This is the #59 edition of our My Misophonia Story series. This week features Ashlan (35) from the USA. Each week we’ll feature a new reader story, so if you’d like to share yours, please drop us a line. Ashlan, take it away…
Where are you from?
What do you do for a living?
Artist and Architect
What are you passionate about / what are your hobbies?
My family, art in every form, reading, writing poetry, spending time in the woods, human and animal rights, the value of mental health and recovery from trauma
How old were you when you first realised you had an issue with certain sounds?
When I was 9, my eardrum ruptured and I became aware of my aversion to sounds but even before then I remember preferring silence
When did you first find out it was called misophonia?
I didn’t find out until I was 28 when my condition was exacerbated that I began research and found the diagnosis. I believe a combination of sensitive eardrum scar tissue, ten years living with an abusive husband for whom I had to keep the house quiet even with small children and a baby, and later PTSD and stalking from the same man made me hyper aware and angrily adverse to certain sounds
What are your 3 biggest triggers? [bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#eb9500″ icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Click to Show Triggers” collapse_text=”Click to Hide Triggers” ]Multi-layered talking / talking over the television
Repetitive tapping / clicking noises (nail clipping is the worst – I trim everyones nails myself, keyboard sounds on a phone, monotonous music with the same beat)
High-pitched scrapes / squeals (kids screaming just because, twangy southern accents)
Do you have any other sensory quirks?
Anything abruptly loud tends to cause me to scream back in response. I find myself jerking by head or my left shoulder repeatedly when I am overwhelmed
Strong or dissonantly layered smells.
Strobe lights or fast movements on television (I can’t watch my son play video games).
Have you told other people about your misophonia and if so what was their reaction?
Yes, most are understanding but some are incredulous like it isn’t a valid condition that warrants a specific diagnosis – I am just “annoyed” by the sound.
What’s your funniest/most ridiculous misophonia-related moment?
My co-worker was clicking a pen in the middle of a meeting. I didn’t want to interrupt my boss as he was speaking so I texted my husband as a distraction. The text read “If he doesn’t stop clicking this pen in the next two seconds, I am going to jam it into his eye.” That definitely would have interrupted the meeting as well but it made me feel better to imagine a more climactic end to the noise.
I also had a moment with a horribly shrill southern helicopter-parent yelling at her child in a park that resulted in a poem titled ‘Curdled’. [Editor’s note: you can see Ashalan’s poem, Curdled here]
What helps you to cope with your misophonia?
White Noise apps for bedtime. Headphones always accessible for music. Petting dogs. For immediate reactions, I plug my ears and focus intently on my heartbeat and my breathing. If it is unknown people or sounds that just exist, I will try to leave the area. If it is people I know, I have no problem addressing it with them directly. I am probably brusk about it but that’s my personality anyway. I am in EMDR therapy so I have other coping techniques I use for panic & anxiety. I have a “calm place” to access and I keep the following scripts on my phone for quick access. Also the 5-4-3-2-1 technique.
What are your misophonic superpowers?
I am acutely aware of my environment at all times and tend to read the room before anyone else. I do get extra-sensory vibes from others, even strangers. Sometimes situations can just feel off and I don’t know why but my intuition is usually correct. I have the nose of a bloodhound and can smell anything first even subtly. I feel like this sets me up to be as safe as I possibly can be in any given situation.
What’s the single most useful piece of misophonia related advice you’ve learnt?
Be unapologetic about stating what you need from those around you. I used to feel bad about asking someone to stop what they were doing because I felt like I was infringing on them. But the reality is that they probably don’t know they are making the noise in the first place and are understanding about changing their behavior. If it continues after addressing it, I will probably snap at them but I don’t feel bad at that point because they had all the information and chose to keep doing it. An epileptic person wouldn’t apologize about having a seizure would they?
What’s your very best life hack?
Address your past objectively with the intent to become healthier mentally. Your past has shaped who you are positively and negatively. There are so many aspects of my personality that make more sense now that I understand my upbringing and traumas. There is so much I use to blame myself for that was never my fault. When you just sit back and make excuses, thats when you become stagnate. You will never reach your true self by making excuses.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your fellow misophones?
It seems like most other misophones tend to be triggered by humans, the built environment, and modern lifestyle noises. As much as possible, spend time within and listening to nature. There is so much beauty, stillness, and inner peace to be found in the woods or at night away from the man-made world.
Also, feelings are real, but they are not reality. Your feelings of frustration and anger in the moment are valid but your fears of being difficult or weird are not true.
And finally! The quick fire round…
Favourite place you’ve visited:
Boston & Salem, Massachusetts… the art museums and Proctor’s Ledge (I cried at both)
Any song by Incubus specifically Wish You Were Here and Clair de Lune by Debussy for calming
Any writing by Ray Bradbury specifically Dandelion Wine, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, and the All Souls Series by Deborah Harkness
Favourite work of art:
(Ridiculously hard question for an artist to answer…) Houses of Parliament by Claude Monet, Thin Ice by Andrew Wyeth, Sixteenth of September by Rene Magritte, any photograph by Ansel Adams, Pelvis Series by Georgia O’Keefe
5 things you couldn’t live without:
My children (son, step-daughters, and dogs)
Nature (TREES and water)
Art in all forms which includes books, poetry, and music
You are very brave. Multi-layered talking & squealing kids annoy me too. I was once on a flight from Madrid to Manchester (UK) where there was a whinging child who suddenly squealed really loudly. He was obviously angry about something but his parents were completely ignoring him. Anyway, I lost it and shouted at him to be quiet. I ended up shaking, hyperventilating, in tears, surrounded by cabin crew who thought I was having a panic attack. All because of this badly behaved child. It has put me off flying and I now stay away from crowds.
Thankyou for your email, so nice to have your support. I have had to put up with this condition since I was at High School so it has been along time. I haven’t really told anyone so good to have your support.
Thank you Ashlan, I have found so much of this very helpful/useful.
I’d love to know what what the 5,4,3,2,1 technique is?