Olivia - Navigating office life with misophonia in Germany.

S3 E15 - 1/13/2021
In this episode, Adeel converses with Olivia, an expatriate from the US now living in Germany, studying for a master's degree. Olivia shares her journey of navigating white-collar office spaces with misophonia, shedding light on the challenges she faces and potential solutions through design and policy. The conversation delves into the nuances of working in open office environments, which are often not conducive for individuals with misophonia due to noise and lack of privacy. Olivia highlights the contradiction between open office designs aimed at fostering collaboration and the reality of employees needing to wear headphones to block out distractions. The episode also touches on cultural aspects of living in Germany, such as a preference for analog clocks, which can be triggering for individuals with misophonia. Olivia discusses the importance of awareness and accommodations for misophonia in the workplace and in society at large, urging for greater understanding and support for those affected by the condition. Additionally, the episode explores broader mental health awareness and support systems in Germany compared to other countries.


Adeel [0:00]: Welcome to the Misophonia podcast. This is episode 15 of season 3. My name's Adeel Ahmad, and I have Misophonia. The last couple of episodes have been with people in Germany, and this week, another guest from Germany. Olivia actually grew up in the U.S. and is now living and working on a graduate degree in Germany. Her master's thesis will focus on navigating white-collar offices with misophonia and envisioning solutions related to design and policy. This is very near and dear to my heart because I think more awareness in the workplace and in HR will lead to a lot more awareness in society at large. Along the way, Olivia also warns us about clocks in German homes and getting an earplug vacuumed out of her ear. You don't want to miss this. I will say there were some audio issues in this episode, so apologies in advance. I did my best to resolve them, but if it's sometimes hard to make out what Olivia is saying, you might need to wait for the transcript. You can also just email her. She has an email address set up for her research at oliviamisophonia at gmail.com. And I'll have that in the show notes. We're a couple months away from recording season four, and it's already pretty much booked up. It might even be full, but if it's not, please do grab a slot and come and share your story. Otherwise, stay tuned because these are going to be some amazing conversations coming all throughout 2021. Still some incredible episodes coming up over the next few weeks. All right. But for now, here's my conversation with Olivia. Welcome, Olivia. Welcome to the podcast. Good to have you here.

Olivia [1:51]: Thank you. It's really good to be here.

Adeel [1:54]: Cool. So, yeah, whereabouts are you?

Olivia [1:59]: I am in Germany right now, but I'm originally from Arizona.

Adeel [2:05]: All right. All right. Okay, cool. And are you there? I mean, it sounds like we exchanged some messages before, and it sounds like you're a student there working on some stuff that we'll get into. Mm-hmm. So is that your main thing there? Are you in Germany to be a student, or were you there for other reasons?

Olivia [2:25]: So I originally moved here about almost four years ago to teach English, and then I met my husband, who's a German citizen, and we got married, and so now we just live here, and I'm a student additionally.

Adeel [2:42]: Gotcha. Okay, so you're teaching English, and you're also back to school yourself.

Olivia [2:47]: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Adeel [2:48]: Okay, great. And yeah, what do you study?

Olivia [2:54]: Well, I study, it's called Global Sustainability Science. And it's actually a double master's program with Arizona State University and Leuphana University, which is in the north of Germany, which I no longer live in. I just moved to Nuremberg. So it doesn't really matter because everything's online. But yeah, it's called Global Sustainability Science. And we were supposed to be in Arizona right now doing our third semester, but obviously that's not happening.

Adeel [3:26]: Right. Yeah, exactly. So you were supposed to be back in Arizona. This is a graduate degree, right?

Olivia [3:38]: Yes.

Adeel [3:39]: Okay, gotcha. Okay. Yeah, I guess since you mentioned it, let's talk about that because it sounds like there are some links to Misophonia or Misophonia is part of the thesis. Do you want to discuss and get into kind of like what thesis is about and how you arrived at that?

