Triggered: Misophonia Redux

I’ve written about misophonia before. And tonight I need to write about it again. Calling it out, naming it, can help sometimes, can defuse some of my anger response. A quick explanation:

Misophonia, or the hatred of sound, is a disorder. People who deal with it — people like me — are set off by specific sounds. And the response to hearing those sounds can be irritation, rage, panic, the need to flee. It makes sufferers feel as if they’re being driven insane. Fun times, right?

So yes, misophonia. I have it. Or, most accurately, it has me … has me tied up in knots and twisting in the wind. I might be happier if my response was the need to flee, but no. My response has always been instant rage. Zero to infinity in a nanosecond. A shaking, head-exploding rage. Picture me the way anger is depicted in the movie, Inside Out.

I have a long list of sound triggers. Mouth noises are my kryptonite, but knuckle-cracking is also pretty horrible for me. Loud yawns, certain voices. Yes, driven into a rage by the sound of someone’s voice, something they cannot control and certainly can’t be blamed for.

I finally learned that misophonia was an actual, for-real disorder about 10 years ago. And it’s only been a named and recognized thing since 2001. I’m picturing a crowd of misophones somehow finding one another then banding together and fighting to get the medical establishment to recognize them. I see them taking to the streets, shouting, “We’re here! We’re here!” like in Horton Hears a Who. You know, or something.

Learning about it was as glorious as the sun breaking through the clouds after a storm. Learning about it meant I wasn’t imagining it and that I wasn’t the only person suffering from it — if people were writing articles about a problem I had that I’d never mentioned to a soul, that meant other people were having the same problem, and I wasn’t alone in my craziness. Most importantly, misophonia being a real thing with a name meant I wasn’t the horrible person I’d lived my whole life believing myself to be, a monster who got crazy-angry at people when they made everyday noises that shouldn’t have inspired violence in my heart.

I’d spent decades fighting myself to keep my reactions to myself. My responses were unreasonable, so I’ve always worked hard not to show how I was feeling. I mean, I still fight to keep my reactions in — it would really not be okay to punch people in the throat because they yawn loudly. But at least now I know I’m not actually losing my mind, just living the life of a misophone, dealing with a trigger sound. And recognizing that I’ve been triggered actually helps me calm down. I can do little things to put out the fire — listen to music, make noise of my own to drown out the trigger, breathe deeply and do a mini body scan to distract my brain.

When I wrote about this the first time, I had just read an article that suggested reducing stress and getting more sleep could help. I liked the sound of that, and I like the sound of that now, too. Unfortunately, I haven’t done a very good job on either front (and writing slices at midnight isn’t really helping, is it?!).

Why am I thinking about misophonia today? Because the first zoom of my day included a meeting participant who triggered me big time. BIG time. A trifecta of horror. He 1) cracked his knuckles, 2) started eating some kind of squishy scrambled egg burrito business, 3) chewed with his mouth open.

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To put it mildly.

I had to turn off my camera. I was literally grabbing fistfuls of my hair and pulling it.

Open-mouth chewing is … the worst. I was truly made insane by that guy. So insane that, for the first time in my life, I actually tried to do it, to see why that might even be a way anyone would ever chew anyhow. Yes, this is as nuts as it sounds. I took a piece of my muffin and tried to chew it with my mouth open.

I was quite comically unsuccessful. I didn’t know what to do with my muscles to have my mouth stay open while I was chewing. I’m serious. I was chewing r-e-a-l-l-y s–l–o–w–l–y trying to get the mouth-open thing. Not only was I not able to chew that way, I wasn’t making any sound at all. What gives? Are the open-mouth chewers wilfully making those disgusting noises? Are those sounds not a natural byproduct of chewing with your mouth open? Has the cruelty been the point all along?!?!

I have spent the rest of the day trying to make any of this make sense. I’m triggered anew just remembering that meeting.


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15 thoughts on “Triggered: Misophonia Redux

  1. Never heard of misophonia until I read your post, but it explains a few things. Like why Father Andrews despised that I yawned in his classes. They were night classes and I was always there after a full day. I don’t even hear sounds around me most of the time, but just reading your post gives me empathy for folks who are triggered by the sounds of others. And chewing with your mouth open? That’s just totally disgusting.

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    1. I feel for Father Andrews … but also for you. That’s the unfairness of misophonia: misophones can’t help their responses to trigger sounds, but the people making those sounds are sometimes doing absolutely nothing that should be considered problematic. You couldn’t help yawning, and there’s nothing wrong with needing to yawn. But if Father Andrews was a misophone, he couldn’t help having a strong reaction to your yawn. Ugh.

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  2. I did not know about this and I am very glad you learnt what your problem was. It must have been so frustrating. I was wondering it must be difficult if people living in big cities must be suffering more if they have misophonia. Take care .

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    1. Oh my goodness! Lakshmi, how has it never occurred to me that my difficulty with misophonia is amplified to a crazy degree by the fact that I live in a big city?! Wow. Thank you for pushing my thinking!

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  3. I think my son might have this. The sound of a fork or knife on a glass plate is so unbearable to him that he will start crying at the dinner table immediately. He uses a plastic plate which is the only way we got him to start using eating utensils three or four years ago. He would only eat with his fingers up till then and even now would prefer to just eat with his fingers for fear of the sound that might come out. Of course the rest of us are still using our glass plates and forks but I think when we upgrade to new plates we’re getting everything non-glass.

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    1. Oh yes, sounds as though your son is suffering from misophonia. I feel for him. That sound is irritating to me, but it’s not one of my bad triggers. I’m sending him some misophone-solidarity love!

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  4. Oh I feel for you. I do. While the noise of open mouth chewers does not bother me as deeply as you the sight does. I was in a Zoom meeting yesterday with a chewer. Like you, we could see and hear them. At least three of us audibly thanked the host who politely asked if whomever among us enjoying their breakfast could do so with the camera and mic off it would be great appreciated. Four screens went dark and it went blessedly silent. For me the misphobia has to be shuffling as I posted Monday because rage is my response and I know it’s wrong.

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  5. It is always good to be able to put a name to something because that gives it validation. I have not heard of this before so I thank you for educating me. Like you, I can’t imagine how one can chew with an open mouth.

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    1. I was still laughing at myself today, remembering how hard I tried to chew open-mouthed yesterday. I mean, it’s really not that hard, but I have such a physical aversion to it, I couldn’t make myself do it. As if I couldn’t bear to be the source of my trigger sound. Funny.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lainie Levin

    Strange you should mention. I was JUST talking with a colleague about this yesterday. It’s truly amazing that certain sounds would trigger a physical reaction, but boy oh boy do they EVER!

    All I can say is, I’m so, SO sorry you had to hear all of that…

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    1. Thanks, Lainie. It’s interesting to me that this has only been identified and recognized as a real disorder in the last 20 years. It’s definitely not new. How did the medical community take so long to catch up with people’s lived experiences?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I had no idea you were afflicted with this, and I hope I never unintentionally caused you pain or rage. I’m wondering about the people who did come up with the idea to research this, whether they or someone close to them suffered from this and they actually began to take it seriously and to study it. And open-mouth chewiing? Just the sight of that is disgusting. I will try never to eat on a zoom again.

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    1. Don’t worry, Sonia, I just turn my sound down! 🙂

      I wonder about the researchers, too. Somehow I imagine that they can’t be misophones themselves, that surely the kinds of sounds they’d have to be creating to run tests would drive them crazy!

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