Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Misophonia  Don't Laugh - It's a Real Thing

And we all felt a lot better when that article came out in the NY Times a few years ago.  Because, for all the neurological and psychological things my family has been through, no one ever thought of telling a physician that the sounds people make at the dinner table cause feelings of absolute rage.*  (Not just the dinner table - anywhere.  And don't get some of us started on how awful radio and television ads are when they pop open a can of any carbonated beverage and make those hideous pouring and, OMG NO!, slurping and swallowing sounds.  There are some Kit-Kat bar television spots that we consider to be crimes against humanity!)  I was once at my doctor's office and the sounds made by a woman who spent what felt like an eternity digging in her purse made me want to run screaming out of the waiting room.  There was no way I could articulate to the doctor why my blood pressure might have been "up a little".

So, over time, I've become very liberal with any blocking sounds that help to maintain peace for the 'misophonics'.  TV, radio....whatever works.  On the one hand, I do view television at dinner to be intrusive and against most tenets of good parenting.  But if it keeps people from jumping up, screaming, and leaving the table it can't be all bad.  It then became a matter of controlling what sort of stuff we would watch on the telly.  And music helps....though there isn't always a consensus about what is the best music.  Mozart and Vivaldi can get people a little hypered up.  Edith Piaf for a Bastille Day dinner only set many nerves on edge.  The "Best of Chopin" CD has always been good - right up until it gets to the Funeral March.  (The first time that happened was during a beautiful Mother's Day lunch the girls had prepared for me.  We were having a lovely time, with lovely background music, lovely conversation, and eventually there was this buzz killing lull when the Marche Funèbre: Lento in B-flat minor cast its pall over the event.)

Thanksgiving, with everyone at the table, has always been a concern. To keep the conversation going in a pleasant way I decided to make my own Proust Questionnaire cards to pass around the table.  Going around the table once to find out what everyone is thankful for doesn't sustain the
Thanksgiving - Misophonia's Stomping Ground
conversation.  We needed more.  The cards have become a tradition that NO ONE likes.  Some people don't like being put on the spot.  Some people think the questions are dumb.  Some of the questions tended to be incendiary - giving a chance to put in the personal jabs that I had hoped a structured conversation would avoid.  I know that many families lament the loose tongues that come with the over-consumption of alcohol.  Alcohol has never been much of a problem at our family events - unfortunately, no one here needs to be drunk to be "honest" and share the "truth."  Any cards beyond "What is your favorite color?" are an invitation to point out the failings of others.  "How would you like to die?" - the Old Maid of the Proust Questionnaire cards - usually is answered with "Anywhere but here", or "Right before Thanksgiving Dinner".

Forgetting "Medications in a Box" on the front porch is not a wise move in our slightly sketchy neighborhood.

So, we tried it without the cards last Thanksgiving.  I sort of missed my goofy tradition.  But everyone else was happy.  There was enough background music and background noise from Lily, Maddie and Nate, that no chewing, smacking, or grinding sounds resulted in murderous rage.

But now I have had another brilliant (though doomed) idea.  Fran needed a set of cards to help her as she studies for the NCLEX exam this summer.  I offered to pay for them, and in a sad attempt to get more of my money's worth, I wondered if we could make them into a dinner table game.  We could take these flashcards of 300 of the medications most commonly found on the NCLEX exam and pass out one to each guest.  We could go around the table and you could keep your card if you thought the medication could help you, trade it in for a card in the pile (Go Fish style) or give your card to someone at the table who could benefit from the drug on the card.  Then you would have to take his/her card and work with it in the next round.  I don't think you need a great knowledge of pharmaceuticals to see how this game could turn really nasty.  Really nasty.  The winner would be anyone left when dessert is served.

Well, it was an idea.  Fran can just use them to study.  I guess, maybe, we could keep them for a boring, rainy day.  No chips, raw fruit, or pouring of beverages allowed.  Ad hominem, passive-aggressive card games certainly don't need any misophonia exacerbating factors!

*I don't know if most of my family members would have survived the moment when I was flying back from Auckland and the flight crew passed out beautiful, juicy apples as one of the intermittent, break-up-the-boredom snacks.  Three hundred or so people in a confined space all biting into crunchy apples was a sound I don't want to hear again.  I put my earphones on and cranked up the sound of the first thing that came on the entertainment system.  Death Metal, old school Country, Philip Glass - any of it would have been better than the sound of people chewing apples....I just had to get my head away from it!  I chewed my own apple as vigorously as possible - yes, I know, adding to the cumulative noise - not just for sustenance but to help drown out whatever wasn't being blocked by the headphones.  Speaking just for myself, the sound of my own eating doesn't bother me.  GrapeNuts at four in the morning was the only time I managed to get on my own nerves while eating alone.  Never did that again.

1 comment:

j tk said...

Misophonia is a developmental, neurological disorder. It is likely that dysfunctional firing in the insular cortex-anterior cingulate cortex (of the brain's emotional center, the limbic system)signals what neuroscientists refer to as "suffering." From the book Sound-Rage. A Primer of the neurobiology and psychology of a little known anger disorder.

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