Olivia [3:59]: Yeah, I'll try to talk about it as clearly and succinctly as I can at 6 in the morning. But my thesis is definitely at the nascent stage, I would say, where I've developed what I want to go into, but I'm not fully clear on which perspective I will take necessarily. But yeah, it's all about navigating white-collar office spaces with misophonia. And obviously, when you hear that, maybe you're kind of thinking, what does that have to do with sustainability? And I've also really thought about that myself. But I think for me, it just existed in that larger realm of mental health and recognizing mental health in the stigma of mental health and also having offices be places where people can have their well-being actually taken care of by their bosses instead of potentially depleted or conditions exacerbated by it.

Adeel [5:06]: Yeah, that's something that's come up on this show a number of times is how, you know, a couple of things from the employee perspective, obviously. I mean, it goes kind of without saying that you're spending so much time at work. You could come home absolutely mentally drained and what effect that has on you. You're not getting much done, not getting as much done at work. And on the flip side from the employer perspective, um, there's a, you know, it could be a significant impact to the bottom line if, um, you know, some swath of your employees is just ain't doing shit. So, um, you know, it's just, it's not, not much is happening. And, and then there's all, then there's all kinds of, uh, I'm sure second order effects of, um, you know, a team kind of being dragged down by, um, the health of some of the members of that team. So, yeah, that's many different dimensions. I don't blame you for not being able to figure out exactly which way to go. I hope you actually explore all that or as much as possible. But yeah, that's an exciting and unique, unique, unique topic that's personally interesting to me. So.

Olivia [6:21]: Yeah, I think that's the way I kind of approached my master's thesis was I was thinking, well, you actually don't have that much to do something so you better do something like that you're interested in because if you don't then you're sitting there and you're like oh I'm trying to figure out I don't know life cycle assessment and I don't really care about this issue so that was one reason but I think the other is I at first approached it from a design perspective so I don't know I sometimes watch BuzzFeed videos and they show their office a lot And they have like a really authentic open office in the sense of like, I don't know, it just gives me anxiety every time I look at it because there are people just literally right next to each other. Everyone has to wear these giant headphones because no one, you know, an open office is supposed to be about collaboration. But no one's collaborating because no one can like hear each other over all the typing and stuff. So that sort of brought it to my attention of like, well why why i mean obviously they design it quote unquote to be collaborative but also to save money but like what are really the effects of people having to sit here especially and working in office yeah absolutely yeah this is a great uh uh irony of that is everyone's pretty much got headphones it's not the uh

Adeel [7:53]: It's not the idea that was, I guess, sold to HR, which was like all this dynamism and everyone grabbing each other to go to the whiteboard and coming up with some genius light bubble idea. So, yeah, that's interesting. So what did, were you inspired by, you know, observing like in those BuzzFeed videos or were you actually, had you actually experienced something like that personally?

Olivia [8:22]: So I've never worked in that kind of open office, which I have to be really thankful for. But I have worked in open offices with cubicles, like not full cubicles, but sort of the half cubicles. And I actually, like before I left the job, my manager approached me to say like, oh, you know, you're a really good customer service rep. You have really good like numbers about that. you could think of pursuing a managing job here at this company. And I thanked him, but in my head, I was just going like, but you're a manager and you also have to spend the key with everybody else. And I, there's no way I could possibly do this. And I think, I think there could be a problem with retention rate for the fact that not only for misophonics, but for other people who just say, but what's the payoff, you know, like everyone is treated. I don't want to like shit, but, no one's privacy or anything like that is really respected. And that has to do also with the way the company kind of treated people. Like you weren't allowed to have pens and paper at your desk at one point. And, um, you know, you weren't allowed to ever look at your phone, but it's a customer service job and you're working with right there at shift. Then, well, you're getting a call like once every hour. So then you just sit there. Um, So I think it tied into the larger aspect of like, how do companies treat their employees? Do they treat them like as if they're robots or do they treat them like they're people? But I do kind of wonder for the jobs at Misophonics, maybe they would be really good if they just got retained because, well, what's the benefit if you come home with a

Adeel [10:15]: yeah absolutely that's another part of it uh the bottom line for well obviously health yeah health for employees but bottom line for employers like uh the churn of having to replace um high you know you know very talented employees is high because you gotta goes through the whole HR process, and you've got to train people. There's a lot of second-order effects, too, on top of the obvious ones. that affect the employee directly. Yeah, there's a lot of different angles here.

