In responding to a recent comment from a parent of a teen with miso, I started to think about what I do to deal with misophonia symptoms – what works, what doesn’t, and what seems to make symptoms worse.

The most helpful things for me have been the things that I should be doing anyway to feel good.

  • exercise (a LOT, every day if possible – yoga seems to be especially helpful for miso)
  • get plenty of sleep (if I’m tired symptoms are instantly 10x worse)
  • eat well (sugar is the enemy, as is booze the morning after)
  • meditate (I try to do at least a few minutes, three times per day)
  • stay really, really present when triggers occur

The last item on the list – staying present – is the hardest and the most important.

So what do I mean by staying present?

I try my best to watch the thoughts and feelings that come up when I’m triggered so I’m not completely taken over by them. If I can take a step back and watch myself being triggered, I stay separated from the anger, the rage, the irritation. The feelings then exist within me, but they don’t define me.

I’ve learned to let myself be uncomfortable. When misophonia symptoms occur at a low level, they are pure discomfort. In the West, we’re conditioned to hightail it away from discomfort the second it appears. We’re taught that we should never be uncomfortable. No wonder miso is so torturous for us, it is discomfort incarnate!

Since traveling in Asia I’ve learned to accept a lot of discomforts, including being triggered more often. Slurpy noodles abound in Vietnam, where it is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, to chew with one’s mouth open and smack one’s lips in contentment throughout the meal. Thumping bass is pumped throughout cities and towns at all hours of the day and night – there is no escaping it, even in the middle of nowhere in a remote, “quiet” village.

So I’m very uncomfortable a lot of the time. I have my headphones in a lot of the time. And my prayer has changed from “please stop the music” to “please bless me with acceptance.”

Because we can never stop the noise of the world. We can’t change how other people behave, no matter how strongly believe they should be quiet, they should be more considerate, they should chew with their mouths closed.

The fact is that they don’t. So our only hope is to change ourselves, to change how we perceive the situation and the sounds.

But the question remains – how do we change our perspective? How do we accept what feels so totally unacceptable?

First, start to pay attention to your reactions when you’re triggered. What does it feel like in your body? Where do you feel it? How does it manifest? What thoughts start swirling around in your head?

The thoughts and feelings are connected, but it is the thoughts that must be excavated and examined – they hold the key to your healing.

I’ve found The Work of Bryon Katie to be really helpful in examining my thoughts and breaking them down. This work helps you question your beliefs and begin to unravel them in a way that brings understanding and relief. I’ve developed mantras based on this work that – while they sound crazy – have actually really, really helped prevent triggers (mantras along the lines of “I look forward to hearing thumping bass,” “I enjoy the noise of the world,” and “I am not separate from the noise of the world.”).

Finally, I’ve found that focusing the mind elsewhere really helps – I stopped participating in miso groups and rarely blog here because the more I focus on miso, the worse my symptoms get. So you might want to stop reading this blog right now!

It also helps to remind yourself that the trigger is temporary – in the moment it’s happening, it can feel like the sound will never end and you’ll be tortured forever. But sounds are transient. They are temporary. And so is your suffering.

Pokhara as seen from the top of the mountain, World Peace PagodaLast night, when I met Deepak, the faceless, nameless fear that had consumed me for days sat on the bench for a few brief hours, allowing me the relief of connection.

This morning fear is back, sitting on the edge of my bed and grinning at me like a loon. Sunlight streams in through the barred windows, and I can hear an energized, thumping bass beat coming from Hari’s CD player in the lobby below.

The thumping bass from below begins to trigger an involuntary reaction in me, and I start to panic. I must get out of this room, and away from that sound, immediately.

In 2012 I learned that there was a name for my irrational fear of certain sounds – misophonia.

I’ll never forget the feeling of searching for a cause of these symptoms online, and stumbling upon a forum with thousands of members, all of them just like me.

My entire life I’d thought I was crazy. No, truly – I became completely enraged by certain sounds, to the point of tears.

I don’t consider myself an angry person, and certainly not a violent person, but the sound of someone chewing gum or popcorn will ignite the hottest, reddest, most violent passions within. In these moments I feel capable of murder. In these moments I fantasize taking a baseball bat to another person’s head – I want to destroy whoever has let my demons out to torture me.

