I’m Meis, a Dutch Digital Nomad with Misophonia, who has found her healing – sort of – by changing life drastically.
At the age of 15 the Misophonia disaster was waiting to happen. From being irritated at dinner, to now longer being able to walk around the house without headphones – anxious to attack my parents or to burst out into tears – it was done within only a few weeks. I moved to Amsterdam at the age of 18 and saw my parents – who triggered me the most – less and less. At first, with friends and roommates, I was still able to gather around one kitchen table, but this as well was about to change soon.
I dropped out of uni and searched help at several therapists and psychologists, but there was no one who would get or understand me. Feeling horrible and guilty, I started to skip dinner parties, birthdays, holidays and Christmas and often found myself home alone in my room, with earplugs and a blanket up until the top of my head, just to protect myself from the threatening world outside and sounds in my own house. I got obsessed with eating and exercising and felt depressed and lonely. I felt like a prisoner, captured in my own head, my small room and the world outside. Everybody was “armed”, except me. Opening a kitchen cabinet or someone taking an apple out of its bag, would make me feel I was balancing on the edge of a cliff, about crash down. Everybody tried to understand, but nobody who did.
I stared my second study and went on exchange to Thailand, where I was surprised to notice – despite shamelessly loud gurgling and chewing – that my Misophonia was less present than in Holland. I was far more relaxed, enjoyed social gatherings and was able to make it through class.
Being back home, the drama started all over again. I started to suffer from hyper ventilation, faced challenges even getting to school, left many exams without finishing them, due to the sounds surrounding me made by fellow students, and I almost quit studying again. Then the Misophonia item was addressed on national television. It was finally acknowledged. My last examen I made effortlessly in a separate room…
Finding a job was rather challenging in 2014; finding a job where I could sit through a workday likely impossible. Every workday started with mentally preparing myself leaving the house, entering the office, than by screening my colleagues. Who had an apple, who was drinking coffee and who’s birthday was it today? My job was about avoiding triggers, surviving the work day, not about delivering the best results.
5 years of studying in which I was never able to reach my full potential, a job where I was also achieving less than I was able to and a social life – that I avoided mainly – where I hid myself strategically in corners and tried to get relaxed with the help of overly full wine glasses. Then when I had to leave my student flat, panic hit me hard. Gone, was the only place in this world where I felt safe and where I was in control of triggers.
In the hospital they’ve helped me well and they gave me the right tools to make life just a bit more relaxed. The acknowledgement and encountering fellow people suffering from Misophonia made me feel better. But after the treatment I got sucked into the negative downward spiral again.
The stress and desperation of not being able to perform well at work and to find a my own flat that I could pay for, made being with my family and friends (triggers) even more stressful. Subsequently, this made me unhappy and lonely, which caused again stress and eczema. It was getting harder and harder to be a strong, fun and smart ‘me’ and tolerating sounds was getting impossible. My negative Misophonia circle was complete…
This was not MY life in which I had control. The Misophonia had the control, everybody around me had control, my friends and family had control, every person making a sound had control. But where was MY control of MY life.
A new start, a new me
I wanted to escape from the life where misophonia was playing the lead. I quit my job, obtained a English teacher certificate and booked a flight to Buenos Aires: a new start.
In the three months that followed, I slept with 5 people in one dormitory, in the hostel where I was working in exchange for a bed. This wouldn’t be fun for anybody, but for me it was a huge achievement. I finally felt strong again.
I was gone from my world full of Misophonia, bad memories, associations and limitations. I entered a world in which everything was new, new impulses, new people, new associations and new possibilities – a new me. The Misophonia was still there, but just a little bit less. Everything that was ‘at home’ a nightmare, was here only a bad dream. I felt great, happy and strong in my ‘new’ life – which instantly reduced the symptoms.
I started to run out of my savings and panic started to take over. Then a very welcome guest entered the hostel, a guy who needed someone to do a writing job for him. This job was the start of my freelance career.
Months applying 40 hours a week to different jobs followed. I dived into world of writing and online marketing and slowly I started to get some clients. In the two years that followed I moved from Argentina to Holland, Colombia and Mexico and slowly I started to become self-sufficient as a freelancer.
I started to feel stronger and stronger. Negative associations and experiences made room for positive associations and experiences. Little by little the symptoms were – and still are – getting less fierce,
Finally people see who I really am, what I’m capable of – as I can work at home. And finally I’m the sweet fun daughter for my parents again, with who I’ve lost so many precious moments and time in the last 12 years.
From a drama movie to a romantic comedy
I‘ve started to write a book, in which I write about my experiences with Misophonia, my way to independency and my (trigger) experiences abroad – triggers that slowly started to get positive association
Loud people in the streets of Cali Colombia while practicing yoga, during which we amusingly had to shake our but as a warm-up. A ride in a ‘collectivo’- a shared taxi – to the supermarket, where we sat with 8 people crammed up together and a sweet mum started to hand out rock hard coconut taco’s.
In the program in the hospital, the movies – where positive feelings had to be matched to negative triggers – worked for me the best. I feel like I’ve stepped into my own movie. From drama movie, to an adventurist movie to maybe even a romantic comedy.
I’m very happy and relieved to notice that I am able to recover the connections in my brains partially. I even feel hopeful due to the fact that I’ve developed a new trigger – the sound of a running tap – after having been told daily in Mexico to be aware of the water shortage. It gives me hope noticing that my brains indeed can be trained and changed. I can recover bad connections, as long as I get the chance to do so – and this was in my case only possible to break the negative circle I was trapped in.
Currently I’m living in Argentina and I’m considering to move to Spain next year. Last summer we’ve celebrated Sinterklaas (Dutch tradition, normally taking place on December 5th) for the first time in 10 years again as a family, without ‘pepernoten’ (traditional cookies, rock hard), but with some snacks – something I had never imagined to be possible. Time to make up for all the time that we’ve lost.
One day I hope to finish my book and to inspire all people with mental issues to live life according the possibilities they have, not by the unfortunate limitations that they are facing. We are more than this illness. The world is at your feet.Want to learn more? Join a Workshop with Dr. Jennifer Brout or Duke CMER at Misophonia Education.