Why would I intentionally subject myself to the aggravation? I knew exactly what would happen: I would visit, get irritated, get a migraine and go home hating my mom more than ever. I never invited her to my apartment either. How would I handle her triggering me in comfort zone?
So when my son was born, I wanted the two of them to have a close relationship. At the age of five he developed symptoms of OCD. While most people would chalk up his actions as bad behavior or tantrums, grandma learned what she could about OCD and would go above and beyond not to trigger his OCD. I always tried to limit our conversations to topics about my son and I always tried to do most of the talking so she would not be able to trigger me. It was still very tough for me to spend time with her and I would always leave her house in a very irritable mood. She drove me crazy, but she loved Kevin. I had to find some way to get past it.
With age, comes hearing loss. Personally, I was looking forward to this. However, when it hit my mom, she became a very loud talker, as if the frustrations with her couldn’t get any worse. She would get angry with me for asking her to quiet down. “Well, I don’t realize I am talking so loud, you could just tell me nicely!” However, I really couldn’t. The sudden earsplitting voice echoed to the pit of my stomach, sending shooting pangs of nausea, and tension, through my entire body. It was like an electric shock. I didn’t want to snap at her, it was just a reflex.
As her health deteriorated, it became impossible for me to spend time with her.
Between her coughing, labored breathing, and the clicking sound of her oxygen tank, it was way too much for me to be around. Anytime I tried to have a conversation with her, I always ended up frustrated and enraged. Why did I have to call her? It is her life’s mission to drive me crazy? I was not there for her last days; I just could not bring myself to visit her. I tried to go visit a few times, but I would just find myself pulling over to the side of the road, with a massive panic attack. It was physically impossible for me to go see her, the mere thought of this caused such severe anxiety that I was making myself physically ill from the anticipation of the triggers. This is not normal! Why can’t I just go see her? I told myself it was because I cannot deal with death, which is true, but there had to be more to my apprehension. What could it be? I decided that to go talk to a psychiatrist. During my intake appointment with the doctor, I mentioned that sounds and noises made me very upset and angry. I told him that, I mentally and physically, could not deal with them, but my words were disregarded. I guess it must be all in my head, how can I be such a monster? I was given a prescription for some anxiety pills, which did allow me to attend the funeral service.
I was sad that my mom passed, but at the same time I felt a tremendous wave of relief. This is not right, I should be more upset. My sister is falling on the floor in tears, and I have a few that occasionally will well up in my eyes. Is this my way of coping with death? My lack of emotion caused additional animosity with my older sister. I tried to explain the anxiety and panic attacks to her, but in her eyes I was just being selfish. I was never there. I just let her take care of Mom, on her own. How do you explain that your mother absolutely infuriates you, that being around her has given you thoughts of suicide, that you have chosen to avoid situations that make you feel as if the only way out is death?
Today, I know that I am not a monster.
I am not a bitch, I am not crazy, and I don’t have anger management issues. It turns out, that my whole life, I have suffered from a neurological condition called “Misophonia.” There is a medical reason which explains how I can go from the sweetest person in the world to the meanest monster in the blink of an eye. Misophonia… a name for the “sounds of torture” I have experienced my whole life. We all grieve in our own ways. I went through a period of going through everything, and getting rid of it. The doctor explained, that, for me, I was “purging my grief by purging my belongings.” It sounds strange, but it actually provided me with great comfort. To this day, whenever I try to think happy thoughts of my mom, all of those pent up emotions come flooding through the gates in my brain and I do not know if I can ever truly forgive her. Yes, I know it is not her fault, it was my condition, but it is pretty hard to dismiss the forty plus years of blame, hatred, and rage because of a simple brain tick. I cannot get those years back. I can never talk about a happy childhood. Misophonia has taken that away from me. This is something I need to process. Can I find the closure and forgiveness that I need? I am really not sure. This is something I need to deal with in my own way, in my own time. Now, I need to take care of me and finding ways to get through each day with Misophonia, until someone can provide me with answers.
In hindsight, the more I learn about Misophonia, the more I see that Misophonia inhibited any type of healthy relationship I could have had with my mom. If she had known I was suffering from a neurological disorder, she would have learned what she could to help me, and not trigger me. If she had known, maybe we could have had a healthy relationship. If only there were ways to prevent this for future families… I have chosen to share a very personal story with you in hopes that it will help you fight for a stronger relationship with the Misophonia sufferer in your life.
It was such a relief to learn that what I suffer from is not a flaw in my personality, and also, that I am not alone in my experience. There are other people that have the same thoughts and feelings, and have felt the way that I have. Many Misophones have similar relationships with members of the families. There are people out there, right now, that are undiagnosed and suffering in silence as I did: blaming themselves, hating themselves, and thinking they are the worst people on the planet.
This is why we are raising awareness.