Holidays are supposed to be a time of love and family. Happy happy joy joy… not so much for someone who suffers from Misophonia.
As far back as I can remember, Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. The lights, the magic, the Christmas carols and the excitement.
Even as I grew older, Christmas was still magical. Before I had children (we are talking pre-internet days when you actually had to GO to the store to buy your gifts) I was always the first person finished with my shopping. My personal goal was to have all gifts bought and wrapped by September 1st. Why? At the time I thought that it was a matter of being ahead of the game. Looking back I see there was a completely different reason.
I suffer from Misophonia and frankly, I have always been on the introverted side (more than likely because of my condition.) The very last place that I wanted to be was in a crowded store or mall with all of the noise and people. Not to mention those torturous Salvation Army bell ringers. If I wanted to go to the mall to “soak up” the holiday spirit I was not obligated to stand in line with screaming children because my shopping was finished. That worked for me for many years.
Flash forward to modern day. I am a mother of two wonderful teenagers (that almost seems like a contradiction in terms.) Fortunately, with today’s technology, I am able to do my shopping online and have the convenience of delivery right to my door. The perfect solution for a Misophone.
With smaller children, you have the added tradition of going to see Santa. Talk about torment! Standing in a long line of screaming kids whining about how long it’s taking then when it is their turn they start to scream in fear! Who could blame them? Some of those Santas are terrifying and look like they belong more in a haunted house than spreading holiday joy! Here is a little tip that fortunately I discovered when my son was an infant… Santa shows up at the mall about two weeks before Thanksgiving. Most parents expect Santa to arrive after Thanksgiving so there are no lines! No lines, no kids, no noise! Probably the very best day to go see Santa is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Parents are so busy preparing for Thanksgiving and Black Friday the mall is empty!
I think it probably goes without saying that you NEVER attempt to go out on Black Friday! Although the grocery store is always empty so you can get your food shopping done with little or no stress. Besides, most of the Black Friday deals are offered online and offer free shipping. How can you not love that? No crowds, same deals, FREE shipping. Honestly, if you do end up paying a shipping charge it is usually worth it to avoid the triggers at the stores.
My misophonia has increased over the years to the point where going to the mall is no longer an option for me unless I want to end up having a total meltdown and can afford to spend several days afterwards recovering. Therefore, over the years Amazon has become my best friend. They have just about anything that you could need or want.
Due to the increase of my triggers, there are certain holiday traditions that have become complete agony for me. Christmas carols are a thing of the past, most have jingle bells which are absolutely maddening. Many holiday movies I am unable to watch for the very same reason.
On occasion, it is necessary to go to the drugstore. Someone is bound to get sick during the holidays. The best time to go is EARLY in the morning, the bell ringers are not out until much later and they tend to finish up by 8 pm. The same applies to grocery stores, these seem to be the regular hangouts for those damn bell ringers. It is not that I am not a charitable person, I have no problem with them soliciting donations as long as it is done tastefully. In my opinion, the way they ring that bell is downright abusive to the bell not to mention the auditory assault it does on a person. (Not just Misophonia sufferers but people/children who suffer from autism or people with PTSD) Because of the bell ringing, this is one charity that I refuse to support. If they ever decide to stand quietly and maybe hold up a sign, my wallet might leave the purse, but until then… well we all know what I think they can do with that bell. I am often tempted to offer them cash to STOP ringing the bell, at least until I am gone.
One thing that has remained a constant for me over the years is the holiday family dinner which is celebrated at my in-laws. Unlike most people, I adore my in-laws, my problem with our family event is not about seeing them, it is about the triggers. For years it became a ritual that the morning of the family dinner I was “edgy”, I would subconsciously pick a fight with my husband. Several years ago, he pointed out this pattern to me. As I reflect back, it was true, we really did end up in a fight on Christmas Eve. I have come to realize that picking a fight was almost like a coping mechanism for me. Maybe the fight would result in cancelling our plans? Just my theory.
After I was diagnosed with Misophonia and hyperacusis I became more aware of my triggers and avoiding them, the dynamic changed. My in-laws are aware of the fact that I suffer from Misophonia. I am not so sure that they really understand that I cannot eat dinner with them, my mother in law seems to be confused when I eat in the other room. “You are not sitting with us?” she will ask. I feel guilty but I know that I cannot sit at a table with all of the triggers. Now that I am more conscious of my triggers, I can be better prepared for them.
Christmas Eve, I try to keep very low key, I relax as much as I can to prepare for dinner. It is funny that most people prepare by rushing around to get everything done beforehand. I do not have that luxury anymore and that is okay. Since I have adopted the tradition of “me time” I find that my husband and I are not fighting during the holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I am still stressed over the triggers, but since my husband and kids understand, they try their best to help me “prepare” myself for the event.
Time to go! We have already explained to my mother in law that I will be dining in the kitchen. I know that this is not how everyone wants it, but honestly, if I eat in the dining room with everyone else it will be a disaster. The last family dinner I ate in the kitchen, with earplugs and after taking a whole Xanax and I still ended up curled in a ball in their bathroom having a total meltdown from the triggers in the other room so I cannot imagine the devastation of eating in the same room.
This year, I honestly contemplated staying home and letting my husband take the kids. That plan is still in the back of my mind. I do not want to ruin Christmas for anyone.
Even though I am faced with all of these challenges, I still manage to enjoy the holidays. Even though our traditions are not “cookie cutter” images as the way things “should be”. We have our own traditions, and all that really matters is that you are spending time and making memories with the ones you love.
From my family to yours Happy Holidays and wishing you all a very Silent Night.