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Can You Please Stop Making That Sound or I'll Kill You (And other tales of misophonia)

Photo from Unsplash
Artist: Noah Buscher@noahbuscher

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

  • Anxiety
  • Irritation
  • Impulse to run
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Panic
  • Fear
  • Hatred
  • Despair
  • 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.

My book is available on Amazon. (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. )

(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.

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Why Surrendering Power to Teens Is Okay (Hint: It's Not About Control… It's Actually Strength)

Image Courtesy of Unsplash
alex bracken
@alexbracken

I had a conversation in the car today with my 15-year-old daughter that made me want to throw up. It was not unlike one of those carnival rides at the fair that go up, down and then shake you back and forth like James Bond’s famous martini.

This mama was shaken, stirred and ultimately hung over afterwards. But, since I have been physically sober for almost 4 years now, I am strong enough to handle a little emotional hangover also – especially when instead of running from my feelings I allow myself to sit in them instead.

I could go on and on about what my emotions were on the subject, how we sorted it out afterwards, and where we ultimately landed, but I’ll keep it short and simple:

  1. My daughter set a healthy boundary with me.
  2. Because I initially perceived it as a threat, not a boundary (because I couldn’t possibly be wrong, right?) my back went up.
  3. I felt the conversation getting more heated than a hot flash and told her I wanted to shelve the discussion. (Bonus points for me for doing what I should be doing! #notescalatingthecrazy)
  4. When she left the car, I called a friend. And by friend, I mean sponsor, who doesn’t beat around the bush. Lilly: “So you’re upset with your daughter for telling you the truth about something you are uncomfortable with dealing with?” Me: “Um…” What else could I say? She was right.
  5. When Pip got back in the car she immediately apologized. “Mom, I’m sorry. That was a lot of tension. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
  6. To this I said, “No, you should have. Just because I’m not good at telling people directly how I feel all the time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be. It’s okay. I’m glad you’re safe enough to let me know.”

The End.

Lest I come off like a saint, let me tell you that this was a 15 year process of screwing up, wronging my kids, manipulating the conversation to make me look like the victim or, equally attractive, just plain old co-dependently saying what I thought my kids wanted me to hear so I could come off like a “good mom” only to explode moments before a big event because I was resentful, exhausted and very likely half a bottle into Two Buck Chuck at their highly anticipated Halloween excursion. (Going as Hottest Drunk Mom on the Block? It wasn’t as exciting as it sounds.)

Getting sober taught me to be rigorously honest with myself. Drinking, turns out, wasn’t my problem. It was the thinking that got to me. It was my brain telling me things like, “You just need a fxxxin break” or “You deserve so much more than this drudgery mom nonsense” and, worse of all, “You are RIGHT Andrea.”

When I’m right, it leaves very little room for my kids to have an opinion with their defensive, cranky, I must have it my way mom.

Tonight my daughter set a boundary with me. And it didn’t feel good, because in this case, she was right. I had to change my thought process on something. Ouch. Puke. Why can’t you be 5 and just think I’m amazing… even when I’ve eaten half your Halloween candy and wrapped used stuffed animals for Christmas to save an extra 5 bucks?

But in the end, I’d rather lose my butt than save my face. And seeing my daughter’s face flooded with relief that I was not going to shut her down was worth every second of my ego deflation.

I’m now off to take my son to a group activity he doesn’t want to go to but… Rex and I set a boundary with him and so off he goes.

Subbing, surrender to the God of my understanding and more driving than a New York taxi driver – such is this season of motherhood for me. But it beats drinking and crashing into all my relationships because I’m just not present with my honest, hairy and often uncomfortable truth.

Cheers to you this Friday. Mamas, you are not alone! We’re in this together.

My Strong, Fierce 15 year old Daughter Who Is Teaching Me That Surrender Is Actually Power

My book is available on Amazon. (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. )

(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.

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Raising Teenagers: The Annoying but Lovable Truth

Matheus Ferrero@matheusferrero from Unsplash

I don’t know about any of you parents with teens out there, but what I just experienced in the past two hours pretty much sums up my life.

After a long day of subbing which, today, was AMAZING thanks to running into some kids who spent about five years of their childhood at my house, I came home to my busybody daughter.

