One of the experiences I wanted to relay is something that has taken me the past three days to be able to verbalize. I was very excited about the last day of the Memoir Master Class workshop, not only to be able to share and get feedback with my writings, but also to hear the touching stories written by the other fourteen students in the class. What happened that last day was unlike any misophonia experience I've ever had in the past 35+ years of my condition...
It started with my driving two of my classmates to the facilities very early that morning, each one of us hoping to claim our ideal spot and one of the few padded office chairs in the room (instead of the smaller folding chairs). Having a good understanding of some of my classmates' ticks and habits during the past three days of classes, I thought I picked the ideal spot to minimize triggers. I even convinced one of my driving "copilots" to switch tables in the hopes of preventing one of the other classmates, who I knew triggered me over the past couple of days, from sitting next to me. Little did I know that my copilot had restless legs and would be the trigger that started a floodgate for me that morning.
The other factor I hadn't considered when being proactive with my choosing where to sit is that we would be going around the room telling our stories, so there was no single seat where I would not have someone's triggering actions within eye or earshot. This was my biggest mistake...
From the moment the rest of the class came in, I was doomed. People slurping their hot morning coffee or scraping the last bit of yogurt in their bowl filled my ears. Others were rocking back and forth in their comfy swivel chairs, bouncing their legs, playing with their empty cups, tapping their feet, clicking their pens, playing with their hair, rustling food out of crinkly bags, typing last minute additions on their computers.... It was one trigger after the other. I couldn't look at the speakers presenting their stories because inevitably there was always someone within my direct line of sight, or even peripherally in the corner of my eye, who was triggering me.
My mind spiraled out of control. I wanted so hard to hear and feel my classmates' stories but my mind was racing, trying to escape from the bombardment of misophonia triggers. After each story, people would say what stood out to them and my frustration grew because I didn't hear that phrase or absorb the general theme of that person's story... I didn't hear any of what was said because my mind was just overwhelmed with triggers and the rage that was boiling from them. I wanted to leave the room, but I also wanted to stay and hear each other's stories. In the short time we were together, we had become friends - even like family - and I wanted to hear their voices more, but I was so torn with conflict. Wanting to run away but wanting to stay too. Wanting to hear peoples' words and see their expressions yet forced to wear my earplugs and find some neutral visual place to calm my mind. I wound up staring at my cup of tea in the middle of the table, because it was the one place that seemed motionless.
I felt my eyes well up with frustration. My misophonia has never overwhelmed me like that before. After the fifth or sixth person finished speaking and we were able to take a break, my other copilot saw the distraught in my eyes and suggested that I try to walk it off. I went outside and over to the fence with the rainbow that I saw earlier in the week, barely able to keep my composure. I had to stand on my tippy toes to rest my arms on top of the fence and it was the first time that I discovered there were multiple water fountains on the other side. I tried to focus on the sounds of the bubbling water. I tried to calm my mind.
I finally got to a point where my eyes stopped waterering and walked back to the facility. Before I went back into the classroom though, I went into the bathroom and splashed water in my face. The coolness felt good against my flushed skin.
Despite joining the group again with a somewhat calmer mindset, I still was unable to absorb my classmates' stories. I tried closing my eyes to focus on their words but it wound up being a lost cause for me. In fact, after class ended I wound up going back to my hotel room and collapsing for over four hours. I was mentally exhausted and was blown away by the physical toll it took on me.
Thank goodness we exchanged email addresses at the beginning of the workshop and I was able to ask several classmates to email me what they read that morning. Hopefully, I'll be able to read them in a trigger-free environment and immerse myself in their narratives more than I was able to do that day.