Living with a condition that is typically laughed off, or at, and gets you characterized as weird, grouchy, or plain unreasonable is something that no one wishes for. That is part of my story.
I often thought I was just weird or that something was wrong with me and I am pretty sure others did too based upon my actions that would be classified as odd or highly unusual. Let me give you a few examples.
- While on family vacations as a child I would sleep in the bathtub with the door closed and the ceiling fan on. Why? Hearing any heavy breathing or snoring both enraged me and made it impossible for me to fall asleep.
- Again, as a child, I would go and hide in my room or plug my ears when my mother would talk on the phone because of the “s” sounds she would make with her words. I could not explain it just hurt every time I heard it.
- Eating at a quiet dinner table as a child and now as an adult was and still is a painful experience because of all the mouth noises including chewing, slurping, lip-smacking, and eating utensils clanging against people’s teeth. Eating in a loud restaurant is a huge relief to eating at home because of all the background noises that muffle the surrounding mouth noises. To this day I will often retreat alone in a different room while anything crunchy is being consumed in my home.
- Repetitive video game controller button clicking is enough to make me want to jump out of the window at times.
- I have an irrational hatred of bubble gum, kettle-cooked chips, lollipops, and anything else that produces loud or repetitive mouth noises.
- Hearing people “crack” their gum in public makes me instantly consider wanting to “crack” their skull. Of course, I would not but I am triggered by the fight or flight response. And in gum cracking incidents you will typically see me flee as far as I can.
- Back in school hearing someone tap their pencil on a desk receptively often made me want to impale them with their drumming pencil. Thankfully, again I never did but I am sure others looked at me differently as I plugged my ears in class.
- Instantaneous pain is triggered in my brain and my entire body whenever anyone slurps hot coffee, cold soda from a can, or slurps up spit while brushing their teeth.
I could go on all day, but I believe I have convinced you of my weirdness.
My weirdness has a name.
It is called Misophonia and it is a real neurobehavioral disorder. I did not know that it had a name until recently. More on that in a second.
What is misophonia? Translated from Greek words it means “the hatred of sound.” Do not confuse it with the fear (phobia) of sounds. Fear and hatred though close friends are vastly different. People with Misophonia are hypersensitive to sounds. It is more than just being bothered by noises. It goes well beyond that. When you live with Misophonia you feel attacked by and physically harmed by noises.
The brain misinterprets sounds as toxic or threatening and sets off our survival system, better known as the fight/flight response. The onset of this toxic or threatening response in the brain to auditory stimuli happens in milliseconds.
The term Misophonia was coined only twenty years ago by Jastreboff and Jastreboff in 2001. As a result, the research and treatments methods for this condition are still developing. In 2013 Dutch psychiatrists officially laid out diagnosable conditions for this syndrome.
Misophonia is a lifelong condition that evolves over time and often increases in intensity. There is no cure or proven therapies to date.
So why in my vulnerability do I tell you all this?
It is not for pity. That is for sure! It is for anyone who has suffered from any condition that evokes shame, confusion, or ridicule from others. I know how you feel. For me, there was a great sense of freedom and relief at the point of being able to say that my weirdness was real and diagnosable. I know that getting a diagnosis is not always freeing for others but for me, it lifted the weirdo label metaphorically off my back. There is power in knowing that you are not alone. Knowing that others share my struggle and share your struggle too brings a sigh of relief because of the shared bond that exists.
We all live with different conditions that shape and affect us. We were not meant to suffer alone in silence. A community exists inside and outside the Body of Christ for this and every other known disorder. And God no doubt knows all of our needs before we ask them.
In addition to Misophonia, I can also add Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EOE) and double Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) to ailments that I live with. Other than being great trivia questions, scrabble word scores, or things that Microsoft Word does not recognize as a word these things are conditions that shape my life but do not define it.
The only label that truly defines me is that I am a child of God. I rejoice in the two following scriptures.
“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me, Says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26
Thanks be to God for His goodness and for claiming me as His own despite all my weirdness.
Additional resource on Misophonia.