I discovered I had misophonia in 2008, more than a decade after I actually developed the condition. I was probably around 12 or 13 and I was at the breakfast table eating cereal with my brother before heading to school. As we sat there eating, I simply began to notice something. My brother was smacking his lips as he chewed his cereal — Frosted Flakes, if I remember correctly. I felt so uncomfortable by the noise that I felt compelled to ask him if he could chew with his mouth closed.
Then I started noticing the noise with other people in my family. My mom smacked her lips while eating, too. She chewed a lot of gum, and I had to leave the room to avoid hearing certain eating sounds. I would want to spend time downstairs with my family, but the second someone went to grab something to snack on, I was walking briskly up the stairs to my room, like clockwork.
Trapped in a car with a gum chewer was torture. If a classmate chewed gum next to me in school, I missed the entire lecture because I couldn’t stop focusing on the noise as resentment and anger bubbled up inside. I cried myself to sleep at the sounds of a muffled television coming from my parents room after my father refused to turn it off.
But possibly the worst part of all, I thought I was the only one. This was before I knew how to browse the Web. All I knew was that nobody else appeared to share my problem, and that my family seemed to regard me as whiny and manipulative. I kept things bottled up inside and suffered silently during everyday events. When I went to the movies with friends, I’m sure they had no idea that I couldn’t wait for the movie to end and that I was obsessing about all of the people eating popcorn or chewing on the ice from their sodas.
I especially made sure not to tell anyone I dated. Finally, when I was 23, a boyfriend and I went on a road trip. We stopped at a gas station, and I saw him head inside and purchase a bag of Doritos. I was overwhelmed by panic, and I was especially concerned because I was the one driving. I tried to remain calm as we drove back onto the highway. He grabbed the bag of chips and opened them. He crunched down on chip after chip and I felt as if I wanted to drive off the road. I came clean with him, and he was the one who looked up my condition online.
I found a Yahoo group of people who had my exact same problem. I read about one woman who had to eat at the far end of the dining room table with music blasting if she wants to dine with her husband. One member of the group said her mother used to chew ice all the time while watching television in the living room, so as a girl, she spent most of her childhood in her bedroom. I spent hours researching what I had and learned there was no cure, and that just a few doctors were starting to research it. But it was amazing to know that I was not alone. I could name what I had and find a support group made up of people like me.
It sounds simple, but knowing I had misophonia changed my life.