Olivia [10:52]: Yeah.

Adeel [10:53]: Are you I know this is a kind of a nascent, nascent state, but are you looking maybe for people to interview to to kind of like, you know, help help out? Or is it just too early at this point to know which way you're going to go?

Olivia [11:08]: So for right now, I can definitely interview people, but I can't like there's a lot of codes on having human subjects as research. So I have to wait until I get that approved by the board. So if anyone wants to speak to me before January, that would be cool. But in January, yeah, I plan to release a survey. And then for anyone who would like to be interviewed from that survey, they can. Otherwise, it's completely anonymous. And then I would really like to actually have a focus Because I think, you know, there's all the forums, there's Reddit stuff, but you don't often hear about people talking about misophonic talking. Well, in person, it would be in person if we were allowed to do that, but talking in real life.

Adeel [12:05]: Yeah, I mean, I think you could easily set up a... yeah you can easily probably set up a zoom call or something at least or or if not get together in person um yeah i'm sure you had a lot of people who'd want to do that so uh yeah definitely yeah hit me up if you uh i'd love to yeah promote it whatever survey link or whatever you have whenever that's ready that would be that'd be interesting yeah that would be really great thank you So let's, yeah, let's dive into you, I guess, Olivia. Yeah. Your misophonia. Yeah, tell me how far back is it? Do you remember it going?

Olivia [12:45]: So I'll just say, like, I'm also self-reported because I think that's a pretty normal thing.

Adeel [12:52]: We have to be. No one's going around. There's no misophonologist or anything that's...

Olivia [13:01]: I mean, you could go to, like, I was really amazed that Duke University opened up the center. But you have to live in North, like, basically you have to live in North Carolina.

Adeel [13:11]: Yeah.

Olivia [13:11]: Which is still really cool. It's just like, oh, I don't live there. Okay. But, yeah, I'm self-diagnosed. But I think I was always a sensitive kid. Because I can even remember when I was a little kid of getting annoyed when, are we allowed to talk about triggers?

Adeel [13:29]: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No, you can talk about triggers. Um, yeah.

Olivia [13:33]: Okay. Um, when the fan would click, like if you don't, if the ceiling fan isn't properly installed, it'll make this clicking sound.

Adeel [13:42]: Yeah. Yeah.

Olivia [13:44]: Um, but I think actually it really began when I was like nine and I just remember, um, there was one summer where the sound just really started to bother me and it was, uh, cicadas and, In Arizona, you have annual cicadas, and it had never bothered me before, but all of a sudden, it was just unbearable. And I wore earplugs that entire summer, and my parents were quite freaked out. And they were like, what is going on? And I also didn't like the sound of clocks ticking. I remember that. And at that time, I also started to really develop a hatred towards the sound of typing. It wasn't as strong as it became later, but it was just like, I don't know, but I think the cicadas really started it.

Adeel [14:35]: Yeah, they can get kind of crazy. We just ended summer here in Minnesota, and yeah, they get loud. They get loud in the Midwest. So yeah, interesting. So not maybe a lot of the usual kind of eating sounds and whatnot, more environmental sounds.

Olivia [14:54]: Not at first, yeah.

Adeel [14:56]: More environmental and action sounds, yeah.

Olivia [15:00]: Yeah, I guess a lot more mechanical sounds, but definitely by the time I think I hit, I don't know, I would say 13, gum chewing would really bother me. Gum chewing still really, really bothers me.

Adeel [15:16]: Yeah. Did you start noticing that at school first?

