It’s been a long time since I wrote about Tourette Syndrome. Part of that is because I needed to switch to a new direction for my own mental health. After spending years obsessing about changing my son, and then taking things way too personally in how other people reacted to him (Overly Controlling & Sensitive Mom Behind Door #3!) it became imperative to write about my other passions.
Also my 13-year-old son got tired of his syndrome being written about. If I learned anything from raising a teenage boy, it was to honor his needs, not mine, when it came to writing. And so, I cut the internet cord! (And I didn’t even need anesthesia.)
That said, when Writer of Words posted this article on certain noises driving her crazy I had to chime in. In it she talks about Misophonia.
What Exactly is Misophonia?
Harvard Health Publishing (from Harvard Medical School) describes it as follows: “People with misophonia are affected emotionally by common sounds — usually those made by others, and usually ones that other people don’t pay attention to. The examples above (breathing, yawning, or chewing) create a fight-or-flight response that triggers anger and a desire to escape.“
Audiologists have found that misophonia is an inner ear issue as sufferers have acute hearing. What makes their hearing different than another person with exceptional ears is that unlike a “normal” person, misophoniacs obsess about the sound long after it’s gone. They anticipate when it’s going to come back. And often they cannot sleep for fear of it interrupting their serenity.
Where Does Misophonia Come From
Many folk with OCD deal with this, but it’s not considered a mental health issue. Misophonia hasn’t been researched much, but according to WebMd:
“The age of the onset of this lifelong condition is not known but some people report symptoms between the ages of 9 and 13. Misophonia is more common with girls and comes on quickly, although it doesn’t appear to be related to any one event.”
Symptoms of Misophonia
- Impulse to run
- Fantasy thinking
For a long time I didn’t know I had this disorder. I just thought I was nuts. My son’s throat clears and grunts would make me insane with anger. I would either rage at him, begging him to channel his sounds a different way, or I would find myself running away.
Escape took many forms: literally leaving the house, not being present when I was with him, over spending and eventually drinking. Sure drinking took the edge off temporarily, but the sounds only felt more excruciating the next morning with a headache. It felt hopeless.
Relief from Misophonia
After giving up drinking, I was thrilled that my 12-step program had relieved so many of my unhealthy escape patterns and reactions. Hypnotherapy and meditation was also a powerful, natural sedative for my overactive brain, but it didn’t relieve all of it.
It wasn’t until someone in my daughter’s friendship circle was diagnosed with misophonia that I realized, “Oh my God, that’s me!” Knowing my out of control reactions to noise stimuli wasn’t my fault changed everything for me. It was reassuring to know I wasn’t just odd or being an intolerant mom. I had an actual condition! Plus it helped to know that many super creative folk, including Franz Kafka, dealt with the condition. Turns out that the very thing that causes misophonia sufferers distress is the same thing that allows them to so sensitively tap into the human condition.
Personally I’ve talked to many folk since my diagnosis and the one thing we’ve all had in common is that we are more triggered when we are stressed out. It was a sick co-dependent vortex in my case, because my son also ticked when he got stressed. His tics made me more ragey due to misophonia, and that made him tic more. Fun times! What next?
After trying a million miracle cures to “fix” my son (from medication and meditation to gluten-free/dairy free diets and more supplements than Frankie Bergstein has joints) I made a decision to stop the madness. Like in a bloody war battle, I had two choices: My relationship with my family could die based on my insane need for control, or I could surrender. I chose the second and my life has been on an upswing ever since.
The Spiritual Side of Misophonia
In relinquishing my need to manage my son’s noises, I began to control my own issues with sounds. As a sober alcoholic I knew only too well what a lack of discipline did to my life. And just like with giving up alcohol, I knew I didn’t have to handle my diagnosis, and my son’s, by myself.
I leaned on my community and family.
I began a spiritual practice.
I brought in amazing self-care.
I gave myself permission to not be a perfect mother.
I reached out to others who were dealing with a diagnosis they could not change. In helping others, I was infused with such purpose and hope. It turns out you really can’t obsess about your own problems while helping someone else navigate their’s. Plus it turns out that the endorphins from assisting others lasted much longer than any temporary relief from noises. And, unlike Misophonia, they brought about so much peace.
There is some serious humor in God pairing a noisy ticker with a sound sensitive mama, but now I wouldn’t change it for a thing. Tourettes and misophonia forced me to give up any preconceived ideas I had about what I needed to be happy. When I was able to surrender, I channeled my misophonia into listening for the blessings in my life instead focusing with laser beam precision on the negatives. Acceptance and transformation of what was once so ominous has brought about far more joy than any quick fix for these syndromes could.
Hope for the Misophonia Sufferer
Any fellow misophonia folk out there… it gets better. And when you’re struggling, feel free to reach out. You might say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I “hear” ya.
(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.