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Misophonia

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Estimated reading time — 4 minutes

I’m not a violent person. I never have been. I know that may sound strange given the current circumstances, but you have to believe me when I tell you that I actually try to avoid confrontation as much as possible. I’ve always been sort of timid, almost to a fault. I’m the one who always says “yes” to things I don’t really want to do, and never speaks up when they are being disrespected. I just really hate upsetting people, and I never know what to do when someone is angry with me. Mild tempered- that has always been me.

There is one exception. I’m not proud of it. As a matter of fact I would do anything in the world to change this about myself. What I’m about to say is going to sound ridiculous. It’s going to sound like I’m making excuses or making things up. But I swear on everything it is true and I’m not exaggerating.

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There are certain sounds I just can’t endure. Everyone has certain noises that they find annoying- like nails on a chalkboard or a dripping water faucet. I’m not talking about that. When I say I cannot endure certain sounds, I absolutely mean it. “Annoying” doesn’t adequately describe what these sounds are to me. When I hear them, a rage engulfs me. It swells from the pit of my stomach and runs through my bloodstream like fire. My mind swirls with a horrific melting ooze of every awful sensation you can imagine- anger, fear, contempt, pain. I cannot stop it. My eyes blur, my palms sweat, I feel dizzy. I lose my ability to concentrate on anything but the sound.

Have you ever seen the film “A Clockwork Orange”? At the end of the movie, Alex DeLarge is trapped in a room playing music that drives him insane. He jumps out of the window to end his life, but it wasn’t his life he was ultimately trying to end- it was the sound. Sound. Sound is my enemy.
Of course, Alex DeLarge was a violent person. I am not. But I know what that feels like.

What are these sounds that drive me to the brink of madness? The clicking of a computer mouse, a muffled radio through my apartment wall, the sound dogs make while drinking water- there is a long list. But the sounds that are the worst involve eating. Chomping, smacking, gulping, forks scraping across teeth. Nothing will fill me with rage faster. People think that the ambient background tapestry of hell is made of screaming and the ripping of flesh. They are wrong. Hell is a symphony composed of the sounds of chewing.

But there is one. There is one sound that dwarfs all of them in its sheer malevolence to my ears. Gum. I loathe the chewing of gum and all the sounds that come with it. The popping, squishing, snapping, smacking- just talking about it makes me feel lightheaded. I hate gum so much that I can’t even look at someone that is chewing it. Gum is my tell tale heart beneath the floorboards. I cannot bear it.


I’ve lost jobs because of this. An open office floor plan is a nightmare for me. How do you explain to your boss that the reason your work is suffering is because you can’t concentrate because of the way the person at the next desk pronounces the letter “s”?

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The hardest part about being this way is that no one understands. “Can’t you just ignore it? After all it’s just a sound!” Would you be able to ignore being repeatedly jabbed by a needle to the eye? That’s what it feels like to me. “I bet if you just exposed yourself to the noise repeatedly you would become so used to it that it wouldn’t bother you anymore.” It doesn’t work that way. One doesn’t get used to torture. You may find ways to lessen the pain, but you never get used to it.

And I do- try to lessen the pain, that is. I wear ear muffs and ear plugs. I don’t care if they make me look stupid. You know I once even tried to deafen myself? I listened to metal music at full volume with headphones for hours with the intent of damaging my hearing. It didn’t work. If I’m in a restaurant and I’m seated next to a loud eater, I will politely ask for another table. If I’m in a movie theater and someone near me is loudly crunching away on popcorn, I simply get up and move to another seat. Even in my pain I’m still timid. I want to scream at people, “Spit out that gum!” Or “stop chewing like that!” But I can’t. I would look insane and irrational. So I sit in silence and misery until the time finally comes I can get away from the dreaded noise.

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But what if you can’t get away? What does one do?

You have to understand, we were trapped. I was trapped. We were stuck in the elevator when the power went out. We had been there for over an hour. I asked him more than once politely to please spit out the gum, or at least chew it quietly. I don’t think that was an unreasonable request. How hard can it be just to stop chewing gum for a little while? Just until someone came to our aid or the power was on again?


Please understand, I tried everything I could to quell the rage. I put my fingers in my ears. He thought that was funny and popped a big bubble in response. I didn’t have my headphones or my earplugs with me. I had left them in the office thinking I was coming right back. I controlled myself as long as I could. The rage just overtook me. I went blind with it. It was like another force had taken over my body.

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When I saw the life drain from his eyes, all I could think was, “Silent. Now it’s finally silent.” And when the gum dropped from his mouth to the floor, I stomped it into the carpet so hard I broke the heel of my shoe.

After a few minutes of silence the rage dissipated. Once my senses returned to me I saw what I had done. As awful as it was, and I do acknowledge that it was awful, I still felt nothing but relief. Remorse would only come later.

Of course- of course I am remorseful. As I said in the very beginning, I am not- I’m not proud of any of this. I want- I want nothing. Nothing more than to- I’m sorry. I’m having a hard time focusing. I’m just trying to explain that- Jesus Christ can you stop clicking that pen!

Credit : Jacqueline Nym

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Twitter: @jacqueline_nym

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