This is the #43 edition of our My Misophonia Story series. This week features Sammy (21) 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. Sammy, take it away…
Where are you from?
Minnesota, USA, but my parents are from the UK.
What do you do for a living?
I am a student studying Sustainability online via Arizona State University.
What are you passionate about / what are your hobbies?
I am passionate about my degree and related topics (sustainable resource management, community structures, materials and energy, tech innovations, tiny houses, and minimalism), health, travel, languages, and genuine conversations with the intent to learn about how other people view the world.
How old were you when you first realised you had an issue with certain sounds?
I was 12.
When did you first find out it was called misophonia?
It was a few years later, not sure exactly, but I remember being on tumblr and seeing a psych2go post about misophonia and then researching like mad and teaching what it was to all of my doctors, school 504 coordinator, teachers, etc.
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” ]Chewing/mouth sounds of any kind, water sounds (dripping, showers, etc), dishes clanking/crinkling plastic (sounds related to food that have morphed into triggers because they mean someone is eating or thinking about eating soon).[/bg_collapse]
Do you have any other sensory quirks?
Misokinesia, anything that would be a trigger sound if I could hear it is also a visual trigger. Also, I have fibromyalgia so my sensory perception of most things is a bit skewed since I am in physical pain all of the time, just to varying degrees.
Have you told other people about your misophonia and if so what was their reaction?
I’ve told a load of people about misophonia. There are two types of reactions generally, which are sensitive/curious and the really insensitive. The first just listens and asks questions and are kind and want to help. That is often doctors and professionals. I have also told people when trying to ask them to stop making a sound and they will either stop and say sorry or on the other hand just immediately make the sound more and laugh in your face.
What’s your funniest/most ridiculous misophonia-related moment?
What helps you to cope with your misophonia?
Music was most of my coping strategies when I first started having problems. One earbud in during school, sitting close to the door, and at the end of rows so triggers were only coming from one side. Earplugs and Over-the-ear headphones work well do.
If you are in grade school, talk to the school counselor for support, find the 504 coordinator and figure out an action plan, and email every teacher every semester stating that this is something you deal with and you are not intending to be rude but you will be using earbuds and may need to talk breaks if triggers are too bad. In college, emails are very useful as well and working with the school’s disability resource center.
I found an audiologist who specializes in Misophonia/Tinnitus. He gave me white noise playing hearing aids and they drastically improved my quality of life. He also recommends white noise whenever possible and especially when sleeping.
Anything that decreases stress in general: getting enough sleep, eating well (healthy fats, lots of vegetables, and proteins like fish), drinking enough water, essential oil (smells are a very positive sensory input for me), massages (or self-massage), learning really good time management, being flexible with yourself and not forcing yourself into unpleasant situations or staying once you realize it is not a good sensory place for you to be in (can be difficult for me because I hate “letting people down” if I can’t handle a setting but it is so much better to leave than just sit and suffer), BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
The philosophy that everyone is going through something and that the people who are unkind are just unable to express themselves properly, but deep down everyone just wants to be understood, loved, and feel connected. You can be kind to everyone, be grateful for what you do have, and help others when you have the energy to give but the boundary to say “no” if you are drained.
Petting animals is very therapeutic for me. Also, painting and even just seeing bright, fun colors. Taking pictures to look at things through another perspective. Being outside – I find the constant background noise is actually helpful than a very quiet house.
Being active in some way. Doing whatever you love, whether it be swimming or yoga or just stretching. Something light and calming.
Doing the Landmark Forum was really helpful for my perspective on life and taking the next step to living a healthy and happy life (yes, I had accommodations – headphones plugged into the PA system or I wouldn’t have been able to complete it).
What are your misophonic superpowers?
I basically don’t respond to fight or flight now. I was carrying a hot tray of food from the oven when I worked as a baker and it burned me but I just moved it so it wasn’t touching my skin anymore and then put it down gently. So surprised I didn’t just drop it!
Also, I am very good in crisis situations as well. Whether it be a fire alarm or medical crisis, I just go into “what do I need to do to make this situation better” mode.
Misophonia has also made extremely patient with just about anything else other than triggers, since at least it isn’t a trigger.
What’s the single most useful piece of misophonia related advice you’ve learnt?
Decrease everyday stress and making yourself and your health #1 priority.
What’s your very best life hack?
Not focusing on material possession but putting time and energy into experiences and relationships, including the relationship with yourself.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your fellow misophones?
I hear about too many people who have people in their lives using their misophonia against them – Just leave. You don’t need those type of people in your life. You deserve for people to treat you right <3
Also, find your passion and go for it. There is always a way.
If you don’t ask for an accommodation, you will never get it. Despite the awful interactions we have all had, most people are actually understanding if you are genuine and authentic with your request.
And finally! The quick fire round…
Favourite place you’ve visited:
Austria, I love the Alps!
Meet Me in The Woods by Lord Huron or House of the Rising Sun by the Animals
Overshoot by William Catton or Walden Two by B.F. Skinner
Favourite work of art:
Anything by Leonid Afremov
5 things you couldn’t live without:
Fun list – Chocolate, Animals (especially dogs), Color, Deep Conversations, and Travel
Practical List – Over-the-Ear Headphones, Earplugs, Pain relief (creams, gels, etc.), Acupuncture/Massage, and Phone/Computer
The description of your ” superpowers” really clicked with me. On quite a few occasions, ( a roaring fire on my deck, flood water breaking through a wall in my house, my oven on fire, etc. ) I handled a surprise crisis as though it was second nature. During the events, I was certainly “freaked” but at the same time, clear headed and focused on fixing the issue. Later, I actually wondered how I managed the crisis with such calm resolve. This is the first time I see those responses in new light, clearly not natural to the average person.
There have been references by others, concerning creativity being a common superpower for people like us. I have physical vision issues which limit my depth perception, a condition that would certainly diminish one’s interest or ability as a visual artist. Yet, artist, designer is what I have been for the 50 years of my professional life. I’ve joked that I’m an artistic engineer, since I habitually solve visual challenges, something difficult to describe here. My clients definitely notice and acknowledge this. I think ” out of the box ” way more than the average person.
Regarding both these behaviors, crisis and artistic, I often wonder after the fact, “how did I do that? “.
I’m so glad I could help you see your crisis response skills in a new light!
I agree that we often think a bit differently because we become so aware of our environment, either visually or auditorially. It can definitely give us a positive edge in the art world.
I would guess it has just become ingrained over the years from dealing with misophonia. It would be interesting if there was research about it to answer why.
I am still waiting to find out if anyone else finds loud conversation spoken in an accent, or a foreign language (English being a second language) more odious to their miso phobia. I am filled with angst whenever I go to a lecture, play, restaurant, even a concert for fear of hearing people in the audience talking.
Yes, conversations are frequently a trigger for me. I have only just come across misophonia, and can now understand my struggles, particularly as I am married to a Spanish woman and spend holidays with her family and friends, which always involves many long lunches and dinners, where I found myself unaccountably irritable with my inability to understand the conversations going on around me (I’m learning Spanish). Last night I walked out of a party and walked home alone, without telling anyone I was leaving, which, not surprisingly didn’t impress my wife. Today I decided to research a little and these crazy behaviours of mine suddenly make some kind of sense.
Thank you for the insight. Such useful information to try out. I hate having to walk away from a conversation in which I am triggered. However, that has immensely helped me instead of staying and becoming stressed, annoyed or even cry. I have a better grasp on my emotions then.