My experience with misophonia

Over the last ten years or so I’ve discovered that I’m intolerant to certain sounds. Sounds that other people might find a little annoying, can trigger a full-on flight or fight panic response in me.

Turns out this response to sound has a name: misophonia.

According to the website WebMD, “misophonia is a disorder in which certain sounds trigger emotional or physiological responses that some might perceive as unreasonable given the circumstance.”

Different people have different triggers, they might find chewing, breathing, tapping or even dogs barking provokes this reaction.

For me it centres on my home, as it’s somewhere that should feel safe and a place you can relax. My neighbours TV, them shouting and their dog barking triggers this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m at home a lot, I mean we all are at the moment, so there’s no escape from the noise. If they decide to blare their TV for a couple of hours, there’s not much I can really do about it, as I don’t feel able to bring it up with them face to face.

My mental health has taken a nose-dive recently as they seem to have ramped up the amount of noise they are making, their TV is louder and sometimes they wake me up early in the morning with their shouting. I’ve spent the last month or so feeling on edge. I’ve bought some earplugs that do help me get a better night’s sleep, but I’m still finding things a struggle.

I’ve sought a bit of solace on an online support group. I read other people’s posts and feel grateful that my neighbours don’t throw parties that go on till the early hours, but still the panic is there. I think it’s awful that so many people don’t care about the impact they have on others.

I’ve been ruminating on whether my neighbours are trying to ‘send me a message’ that I’ve upset them in some way, but I suppose I won’t know unless I talk to them about it.

I’ve wanted to write a post for a while but haven’t been able to summon the energy for it, as my reaction to the noise has taken up a lot of energy. Would be interesting to hear if any of you can relate to this, or if you have ever lived next to noisy neighbours.

Is your anxiety a fear of fear itself?

Fear is a funny thing. You might experience it often in your day to day life but not understand why certain situations scare you so much. Or you might know perfectly well but find yourself unable to stop it.

The people closest to you might not understand either, even if you painstakingly try to explain where you’re coming from. I’ve had many conversations with my family, and they’ve asked me, exasperated: “but why do you feel so anxious, you know that nothing bad will happen!” Yes, I do, but how I feel isn’t rational!

I sat down one day and gave it some serious thought. What was it that made me feel so awful – what makes me want to avoid so much of life? Suddenly it hit me; it’s the feeling of fear itself. The overwhelming pounding in my chest, the rapid breathing, the derealisation and the feeling that I was about to lose control. For me, what started as social anxiety evolved into something else.

Anxiety is normal

And as I’m sure you know; anxiety can be all consuming. If someone were to ask me what I wanted above all else, it would be to feel free. To know that I could simply feel calm and never be fearful again. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that! I’ve come to accept that I will always experience anxiety because anxiety is normal, the thing that needs to change is how I relate to it.

This fear of fear is known as ‘anxiety sensitivity.’ Noam Shpancer Ph.D writes on: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/insight-therapy/202002/anxiety-sensitivity-when-what-we-fear-is-fear-itself “Research suggests that stressful life events, specifically those related to health and family discord, are associated with increases in anxiety sensitivity. These stressful events contribute to the emergence of anxiety sensitivity by leading to the formation of distorted, dysfunctional beliefs about the meaning and consequences of somatic sensations.”

You can break the cycle

My reaction to feelings of anxiety, was that it was unbearable, and I might lose control so it must be avoided at all costs. By thinking this I set myself up in a cycle of fear that has been difficult to break. But the cycle can be broken.

In my experience, mindfulness has been a valuable tool in accepting fear. Observing your anxiety, without attaching judgement to it can give yourself much needed space to think clearly. “This too shall pass” and “fear is just a feeling” have become mantras of mine!

I used to think that I was weird for feeling like this, or unable to change, but actually – it’s normal. A normal human behaviour that lots of other people experience. This anxiety sensitivity is a reaction, a coping mechanism to the experiences you have had in your life. And by gradually changing your relationship with fear, and seeing it for what it is, you can reduce its intensity.

Why changing your routine is a good thing

I’ve never been good at leaving my comfort zone. I enjoy routine and the feeling of comfort that brings, because that means I’m in control, right?

But then life happens and I can’t control it at all, it just plays out. Some of my worst anxiety occurs when I feel a loss of control, and if I can’t escape to a place of safety I panic. So, to counter these feelings I’ve decided to try and leave my comfort zone every now and again!

I’ve had loads of fun, interesting experiences when I’ve broken my routine. Be that interacting with new people or visiting new places – new experiences enrich your life. And it hasn’t been without anxiety, but that’s a part of recovery which is worth the effort. Anxiety may never leave completely, but that does not mean you can’t still lead a fulfilling life.

So why not make a small change and appreciate what happens next? Think of one thing you’d like to do today and give it a go!

One of my interests is photography, and usually I only take photographs when I’m at home in my garden. So the next time I go for a walk I’m going to take my camera with me, it’ll be difficult to take pictures with other people around, but I’ll do it and see what happens.

I’ll sign off with some pictures I took in my garden.