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I have misophonia, and it’s my superpower

Hi. My name is Shane Haniff and I have misophonia.

Editor's note: This is a piece I wrote in 2021 for the website, Misomatch. You can find the original article here. Thought I'd share on here, as misophonia continues to be an awful undiagnosed disorder.

Before my misophonia was misophonia

I used to get triggered by repetitive cell phone notification sounds and the constant ringing of the doorbell. Back then, I thought it was just a pet peeve. These annoyances didn’t hit me as hard as when I started to get triggered by the sounds of footsteps upstairs from my basement apartment.

I was living in the basement of my Mom’s place in London, ON. I left a toxic work environment that summer and started a podcast based on mental health and lifestyle. The show is called Shower for the Soul. I was living my boyhood dream of being a broadcaster. I should’ve been happy. I was. But then these mysterious involuntary reactions happened.

Once I got triggered, I’d throw things, yell, and punch walls. This wasn’t me. I didn’t know this person I was turning into. I found out very early on that with misophonia, we think that every trigger is done purposely to annoy us. We think that the whole world is out to get us. I knew Mom wasn’t doing this on purpose. But misophonia muddled my mind and these crazy, far-fetched ideas that Mom’s the enemy caused me to go downhill fast. It sparked a deep depression that lasted for months.

And let’s not forget – I still didn’t know what misophonia was at this time. This just added to the emotional weakness. The dangerous fear of the unknown.

Misophonia took me away from myself

Back to the deep depression. Spent the whole day in bed, with the lights off. Light gave me migraines. I thought throwing myself into my podcast would help – wrong. I didn’t even have the energy to work on that. Everything seemed hopeless.

I wasn’t the same Shane. I was scared of the person I was becoming. I felt alone, I lacked my regular pep for life, and so overwhelmed that if I had to share an ounce of genuine feeling – good or bad – I started to cry.

Let’s fast forward a bit. Skip the lockdowns, the hospital visits, the many hours at the pub, just because I didn’t want to go home, the loneliness, impromptu trips to Detroit and Toronto and the hours of sleepless nights. Ok, stop here – it’s October 2020.

I thought I won the jackpot. Problems solved. I was moving out. I found a basement apartment in East London. Perfect. Let me repeat myself – I found a basement apartment. And enter Misophonia phase deux.

A new lease on life

The new apartment gave me a whole new lease on life. My pep returned. I was working and going full-force with my podcast. Shortly after the new year, the triggers returned. It got to its boiling point in the winter and continued until this fall. While I felt like I was back to square one, unlike last time, I knew what I was dealing with and was able to diagnose it accordingly.

I took action. I quit my job and started to focus on my health. Seek out assistance from the government and was proactive in finding a cure. Or a band-aid:I bought earbuds, I rented a coworking spot near my apartment and to spearhead my new goal in raising awareness, I started a podcast based around misophonia. Fight or Flight debuted in November.

I share my story on this dreadful disorder. And if you’ve been listening, I have a bit of a spoiler for you.

A miracle happened in October when I got the opportunity to move to the upstairs unit in the same building. Since I moved in, I’ve slowly got a handle on my life, I’m happier. I’m dancing. I’m laughing. I’m genuinely happy. My spunk is back.

Misophonia is a mysterious thing. As misophonia warriors, we step softly, cautious of it returning.

So what’s next? We can’t let misophonia rule our lives. It has taken so much of it already. We can’t let it overrule us.

The head, heart…and ear?

We understand our triggers, where they derive from and how we avoid them. Besides the physical side of misophonia, there’s the psychological part of it. Here is where we can change things up.

And it’s not as easy as not living in basement apartments anymore. It’s about how we alter the way we approach the triggers. How we handle them. I know, I know, if it were this easy, I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading this. We’d be fine.

I found most triggers derive from having an emotional attachment to the person causing the sound. This is why, for most misophonia, the triggers start at home. Understanding why the person that’s causing the sound and your relationship with them tends to cease the triggers from having any power.

In 2017, they found that trauma “is known to reduce our distress tolerance and cause greater activation and dysregulation in the autonomic nervous system (ANS). If our emotional regulation and ANS health are compromised by trauma, we are more likely to develop misophonia.”

This definitely has more to do with the brain than the ears. And now we know that, let’s work on it.

The head, the heart and the ears? Sure. But, focus on the first two than the latter. And while this is a blog for misophonia warriors, I’m really sending this out to everyone that has a disabling disorder. Mental or physical.

Misophonia has given us special powers

First, you’re special. You’re a warrior. And best of all – you have a superpower that many others don’t. That’s cool. Instead of using negative words like `disorder’, or `disability’, we need to spin this in an awesome way.

And I think this is better than any therapy that the doctors recommend.

Once I stopped being down on myself and started to fight this head-on, like a true superhero, the negative effects of it seemed to silently disappear. It lost its power and prevalence.

I went from spending nights on the ground, besides my bed because I was too weak to stand up to being 5 episodes into a podcast where I happily share my experiences on a disorder that I thought was going to be the end of me.

We might be misophonia warriors for life. We might never get rid of this, but as long as we can support each other and still have a huge understanding of our own story, we’ll be better.

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