Pip: “Mom, I have to be at school in a half hour for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe which Lila is in!”

Me: “Um… okay.”

I proceed to jam more popcorn in my mouth than regrets about the SOTU address and battle traffic to her high school – with the car on empty – praying the whole time I don’t get stuck between the carpool lane and a very annoying Uhaul with the bumper sticker, “Honk if you love Hooters”.

The entire commute there I am treated to her plans for her junior year as well as snippets of various songs from Be More Chill. (It’s a bit racy, but really great. I highly recommend “Michael in the Bathroom” for any post-highschool nerds. You’ll relate.)

This song is A.May.Zing and such emotion!

I suppose I could have delayed the ride over and gone hard ball on the fact that this pot of rice was leftover from last night’s lunch prep:

Do you love our 80’s tile? Me, too. I’ll save you some when we demolish it WHEN MY PILOT SELLS!!!

But I chose to be grateful for the little things. She makes lunches for her papa and me each day. She ran a bit late this morning. Most important in my book, she didn’t argue with me about doing it later, along with tonight’s dinner dishes. #Whocares

I dropped her off (first saying a prayer that no one shows up with a gun which, sadly, goes through my mind these days). Before going straight home I swung into Trader Joe’s for some Half and Half because, now that I don’t drink, apparently it’s just not good for my sobriety to steal into Arco, swipe some “free” Half n’ Half tiny pods and run like a thief in the night toward my 1998 Acura Integra Getaway car.

Rex wasn’t home from work yet but my son was. How do I know? Oh, I’ll show you!

It was even darker inside.

But when I flipped on the light (which most normal people do but teens? not so much) I deduced Stink was home.

If I couldn’t tell from the jackets on the hook (which, now that I look at them they belong to Rex… it’s just he and his son are the same size. GIANT) I would know from this set up:

Who doesn’t want geometry books on their “tableau”

Followed quickly by this set up:

More dishes! Damn it to biscuits!

But in the end, neither child is doing drugs. Neither is having sex. Neither are failing classes. (Well, at least not most of them.) And I got my son to agree to let me post him here.

It’s so important to stay grounded on what isn’t working, because the other stuff… the less than tidy Pinterest perfection. It’s just a lie anyway. At least it is for me. My babies and our relationship will always trump a perfect home.

Though, when MY PILOT SELLS, I’m getting a maid and a house makeover quicker than you can say, “Did Andrea follow through and finish that final paragraph on her pilot today?”

To which I will respond, “Hell yes I did!”

Happy Thursday beautiful people. I can’t wait to catch up tomorrow. And let me know, if you have kids, if you relate to this post at all.

My book is available on Amazon. (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. )

(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.

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I Aspire to Inspire Before I Expire (But Enjoy My Family First)

Photo Credit: Unsplash Toa Heftiba@heftiba

I got the call at 6am this morning. “P.E. Van Nuys. Voice instructions are none.”

I’m just getting over a cold, so to be honest, getting my butt out of bed to be on my feet all day with horny stinky middle schoolers did not seem like an attractive option. But getting a small paycheck next month didn’t sound that amazing either, so off I went. (Lucky for me I remembered not to shout, “Get your hands off the balls!” You know, cause that’s always a great way to keep them quiet.)

I have two thoughts about my day. On one hand, it can be disheartening to be doing this job still. I had sort of hoped I’d be working full time as a writer by now. Perhaps in an office or on a set. Or even freelancing from home.

On the other hand, have I finished that website that shows off all my articles that I’ve written? No. Am I almost 50 and going to be competing against a lot of people much younger than me? Yes. And have I applied yet for anything? No.

Hmmmm. There might be a reason I’m still doing this job!

On the other side of the coin, I have hardly been sitting on my bootie. I am almost done with that pilot script. I put a huge stake in the “Am I going to get a Masters and Teach Full Time” dragon. (That would be a negative.) I’m almost done with step 12 in my don’t drink booze program which I’m not allowed to say per one of their traditions. And my marriage is running smoothly which, one only has to read my book to know, was not always the case. (You also could read in between the lines at my GoodHousekeeping.com blog. I was a mess.)

