I would like to share with you an exquisite essay written by a teenage girl with misophonia. She is in the 11th grade, and as you will see, describes her experience with the disorder with amazing detail. I hope that reading this will help others with misophonia feel less alone, and will help those unfamiliar with the disorder to better understand it. Most of all, I hope this essay generates hope amongst sufferers and their families.
“I know it was winter on this particular day because it was snowing. Even inside the classroom, I was wearing my puffy winter coat that made me look like a marshmallow. With winter comes cold symptoms: coughing, sneezing, sniffling, etc. My desk buddy probably had a slight cold as he was plagued with the signs of one. Usually, I would hear the sounds that accompany a cold and not think twice of them, but for a reason unbeknownst to me, this day was different. I remember thinking, “You don’t know what I hear; I wish you could hear what I hear.”
When an innocent sniffle exited his nose, my world of rainbows and unicorns turned upside down. Somehow, the simple sniffle resembled a meteor violently crashing into an unsuspecting planet. The stars and moon twinkle brightly, unaware of the strife the poor planet has experienced. The meteor brings fiery reigns of terror to the innocent planet, and once the meteor is gone, there is nothing but rubble left. Even after all this destruction has occurred, the stars and moon continue to shine dazzlingly beautiful gleams of light, oblivious to the planet’s agony. But then, the planet screams, a scream filled with unthinkable amounts of pain, and the stars and moon stop shining so brightly.
I am that planet and the meteor is a disorder called misophonia. Misophonia is a neurological disorder in which the brain misinterprets auditory stimuli as noxious, or harmful. When exposed to specific sounds, the individual with misophonia cascades into the fight/flight response. These fight or flight responses use up so much energy, it feels equivalent to sprinting five miles. During these responses, the heart rate speeds up, blood flows quicker, and the person perspires. Now imagine experiencing this 50 times in just half an hour.
Unfortunately, at that moment I had no idea that I had misophonia and felt only as if the world’s sounds were attacking me.
I pulled up the hood of my coat and tried to cocoon myself into it to block out the sound of the sniffles and other noises. I snuggled deeper and deeper into my sanctuary, satisfied with the amount of noise it blocked out. Sadly, this small safe haven didn’t last for long.
“Jean, you are not allowed to wear a hood during class,” the teacher spoke from the front of the classroom. She said this so nonchalantly as if it would be the simplest thing in the world to remove my hood. Yet, in reality, she was asking me to remove the gear that was protecting me from a meteor. I wasn’t one to disregard a teacher’s request, so I took off the hood and allowed the meteor to continue to attack me. It viciously struck me over and over again, until I was nothing but a pile of rubble.
With the help of a counselor, I managed to rebuild the rubble into the person I am today. When the meteors ambush me, they bounce off my skin, only leaving behind a few scratches and burns. While I might have felt resentment towards my desk buddy in the moment, I’ve learned to utilize empathy to cope with the meteors of misophonia. It is important for someone with misophonia to know that it won’t stop them from living. Do I get annoyed sometimes? Yes. Do I have bad days? Yes. Yet, the good outweighs the bad, and I know misophonia doesn’t have the capability of controlling me.”
Published anonymously with permission of author and parents.Want to learn more? Join a Workshop with Dr. Jennifer Brout or Duke CMER at Misophonia Education.