Tuesday, July 21, 2015

misophonic

find me on instagram: @thewildercoast
Part 2.

It took us 19 hours to drive from our home in Asheville to North Pomfret, Vermont, a few hours longer than usual despite only having stopped twice, for diesel and to let the dog trot circles around the parking lot, casting us glances of annoyance for having been woken up. We left in the evening after David finished work, and like idiots we drove through the entire night, something that for the past few years I've considered myself too old for.

In those dark and woozy hours between 1 and 5 in the morning, while David slept open mouthed in the passenger seat, his shoulder jammed up against the window, I may have been driving a tiny bit below the speed limit. Despite the maniacal amount of hours we were spending in an overpacked car whose seats didn't lean back, I was in no hurry.

Our neighbor across the street had recently acquired a set of enormous speakers that he rigged up in his back yard, directly facing our front door. All day he blasted country music radio, even when he wasn't out in the yard himself, and it was grinding me into a sort of depression. During those early summer days in May, when the air was warm and buoyant, I kept the doors and windows sealed shut to keep the sound out. I dragged fans into every room of our small, one level house, and set them on high, so that our home sounded like an airplane right before takeoff, and stale air whipped through the hallway. But it was better than the insidious stream of ads for Home Depot and Lowes, talk DJs and Kenny Chesney coming from across the street.

I couldn't work outside on our screened porch, the one that David and I lived in all spring, eating dinner and playing Monoploy Deal and often just sitting on our goodwill armchairs in companionable silence, because the incessant noise invoked in me a rage that some might say was slightly out of proportion to the stimulus. I'd take my computer into my bedroom and try to write but I'd be too furious, and when a particularly exuberant song reached me even in there, in my own bed, over the din of the fans, I'd put my hands over my ears and start to sob.

This wasn't like in college, where some friends and I had unwittingly wound up renting a place next to the unofficial UW Rugby House. They threw parties each and every Friday and Saturday night during the school year, parties that inevitably burst out of the shitty little rental house and spilled into the street, often becoming a brawl of swinging fists and girls scream crying into their flip phones. The police would eventually show up around 3am and break it up, tipped off by a certain neighbor who spent those nights sitting and watching from her upstairs window, ringing the police's 'nonemergency line' until someone showed up.

At least that situation had been temporary. Every day brought us closer to the end of the lease, when we could flee the neighborhood and find somewhere quieter, farther away from campus. Someplace where we wouldn't have to fear the weekends and their guaranteed sleeplessness. But David and I own our house in West Asheville, its purchase was a momentous occasion of pride and joy and we couldn't possibly afford to live anywhere else. And our neighbors, at least three generations of them currently live there, are never going to leave. Nor, would it seem, are they turning down the music.

"We're stuck here." I cried to David one evening. "We're going to have to hear that music forever- we'll never be able to go outside!" David was patient with me, comforting if slightly confused, but as I ranted on and became more agitated, burying my tear streaked face into the pillow, he did say, very evenly, "You know, it's a little hard to hear how unhappy you are in this house we've worked so hard on."
Sound can drive me insane. I've been this way my entire life, and even have very early memories of feeling intense anger triggered by some completely innocuous sound. In fact, my very first memory is of sitting on my dad's lap, pushing my two hands into his chest to try to make him stop breathing. I didn't like the sound of it. I was a baby, not talking yet, but I understood when my dad looked over at my mom and said, "I think...she doesn't want me to breathe?"

I didn't want him to breathe, and I don't want anyone around me to breathe, or chew, or clear their throat. It's a condition called misophonia that, understandably, nobody is all that sympathetic about. People have to chew, after all. It's described as a 'neural glitch' and it can transform me into a terrible, mean, and hideously unreasonable person. I guiltily explained my condition to David one day in Nicaragua, after a particularly, how do I put this, noisy dinner. "It's my problem," I said, looking at the ground. "But you, and everyone I love the most- you all have to experience the side effects."
He hadn't seem very concerned, mostly bemused, but not long after we had to develop a certain code in order to deal with it. If a noise triggered me- my hard tiny glint of insanity- instead of throwing my hands over my ears or slamming something down onto the table or telling him sharply to stop it! I would instead say, "Help!" He liked this because it implied the onus was on me- I didn't need anyone else to change, I needed help. And I did.

