It started when my teammates (including a principal from my firm) and I arrived in our meeting room around 8 a.m. yesterday to set up our presentation materials. One of the clients arrived early and started whistling (my worst trigger) right behind me as he walked around the room to look at all of our designs. As more and more clients arrived and we began our meeting, my teammate sitting to my left started bouncing his leg really fast and my coworker to my right started drumming his fingers on the table. The tables were set up in a "U" formation, so I could see legs bouncing and feet tapping/rotating under the table by the clients across from me. (I thought to myself, "Arrrgh! I'm surrounded!") Then, about an hour into the meeting, one of the clients stood up to look more closely at the projection on the screen and was cracking his gum as he stood behind me. (At that point I thought, "This is like a cat being drawn to someone with cat allergies, like myself. I'm a magnet for triggerers!") If I thought I could discretely get up and walk out, I would have done so, but unfortunately, I was sitting at the end of the "U" - to minimize my exposure to triggers by sitting as close to the presentation screen as possible - that was the farthest point away from the door. I would've had to walk between the clients sitting in a row at the back wall and the ones sitting in the middle leg of the "U." I tried scrunching down to block the view of the feet/leg fidgiters under the table with my laptop screen but it just wasn't enough, especially with the gum cracking behind me. I wound up putting in my earplugs to block the cracking sound, after which the client went back to his chair at the back of the conference room. (Coincidence???)
For hours and hours I had to sit through triggers and it felt like torture. Although my coworkers knew of my misophonia, there was no way I was going to ask a client to please stop what (s)he was doing. Last thing I wanted to do was to have a client think I was crazy... I couldn't wait for the meeting to end. I thought I'd finally get some relief... Boy was I wrong!
After the meeting adjourned and the clients left, my coworkers decided to stay and work on updating their designs based on the day's comments so that the revised drawings could be used during today's worksession discussions. It wouldn't have been so bad, but my principal started whistling as he was sketching up some new designs. I had already shut my laptop down, so I couldn't listen to music files from my computer. (The last time we had this type of workshop session, the team left within a half hour after the meeting ended. This time we stayed over two hours longer!) I tried putting in my earplugs but the room we were in wasn't that large and he was whistling very loudly. I could hear the piercing sound through the foam earplugs and I knew there was no way I was going to stay in the same room while he did that. So, I got up and went to one of the smaller conference rooms down the hall to work on my iPad tablet.
After a while, I felt a little awkward being away from the team, so I went back to join them. I wasn't back in the room ten minutes before the principal started whistling again. (Double-argh!) It was very frustrating because only a couple of days prior, I had told him about my condition. I'd like to think he wasn't doing it intentionally but a small part of me wondered if he was deliberately doing it, considering how soon after I rejoined them that he started whistling again. So, I gathered up my stuff again and went back into the other conference room. Even though I was alone in the room, I left in my earplugs and just stared out the window watching a big mosquito keep banging against the window, like he was trying to get into the room. I was trying very hard to decompress after hours and hours of trigger bombardment and was relieved when one of my coworkers said we were finally heading out to get some dinner. I left in my earplugs throughout the car drive to the restaurant, knowing my brief break from triggers wasn't going to last long. I wasn't wrong...
From the moment the five of us sat in a booth at the restaurant, I knew I was in trouble. Although I sat at the end of the booth, in case I needed to make a quick escape, I was sitting next to the coworker who sat to my left during the meeting. He started bouncing his leg again, just like during the meeting - only this time, since I was now sitting next to him on the booth seat, I was feeling his bounces instead of just being bothered by the visual motion. Also, the principal from my office was now sitting directly in front of me on the other side of the booth and he went from whistling loudly while reading the menu, to banging his cell phone on the table every few seconds as he talked to the team. (I'm used to people doing that with a pen, but not with a cellphone.) Although I held up my menu to visually block the motion of him banging the cellphone on the table, sliding his fingers to the other end of the phone while rotating it, then banging it again... The sound permeated through my earplugs like a hammer hitting my brain. Part of me wanted to run away from the triggers, but we hadn't ordered yet so I felt I had to stay. I was so grateful when our orders finally came. The earplugs were at least good enough to block any sounds from my teammates eating their pizza. By the time we got back to the hotel, I was mentally and physically exhausted. Given that we were going to have another full day of client/consultant coordination meetings, I couldn't wait to go to sleep and rest up for another torturous day.
All I can say is that I'm lucky my flight back to the Midwest leaves at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. It gives me an excuse to bag out of dinner and try to decompress in the solitude of my room before getting a good - even if short - night's sleep.