I’m not at that point yet, but if I remain in this room a second longer, I will be. I don’t yet hate Hari for pumping his music, and can almost – almost – appreciate the fact that he happens to be a die hard Eagles fan and knows every word to the album that’s ear-raping me right now.

45 minutes later I’m climbing the steps to what is supposed to most beautiful view in the city – an enormous Buddhist stupa set atop a 1,000 meter peak, accessible via a 2-hour hike (or, in my case, a taxi ride to the top).

I’ve almost reached the summit, when suddenly I hear it again – that sound, that incessant thumping, the thick bass beat of Hari’s music being blown through crappy speakers.

If my spirit could slump its shoulders, it would’ve in that moment. Not here. Please. I have the feeling I’m about to ingest one of the most beautiful views on planet earth, and you’re going to ruin it with this infuriating pounding?

I feel the heat swelling up from deep within me. I try to focus on the city below, try to marvel and how high up I am and how the boats on the lake look like tiny blue beetles. The thumping grows louder, I walk faster, trying to escape my own reaction.

I’m moving too quickly, it’s becoming more and more difficult to breathe, but I don’t care.

“Please make it stop” I pray, soldier tears collecting behind my eyes, ready to march onto the field of my face the second they hear the battle cry.

I scale one set of steps and see the final stretch looming before me – there are perhaps 20 steps between me and the great stupa I’ve come to see, and the only thing standing in my way is this awful, thumping bass.

Isn’t this a religious monument? How can the people who run this sacred space allow for such noise pollution?

As I begin the final ascent, feeling as close to a trekker as I’ve ever felt, something catches my eye.

This final set of stairs is set alongside a small, one-story cement building with two narrow, screenless windows which allow passerby a glimpse inside.

I see a flash of red, then gold, and for a second I think Hari’s wife Shova must’ve followed me here because the comforting scent of her incense is suddenly tickling my nose.

I backtrack, stepping off the path and searching for the entrance to the building.

Shoes line the front entryway, and a local man pushes past me abruptly before entering through a dark doorway and taking a seat on the floor inside.

I peer into the din, afraid to enter, and suddenly see the source of the music – a Buddhist monk is banging a drum, his voice ringing out through the humble prayer space. Other monks and pilgrims sit cross-legged on the floor, chanting in time with the drum. Beautiful icons and statues and flowers and offerings adorn an altar.

My prayer has been answered. The sound only grows louder, but the purity of the source slashes through my anger and lies it to rest at the feet of the drumming monk.

I don’t understand why live and recorded music impacts me differently, why it helps to seek out the source of the sound, why the same exact sound could torture me one second and inspire me the next.

I don’t need to understand, because in this moment I’m nothing but grateful as sweet relief washes over me. There is nothing so sacred, so satisfying, as the sensation of miso symptoms being instantly eradicated.

I climb the remaining stairs in peace, the deep drumming moves inside my chest, the thumping is the thumping of my heart as I life my eyes to the snow-capped heavens.


This post is an excerpt from My Week With Deepak: A memoir of Nepal, available September 1, 2014 from THP Publishing. To pre-order your copy, click here!



I am grateful.

I will dance with gratitude at the leaps and bounds I’ve already made in this life.

Let me go higher.

Relieve all judgment and fill me with loving gratitude and patience.

Help me to understand others perspectives before my own.

Help me to love and care for myself as you love and care for me and others.

Teach me focus, follow through, and perseverance.

Let who I am and what I do be enough.

Help me to treat my body as a gift – to feed it healthy foods, to rejoice in exercising it, to be grateful for its wondrous ability to heal itself.

Every day that I have two working legs and two working arms, let me use them in joyful gratitude and remembrance of those who do not.

Help me to see you in all things.

Help me be grateful for things that others call unfortunate or tragic.

Help me see the world as the perfect storm, and I, a tiny, willing snowflake.

Help me to write simply, clearly, and with the kind of magic that appears just when you need it most.

Let me be an example to others without judging or should-ing them.

Let me spend my life with those few souls who’ve been by my side since the dawn of time.

Let me rejoice in you always, eternally, no matter what.

Let me carry a lighted torch within me, and let it burn forever in your name.

Let me allow love to radiate from me in every direction, and let it extend to all things without condition, just as the light falls evenly over the rich, the poor, the seemingly soulless.

Make me perfect that I might come home once and for all.

Let my life be a tribute to you, to that which is endless, eternal, undeniable LOVE.


