Natalie R. - Trauma, Work, and Coping with Misophonia

S4 E12 - 5/19/2021
In this episode, Adeel converses with Natalie, a technical writer from Austin, Texas, who shares her journey through childhood trauma, misophonia, and finding solace in working from home. Natalie opens up about her struggles with sound sensitivity, especially triggered by her family and work environment in an open office setting. She discusses the impact of an early sexual assault and subsequent anxiety disorders on her misophonia. Natalie describes various coping mechanisms, such as using a white noise maker and working in solitude, which have helped her manage her condition. Additionally, the conversation touches on her family’s approach to her misophonia, and Natalie ends by emphasizing self-compassion and meeting one's own needs as critical steps towards better mental health.


Adeel [0:00]: Welcome to the Misophonia podcast. This is episode 12 of season 4. My name is Adeel Ahmad and I have Misophonia. This week I'm talking to Natalie. Natalie is in Austin, Texas, living alone, now working alone at home like many of us. In this episode, we talk a lot about her childhood and family situation growing up. Natalie is really open about all the chaotic things that were going on around her, anxiety disorders that developed, untreated trauma, plus some thoughts she'd rather not have her sister or even her boyfriend hear. I do want to mention a content warning for folks that there is some talk of sexual assault in this episode. Also some foul language, but those aren't as big of a deal. Just before we get to that, remember to please leave a review or just a rating in your podcast player. It helps the algorithms show this podcast to more people. And also just a note, because so many people have been asking, the next batch of interviews will be around September. So stay tuned later this summer for the calendar to open up. All right, now let's get to my conversation with Natalie. Welcome, Natalie, to the podcast. Good to have you here.

R [1:10]: Thank you. It's good to be here.

Adeel [1:13]: So, yeah, why don't you tell us kind of like, you know, whereabouts you are?

R [1:18]: Yeah, I am from Austin, Texas, and that is where I'm based. I went to school in Chicago. I went to college in Chicago, and then I lived in Los Angeles for a little bit, and now I'm back home. And I have a background in theater and film, but my day job is as a technical writer for a software company.

Adeel [1:41]: That's very cool. So you're a technical writer at a software company. I'm assuming you're working at home now. Are you usually like in an office, like a classic open office kind of situation?

R [1:54]: I was definitely for, let's see. about a year. And then right at my year, my year mark is April 1st, 2019. So I was there for a year. And then of course, this time last year is when we all went home. So yeah, before that I was working in the office four days a week. We got to work from home one day a week. But yeah, it was that classic open office set up with lots of people and their and their food, and it was a lot. But I do miss parts of it, for sure.

Adeel [2:32]: Your classic open office environment that we all know, and you usually are okay with if you have headphones on. I'm assuming, how did you deal with that then?

R [2:45]: Oh, yeah, headphones were a must. But then, of course, the visual cues start, so that was kind of hard. But it actually got... It got pretty difficult for a little bit in there, but I'm lucky in that the, so my company was at one office downtown and then we moved out to an office out sort of in the boonies and the office was much bigger and there were more spaces to work. So at a certain point every day, I would just leave my desk and go to a booth and just kind of hunker down um but i have loved working from home it has been just the greatest um because i don't have to deal with any like i can completely control my i'm also very lucky i only i only live with my cat so i don't have kids or even a dog would be a lot i think to be inside with all day, but I can control my environment really well. So that has been a really great part of all of this, even if it's also been terrible in a lot of ways.

Adeel [3:51]: Yeah, right, right. No, I know some of these some of these flexible, flexible situations kind of carry forward. Have you gotten any whiff of any policy, potential policy changes going forward? Are you going to be able to maybe work from home more often or mix it up?

R [4:08]: yeah so they recently offered us three options they said you could choose you know classic office situation a mixed remote and office and then fully remote and so i plan on choosing fully remote and then if i ever want to go into the office for like a happy hour or you know a big sort of presentation or meeting then i can uh work at one of the aforementioned booths yeah so that uh i think will be the best option for me personally

Adeel [4:39]: And this is pretty much permanent, I'm assuming, right?

R [4:42]: Yes, indeed. Our productivity went up. People were either more as productive or more productive as they were before. So the company definitely was like, it would be silly to force everyone to go back in. Basically, they're opening the office because some people want to go back.

Adeel [5:02]: Right.

R [5:02]: Out of necessity.

Adeel [5:04]: And happy hours and things like that, obviously, you know, get that, get that, you know, company bonding and morale going. So, yeah, I mean, offices are basically just going to be a giant lobby space in the future where you can go in and, you know, hang out if you want and then you just actually get some real work at home.

R [5:25]: Exactly, exactly.

Adeel [5:28]: So, okay, very cool. Yeah, and you were saying something before COVID, you were saying something that has come up in the podcast. Podcast before is open office environments, pure open office environments suck. But if there seems to be a trend towards like kind of a mixed space environment where, I mean, I've worked at some situations before where it's partly open office, partly breakout rooms, partly phone booths, like a total gamut of... of environments, which I think is, um, which is great. Just a mixes things up, but you know, we can all escape to our, whatever environment we want. And what about, yeah. What about, you know, you, you live at home with your cat. Like how, you know, how is, um, um, how's your living situation in general? Are you in an apartment? Are you, uh, kind of in a separate house?