Olivia [15:20]: So I was quite lucky in that obviously in elementary school, gum was like a sickening band, so maybe that's why I didn't notice it. And then in my middle flight, gum was also banned. And then in high school, that's when they started to like open it up again. So I think that's how I really became more aware of it. But also I do remember like being in church, someone would be chewing gum like really crazily and just sitting there like, my God, like what is she doing? Yeah. But for me, I think one of the weird things is food chewing doesn't bother me nearly as much unless it's super obvious, like For some reason to my ears, the gum chewing, it's a different kind of chewing. I think people are generally more like loose with their mouths. I don't know. Are they two at a different rate? I have no idea.

Adeel [16:10]: Yeah, yeah. And also all these, like the gum and the mechanical stuff, it was definitely like fight or flight. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And then, so it didn't, so it doesn't sound like your family members were not really a big trigger, at least in the beginning, right? For a while, or did that quickly start to encompass them as well?

Olivia [16:39]: I think this is going to reflect a lot of what the other people said, is that my dad was kind of the trigger in a lot of ways, because he was the one who would be on the computer at home. And obviously you were back in the 90s, so you had those IVM keyboards that were super loud. And I just remember telling him he had to stop. And my dad is also someone who likes to really suck candy. And that was also something I just couldn't stand. So I think my dad tried to be aware to a certain degree, but then he also had that sort of I guess the way that he also grew up is just like, you just have to get used to it. Like exposure therapy kind of idea.

Adeel [17:29]: Yeah. So you did talk to him about it.

Olivia [17:34]: Yeah. And I think my parents were quite worried about it. So I did see a therapist. when I was, I think, in sixth grade.

Adeel [17:46]: Okay, so this is before all the gum-chewing thing. It was when it was still very mechanical stuff in the late elementary school, early junior high, they had you see a therapist, okay.

Olivia [17:58]: Yeah, I think it was for more than that because I was also getting, like, that social anxiety about going to school. And maybe that had partially to do with just, like, being surrounded by... all of these sounds, you know, teachers typing on their white heads or things like that.

Adeel [18:15]: Yeah, I was going to ask if you felt like it was, you know, with the social anxiety was caused mainly from misophonia or you genuinely did have other things going on.

Olivia [18:27]: I think I probably had other things going on, but I think the misophonia definitely exacerbated it. And it was always like, oh, I'm going to be in this environment that is predictable. where I'm going to have all these feelings that I don't know what to do with. And I guess by this point, um, it's definitely had been named, but of course no one knew about it. So it was kind of like my, no one had any idea. But I do remember the therapist that we saw, like when we talked about the sound, like one time he actually said, like, no, but some people actually are hurt by sound. Like it's not someone making it up. So I think that was always something that stuck in my head of like, oh, like someone I should recognize, but I'm not.

Adeel [19:16]: Yeah. Okay. Well, that's around when was that? So that, what do you know around what year that was?

Olivia [19:23]: It must've been like 2002. So I guess a year after Jabberwocky or whatever hit the paper.

Adeel [19:31]: Yeah. I mean, that's super early for somebody to somebody in where you were to kind of hear about it and mention it. So did that therapist try to treat the misophonia as well on top of the social anxiety stuff? And if so, like what kind of stuff did they do?

Olivia [19:48]: So he didn't try to treat it. So I think that he maybe was coming, I mean, this is just my conjecture, but I think he was coming from knowledge of like hypercursus or tinnitus. I can never say that word.

Adeel [20:04]: Hyperacusis, I think.

Olivia [20:06]: Yeah.

Adeel [20:07]: So like an extra sensitivity for sound. Yeah.

Olivia [20:11]: Yeah. Um, because he never said like it's misophonia or like anything like that. Um, I think he just sort of was there for me to talk to him. I don't think he ever recommended anything because, you know, what, what could you recommend at that point? Um, besides either exposure therapy, I think, which I think is still to this day kind of a common thing to hear or avoidance.