~ Rebekah Voss, 2013

 misophonia-on-tvGuest blogger Marty reminisces about the days when he could watch TV without misophonia triggers. 

Subliminal Seduction

by Marty

By my mid-twenties I figured out how to cope with various noises, and misophonia was becoming a small part of my life.  I didn’t watch much television, but there were a few shows that made me laugh and if I was home, I would watch The Waltons with my mother.

During a commercial, a corn cob appeared and moved toward the camera and then underneath the camera.  When it was out of site, the soundtrack became an unbelievably long, loud, and ugly chomp.  Then the corn cob reappeared with a bunch of mangled kernels so that there was no doubt about what the sound was supposed to represent.  I got up and left.

Why was I so shocked?  This is the first time I heard a trigger sound on TV.  It was 1972.  Up until then, watching TV was safe.  I worried that this might be a trend.  The next few months confirmed this.  We were treated to apples and potato chips being crunched.  There was no closed caption or mute switch then.  I moved and the TV stayed behind.

Four years later, I was given a book, Subliminal Seduction by Wilson Bryan Key.   It was about tricks used by the advertising industry to trick people into buying their product. It has since been criticized.  But what I found interesting was his insider account of the above incident.  The advertisers association did not approve the ad at first.  They were afraid that it was so disgusting that there would be a backlash, a public demand for regulation.  There was no backlash.  Then they green-lit all kinds of eating and chewing noises.

My question is: If we were always such a tiny minority, why were there no chewing sounds between the beginning of TV, around 1950, and 1972?

Rent some old movies.  See how rare the triggers are.  One of my favorite movies was the BBC’s House of Cards made in the 1990’s.  I don’t remember a single trigger.  This year, the American remake was released.  It was one trigger after another.  People always had something in their mouths when they were talking and you could hear them chew barbecue ribs.  Why?

The Zen of Misophonia

“Mr. Lama, are you chewing gum?”

Dear readers, this post was written in 2011, before I knew what Misophonia was, or that others had it, or that it was a “thing” that could be “had.”

I was sitting in the car, my mind distracted from work, feeling  underwhelmed by a vague sense of nameless, causeless unease. It was my first time practicing meditation at a new center, and I wanted to get myself in a good place, energetically, before going inside. (I was confident the monks would be able to tell if I strolled in there with bad ju-ju).

I needed quiet to quiet myself inside. A little driver’s seat meditation session would dissipate the unease, I just knew it.

Suddenly, a piercing voice cut through the closed car windows like a rusty, jagged knife. My body immediately reacted to the sound, resisting it’s timbre, it’s intrusion. A young man was talking on the phone behind the fence next to where I was parked.

Duuuude! I KNOW, right? Bahahahahahahah!”

To say that I’m sensitive to noises and sounds is like saying Brad Pitt is easy on the eyes. (And yes, I will continue to use Brad Pitt = beautiful man for as long as we both shall live). Understatement city.

My Pain Body (Eckhart Tolle‘s name for the destructive, pain-seeking entity that lives inside each of us) has fed countless times on the hot, pulsing, murderous rage that rises within me when I hear certain sounds.

10 weeks ago, I would’ve become infuriated, gotten out of  my car and RAN as far away from that guy and his voice as possible. Either that, or I would’ve started my car and driven away in a rage, skipping my intended meditation practice altogether. But over the past few months, I’ve had some practice observing my Pain Body, and I was determined to watch it carefully as it created this reaction.

As I listened to the sound of this bro’s voice, tears welled up in my eyes and that muscle in my vagina began to pulse (I get a little clit hard-on when I get wildly angry – what is that about?!).

I remembered what I had learned from reading The Power of Now: “This dude and his voice are not causing my reaction. This guy is simply a mirror, reflecting my own pain back to me.”

I took my attention into the feeling of rage and felt where it manifested in my body – in a furrowed brow, a tense face, and heat rising up into my neck. I tried not to label the sensations as good or bad, but instead observed them as neutral, if intense, thoughts that had become physicalized in my body.

I continued to watch my thoughts and observe the physical sensations in my body.

“Why the fuck is he so. Loud.”

“I could never live here.”

“I hate Wisconsin, these accents are the fucking worst.”

“He is so inconsiderate.”

“No one will ever be quiet unless you’re sleeping. The rest of the day people don’t give a fuck.”

