2018 would go down in history as one of the most challenging years in my life. If my life were a book and you were to flip through the pages and land on chapter 2018, you would be sure to find that all its pages are highlighted or emboldened to emphasis how deeply impacting the events that took place were. It’s an important year for me for numerous reason but most importantly it was a year of crystallization; so many things became clear to me and I made multiple life changing decisions.
The best thing I did for myself that year was to embark on a lifelong journey of self love and self discovery and as time went by, I slowly started to unravel the numerous knots I found in my thoughts and started to understand the little pieces about myself that were unfamiliar and frightening. I cannot begin to list the multiple things I’ve come to learn about myself or how much I’ve grown since last year.
As you can already glimpse from the title of this post, I want to speak about a condition I didn’t realize I had/ have struggled with for the most part of my life or even knew existed; misophonia.
For those of you who don’t know misophonia is a disorder in which certain common sounds, trigger strong emotional or physiological responses that some might perceive as unreasonable given the circumstance. In simpler terms if you have misophonia, you might describe a certain sound as “driving you really really crazy and you are this close to losing it”. The feeling you experience is much stronger than a mere irritation or disturbance. The sounds that trigger you could cause you to either feel and express deep anger and annoyance or to panic and flee.
The day I learnt about misophonia, I kid you not when I say this but I teared up. I finally had an answer/closure to something that has bothered me for years. One could reason or argue that with time you could get used to something but with misophonia you can never get used to a sound that triggers you; however frequently you may hear it.
To some of you this may not be a big deal but it is to me and others that experience the same.
Personally, I never understood why for one second I could be smiling and then the next I would grow soooo irritable and even angry from hearing a mere sound, that I would want to scream or even cry because it hurts to hear it. It never occurred to me and never would I have imagined that its a real health condition, albeit rare many others share my struggles. In Nigeria you have fewer than 100 thousand cases per year. Each time I overreacted or would feel my body getting hot and feel a bitterness in my throat from hearing a sound, I would hate myself and be angry at myself. I was never kind to myself whenever I experienced these strong feelings because I was ignorant. Even though I could feel the real psychological pain and irritation from hearing a sound, I would tell myself why are you overreacting? Why are you feeling bitter? Why is your body getting hot over a sound? Pull yourself together and quit being a difficult person to deal with.
To help you understand better, people with misophonia are triggered by different sounds. With me specifically I get triggered from hearing these sounds: food chewing, brushing, intense typing, nail clipping, snoring, whispering, shouting and joint/knuckles cracking.
With chewing for example a lot of people, especially my family used to wonder why I liked to eat alone, or why I would take my lunch or dinner to my room or preferred dining and eating at restaurants alone. I couldn’t exactly say sorry I hate eating with you guys because the sound of you chewing makes me feel like stabbing myself with a fork. It has nothing to do with me being a recluse and not wanting to spend time with people, but I literally can’t bear the sound of chewing or the slurping of a drink with a straw. It’s more tolerable for me to eat with people with good table manners but the worst is eating with people who make sounds whilst eating.
My knowledge of misophonia with deeper introspection made me also understand why I avoided and hated going to the cinema. I used to tell people I simply don’t like cinemas because it’s not my scene and I prefer to watch movies alone at home, but the real truth is I don’t like going to the cinema because I can’t block out the sounds of people biting and chewing their popcorn; it disturbs my emotions and spoils my whole cinematic experience. My heart starts to beat really fast and I just grow very irritable and will start shifting in my chair multiple times out of discomfort. Self awareness is so important. What’s ironic about this condition is that you are not affected when you are the one creating the sound i.e when you chew or brush or crack your fingers it doesn’t trigger you but when someone else does, it’s like the sound was amplified by a million times.
To help shed more light on the gravity of this health condition, I remember reading an article one time about a mother who was mentally stable but killed her child because of the sound the baby made. At the time I honestly couldn’t understand what could drive a person to take the life of another, especially her child simply because of the sound the baby made. This is Misophonia in its extreme form. It’s a horrible condition and there are levels to it and I wish people spoke more about it to raise awareness. The more we talk about it the more people can learn about it and get help for themselves or for their loved ones.
The good thing about learning about misophonia, as someone that suffers from it is that I feel a lot more empowered for the fact that I can now do something about it. I can also share this knowledge I have with my loved ones for their own better understanding of myself. It’s not just Altine is very irritable and picks on the slightest things but Altine struggles with this and that so lets help or support her in dealing with this, by not doing this or that near her otherwise it causes this unpleasant reaction out of her. They would also learn to not take things personally. Most people can’t stand a screeching sound because the sound is an actual nuisance, but normal sounds like breathing, yawning, chewing, water dripping from a tap, hiccups, snapping gum, foot tapping can put someone in a really dark and horrible mood. It’s a difficult thing to deal with because you are surrounded by these sounds constantly and have no real control over them.
As humans we are quick to judge people and ascribe labels like oh this person is anti-social or a recluse because they avoid people. What people don’t know is that misophonia affects some worse than others and it can lead to isolation, as people suffering from this condition try to avoid these trigger sounds. It’s literally a means of survival. It affects your ability to fully function and socialize, and ultimately your mental health.
As you can imagine there is no treatment for this except avoiding the sound, going to therapy or in severe cases using sound protection (headphones) or creating “noise-free” zones within living spaces.
I know for a fact that a lot of you reading this would be learning about this for the first time; it’s not something a lot of people are aware of but I hope I have been able to shed some light on this important issue. I hope that with this new found knowledge some of you could become less judgmental of others and more understanding of them.
Please don’t exploit the weaknesses of those suffering from misophonia by deliberating creating the sounds that trigger them to upset them; it deeply affects us to a point that is inexpressible and most of us are trying to grow more tolerant of these sounds but its nearly impossible, so please be understanding and patient with us.
Kindly share this article with a friend or family you think suffers from misophonia and is unaware of it or anyone that may need it.
Do have a lovely and memorable week ahead!
Ma Salam x