Monday, May 28, 2012

Misophonia

I recently watched an episode of 20/20 that was titled "Medical Mysteries" or something like that.  I remember when I saw the title (it was on my dvr) of the episode, it sounded rather boring to me.  I rather like hearing stories of crimes that have been solved...cold cases...etc.  But, I was bored, so I thought....ok, let's see what mysteries there are this time.  The very first story made my jaw drop to the floor and a great weight lifted off my shoulders.  I finally knew what was wrong with me and I wasn't alone (and after talking about it on Facebook, I discovered so many others who are just as sick as I am...lol).

Misophonia.  It is a condition where one has a sensitivity to certain sounds.  Now this isn't a sensory issue where loud firecrackers hurt your ears.  It is more of a particular sound like the clicking of a pen, chewing, the way someone talks.  It can elicit reactions as little as a small irritation to violent outbursts.  The girl they mostly focused on in the story was so sensitive to certain sounds that she cannot be in the same room with her mother unless her mother does not make any noise.  She gets violent...will actually hit her mother at the sound of her own voice.  Now this is extreme.  They explained that most people who have misophonia do not go to this extreme.

You see, for years/decades, I have felt so.....weird....odd....mad at myself because the smallest thing can elicit a strong reaction with me.  It started when I was very young.  My father would do things that not only irritated me, but would make me angry.  I was fairly scared of my dad (he wasn't violent or abusive, but he was a football coach so could be a bit rough), so I would hold in these emotions, but he would drive me crazy.  What did he do?  He chewed...the sound of him eating would drive me to the brink of insanity.  The sound of his fork hitting the plate would make me mad.  Dinner time was a stressful time for me as I tried my hardest to block out the sounds he made.  I am not talking mild irritation...I am talking wound up nerves, stomach tied up, want to pull my hair out.  You remember those Bugs Bunny cartoons when Bugs Bunny would get all twisted up??


Well, this was me daily.  And it wasn't just the way he chewed or used his fork.  My dad would often smack his lips, or click his pen, or tap the dashboard, or leave the turn signal on.  I was a ball of nerves living at home because I never (well, I would on occasion), ever tell my dad he was irritating me.  I felt guilty.  He was my dad...I am supposed to respect him...and I did.

When I moved out, I discovered that there was more in the world that irritated me and it wasn't some ill feelings towards my dad.  People clicking their pens, tapping, water dripping, foot tapping....all drove me nuts.

When I got married, I discovered new challenges.  There is a long list of things that my husband (Matt) does that irritates me to the point of extreme anger.  Luckily, I do not have the fear of my husband that I did for my dad...but I did harbor a lot of guilt.  I am open with my husband about the habits he has that cause me great irritation....but that leads to other things like is there something wrong with our relationship that he irritates me so much!??!!  He would wonder about it because the seemingly small things would drive me nuts.  He would have to admit that small things in the world would drive me nuts, too....but it was harder to see that since we spend more time together and so his things were brought up more.

Matt has had to learn how to:

  • Eat.  I cannot stand the sound he makes when he eats.  The swishing of the food in his mouth drives me bonkers and I do not understand why people do it.  You can eat quietly...it is possible.
  • Chew gum.  Oh my gosh.  Gum chewers are awful, awful people.  Smacking their lips...the sound of that chewy substance sticking to the teeth and the sound of the saliva...  He never really smacked, but he would chew with the sound of saliva and his teeth...he now has learned to chew it quietly.
  • How to use a fork.  I hate the sound of a fork hitting a plate.  Why is it necessary?  It sounds (in my mind) like you are using a shovel to eat your food.  There is no reason for it.
  • NO CLICKING HIS TONGUE.  He had a habit of clicking his tongue when he would be thinking of something.  No, no, NO!!!!!!  This would drive me CRAZY!!!  
  • NO TAPPING HIS TEETH.  Oh my GOSH.  He would tap his teeth together all the time.  BONKERS.
I KNOW there are many more.  The thing is, though, this is NOT limited to him.  It has gotten almost impossible for me to go to the movies.  The sound of people tapping their feet, the crumpling of paper packages, the chewing of popcorn, the slurping of drinks, the creaking of seats....ALL OF THESE make me angry and TOTALLY distract me from the movie.  Sierra and I recently went to see a movie we were SO excited to see.  We had the misfortune, though, of sitting in front of a birthday party.  Throughout the whole movie a kid behind us tapped her foot.  It drove me bonkers!!  I kept turning around trying to find the culprit.  I was so twitchy about it the lady next to me asked me what was wrong and I angrily spat out "this kid behind me is tapping her foot and it's driving me crazy".  It took EVERY OUNCE OF SELF CONTROL for me NOT to turn around and BLAST the WHOLE row of kids.

