I’ve been struggling with misophonia since I was about nine years old. Before then, I don’t remember ever going into a rage when hearing a trigger sound such as eating, but I was always very adamant about never eating with your mouth open or licking your fingers. But by the time I got to fourth grade, I would become enraged when hearing my friends eating at school lunches, and eating at home at a dinner table was a nightmare. The worst part was not hearing the trigger sounds, as horrible as that was for me, but was instead the fact that I felt alone in the world. Whenever I would tell somebody to stop making that noise, they would just keep doing it, or because we were fourth graders, they would continue making the noise but louder, entirely for the sake of annoying me.
The first time I heard about misophonia was in a Reader’s Digest article called “Are You Normal or Nuts?” when I was twelve. People would write in questions asking if it is a normal thing to do, and the questions would be answered. One person wrote in, saying that they get a headache whenever they hear silverware hitting a plate or bowl, and that they couldn’t stand the sound of somebody eating. The verdict was “possibly nuts”, which I was somewhat offended by at the time, but more importantly, I saw the word “misophonia” for the first time in my life. This was in 2013, back when misophonia was even less known than it is now, so I didn’t know what it meant besides a short description stating that it is characterized by a loathing of certain sounds. I wish they had elaborated more on what misophonia meant, but I was happy to know that there was someone out there who could relate to what I lived with.
“Although I knew what my problem was, I felt like I had no way to deal with it, and I was still completely alone in the world.”
As I got older, I became increasingly angry whenever I could hear anybody making any of the noises that set me off. This included chewing, crunching, people shuffling their feet across the floor, and people breathing too loudly. I would whip my head around at the perpetrator and give them my best glare to make them stop, but it never seemed to work. I wanted to either run away from the noise or strangle them, and it took all I had in me not to do that. I was constantly stressed, and I dreaded mealtimes. I also dreaded taking tests, because teachers would give out chewing gum to “help us focus”. It completely backfired on me, and I was less focused than I would have been without gum. I wanted to tell the teachers that these noises bothered me and I would appreciate not allowing food in class, but I was too afraid I would be judged and dismissed as somebody who got annoyed too easily. I couldn’t tell my parents either. Although I knew what my problem was, I felt like I had no way to deal with it, and I was still completely alone in the world.
My life changed when I was fifteen and my father told me he knew the name for what I was going through, and that he contacted a doctor specializing in misophonia to help me deal with it. I started talking to Dr Brout last year, and being able to vent to her and discuss coping techniques has made my life so much better. For example, I work at a place where I constantly interact with customers, and many of them are chewing gum or eating ice cream. It would be incredibly rude to ask them to stop or walk away myself, so instead of getting hung up on the noises this person made, I remind myself that I will only be in contact with them for a few seconds of my life, and I focus on the transaction or my own breathing until they are gone. For me, knowing that the interaction is going to be short helps a lot.
“I am grateful for the confidence with misophonia I have now, and my quality of life has definitely improved thanks to a supportive group of people I can talk to, and of course, my headphones.”
Talking to Dr Brout has also helped me build confidence in discussing misophonia with people around me. I’m now able to wear noise-cancelling headphones playing white noise at the dinner table (when I am out to eat, I bring them under my shirt and cover my ears with my hair so as not to bring attention towards myself). I was also able to tell my history teacher last year that I was unable to focus when he or my classmates eat in class, and he imposed a no-eating rule in the class in order to help me.
If anybody suffering from misophonia is afraid to contact somebody out of fear of being laughed away, don’t be. Most people will be accepting and will want to help you. It has improved my life exponentially being able to talk to people about the condition and synergizing with them to make a better outcome for all of us. My only regret is not talking to my parents about it and meeting Dr Brout sooner. I would have been so much calmer, focused, and I could have been able to prevent teachers from handing out gum during class. Still, I am grateful for the confidence with misophonia I have now, and my quality of life has definitely improved thanks to a supportive group of people I can talk to, and of course, my headphones.
Written by Victoria Gough