I say all this because there’s a fine line between making excuses and doing one’s best. For me, I needed to make money for my family. I needed to heal. I needed direction from a good sponsor and time with God to break down the constructs of the person I thought I was supposed to be to become the person I was meant to be. Or, better stated, to become the person GOD would have me be.

I’d love to have a sexy title right now, but I’ve learned that my ego is not my amigo. No, the soul always trumps my lust for fain and fortune. I refuse to give up precious holiday and weekend time to plug away for “success” when James and my two favorite “little” people on the planet are growing up right before my very eyes. Stink is 6’6 people. He has whiskers! Pip is my height when she wears her heels.

I’m pretty sure that when they graduate and leave my house for good continue to live with me I’m not going to say, “Oh, Gee, I wish I had not gone to the thriftstores with them over Martin Luther King weekend and eaten overpriced veggie burgers at the hippy dippy market in the barrio.

Follow Your Heart, Canoga Park (Veggie Tacos) Photo From Their Website

No, my life continues to be full of hopes and dreams, disappointments and regrets, but if 49% of me wishes I could have done things differently 51% of me knows that my family will always be the best piece of art I could have created.

Thanks for continuing to be part of the journey.

And, for accountability, I will continue to blog daily here until I start up again at Medium. I will finish my one paragraph – one paragraph people – on my pilot on Thursday. And this weekend I will fire up my old resume website and start building it again so I can apply for full time writing work in April. Next week, with the pilot out of the way, I will get back to my musical. I gotta stay on it but not lose site of the beauty right before my eyes. Anyone else relate?

How About You? What Are Your Plans?

Special shout out to Carol from Brisbane, Australia, who googled me the other day to see how I was. I love it! I have people in my life I didn’t even know I had. That is just about the coolest thing in the world.

Next to my TV show selling.

Until next time,

Andrea

My book is available on Amazon. (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. )

(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.

Coaching and Wellness, education, faith

Trying New Things

Picture from Quote Catolog, found on Unsplash

Hey, it’s your long lost friend, Andrea. I know I said I wouldn’t be checking in until April, but after the Super Bowl half time show, I have come to the conclusion that women can either be mild and not rock the boat or they can razzle, dazzle and be the best version of themselves regardless of following directions. In my case, I’m not following my own directions, and I’m certainly not going to put on a sparkle g-string, but I can get back into my writing again. So here I go.

What I’ve Been Up To

I am one paragraph away from finishing my pilot. I’ve done 3 rewrites. I love it. My attitude around it is going to be “This is going to sell.” Period. No if’s, and’s or butt’s. I’m turning 50 in two weeks. I don’t have time to waffle anymore.

I’ve also started tinkering with Medium.com. It’s a platform where you pay $5/month as a writer or reader. Depending on how many clicks one gets depends on how much they will get paid. It has over 90 million subscribers, so chances to engage a wider audience is super enticing. So far I’ve made this much.

don’t be jelly

Bad news: I only have to write one trillion more articles to make an additional $100/month.

Good news: A friend of mine who has started making money off this site, plus has written a ton of articles for Huffpo, graciously told me that it’s not my writing but my formatting that needs to be changed to grab the attention of the curators. Once that’s set, the editing team there will more likely pick up my story, promote it, and then I’ll see a higher residual.

Trying New Things! Yay!

I write you this because maybe you’re not a writer. (Though most of you here are!) Maybe you want to get a degree but aren’t sure where to start. I give you my new method.

Just start.

Then doors open.

Action, not thinking, is what gets the job done. Plus staying grounded in God ain’t such a bad idea, either.

And so, very contrary to this thinker/A-personality/don’t make a mistake mama, I’m glad I started writing there. Now that I know what I need to do to fix it, I’ll do that! I will take Jennifer’s advice and just research other articles that have already done well before I post again.

Until then, I’d like to get in the habit of writing daily again on my own site – so here I am!

That leaves me with this – and be honest: Do you think focusing on self-help/transformation is a good idea, or do you see me as someone who is more “all over the place but I read her for her style” kind of writing?

Basically, what compels you to read my writing? Would love to know. I look forward to checking on all of you also. While I’m on break from subbing. And trying not to poke my eyes out with attendance forms.

Leave a comment!

Until next time,

Andrea

My book is available on Amazon. (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. )

(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.