Another instance happened in church.  We were sitting in church listening to our Pastor preach when a lady a couple rows up and an aisle over began clicking her pen.  I got SO angry.  I instantly tensed up.  Matt knew I was mad and quickly knew why.  I kept angrily whispering to him how inconsiderate this woman was with her pen.  The WHOLE sermon, all I could do was stare at this hand and this pen.  Again, it took ALL my self control not to go over to her and grab her pen.  The WHOLE drive home, I ranted on and on about that lady and her pen....stupid, right?

Sierra used to have a friend who would smack her lips together a lot or make weird sounds with her tongue.  I have a friend who smacks her lips together ALL THE TIME!!!  I HATE it....  Keeping these feeling inside (what am I going to do...tell an 8 year old kid to stop clicking her tongue, she's driving me crazy!!!) can be painful.  My stomach actually gets all twisted up.

Upon watching this 20/20 segment, I shouted for joy.  I was not crazy.  I do not have a personal vendetta against my husband...I have a personal vendetta against the world.  lol  Matt was joyous to because as he watched the segment he agreed this is what I have.  He realized it was something in the wiring of my brain and it was not something against him...it is not personal.

I have inadvertently been training my kids as they grow up.  They are quiet chewers.  They do not smack their lips.  Any kind of nervous habit I nip in the bud quickly.  Matt is learning, too.  Many of the noises he naturally makes, he is learning to NOT.  He will still, at times, start to click his tongue when he is thinking, but he quickly stops.

It is hard, though.  It is hard on everyone.  Sadly, I had an issue a couple days ago that ruined my whole day....and it was over an egg.  My husband was downstairs in the kitchen making an egg for our son...I was upstairs in my bedroom doing something.  Matt does this thing with an egg that drives me CRAZY and on this day it drove me BEYOND CRAZY.  He cracks the egg in a bowl, takes and fork, and whips it around.  The sound of the fork hitting the sides of the bowl and the egg swishing in the bowl could be heard all the way up the stairs and I had a Bugs Bunny moment.  Every nerve in my body fired up and I got angry.  I know it is not reasonable...but I also know that when I make an egg, I do it noiselessly.  I did not get violent with Matt...I explained to him that that was one of those sounds that I can NOT handle.......but for the rest of the day, that sound replayed through my mind and I was in a bad mood...the WHOLE day.  It is depressing to think that an egg in a bowl with a fork can make me feel this way.  Sierra asked me halfway through the day if anything was wrong.  I sighed heavily and explained the egg in the bowl thing.  She nodded her head understandingly.  She knows me well.

But, again, I know what it is now.  I can advise my family on what not to do and now their feelings are not hurt.  The weight of guilt is off my shoulders.  Now, if only movie theaters and church could have a thing where I can plug in my ear buds and hear the movie/sermon and drown out the sounds around me.  

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is there help for this? Surely there are coping mechanisms for folks like us... even if it is goofy yoga or childbirth breathing techniques...

Look into what can be done to change US rather than everyone around us that are living normally. Us asking our family to live in silence is unfair and impossible. I REALLY look forward to your findings!!! XOXOXOXOX Daray

Sandra Kozlowski said...

I look at it this way...I am doing the world a service. My husband and kids will not drive anyone else crazy!!! lol

cooperadventures said...

I am so with you on this, I have this too! I am irritated by sounds. And having the TV on all the time is another thing that really irritates me, especially when the volume is up. I need to show your blog to Mark so he will see why I am so easily irritated by noises!

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's pretty hard and exhausting to walk on egg shells around someone who is irritated by so many sounds, especially with young children in the house, knowing they're making the Irritatable One so nervous. Brian comiserates with you, Sandra. I comiserate with the rest of your family! :) --Felecia Galloway, Houston, TX