I’ve been close friends with Andy for over 20 years and she is my sister by choice. She’s talked about noises really bothering her for years and now knows she has a condition called Misophonia. We’ve talked a lot about how this condition impacts her life. I’ve totally rallied around how annoying chewing sounds are and how inconsiderate her neighbors are when they are loudly renovating their homes. I did not, however, identify myself as a problematic noise maker. After all, I’ve known her forever and am a trained therapist which basically makes me an empathic mastermind.
Andy and I talk weekly so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to challenge the delusion that I would never trigger her. For example, I once started to eat while we were on Facetime. Andy’s face and voice immediately showed me how this impacted her.
Andy: (voice strained): Can you not eat while we are talking?
Me: OMG- I’m so sorry.
We had no further conversations about that exchange.
I felt horrible and will NEVER again eat while talking with her on the phone. While it’s great that I won’t make those annoying noises anymore, a further conversation about how I impact her in general probably would have prevented me from making my next brilliant choice.
I wanted to give Andy an awesome Christmas present this year. Andy is big fan of birds and I found this amazing cuckoo clock that I KNEW she would love. I did think about her Misophonia and sensitively made sure that the volume of the bird noises were adjustable. As I boxed it up I was excited to hear about how much she loved it and how she was going to immediately put it up in her office. Maybe I we could admire it together during our Facetime calls.
Andy finally got the clock.
Andy: (voice slow and surprised) You got me a cuckoo clock.
Me (voice excited): Yes! You can turn the bird sounds down all the way if you need to!
Andy: It’s a cool design. Does it tick loud?
Me: I don’t even notice mine ticking so I don’t think so. It’s super fun, the kids love it.
Andy: Ok- I can hang it in the garage in the kid’s play area.
In the garage?! I thought worst case scenario she would hang it in her living room instead of her office. I reassured myself that it was still an awesome gift and I DID check on the bird chirping volume.
We didn’t talk about it for a couple of weeks, then finally I had the guts to say something when we were talking about topics to write about for this website.
Me: How about we write about when I gave you a cuckoo clock for Christmas?
Andy: (big smile on her face): OMG. Laughs. That was crazy.
Me: Yeah- it took me awhile to wrap my head around you hanging it in your garage.
Andy: Really? I was shocked that you bought me a something that makes noise.
Me: I slowly figured out on my own that a cuckoo clock was not the best gift idea but I wish you would have told me directly. I felt pretty bad about it for a while.
Andy: I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings and didn’t bring it up sooner. I was worried if I was totally honest you would get mad and pull away from me. That’s what has happened with other people.
Me: I get that AND I want you to tell me when I screw up. If I get mad I’ll tell you and we’ll just be annoyed with each other for a minute. I’m not going anywhere.
Andy: Good. I’ll try.
This cuckoo clock experience EVENTUALLY helped Andy and I get closer because we took the risk of talking more openly about it.
I wonder what I will get her next year.
Guest Post by Jen McLish, LCSW