By the time he was finished talking, I was much calmer.

By observing my thoughts instead of simply believing them, I created enough space for the anger to dissipate. I separated myself from the thoughts, and saw that while there was anger in me, I wasn’t anger, incarnate.

What was interesting was that the “me” that was watching the thoughts wasn’t angry at all – she was peaceful, calm, and intensely interested in everything I was thinking.

After a few minutes of watching my own thoughts and doing my best to experience them as pure energy, the bro abruptly hung up the phone.

My resistance would’ve fueled the experience, and I betcha dude would’ve stayed on the phone much longer than he did. My acceptance, on the other hand, was an acknowledgment of the truth I had been shown.

It was like saying “Hey universe, yes, I know that pain is there. I see it. Let’s deal with it right now,” and the universe answering back “Oh, you see that? Ok, cool. We were just trying to get your attention so you can heal some shit, but it seems like you’re wide awake. Hey bro? You can shut up now, she gets it.”

Each sound that irks me – the sounds of the house, the voice or shrill laugh of a co-worker, the sound of my father’s footsteps on the creaking floor boards above –  exists in order to reveal my pain to me. To show me what is there, lurking, ready to pounce. To show me what still needs to be healed.

When I can sit quietly in my house as my neighbor’s music blasts from next door and not feel a flicker of resistance, then I will know there is no pain left within me. Then I will truly be at peace.

photo credit:

misohponia-at-the-gymGuest blogger Marty reminisces about a personal hero who found strength in silence. Oh, and he sorta looked like this guy.


My Friend Neil

by Marty

I first met Neil in 1975, back when there wasn’t even a concept of misophonia.  We didn’t seem to have much in common.  He played college football and I didn’t even know the names of the teams or the rules.  We couldn’t talk politics for 15 seconds without getting into an argument. All we initially had in common was that we worked out at the same gym at the same time.

I worked out hard because it calmed me down.  If I used up all my adrenaline, the triggers were manageable.  If I maxed on everything I was able to concentrate much better.  A bi-product of this was that I bulked up seriously, and if I lost it, I scared people. That is not always a good thing.

The problem is that gyms tend to be noisy places, so I would try to go at odd hours when they were empty.  That’s when Neil showed up.  I was afraid that he would bang the weights and I would end up leaving, but he actually worked out as quietly as I did.  If someone came with him, they also worked out quietly.

One day a typical tough guy came in and starting banging the machines, then he dropped the weights on the floor.  I was quickly gathering my stuff up to leave when Neil got in his face.  He told him how hard his behavior was on the equipment and flooring.  He then said something about “inconsiderate” and “takes more strength to be quiet than loud.” The tough guy left.

Did I mention that Neil was extremely muscular?

He was bulked up about as much as anyone in those pre-steroid days. This was repeated many times over the next 3 years.  He had the weight room quieter than the last library I was in.

Neil not only lectured people about violating “his space” but violating others space.  He seemed to be irritated by rapid motion in his peripheral vision.  One day I was dead lifting and a guy started jumping rope so that the rope was about a foot away from my head at the closest.  Neil made him move.

Then Neil and his wife moved into my girlfriend’s apartment building.  I hated her building.  Someone beneath her always turned his stereo on loud at just the wrong time at night and let the bass shake the floor.

In the morning, the apartment to her side turned the TV on really loud at just the wrong time.  Then something happened.  They turned their sound blasters on and then off in a few minutes.  I later found out that Neil was pounding on their doors.  In two weeks, that building was quiet.

Did I mention that Neil was very muscular?

Was Neil being self centered and selfish?  Or was he actually doing everyone a favor?

I miss the guy.  Every time I go to a gym and some young punk slams the weights, I think of him.

photo credit:

Read my Misophonia mind.

Every wonder what someone with Misophonia is thinking?

You know, besides the constant, unrelenting repetition of the Mother of all Misophonia Thoughts: “SHUT THE F&^! UP!!!!??”

Behold, the Misophoniac’s mind, revealed.

“I’m gonna puke. If he doesn’t stop chewing like that RIGHT NOW, I seriously think I’m gonna hurl.”

“Is that music? I think I can hear music. Where the fuck is that coming from?”

“I can’t move to San Francisco, what if the walls are thin in my new apartment?”

“I miss going to the movies.”