R [6:19]: I'm in an apartment, just a classic, very small one bedroom apartment. I have an outdoor space, um, which has been really nice, but because I tend to get really sensitive to sound and to, um, I just get really sensitive about my environment. I have not really worked out there. I usually hang out there with friends. I've been doing like a, you know, social distance, um, drinks. Um, when I'm more relaxed is when I can tend to, and when I'm around other people, I can tend to ignore, um, my environmental sort of stressors more but yeah so I just I work in my living room which is also kind of my kitchen and sometimes I'll work in my bedroom which is like three steps away from there so not a lot of environmental sort of mix up, but because I'm alone, I really don't mind. It's it's been really wonderful to just be able to like shut everything off. Like I can put on a podcast as loud as I want while I'm working or I can work in total silence and I never have to worry about another, you know, person making noise around me or yeah, it's just been great. My neighbor, I can hear my neighbor. because my walls are kind of thin, which can get a little bit frustrating. I'm trying to work on that. But whenever I can hear him making noise, I just go into my bedroom, which is on the other side of the floor. And I have a white noise maker, and that really takes care of it, which is great.

Adeel [8:01]: Is that a white noise maker is one of those, basically like a speaker, which has a bunch of sounds preset?

R [8:09]: No, it's a true white noisemaker. It's by Dome, a company called Dome, D-O-M. And my mom is a therapist, and she has always had one outside of her office. And so when I went off to college, I knew that I would need one. So I've had it for 10 years now.

Adeel [8:28]: Yeah.

R [8:29]: One blessed white noisemaker that has really just saved me.

Adeel [8:35]: yeah that's great and so you use it uh you use it at home like when you when that neighbor is starting to make noise or is is uh or to go to sleep like what are some of the example situations

R [8:49]: Mostly to sleep, but when my neighbor is making noise, I will definitely use it. But that's honestly because my bedroom is further away from our shared wall. That usually takes care of it unless it's being really loud, which... And really loud for me is a whole different scale. Like a normal person living in my apartment would not even notice my neighbor making noise, but because I'm hypersensitive and hypervigilant and I hear, I have very good hearing because of that. So yeah, usually I don't use the white noise maker then, but there have been occasions where I have. And it's just honestly knowing that it's there is really helpful too.

Adeel [9:35]: Yeah, a lot of times our armor, what I call it, is just good to have there. Even earbuds, you don't necessarily have to whip them out of every situation, but just knowing they're there can kind of calm you down. You were talking about environmental stressors earlier. Are you talking about sounds in nature or kind of urban sounds, construction sounds?

R [10:01]: both honestly it sounds kind of bad but like nature sounds can really bother me sometimes when I'm trying to work I think it's when I'm when I'm trying to focus or do something that is like in my own I know this is a strange I don't know way of putting this but it sort of connects to my overall theory of what misophonia stems from but when I'm sort of trying to assert my um self in some way which like when i'm working and focusing or even when i'm like journaling or working on some kind of like creative project whenever i'm asserting my own sort of like self-interest i start to get really frustrated with repetitive sounds in nature um like when i'm outside um and then sometimes you know i'll have a neighbor who's like talking and the repetitive sound of the talking like the cadence of their voice can start to really bother me um and then also if the weather like wind can sometimes uh like repetitive wind yeah it starts to feel like if i'm really trying to concentrate on something it feels like i'm being attacked by the sensory world. But as soon as I'm just hanging out with friends, I'm really laid back and I'm not as sensitive to those things. It's really what I'm trying to assert my own self-interest in a task or just anything I'm trying to concentrate on. Suddenly it feels like I'm being attacked by the world.

Adeel [11:43]: Yeah, no, I think a lot of us understand what you're talking about there. Yeah, that's interesting. Yeah, I mean, nature sounds, yeah, nature sounds can help, but yeah, I think people understand that they can, you can, your mind can just hook onto it when you really, what you really want to do is focus on the task at hand or your thoughts or whatever you're working on. And that's when you go back inside, I guess, and shut yourself up in your room. Yeah, very cool. Yeah, I guess, so maybe let's, before we get too far in kind of the present, maybe let's go back to kind of early days for you and when you started to notice all this starting.

R [12:28]: Yeah, I was actually, that was the one thing I did think about before coming on tonight. One thing I sort of prepared.

Adeel [12:35]: You're not supposed to think about anything before.