Adeel [20:41]: So I don't know if there's anything in between. Yeah, you're right. I mean, I have never thought about it in such a binary way, but yeah, it's either your exposure, which I hear overwhelmingly that, well, at least the people I talk to, it hasn't worked. And then avoidance, which is the flight portion of the fight or flight. And then there have been, you know, well, we won't get into too much really. There has been the occasions of the fight aspect, but yeah, you're right. It's avoidance or using tools like headphones or blah, blah, blah to kind of get over it. Or legal maneuvers like, you know, ADA and 504s and that kind of stuff.

Olivia [21:24]: Yeah, but I guess when you're a kid, he's probably not going to recommend that, I think.

Adeel [21:28]: Right, right, right.

Olivia [21:29]: Yeah. But I do remember that... One of the things I think that it allowed my parents to just like sort of see by him saying that was, okay, so you're already trying to be understanding, but also like you don't have to be so freaked out that I'm, I don't know, that I have like some sort of mental condition that this is something that does exist and it doesn't have to be so severe. And I think it allowed them for me to find coping mechanisms. Some of them not so sustainable. One time I got an earplug stuck in my ear, and I had to get it vacuumed out. Oh, wow. Yeah. Wear the proper size earplug like a subway up there. But for them to just be like, okay, sometimes you need to use these plugging mechanisms, and you don't need to say, like, no, this isn't allowed at all.

Adeel [22:24]: Gotcha. Okay. Yeah, so your parents were a bit reassured that a professional had heard of this, at least, and that you weren't making it up or that it was something real. How did it affect maybe your social circles at school at that young age and going into high school, like kind of who you associated with and how you interacted with other students?

Olivia [22:52]: I think To some degree, I did. I think, you know, if I had a friend who was chewing gum, I would just try to leave the room. So I'm sure that was quite awkward. And I know sometimes, like, someone in the hallway or something would, like, pop their gum. And I would give them, like, the death stare. And my friends would be like, what are you doing? Like, because I was, like, usually quite a passive person. And why are you doing this? Yeah, I think it also definitely affected where I would go. So for example, like when I go to the movies, I would really like to go either super early in the morning, like when only senior citizens go, like 10 a.m. in the morning. Or I would like to take really strange seats, like never in the middle of the theater because that was just too overwhelming to be like stuck right in the center. and not going to certain parties sometimes because I didn't know like what the atmosphere would be or I knew quite loudly. Yeah, and I think, yeah, just not forming probably friendships with some people because I saw what they were doing and I was like, oh no, I can't do that, like, no.

Adeel [24:12]: Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. What about grades in school? Did it start to affect grades as you were getting to high school and whatnot, getting ready to go to college?

Olivia [24:22]: So, no, actually, which I'm quite, when I think back to it, I'm quite impressed by. I think, though, what it did affect was my attendance. I think I got perfect grades in high school. But I think that's partially because my parents would let me stay home. Sometimes, sometimes I just couldn't go to school. I just needed a mental health day. And I took basically the maximum amount of attendance or absentee degree. every term. So I think that really helped me, but it definitely affected the way I would sit in class, sometimes my attention levels, and I would just have to make that up later of learning what the teacher said, because I had been trying to covertly plug my ears because another student was doing something.

Adeel [25:14]: Gotcha. Yeah. Okay. And it sounds like at this point, at home, your parents are quite accommodating to you, right? What was life like at home?

Olivia [25:26]: Yeah, I think my parents, especially compared to a lot of other parents, were quite understanding. I think they still have some ideas about exposure therapy, but I think that's pretty natural, especially in the 1950s and stuff, I think it's a pretty natural additive. But yeah, they were pretty accommodating. My dad would try to not be typing so much while we were out in the living room and try to be somewhat conscious of his chewing. And my mom, who does also like to chew gum, she said, oh, you know, I had never thought about it. I had never thought about how I chew. And now when I'm in a public place, I actually... you know, try to chew with my mouth closed. Gotcha. So I thought that was quite interesting.