“Baseball bat. That’ll show him. Baseball bat to the FACE to swat that giant wad of bazooka out his FOUL mouth!” (Foul. Get it?)

“Ugh, how can she be chewing gum? That is so unattractive for a woman.”

“Ugh, how can he be chewing gum? That is so unattractive for a man.”

“How can they fucking be chewing gum when they KNOW how much it bothers me???????”

“That’s it. I have to move out of this place.”

“That’s it. I can’t work here anymore.”

“That’s it. I have to break up with him.”


“Thank God for headphones.”

“I’m gonna move somewhere REALLY far away, like in the middle of nowhere.”

“What does everyone have against silence?”


“I know I just said yes, but the thought of going to eat Mexican food surrounded by a symphony of tortilla chips makes me want to die.”

And the loneliest thought of all……

“How can that NOT BOTHER you?”

What Miso thoughts are rattlin’ around in your head?

photo credit: but don’t hold that against me

She hasn't taken these things off in years.

She hasn’t taken these things off in years.

Here are a few idiosyncratic (and totally neurotic) things I do throughout the day to prevent myself from being triggered.

1. Keep tunes at-the-ready

Enjoying a rare moment of silence or a break from your near-constant headphone usage? Make sure to pause Pandora (or whatever you’re listening to) so you can press play the second your neighbor or roommate comes home or things get noisy.

If I don’t have something queued and ready to go, the 3-5 second delay (opening your browser, waiting for the page to load) becomes an invitation to rage.

2. Pay Pandora

If you listen to the Pandora free station, you have to endure commercials. When the blasting sound suddenly drops out and a commercial starts, the resulting lack of noise makes offensive sounds easier to hear.

If I’m jamming to Adam Levine at top volume, I’m none-the-wiser that my downstairs neighbor is PLAYING GUITAR below me. But if a COMMERCIAL comes on, suddenly I can hear him through my headphones. Then, even when the music comes back on, I’m already triggered and it’s too late.

$3.95/month is a small price to pay for sanity.

3. Use Tiger Balm

Thank you so much to the person on the Yahoo group who recommended this to me – it’s been a life saver on airplanes!

Tiger Balm is sort of like Icy Hot, but smellier.  When I fly, I put a dab of the stuff practically inside each nostril. Now it’s not perfect, but it gives you about 90% protection from the nauseating smell of other people’s gum.

Make sure you keep the little jar within reach throughout the flight – people reach for the gum en masse during take off and landing (WHY?! GUM DOESN’T ACTUALLY HELP YOUR EARS POP, THAT’S JUST A MYTH!!!!)

4. Be passive aggressive

I’m a huge chicken shit, so instead of telling someone to please CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH CLOSED YOU DISGUSTING ASSHOLE, I’ve found a pretty effective way to get my point across. I talk about other people.

The other day my friend picked me up from the airport – she’s a sporadic gum chewer, the unpredictable kind, and I spent half the flight worrying that she’d be chewing when she came to get me.

Sure enough, as soon as I opened the car door, a minty waft of agony invaded my nostrils.

I immediately launched into a diatribe about being stuck in front of a jerk on the plane who was chewing gum in my ear the entire time.

“Ugh, I had the worst flight. This asshole sitting behind me was chewing gum in my ear the entire time. It drives me absolutely crazy when people do that!”

“Oh wow, I guess I better not chew gum then” said my friend, half joking.

“Yeah, it really triggers me” I answered. “It’s this thing I have, it sucks.”

Now, she didn’t take her gum out (WHY ARE PEOPLE SO FUCKING INSENSITIVE?), but she did stop chewing and kind of hold it in her mouth while we drove. I remained uncomfortable but prevented a full-blown episode.

If you’re a chicken shit like me, this tactic has the potential to work wonders.

5. Noise-cancelling headphones

I highly recommend going into the store and trying some headphones out before dropping any scratch. This is because noise-cancelling headphones are kinda counterintuitive.

My pair from Sony were around $50 and work better than the more expensive $400 kind.

Get ’em here:

I don’t really understand the technology behind it – all I know is that the more expensive kind made it easier to hear certain sounds – like the low thumping bass (AAAAAH!) of the Black Eyed Peas song playing in the store.

Oh, and bless your soul if you can survive with mere ear buds, but I find that big fat headphones that surround the entire ear work much better.

How do you escape trigger terror?