R [12:39]: Well, I was like, well, because I just had dinner with my parents tonight and my parents are my number one trigger. So I was like very aware of that. We're all fully vaccinated and everything. So it was just a disclaimer. It was a safe dinner. Good. In their house. But I was thinking about that and when it started. And so I experienced a sexual assault when I was five years old. And that has been, you know, I actually don't really have... trouble talking about it like it's very much uh something i talk about a lot and i'm trying to be sort of in the advocacy world um so uh i was thinking about that and i when i first started note when my parents started noticing that i was Like when it started to become a problem, the chewing is really the first thing that was the problem. I think I was about seven, but I'm pretty sure I was starting to be bothered like right after the assault. The trauma. Yeah, which I hadn't honestly in all my – I've been in therapy for over 10 years now. I hadn't really drawn – the straight line between those two things because my childhood environment was all like apart from the assault which happened outside of my home um my my home environment as a kid was pretty chaotic um So I always assumed it was sort of something to do with that. But thinking about it tonight, I was like, oh, wow. Yeah. Like that was around the same time. And then it just was untreated. And and my anxiety got so bad and. I think it was the snowball effect that by the time I was 7, 8, 9, 10 years old, it was just getting worse and worse, but no one knew what was going on, even though my mom was actually a child psychologist. She's now just a regular adult psychologist. now that i've grown out of being a kid um she decided to move on to to that but um even she did not know what was going on um which was really looking back kind of um incredible that yeah that she didn't know and that no one didn't know about the she didn't know about the assault or okay no everyone fully yeah that was fully fully talked about um but the uh the anxiety manifesting as hatred of sound um it just goes to show that it was just such an unknown like thing even to you know a phd like child psychologist um but i was actually diagnosed with ocd um around Oh, now I can't remember. I think I was like eight or nine. So I think I mean, I think it's all very connected to to it. The OCD manifested is like. hyper-vigilance around my room being clean and my homework being done. From the outside, I was like, wow, what an amazing kid. But it wasn't really about making good grades. It was about maintaining a sense of control. I mean, I also enjoyed the fact that I was getting a lot of external validation for a lot of that stuff. um so yeah i think i think um yeah it early childhood like the once the ocd and the anxiety started to manifest is when yeah the misophonia um got worse and worse and it was so funny like looking back my family just it was like oh natalie's that like she's being bothered by that thing again like she can't eat she can't eat tonight at the dinner table with y'all or, um, you know, she's gonna, my dad would even sort of like go as far as sort of like semi making fun of me about it. Um, cause he just did not, he didn't, did not get it. Um, now they, they respect it more. I sent them some articles and, um, some things about it. And I was like, see, I told you I'm not crazy. Like it was a whole thing.

Adeel [17:07]: Did people blame it on they kind of married to the OCD or other anxieties or maybe think of it as a symptom of those or was it just a weird thing?

R [17:22]: It was just a weird thing. Honestly, I think they attributed it more to my really amazing sense of hearing. than anything they're like oh you're like through walls and i could hear through walls i could i knew exactly the moment that my parents started eating like every time i could be in my room and i could like i knew all the cues with the fork hitting the the bowl or the plate and i like the way their voices changed like i knew i could hear it um and so i think they thought like it had more to do with that than anxiety which is bizarre because i was also experiencing like hardcore like anxiety around what age was this again this was around the late elementary yeah yeah like like seven eight nine ten yeah um but i'm sure that i was starting to be bothered around you know right five and yeah yeah six probably gotcha and and so it was your parent did you have any siblings by the way I do. I have an older sister and an older brother. My sister's 10 years older than me and my brother is six years older than me.

Adeel [18:40]: Gotcha. And so it's your eating sounds in your parents were your first and main triggers I'm hearing?

R [18:50]: yes my parents were the first and then um i have a best friend uh like my basically my other sister who i grew up with who started to bother me a lot around them too um and uh and off and on yeah so yeah so those are sort of my first my first triggers that i remember

Adeel [19:15]: And so how were you, uh, and how were some of your kind of reactions, um, to where you starting to act out with your parents? Like, was it kind of a, uh, antagonist, like, um, adversarial or was it just kind of a leaving, escaping, um, and then being made fun of once in a while?

R [19:32]: Um, somewhere in the middle of that, I would definitely escape. I would, um, I would, gosh, I'm really like looking back. It's so crazy. Like thinking I was so young when I started doing all this stuff. Yeah.

Adeel [19:46]: Take your time. Yeah.

R [19:47]: Yeah. I would like, I would definitely leave. So basically if I was done eating. I had to leave the table if I was if they were if it was just me sitting there while they were eating. That was like it's horrible and impossible thing for me. I could not handle it. Sometimes they would start eating like not at mealtime. I could be a random sort of like we'd be in the kitchen. My mom would just like. start eating something while she was cooking and i would like have a physical this came a little later i'm really struggling to remember what i did like right when i was like six seven eight years old um but i definitely had a physical like um i can't even describe it like i would sort of clench my whole body um and kind of grind my teeth and and i think as I started to realize how bad it was, I would also tell my, I would do like a thing with my parents. I'd be like, please stop eating, please stop eating. Like I would just say that. And then my parents would sort of acknowledge what was happening. And then that made me feel a little bit better. Like they're acknowledging me, made me feel better. Um, but yeah, it was, it was definitely somewhere in the middle. Like I, I didn't, we didn't, they weren't in full denial, like screaming, forcing me to be at the table kind of thing, but they also were not like trying to read up on it and, you know, accommodate me majorly. So it was kind of, kind of like everything in my childhood. It was sort of like halfway.

