Here it is, the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, and I'm actually at the office trying to play catch-up. (Let's just say, being out of the office for three out of four consecutive weeks is not something I hope to repeat anytime soon.) I actually thought I was going to stay put for a while, but last week I found out I have to go on another business trip to North Carolina next week for a project, and to meet with a potential new client just a two-hour drive east of the first project's location. Despite this new trip, I want to get back into a more regular routine with writing this blog (not to mention to pick up where I left off with my memoir) so that SenseHaven.com doesn't fall behind in keeping you all up to date. There are a few recent updates on the website to note:
* There's going to be a misophonia support group MeetUp tomorrow (5/26) in the UK.
* A new book about misophonia called "Sound-Rage" is about to come out this summer
* An Article on the Science 2.0 website called "Amygdala Modulation - Why Fingernails On Blackboards Make Us Crazy."
* A new article describing misophonia on the "Psychology Today" website
I'm sure there's much more information that came out over the past several weeks. It just may take me a little bit longer to play catch-up with researching more misophonia news.
One thing that I did want to expand upon was something to which I alluded in my 5/9/13 post. As I mentioned before, I had several intriguing, yet intense, discussions about misophonia with my uncle when I went back home. One of the things that these discussions forced me to do was to describe my condition to someone who not only doesn't have misophonia, but also to someone who has diminished senses (due to severe sinus issues as well as occassional major wax build-up in his ears.) That's quite a challenge in itself, since my senses are hyper-acute and he doesn't necessarily notice many of the sensations to which I react. (E.g. Eating/swallowing sounds.) He'd also push me to describe what's going on in my mind at the time of the trigger (something to which I assume is related to a cognitive therapy approach). Many times when I'd try to explain what my triggers are he'd ask, "Why do they bother you?" It got to be a point when I would say, "I don't know why? Why do some people like sushi (like myself) when other people can't stand it (like the rest of my family)? Why do some people like hard rock music and others don't? I don't know why I'm annoyed by certain sensations. They just bother me."
Probably the most intense discussion we had was when I described about my experiences hiking back in the DC area. I explained how I enjoyed going on full-day hikes with one particular group, because it was an exhilarating form of exercise and it was the one time I could get away from the intensity of urban life to let my mind relax with the sounds of mother nature. (The birds, the crickets, babbling water streams, the wind through the leaves...) The one type of hiking situation where I had some misophonia difficulties was when I was walking too close to people who were having loud conversations, at which time I'd put in my earplugs. That's when my uncle would challenge me... "Why does their conversations bother you? Why not join in their conversation? Why bother going on hikes then?" I tried to explain that with these particular hikes, people tend to hike at different speeds, so we wind up being quite spread out along the trail - as much as a mile or so between the first and last people. Some people like to race... Others are not regular hikers and wound up being VERY slow. That's why the group always has a strong hike leader to stay at the front and a "sweep" to make sure that no one gets lost or is able to help when someone gets hurt. I honestly don't think my uncle truly understood that even though technically I hiked with a group, it's not like we all stayed in one close bunch the entire 7-14 miles of the trail.
My favorite times on hikes were when I was in the middle of the spread out group and there was no one within eyeshot either in front of me or behind me. That's when I truly felt one with nature. It was when I got too close to a couple of people, or people behind who caught up with me, that the "buzzing" of their conversations would interrupt my meditative enjoyment of the sounds of nature around me. That's what my uncle couldn't understand and at first, and I had to really think about why I didn't like to be near people having a conversation while I was on a hike. When I tried to compare the frustration in that situation to what I experience in a movie theater, even before I explained why, he fought me saying that my analogy was wrong... "Going on a hike is not like going to a movie theater." That was, until I insisted that he listen to my whole reasoning behind the comparison...
I explained that when I go to a movie theater, it's not just for entertainment... It's a means to "escape" from reality by immersing myself in someone else's story presented on-screen. I don't want to be thinking about my daily work stresses or focus on the fact that I'm sitting in a movie theater with my feet sticking to the floor... I want to feel like I'm actually in the story. When people crunch their popcorn, crinkle food wrappers, whisper behind me, kick the seats, or play with their phones, those triggers are distractions that once heard/felt, I can't ignore. Even the egress lights along the aisle can sometimes prevent me from fully immersing myself in the movie experience.They snap me out of that fantasy world and bring me back to misophoniac reality knowing that I'm sitting in a movie theater with dozens of other people. The only way that I can "tune out" those distracting triggers are to wear my earplugs during the movie, which sometimes means I can't hear subtle sounds within the movie itself.
I then went on to say that when I'd go on a hike, like the movies, it's to immerse myself in the enjoyment of the experience of mother nature and to "escape" from my daily grind... Being a techie, the intensity of urban life can be very overwhelming, but when I'm high in the mountains with no cell phone coverage, it forces me to take in my surroundings and immerse myself in the moment. Because of my sensitive hearing, even a conversation 50 yards behind me can snap me out of that experience, not because I'm listening to the details of the conversation (and believe me, many of those conversations I wish I hadn't heard), but because it was just enough to hear the "S's" and other verbal sounds that are the same triggers I have when coworkers around me read softly out loud to themselves. The triggers don't fit in with the other background sounds and it's enough to snap me out of the comforting sensations of the natural environment.
Once I explained that hikes are just as much of an "escape" to me as going to the movies, he finally seemed to understand what I was trying to convey. He did question why then I wouldn't just go on hikes by myself, to which I explained that I am not comfortable with the idea of going on long hikes like these alone. In addition to many news items about lone hikers that were attacked or abducted, there's also the fact that with no cell phone coverage on many trails, if I were to get hurt or lost, it would be more difficult to get help. Yes, I'm a fairly experienced hiker and I'm pretty good when it comes to directions, but experienced hikers can have unforseen problems. I have been the "sweep" leader on several hikes where I had to help people who got hurt. Heck, on one of the first hikes I did with the group, (the Capital Hiking Club) nearly a decade ago, my well broken-in hiking boots lost one of its soles two miles into a seven mile hike. Unpredictable things do happen. I just try to prepare myself as best as I can to minimize problems when they occur.