Can you imagine wanting to cover your ears ALL DAY LONG?

Can you imagine wanting to cover your ears ALL DAY LONG?


I awaken to the sounds of my neighbor’s footsteps clomping on the floor above me.The fact that I can hear the sounds through my headphones, which are blasting white noise at full volume, sparks a massive wave of rage within me. It lasts through my shower, breakfast and commute to work, even though the sounds have long since stopped. I don’t begin to calm down until I’m miles away from the scene of the crime.


It’s crucial that I leave the house before 8am, when my roommate wakes and begins playing the radio. If I were to stay – if I had the day off or wanted to sleep in – I would still be out the door in order to avoid the chance of hearing the radio through my bedroom wall. To me, the soft murmer of voices or muffled music through walls is most people’s equivalent to getting into a really bad car accident.


I brace myself for the thud of bass music to assault my eardrums from the office next door. I plan my morning so that by the time the thumping begins, I will have conducted all of my conversations with my coworkers and boss, and be able to put my earphones in. I crank the volume up as far as it will go, being careful to choose not music I like, but music that will be the absolute loudest. No Jack Johnson for Misophoniacs, at least not when we’re out in the world.


I can hear the music. I take my headphones out to be sure. Yes! I CAN HEAR THE FUCKING MUSIC THROUGH MY HEADPHONES!


I storm out to the warehouse where the tunes are blasting. I rehearse everything I’m going to say to these inconsiderate MOTHERFUCKERS who don’t understand that SOME PEOPLE HAVE TO FUCKING CONCENTRATE at work.

Dear reader, remember: The triggered Miso mind is a petulant 4-year old child. There is no reasoning with it. It is not capable of empathy. All it can conceive of is making the offending noise STOP, and hating those poor souls who had the audacity to trigger its latent hate.


I arrive at the offending area that houses the BEACON OF TRIGGERDOM, an old school boombox radio. The only person working there is a scary-looking girl that I’m pretty sure hates my guts.

She raises an eyebrow, as if to say “I DARE you to ask me to turn it down.”

I quiver, inhale…and puss out. We lock eyes, I turn on my heel, close to tears, and drag my sorry self back to my desk.


My co-workers favorite lunch is dry Ramen noodles eaten right out of the package. There are a few foods in this world that crunch more loudly than all others, and this is one of them. He takes his time too, drawing the torture out over a period of several hours. I can see his mealy little mouth working on the noodles like a neurotic hamster who hasn’t been fed in weeks.


5:36 pm

Home. My experience will be determined by who is home, including both neighbors and roommates. If my upstairs neighbors are home, my headphones must go in. If both roommates are home, I must leave because they will both be watching TV in their separate rooms, and I can’t stand to hear the sound of two televisions (or two anythings) playing at once.

Victory! Only one roommate home, and no neighbors.


We watch TV. I have a glass of wine. I am at peace, for a moment, until….

“Do you want some chips?”


He strolls toward the kitchen and returns with my arch-nemesis in tortilla form.


I can’t leave right away, it would be rude. I must endure at least five minutes of chip-chewing before making my exit. I hope I won’t still be able to hear him from my room….


Bedtime. The one time it seems to be acceptable to ask people to “turn it down.” Apparently, for normal folk, the only time of day for quiet silence is during slumber. The rest of their waking hours must be filled with NOISE NOISE NOISE.

The TV is blaring in the living room. I know the precise volume at which I won’t be able to hear it through my pillow-barriered door. (pillows stuffed under the door make great noise absorbers, fyi).

“Can you turn it down a little?”

As if it were no big deal.

“Sure, no prob!” my roommate grins. I wonder if he plans on turning it back up the second I leave.


I can hear the TV. Or can I? I remove my earphones and listen in terror. I think I can hear it. Breathe. Breathe. Think of something else. Think about that guy from the bar. No, not him, the one with the green eyes. He was really….I CAN HEAR IT! I CAN HEART IT! I WILL NEVER GET TO SLEEP! DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE TO WORK IN THE MORNING? I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM…..


I awaken to the sounds of my neighbor’s footsteps clomping on the floor above me.

photo credit:

Be less human and this just might work.

Be less human and this just might work.

“There’s a moment you know…’re f*cked.”