Adeel [21:27]: Yeah. Well, I think that's what a lot of us, yeah. Yeah. It doesn't really make sense to most people. Still, it doesn't. And so it's just kind of like, yeah. And then we're not, I mean, we're just dealing with our triggers. It's not like we're in a position of like trying to educate people or even trying to understand what's going on in the middle of a trigger. How about your siblings? Did they start to trigger you at some point? I know your best friend did, but... Yes.

R [21:55]: So this sort of flows into... If it's okay, I might sort of get into my... Go wherever, yeah. think this comes from so um so oh goodness i i don't i hope i don't know i don't think i'll send this to my sister i don't know but it's something she doesn't know which is that she bothers me my brother doesn't um and i think it's because our relationship and she doesn't bother me all the time so that's the thing like my parents and my best friend bothered me a lot out right off the bat because they had control over my life so they were they were people who asserted dominance over me and were not um like fully sort of i'm trying to articulate this in a good way like focused on my needs or i felt like i had to change my needs or my um yeah i felt like i had to change myself in order to accommodate them yeah and so when they did something that was out of my control which chewing is like one of the main i mean sound like the sound someone makes is so outside of your control um it that's what i instead of being angry with them for like not you know focusing on my needs or accommodating my needs i would just get angry at them for chewing and so throughout my life i've noticed that although my parents and that friend um but you know definitely more my parents were the primary sort of like i directed most of this anger out i've noticed that when people start when i start to feel like i am changing myself majorly, like majorly pushing my needs down in order to accommodate theirs. And it's not just my choice. It's like their personality is such that we can't really exist in the same space unless I shift. is when I really, like I notice that almost immediately their chewing starts to bother me. And it's funny, I'll go in and out of phases with people. So like my sister, sometimes she doesn't bother me if we're sort of like in a good space. We don't even have that much, like barely any conflict in our relationship, but she's 10 years older than me. just very strong personality. And so I, throughout my life sort of felt like I needed to change myself in order to accommodate that. But when I'm feeling strong, it doesn't bother me. And my brother and I don't have that relationship at all. We're both, we're very similarly laid back and accommodating of others. So his chewing could just, could never bother me because I've never felt like I've had to um put away my knee and he's very attentive to my needs in a way that um my sister my parents aren't but it's very subtle and i like if my sister ever listens to this i want her to know that it's not it's not like anything she did wrong it is it's just like a dynamic a power dynamic thing that i can't fully it like i don't know it's not um It's not like a one-to-one of like, these are the people I have a bad relationship with. I hate their stewing. It's really more complicated than that.

Adeel [25:35]: Yeah, it's complicated. And it's definitely not that somebody is doing something on purpose, unless they're being outrageously disgusting on an objective level. But yeah, you're right. There's something else going on here. You're hitting upon some interesting things because those people basically who can affect the environment you're in in a way that's slightly out of your control. That could be parents when you're growing up, parents, partners, coworkers, bosses. These tend to be a lot of the main triggers. And I noticed in a lot of cases, though, people's children's are not necessarily a trigger, which is interesting. And maybe that's kind of a reverse situation where they seem you know your brain um considers them not a threat and not you know obviously they're not necessarily gonna like really um you have more control over them their environment than they have over you so maybe that's you know just trying to riff off of your your theory um maybe that's another extension of that but yeah it's really interesting uh did you come up with that kind of on your own were you talking with your maybe your mom who's a psychologist

R [26:50]: I did kind of, I came to this conclusion, honestly, when I met someone in college who was also a youngest child who had been through a traumatic divorce. So we sort of bonded about that first. And then we both... we were kind of just i don't even know how it came up but we both realized that we have this thing with noise and i was like oh my god it has it's it's control it's environment control it's about people who like it's about having it's about not having your needs met when you're a kid and then feeling like you have to put your needs away in order to accommodate the environment that you're in and in order to maintain like some kind of like peace or. Yeah, I don't know, but the youngest that I would love to actually see a study of like. What birth order, how birth order affects it, because my friend and I just like really connected it to being the youngest kid and to feeling like not having any control over anyone else in the family like just feeling like the the person who was being affected the most by the chaos and the trauma that was going on in the family not that older children not that oldest children don't feel it you know obviously it is like completely, you know, falls on kids differently. No, but that'd be interesting.

Adeel [28:19]: I might go back in past episodes and find out and try to listen for, you know, who was the young sibling and see if there's any kind of pattern there. Because, yeah, that is quite interesting. And that friend or that person that you met with, so that thing with noise, was it, it turned out to be misophonia, like full-blown misophonia?

R [28:41]: Yeah, for sure. We still talk about it, actually. Her thing was more fidgeting and clicking pens. And mine was more eating, although eating bothered her, too. And unfortunately, now mine has grown. It's like a different trigger for different people now. Yeah. Chewing really bothers me. My partner, God bless him. I feel so bad. He doesn't even know this yet because I just can't admit it yet fully. man his his chewing doesn't really bother me his after chewing is bothering me now i don't understand why like that after after chewing sort of cleaning sounds that people okay yes yes no i i yeah i have issues with that and the the visual the visual side of that as well is uh oh yeah yeah but let's leave that one there but yeah yeah oh my gosh but his fidgeting bothers me Like he knows that it kind of bothers me, haha, like to stop doing that. But it's really starting to bother me now so much so that it's like, I'm, I have like flashes of like, I can't do this anymore because I'm like, how am I supposed to live with someone for the rest of my life who needs to do that? Depends. They have one in their hand.

