What I Wish My Family Knew About My Misophonia
We are all gathered around the table for dinner. Forks scrape across plates, mouths chew, drinks are sipped and runny noses sniff. Just one of these noises alone is enough to drive me into a frustrated breakdown. When I tense up “randomly” during dinner or have to get up to refill my water more times than necessary, it’s not because I don’t appreciate the beautiful gift of gathering around the table. It’s simply because I need just one minute of silence.
I have a condition not many people seem to know about called misophonia. Misophonia has become a part of my day-to-day life since I was 13 and has seemed to progressively expand its library of trigger sounds along the way.
When I hear a trigger noise, my body engages in a knee-jerk reaction, such as flinching or tensing up. Depending on the loudness, severity and duration of the noise, I have fight-or-flight reactions, ranging from rushing out of a room to remaining there as tears stream down my face.
Misophonia makes it hard for me to sit through meals with my family no matter how much I love them. While we eat, my mom always makes sure there is music playing so I have a distraction, and my family tries to be extremely patient with me even though they don’t understand why I am getting worked up over something as simple as a noise.
I can’t sit through a movie in a theater because people around me are eating their popcorn, and it’s all I can focus on. I’ve had to switch classes from lecture halls to online courses simply because someone sniffed, and I knew I couldn’t sit for an hour a day, three days a week in a room of more than 100 people and remain calm. I take my tests in a special testing center so I might actually have a better chance of concentrating on myClaudia LaGarde test with a lower number of possible trigger sources surrounding me.
Misophonia is not something I can just “get over” or “take some deep breaths” to deal with. Instead of telling me to relax or grow up, take the time to ask me what I need. Take a minute to ground me or let me take a minute for myself. I have to try a lot harder than most teens my age to be able to tolerate being around people, but I am trying.
Hello, old friend. It’s me, the one who doesn’t like noises. The one who gets upset with people for chewing or sniffing or slurping or tapping their fingers on things or basically doing things that are typical bodily functions.
You have controlled my life for the past six years. You have dictated what I do, where I go and what times I do things. You forced me to arrange my life into an exhausting array of avoidance. I miss out on going to the movies with friends and will never have those dreaded college lecture hall stories to tell my children. I wish I could get through a meal with my family or sit in a waiting room without being driven into an anxious meltdown.
Misophonia, I can’t show people how I am feeling when you cause me to become enraged. The only physical thing I could ever show people to represent the way you make me feel is the imprints on my palms from digging my nails into them. People see me react to a sound or movement that triggers you and become irritated with me for having a reaction. How dare they get irritated with me? It isn’t me, it’s you!
No matter how exhausting you are, thank you. Thank you for stepping back into the shadows of my mind when I am out at a restaurant and many other things are going on. Thank you for teaching me that everyone needs their own adaptations in life and that we are not cookie cutter people. But most of all, thank you for helping me appreciate the tranquility of being alone, the beauty of silence and the times I get to freely enjoy with my family with minimal triggers.
Claudia LaGarde is a misophonia.com guest writer.
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