For about 12 years, I’ve been coping with my misophonia. Throughout the years, I’ve developed several coping mechanisms that work well for me. Furthermore, I also do my best to understand how my misophonia works, and develop new or refine old coping mechanisms. Looking at it in this way has helped me get less frustrated, less enraged, and realizing that I indeed can take control.
I’m not saying this has cured or fixed me. It definitely hasn’t. I still have my bad days where almost everything triggers me, and I step out for a few minutes trying to calm my beating heart, feeling mentally drained. However, what I am saying is that you can control the way you react to your triggers if you take the time to analyze the way your misophonia works. I write this realizing that it may not work for other people, but is definitely worth a shot.
Back in my early years, when I heard a trigger, I panicked and left the situation. I banged walls, sometimes creating holes and making myself bleed. I hit myself, threw things, screamed, mimicked the trigger excessively, cursed, hit my head against something, and finally, sat down to breathe and played something calming in my earphones. All the while, not really feeling calm because everything hurt, and I was near tears. I was sick and tired of feeling compelled to do such harmful things to myself. So I decided to try and train my brain to not compel me to do such things. Allow me to provide some examples:
Understanding my misophonia, and what I did
Whenever I sat around people eating, for example, I put in my earplugs and kept my headphones nearby. If someone was chewing on something and it triggered me even through my earplugs, I took a deep breath and put on my headphones. I’ll make it a point to try and stick around to finish my food before going somewhere quiet to calm down. While away from the offending noise, I’ll take a few more deep breaths and tell myself that it’s ok. Instead of punching something, continued deep breathing to slow my heart down and calming music. Other things I listen to are white noise, thunder, rain, and storm sounds. After that, I feel a bit better and head back out.
On the bad days
Depending on how I’m feeling on a given day, I determine how sensitive I might be to triggers. What normally wouldn’t bother me a whole lot might set me over the edge. If I didn’t sleep well the night before, I might feel more irritable and sensitive. If I’m just in a bad mood, it’s possible I might get more stressed and feel more enraged at a trigger. If I’m going through PMS, it’s harder to think positively and I may react very strongly. If my anxiety is high, sitting through triggers is harder than usual. It is especially difficult going through bad days on school days.
So, what do you do on your bad days?
What I usually do is pay close attention to how much I can take. On normal days, I can typically sit through triggers and I’ll be ok-ish, and I don’t have to escape all the time. On bad days, when I hear a trigger, I know that it’ll only take a couple more until I’m at my limit. I’ll escape for a longer period of time on these days because of my sensitivity.
I made progress with my misophonia, but it’s far from perfect
“S” sounds are still my worst triggers. I have yet to come up with a way to tell my brain that it’s ok; “s” sounds will not kill me. It’s hard to tell myself that, however, when hearing that trigger is like someone sticking a sharp pencil in my ear. If anything, this trigger is what messes me up all the time when trying to understand my misophonia and train my brain. I was part of a volunteer training back in August. The volunteer coordinator triggered me to no end with his “s” sounds, even on my good days. There was only so much I could do. For individual work, I requested going to a separate, quiet room to write in. The talking was frustrating, and I couldn’t concentrate or even understand what I was trying to work on. For group work, I chipped in as best I could, but usually resulted in me trying to listen.
Instead of wallowing in despair, I’m going to focus on the progress I’ve already made. I don’t scream or punch things (or myself) anymore when I hear a trigger and it sets me off. I’ve stopped hurting myself. And, I’ve learned to be assertive. If I need accommodations and can’t do it alone, I tell the right person. For instance, requesting a quiet room to read/write. Or, going to the doctor and requesting a note to give my professors so I can wear my headphones during class. I understand the limits of my misophonia on the good and bad days, and while I still have progress to make with my worst trigger, I’ve still managed to take some control over my misophonia. I have an amazing boyfriend, and he’s one of the reasons I want to do as much as I can to control and understand my misophonia.
I know this won’t work for everyone, but in the midst of all the sad posts I read, both on Facebook and elsewhere, I wanted to share something a little more uplifting. I will continue doing what I can, and further educating myself on misophonia and the research being done.