So go the lyrics to “Totally Fucked,” one of my favorite workout jams from the musical Spring Awakening. Little did Steven Sater know when writing the lyrics that he was actually describing a totally pivotal moment during a Misophoniac’s romantic relationship with a Normal Person.

At a certain point into the relationship – perhaps a few weeks if you’re with someone sort of ‘meh,’ or a few months if you’re with a major studmuffin – there comes a subtle-yet-earth-shattering shift that forever alters your tolerance levels.

Misophonia f*cks love in the metaphorical ass.

It looks something like this:

I meet David. He’s wonderful. He’s beautiful, and he adores me, and we quickly become enchanted by that completely disgusting, can’t-get-enough-of-you, texting 24/7, naming-our-babies New Love Fever.

I am so high off this fever, so out of my mind with desire, that it doesn’t even matter that he chews GUM. He is an avid, enthusiastic gum chewer. I am the sole beneficiary of his obvious oral fixation, however. He even chews gum while bestowing upon me all the benefits of a tongue made dexterous by 16 hours a day of constant chewing (and he’s somehow able to do this without getting anything stuck anywhere it shouldn’t be which, when you’re drunk with Love Fever, isn’t weird or disgusting – it’s talent!)

But I have Misophonia. I do. And one of my triggers, as someone inordinately sensitive to a very particular sound set, is the sight, sound, and smell of someone – anyone – chewing gum. As much as I tell myself that’s it’s “different with David,” it’s only a matter of time before Steven Sater rears his ugly lyrics, and I’m totally fucked.

It happens in the car. We’ve only been dating for two months. It’s a sunny day. He picks me up. I’m in a great mood. We have plans to go to the beach, then dinner, then maybe a romantic evening at a hotel (right. As if I could stomach an evening in a hotel with paper-thin walls).

I open the car door. He is chewing gum. As he always has been. And I snap.

My snap is internal, because in addition to be a Misophoniac, I’m also dreadfully passive aggressive.

Rage swells within me. I am filled with hate. Blood swells to my genitals – a reaction I will truly never understand, but apparently this is a common symptom of many Misophoniacs. My thoughts begin to swirl, and the conversation between me and my mind goes something like this:

Me: That’s it. I can’t fucking take this. We have to break up, stat.

Mind: Will you calm down? It’s just gum.

Me: I can’t fucking take it! I’m going to open the car door right now and roll out, ninja-style!

Mind: Why don’t you just ask him to chew with his mouth closed?

Me: That’s not good enough. I’ll still be able to see his DISGUSTING MOUTH MOVING and his JAW CHURNING and I’ll KNOW that he’s still CHEWING!!!!

(Keep in mind that mere hours before, that same “disgusting” mouth was between my legs at my own request. I say this not to be crass, but to illustrate the lunacy of the condition, and its ability to take over the mind and poison it).

Mind: Why don’t you ask him to spit out his gum?

Me: Because he shouldn’t HAVE to spit out his gum! He has a RIGHT to chew gum! Why the fuck does it BOTHER me so much? It’s not fair! Why can’t I just get over it?

By this point, David has begun to sense that something’s wrong.

David: Are you ok?

Me: (smiling unconvincingly) Fine.

But I’m not fine, and as David persists, I begin to pick a fight that has nothing to do with gum or Misophonia. I somehow manage to come up with OTHER reasons that I’m upset with him, resulting in a completely bizarre fight that makes no sense to either of us. When I finally admit that the real cause of my upset is his gum, he immediately whips the offending putty out of of his mouth like it’s been poisoned.

Matthew: “Why didn’t you just say so? Jesus, it’s just gum!

It is just gum. Its insignificance is so apparent, so obvious that allowing it to upset you is embarrassing. It feels shameful. It makes me feel so neurotic, so obsessive, so weak, so selfish. There is such pain in resisting what is, in not being able to accept the present moment in whatever form it takes.

In that moment, I know that I will also no longer be able to tolerate his snoring, or the bizarre way he eats sushi (with his hands….?). It’s over. My love is lost again, devoured by the Misophonic Monster.

How can a Misophoniac find happiness in love? Is it possible to find someone who doesn’t trigger you in any way, ever? Is it fair to ask someone else to change themselves for you, or even worse, to change themselves in order to accommodate your condition?

My thoughts always turn toward the other person – what’s fair to them, what is or isn’t “too much to ask” of them.

David had a right to chew gum.

But don’t I also have a right not to be miserable when he does?

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