Adeel [30:07]: I mean, it comes down to, yeah, I mean, people just end up just trying to control the environment, just knowing when certain patterns are going to happen and just look away or move away or move to another, turn your attention away. you tend to find ways around it as much as you can.

R [30:30]: Being open with people about it actually helps a lot. When he starts to fidget, I've learned that it's okay for me to say, hey, can you stop doing that? And that actually, knowing that it's safe for me to do that is... kind of half the battle um because i think i think that's part of it too it's like i feel like they are what what bothers me like and what i said earlier about my parents like as soon as they acknowledge what was happening it would make me feel better i think really what I'm getting at when it comes down to is that I feel like as a youngest kid, as a kid who grew up in a chaotic environment that I was constantly trying to control with like various methods of, you know, kind of obsessive compulsive cleaning and obsessing about, you know, homework and tasks and Even obsessing about things I had said and done, I would just sort of like go over them over and over and ruminate. All of that stuff, I felt like I was paying really close attention to everyone else. Like I noticed mood changes. I noticed like... Oh, my gosh. I knew I know everyone's birthday. Like I if someone tells me their birthday, I will remember. It's like I have like a synesthesia.

Adeel [31:47]: July 17th, 1976. I'll ask you at the end of the podcast.

R [31:50]: I will. I will absolutely remember that. I truly don't forget birthdays. It's it's I've sort of tied that to like maybe some synesthesia thing with colors and numbers, too. I pay very close attention to everyone else. And I think as a kid, I did not feel like people were paying. It's like I'm giving more than I'm getting in terms of paying attention to those little things, not just the like. know big things but like the little things that like a little sibling like i remember my sis you know all my brother's girlfriends and their birthdays and their names and like details about them and my sister and all of her like you know every celebrity crush she had when she was a kid i remember all of that because they were my world but they don't remember you know they don't know my friends names all of them they don't remember their birthdays they don't remember like because that you know they had others it's totally understandable like it's very natural for an older sibling to not be obsessed with their younger sibling like very natural for the other way around but i think when i sense someone doing something unconscious when they're not thinking about me and my needs, it manifests, um, in their like clicking and eating and, um, stuff I can't control. So, um, it's sort of like, it's almost a prompt for me to like re-examine what's going on in the relationship, but it's also like, damn, if you marry someone, that's good. That's a long time to have to constantly.

Adeel [33:26]: Right. Right. Well, hopefully there are many other advantages that, uh, Start to outweigh that. But yeah, it's definitely something to think about. What about other friends as you were growing up? We know that your best friend, who's still your best friend, is a major trigger. Did it start to affect who you were hanging out with, how often you were hanging out with people? Did it start to affect that social life outside of the home?

R [33:58]: Honestly, not. It was so. It's one of those things like this has been such an odd thing in my life because when it's not happening, I truly forget that I have it. Like when I'm not experiencing it, my brain just says, nope, we're just going to put that away. And then as soon as it's happening, I'm fully focused and it's like overwhelming, really scary.

Adeel [34:21]: Jekyll and Hyde. Yeah.

R [34:23]: I mean, I didn't even tell my therapist, like my first therapist, she didn't even know about it. I like looked back and I was like, I never told her about that because I saw her in Chicago when I was in college and I was never around my parents. And so I just it just didn't come up because it just didn't come up because like I just wasn't being like when it was happening, it was overwhelming. And when it wasn't, it was like out of sight, out of mind, out of sound, out of mind.

Adeel [34:47]: Oh, excellent. Yes.

R [34:48]: but it didn't yeah it didn't actually it didn't really affect yeah so so i would forget and then i would be in a situation and then i would be like oh like i hate it when you do that it's back yeah yeah exactly but no it didn't it didn't affect my um my social life so much um like the larger patterns of my social life i was a very social uh teenager and kid teenager adult i'm very social um and it doesn't really affect yeah it doesn't really affect me there but it it ends up i'll be all of a sudden i'll be in a situation and it'll be like oh damn I need to work on this.

Adeel [35:34]: Yeah. Cause I mean, yeah. Yeah. I mean, socially with your friends, it's like, they could be your best friend, but you know, it's not like as, especially as an adult, you don't sound like you see them that often for more than like a couple hours. So, you know, your brain knows that this is going to be over. You can chill out for a little while. I think subconsciously. And maybe going back to your theory, you ultimately have control of the environment and whatever the environment is, it's going to dissipate when that friend leaves. So that might help. Might be the reason why a lot of this can be social butterflies.

R [36:10]: exactly and that's why I don't have roommates anymore because I noticed oh god no yeah I know I can't believe I ever thought I could I mean my last roommate that I had we both actually had a sound thing she did not call it full on misophonia I was like I have misophonia and she was like I think I have something like that um so that actually helped we were both very because i knew that she got it in some ways it actually was okay um and then and then just for you know various early 20s reasons we just did not work out um and um and i noticed that her sound like as our roommate relationship was sort of winding down and i would not say deteriorating but that's kind of

Adeel [37:05]: We've all been through that.