This made things a little better, although I learned after the fact that he delayed proposing to me for one week because I'd yelped out, "Help!" just as he was pulling the ring from his pocket, on the summit of Bear Wallow mountain. (He had been chewing on a handful of raisins.) This, he said, kind of ruined the mood.
And now I was driving away from it, the radio in the yard, the neighbors that made me uneasy, the constant homesickness that made me feel so horridly ungrateful, unadaptable- I was home. I luxuriated in the air conditioned car, and stayed in the right lane as 18-wheelers trundled past in the left, causing us to swerve slightly in their wake. I listened to an audio book thought about everything that I had to look forward to: the wedding, seeing my parents, seeing my friends, three weeks of being home in Vermont, all the quiet days and still, cool evenings that I could wander through all by myself.

David was continuing up north to Labrador on a whitewater kayaking trip, and while other people balked at the idea- "right before the wedding? for three weeks?" I thought it sounded something akin to opulence. I wanted to be home and I wanted to be alone. For the past few weeks I'd been experiencing an inexplicable tightness in my chest, a searing pain that made breathing a maneuver that required concentration. The doctor, disinterested, wrote me a prescription for Ativan which had proved useless. But I knew that as soon as I reached my house in Vermont, familiar, beloved, safe and so very quiet- I knew that I'd get better. And I was almost there.
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11 comments:

Peter Ferris said...

So interesting! Left me wanting to read more!

Anonymous said...

I think I have that!! I have to leave the room when my husband eats fruit. Looking it up now...

Marie said...

Might there not be a way you could go over to your neighbors and ask them to turn the volume down or at least not play that while they are not even outside? I would hope a polite request would yield a result! I would not be able to live with that either. Good luck!

Maria said...

Not only do I have that too, whatever it's called, but now I have anxiety for you & the selfish neighbors you have to deal with! That would drive me totally insane. I work in a doctor's office & the woman I work with likes music on, from 7am until we leave. I considered quitting my job over it. I work with my desk fan on year round & she tries not to blast it too loud. Restaurants blasting loud music...hate it. Does no one else crave some peace & quiet? I also suffer from weird pains that seemingly have no origin, I've had major panic attacks & please, don't anyone chew gum near me. I become very evil. Praying for you, sista. Can't wait to read it all & don't leave out any details!!

marinj said...

I couldn't live with that loud country music either, it made me thankful for my quiet neighborhood. Hopefully that music will stop soon or at least be turned to a lower volume. I had to laugh out loud that the proposal got delayed a week. :) Loved your post!

marinj said...

Oh and I learned a new word...opulence. I like it very much. Thank you for broadening my vocabulary. :)

s. Maiolo said...

Love the way you share. Ask the neighbor to keep the music down when he is not outside and i am sure he will agree and maybe some noise canceling headphones will help you enjoy your porch again.

s. Maiolo said...

Love the way you share. Ask the neighbor to keep the music down when he is not outside and i am sure he will agree and maybe some noise canceling headphones will help you enjoy your porch again.

Anonymous said...

Yes- loved this post. And love the picture of Hometeam in the chair, looking at us like, "Yes-and?"

Megan said...

This punched me in the gut. I used to have a neighbor upstairs that made my life a misery. My husband didn't really get it either. The constant stress, waiting for noise. It's horrible. I remember thinking that I could easily strap him to a chair and slowly gouge his eyes out with a spoon. I have never - before or since - loathed a random stranger like that.

You're not alone! Great blog, and great writing.

mel said...

I also have misophonia. Every morning I get up with my husband at 5:30 am. He leaves at 6:30am for work and I luxuriate in the silence until my children wake up one by one and wander into the kitchen to find the loudest cereal they can. Then they come sit right behind me and slurp the milk, before chewing so loudly with their mouths open that I want to scream. Then after suffering through that for 10 minutes, the next one will grab their cereal...for four times.. My husband also has it, strangely. I'm not sure he actually has it or if he's acquired the symptoms due to being extra sensitive to me.

One day our neighbours across the street had the music up so loud that it was shaking our brick house. It was awful! Thankfully it only lasted for a couple hours. I can't imagine it going non stop. Hopefully it improves for you.