Let’s face it, misophonia is not a people-friendly condition.
Imagine if you were eating your dinner, minding your own business, and someone came up to you, jabbed a finger in your face and screamed: “UGH! What the HELL are you doing!? You are DISGUSTING. You sound like a pig eating slop from a trough”.
Imagine that person was your partner. It wouldn’t be very nice would it?
In fact it would be unreasonable, irrational, offensive. RUDE.
While we misophonia suffers are mostly able to control ourselves (and refrain from verbally or physically abusing strangers and loved ones while they’re eating) we often experience a surge of emotion that makes us feel like we want to behave that way.
The problem is this can often leak out in other, more subtle ways while we’re experiencing an ‘episode’. Friends and family may think that we can occasionally be a bit weird or grumpy. That our rage-filled glances at the dinner table or snipey comments are mood swings. The reality is that they’re not – we’re suffering from a very specific and strange condition – and when you live with someone I’ve come to the realisation that it’s much better to let them know that you have this condition than let them think you’re a complete and utter psycho.
6 things to bear in mind when telling a partner or loved one about your misophonia
1. You need to give them time. They’re not going to understand it to begin with. Even if they are absolutely lovely and understanding about it, at first they’ll probably just think that you’re a bit OCD. Remember, for the longest time we, as sufferers, didn’t even know this condition had a name. Give them time to get their head round it.
2. Educate them. Let them discover a little bit about this disorder for themselves. You’ll probably feel like you want to open the floodgates and let them know everything right this second… to describe the exquisite pain that you feel when you hear someone biting a spoon 40 yards away… or the blood boiling fury you suffer when someone breathes irregularly nearby – but take a step back. This will be very strange and a little overwhelming for them too. Point them to useful websites where they can read up about it. Let them come to you with questions.
3. Make sure they don’t blabber about it to everyone they meet. Yes, secrecy is bad – of course we want to educate people about Misophonia – but telling everyone in the world that you have this weird ‘thing’ about eating sounds/certain noises doesn’t help either. Why? Because that’ll be all people talk about. Friends will get self conscious eating around you. On top of that, there’s always be some comedian desperate to test your condition. Before you know it you’ll have your best friend’s mum in a headlock after she’d hilariously pretended to eat a nectarine 3mm from your face.
4. Let them know it’s you, not them. That sounds cheesy as hell, but it’s absolutely true. Make it very clear that you’re aware that you are the one with the problem here, not them. You’re aware that it’s irrational and you know that when they make a noise, they aren’t doing it to hurt, or get at you. This is really important, because ultimately they’ll have to put up with some dark times. You need to let them know that despite your Jekyll and Hyde episodes you love them and you’re on their side.
5. Try and have a laugh about it. This is a serious condition, but the best way to diffuse the aftermath of any awkward episodes is to laugh about it. Let’s face it, it’s pretty ridiculous. We can’t even eat soup with our own mothers without wondering whether she’s an alien creature from outer space sent to crush our sanity. Laughter makes everything better, even bad sex.
6. You don’t always have to tell them when you’re having an episode. This is a tricky one. Normally if you’re feeling uncomfortable or hurt or angry it’s best to tell someone. BUT, if you suffer from misophonia it’s unkind to point out that the sounds they’re making are affecting you. All it does is make them feel uncomfortable and nervous around you. Remember, 99.9% of people don’t have this problem – we’re not going to convince everyone to stop scraping or chewing. It’s far better that we try to find coping mechanisms to help us deal with the problem – rather than the put that responsibility onto the rest of the world.
I hope you found these tips helpful, now it’s over to you! Please feel free to add your thoughts/tips/ideas/comments below, I’d love to hear from you.