R [37:06]: Yeah.

Adeel [37:08]: Early twenties. Yes.

R [37:09]: Yeah. Like, Oh God, your needs and my needs are so different. I can't bridge that gap.

Adeel [37:15]: It's like a second puberty or something. I feel like it's like, yeah.

R [37:19]: That is such a good way of putting it. Absolutely. Yeah. And it's like, but then you have to factor in like money. Right. Which is just the worst. But I noticed that as it was winding down, her sounds were bothering me. When I was reaching the point where I didn't know whether I was going to sign the lease or not. and her sounds were really bothering me then so it's uh yeah like i said it's sort of a prompt for me to know that something's up in this relationship maybe i should or or something's up in the environment in which this relationship is existing

Adeel [37:56]: right so i guess continuing on then uh so yeah you're you're now you know independent young woman early to mid 20 ish is 20 whatever around that age um and so what's going on then you're starting to get jobs um or um maybe i don't know what you were doing around that time but uh How did things change then? Maybe, yeah, you are starting to get your first jobs, work environments going into the workforce. Was that another, was that an easy transition or, you know, hard slap in the face kind of, or how did that go?

R [38:31]: So this job that I have now is my first big girl corporate job. I was in film and theater. And so I was working in the service industry, which I'd been doing since, I graduated from college, so I did that.

Adeel [38:51]: Was your college degree in film and theater?

R [38:54]: Yeah, it was in theater.

Adeel [38:55]: Okay, gotcha.

R [38:56]: So I was an actor and a playwright, screenwriter, and I'm still writing. And I act sometimes, but it's not my focus anymore. But yes, my work environments were very strange. It was like... a bar or a restaurant or you know i'd be doing some random freelance editing work on my computer um i nannied for a while which was actually pretty chill um but um the i so i actually did not experience a lot of symptoms while I was working in restaurants and bars because the environment is so fast-paced that you don't really get time to focus on anything. I can remember some customers who were just hanging out for a long time, sitting at the end of the bar, and I would just be like, oh, my God, can you stop chewing? Right.

Adeel [39:54]: But it just tends to be a lot of white noise, maybe some clangs here and there, but... But I would imagine there are probably worse situations.

R [40:05]: Absolutely. Yeah. A lot of white noise for sure. Like just chatter. And then really I didn't get. I did not get the full kind of slap in the face until I went back to, not back to, until I started working for the company I work for now. And I sat in that open office sort of environment. And I was like, oh, this is like school. This is like high school again. sniffling behind me like someone's eating a bag of chips and you know someone's over there like constantly blowing their nose and like the the the motion of their hand to their nose over and over again is driving me crazy or or the woman who i can't hear her chewing but i can see her chewing yeah and something about the way that she is bothers me and so it's like with strangers it's like this terrible thing where i just like attach a vibe to them and then i'm like i hate you and everything you do like this poor woman who is so lovely and nice but like

Adeel [41:08]: from far away i was like there's something about you that bothers me and you she just chewed really loud and i was like someone who chews loudly is someone i hate even if i know her to be a nice person um but that's funny it's you're right you we attach this character to this person and it's probably even more interesting as a playwright and an actor for you just kind of like create all these characters in your head if all these people based on uh

R [41:35]: you know them having a cold one day or something exactly exactly i can imagine a whole attitude about it's like i imagine you know their whole attitude about the world and about life and i'm like oh yeah you know how they vote and everything yeah Which, yeah, that can really be part of it. But, like, that kind of stuff comes up when I'm in an airport, an airplane, when I was in an office. Like, places where I felt trapped, where I couldn't get out, is when strangers start to bother me. Because strangers don't usually... I mean it depends it's so contextual yeah and then sometimes it's like I'm like I'm in my part I mean I guess I'm trapped in my apartment so that's why my neighbor bothers me but like Yeah, it's so weird. Sometimes strangers don't bother me, but I know that when I am trapped in an airport, airplane, public transit, or like the office environment, I certainly can count on getting symptoms.

Adeel [42:44]: yeah absolutely i think we i think we all do um when did um what did you then when did you realize that misophonia was you said it was just recently when did you realize that it that it had its own name and it was you know being talked about and there was a community

R [43:00]: So I actually, um, I think I, I misremembered. I learned the name in college. I somewhat, it was after talking to that, that friend who I think she named it for me. And then I Wikipedia it and read about it and just had like a jaw dropping, like, oh my God, holy shit. There are other people who are like me. Um, But again, it would come in and out of my consciousness because then I would just like forget about it for a while because out of sound, out of mind. And then all of a sudden I'd be like, oh yeah, I have to like deal with that thing that I have that's horrible. That totally affects my life. But it wasn't until I think a year ago or two years ago on Twitter, which I'm not on anymore because it's a toxic, terrible place for me. But... There was one bright spot and it was finding... I can't... Is this you here are Misophonia? Is that you? Is that your Twitter handle?

Adeel [44:06]: No, I'm Misophonia Show.

R [44:08]: Oh, okay.

Adeel [44:09]: Oh, here at Misophonia. Yeah, okay. Yeah, I know who, he or she always, I think it's a she, always, she's very active. And I know retweets a bunch of Misophonia podcast stuff. So yeah, she's quite active.

R [44:25]: Okay, and that's how I heard about this. And I have been following her for a couple of, like, I guess a year or so. Um, and started people would, um, you know, retweet or reply to her tweets and just say, Oh my God, like, I think I have this, like, what do I do? What do I do? What I do? And then I started replying and being like, hi, like, you're not alone. Like, here's some of the ways that I cope. And now I'm in a Facebook group called Adult Sensory Processing Disorder Facebook group. And people talk about it a lot in there. And I'll jump in sometimes and give some moral support tips and tricks.

Adeel [45:11]: Yeah. Is that a more general? That's all sensory processing? So not just misophonia?

R [45:17]: Yeah, I feel like I could probably join. I'm sure there are other Facebook groups for specifically Misophonia. Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely. But for some reason, I can't remember what prompted me to join this one. I think I was just thinking about like... What the larger I like basically all my friends are sensitive artists or just sensitive in one way or another. So I think I was coming off the heels of conversation that I had with them about sensory like overwhelm. And then I found that group and then but then I discovered that there were a lot of people who had my sort of version of. a sensory processing disorder. So, um, well, I think, yeah, like a couple of years I've been more active in the community online.

Adeel [46:03]: That's great. The more, the merrier. And, uh, and when you, when, uh, when you found out that it had a name, uh, so how far along had your kind of, had you reached your own conclusion on, uh, on kind of the roots of this like had that had you already been thinking about this a lot before you found out that misophonia was its own word or how did that kind of affect your um kind of your theories

R [46:28]: I'm trying to remember, I think it was like 2012. I think I remember where I was living when I was reading this article. And at that point, I thought that it had to do with my weight, like eating and like being under pressure to be thin for film, which was another big sort of piece in my childhood that was... very difficult was that um i'm not naturally thin and so i had to always be concerned about that and just like really hard and i always thought that the chewing thing was me hating my parents for like being hard on me about that um so i think i had that theory and then i read that wikipedia page and i'm pretty sure something clicked about anxiety after reading that like i think the words anxiety disorder were somewhere on that page and then i started thinking about like oh oh okay because i was in therapy for the first time and sort of starting to understand more about what anxiety sort of meant and how it wasn't just you're worried about the future um or you're nervous all the time but your um anxiety is really about feeling out of control and it's like fear of annihilation essentially like fear that whatever is going to happen will destroy you um and um so all of those things were coming together for me at that point so yeah it wasn't really until after after that point i guess that it um it started to make more sense um

Adeel [48:11]: yeah kind of the trauma and all that stuff all that gotcha okay okay so after that start yeah you start to put the pieces together um and just to rewind real quick because i was going to ask you uh just you had mentioned that that life was kind of chaotic for you when you were young um I'm just curious, what kind of things were making it chaotic? And then you just mentioned this thing about weight. Were there pressure you were getting from your parents and the outside world on other matters post that assault that were kind of causing anxiety that you can point to?

R [48:55]: Yeah. When I was... young, my family really struggled with money. And, you know. That anxiety was always sort of in the air, that feeling of like. things not stretching far enough and scarcity and all of that. We also moved when I was about three. We moved to this new house. And so when I was like five, two to three we lived in this rental house and um i actually do have memories of it of like i didn't have a room my room was in the middle of the living room i slept in like a crib in the middle of the living room and my sister and my dad were very much at odds at that point and so i went from like And I was also like keep going back in time to set the stage. My parents were in their 40s when I was born. I was they love to say I was not a surprise, but a welcome or no, not an accident, but a welcome surprise. I think I definitely intruded on like a family that was very much could have been financially stable. And then my dad lost his job and I was born and I was born and then my dad lost his job. And so things just got. Yeah, like we were living all together in this little rental house and then we moved to this other house. But we were kind of house poor, like we could afford the house somehow, but not like, you know, I don't even know. just a lot of the other stuff that people yeah yeah like new clothes and all that stuff and my parents were just fighting a lot and my dad and my sister really fighting a lot um and it just never felt like there was It was really like, we had all the ingredients for peace, but we just could never all put it together. And yeah, it was, my dad was always doing business ventures. And meanwhile, I was like starting to do like theater and all these extracurricular activities that they could not afford to put me in, but somehow did. And so I always felt like I was asking too much and, but I felt like I couldn't quit anything. uh and then you know there was always this narrative that was like early 2000s when like you know women are still incredibly thin in film but um they particularly then it was like coming off of heroin chic kind of thing of the 90s.

Adeel [51:39]: Yeah, right. I still think heroin chic was 90s. Yeah, I guess.

R [51:44]: The low-rise beans movement. Oh, right. Really did not do it for those of us with... make some butts you know um and i'm grateful that that's more of a thing now uh but when i was growing it was just there was just no way i was ever gonna look like that but i somehow thought i had to in order to become an actress in order to make a lot of money in order to kind of help my parents and like it got really tied into a lot of stuff that it didn't need to be

Adeel [52:15]: Okay, now that helps paint the picture kind of in broad strokes. Okay. I guess I'm curious now going back to, we're actually all, I think we're probably heading towards the top of the hour, but I do want to talk about maybe Maybe your dinner today with your parents, did you mention that you're going to be on the show and kind of what you might want to talk about? I'm curious how they are now, what they think of your misophonia and how they accommodated and if they had any insights to share with you.

R [52:47]: Actually, yeah. My parents and I, for all of our, like... issues and everything are my family's really open about talking about this we all have a mental health problem like mental health issues there's not a single person in my entire extended family on either side that has not struggled um and my mom is a you know mental health care provider my brother is in school to be a mental health care provider so we we love to talk about it it's not um it's not a hidden thing really um but uh it's but but we love to talk about it but in terms of like actually taking taking other people's issues seriously and accommodating them that's that's the piece that um we've been working on and they've, they've gotten a lot better at it. My mom, especially is, um, you know, she never remembers. Like I have to always prompt her. Like it's been 20 years. I still, every single time I have to be like, can you not, you know, can you not do that? And like just Sunday night, my dad, um, was picking his nails and I was like, Dad, please stop picking your nails. And he like put his, I don't know, it's like I hear the sound even when he's not making the sound because his hands go back together and then suddenly... I think I can hear it. And we got into a little bit of a conflict about that. Cause it was like, I'm not doing anything. And I was like, yes, you are. So there, so like, it's, they're like halfway there. They're a little, but they're definitely further than they were when I was a kid. They don't really have insight except, you know, that they're, I think that they're glad that I've, found a community and that I've discovered going on, but they're not, they're not going to like sit down with me and ask like, okay, like, so how can we support you in this? And, you know, what's really going on? And, you know, we're so sorry that we didn't get it when you were younger.

Adeel [54:50]: It's so interesting when you, when, when your family is surrounded by mental health issues and you have folks whose careers are mental health, that it's, That piece is missing. The kind of actually paying attention.

R [55:07]: Yeah. Well, I mean, it's very typical like intellectualizing it and like we love to have sort of theoretical conversations about mental health and spirituality and philosophy and like all of these sort of lofty things. But when it comes to like the hard work of really emotionally sort of being there, um, you know, that's when it gets tricky. Cause you know, we're just people and people struggle with that kind of thing. Um, I think it's pretty extraordinary when, I mean, I guess I think it's extraordinary. I hope it's not actually, um, when parents can really sit down and like you know humble themselves in front of the this the issue that their kid is having and like um not just like try to put it away or you know say oh i'm so i was such a bad parent and you know i'm so sorry and then try to make themselves a victim like to really just sit there and like full strength and say like i'm so sorry like what can i do i find that My family, we've had glimpses of that, but have not been able to do that in a full-throated way. But that being said, like I said before, they're definitely better than they were. And when I do say, like, please, you know, stop doing something, they, my mom, like I said, my mom especially gets it and immediately, like, stops and apologizes.

Adeel [56:37]: Well, that's great. That's, I mean, that's a, that's a step forward. And hopefully that'll, that'll just get, that'll spread. Well, I, you know, I want to give, we should maybe start to wind it down, but I do want to give you a chance to kind of, if you have anything else you want to, you want to say to the audience, I know you're trying to help out the community. Yeah. Do you want to, do you want to share anything else for folks who are struggling?

R [57:01]: Oh, man. I just really wish, I guess I'm just wanting to say I'm so grateful to you for creating this and for everyone in the community who has a platform who's speaking about this because it's so, it's truly just so profound to know that this thing that I've been struggling with for so long is not number one, something I made up and also, um, yeah not something i'm alone with and it's just incredible yeah i guess what i would say to anyone who's like just just starting out in their journey of realizing they're not uh making it up is that you're not making it up and and find one yeah yeah find other people and also the only thing that's ever worked for me besides noise canceling headphones and like eye masks on airplanes and arm yourself with all the things that will help you block out sound sites, all of it. But I think to remember that at least for me, the root of this has been a lack of self-compassion and really pushing my needs away and allowing others to dictate how I present my needs. And I think meeting your own needs is a huge step towards not feeling so anxious and controlled by others. And this disorder definitely, I really can't speak for anyone else, but for me, it's very much tied to that. So be your own, be your best friend. Treat yourself like you would treat your friend who's come to you and asked for help.

Adeel [58:56]: Yeah. Take care of yourself. Be assertive. Don't be ashamed to take a step to wear that eye mask or whatever you need to do.

R [59:03]: Yeah.

Adeel [59:04]: Cool. Well, yeah. Thanks again, Natalie, for coming on. This has been great.

R [59:09]: Yeah. Thank you so much again. This is just like really awesome.

Adeel [59:13]: Thank you, Natalie. That was really one of my favorite conversations so far. If you liked this episode too, please leave a quick review or just hit the five stars wherever you listen to this podcast. Find us on social media at Misophonia Podcast on Instagram and Facebook, now on TikTok, or Misophonia Show on Twitter. Remember, you can also see transcripts on our YouTube channel, and you can find the link to that in the show notes as well. In fact, all the links are also on the website,, and you can contact me from there. Music is always by Moby. And until next week, wishing you peace and quiet.