Adeel [26:21]: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And do you have any siblings or only child?

Olivia [26:27]: I don't. I'm an only child. So I guess that's also an easier way to deal with it because you don't have a sibling who maybe knows you're triggered and likes to... Beating you up and bugging you. Yeah, yeah.

Adeel [26:38]: Right, right. Or vice versa, you're beating them up for triggering you, yeah.

Olivia [26:42]: Exactly, yeah.

Adeel [26:44]: Gotcha. Okay. Okay. All right. So yeah. So now I guess, yeah, this takes us to kind of to, to college. So you're, I guess you went, did you go right into ASU or did you do something else for, for undergrad?

Olivia [26:59]: So I am, I went to a university in Ohio for undergrad. And I think like a lot of people had certain expectations of what that was like. So it was quite a rude awakening for me when I, kind of got there and it was full of a lot of people who were I would say super into partying which obviously a college student is into partying but I kind of thought like oh I'm going to this kind of like somewhat prestigious school so everyone's going to be really serious about studying um and then it was something that I had never experienced before which is bass music like music a lot of bass and people just playing it super loud um You know, I grew up in the suburbs, like, and people always, like, had the HOA on you and the noise ordinance on you and stuff like that. So I guess I acquired a new trigger because I had never heard that before. And, you know, it would come when I was trying to study or when I was trying to sleep, and it was just a really stressful situation. And I think it really contributed to my first year, which was a really, oh, it was a really hard year. I mean, obviously I was away from home. I experienced my first time of ever having seasonal depression because I had never been in an actual winter before in my life. But also I was trying to get accustomed to all these new sounds. Sharing a room with someone who also made sounds. So it was quite an interesting year.

Adeel [28:34]: Yeah, that is a lot going on. Yeah, you're right. You're seasonal. If you haven't been in winter and then all, yeah, new misophonia and all the school stuff. Yeah. Did you make it through that year and keep going or how did you?

Olivia [28:50]: Yeah, I, no, I definitely, I made it through. I went to therapy. I didn't really go for misophonia. I didn't really talk to her much about that. But my school's counselor, like, I definitely saw her as a therapist. She definitely helped me, like, think of some ways of trying to change my thinking or having coping mechanisms of telling me, you know, like, it's okay that you're having, you know, not a great time. That is okay. Like, you're allowed to feel like that. I think that was really validating. I don't know. I remember in my last year, we lived across people who like really like to have a good time at the party. And the way I coped with that is kind of a crazy way of, I had found this projector room in my school that would stay open basically all night. And you could like stream movies through it. And so I would just go there. Sometimes I took a friend, but I would just go there by myself and just wait for the parties to be closed down. which it's not great for your sleep schedule, but yeah, it is what it is. But I think I just continued all the high school ones. Like I always wear earplugs when I go to sleep. I would avoid the library unless I could get this one seat in the basement. There was oddly a computer in the basement, in the stacks, that it was like my favorite place to be. And I would go there if I could. And I think, yeah, just worrying. headphones when I could. Um, like if I had to, I don't know, I'd be trying to think of where I would wear headphones. I went to a really small university. But yeah, if I had to be in the library in the big rooms, I would try to wear like headphones and stuff like that. So I think just all the stuff that I had done before.

Adeel [30:48]: Yeah. There's all kinds of little, uh, grenades being, sonic grenades being launched in a, in a university library. Oh yeah. Yeah, don't blame me. All right. So, yeah, and obviously you were, like, super smart. And so your brain can, like, scholastically get you through. Yeah.

Olivia [31:07]: Well, thank you. I don't know if I'm super smart or if I'm just a perfectionist.

Adeel [31:13]: Yeah. No, I mean, yeah, no, you did well in high school and yeah, obviously you're doing grad grad school here. So, uh, yeah, thank God for that. And that got you, that got you, I think, you know, obviously I had a big part of you getting through there. Um, and so obviously you're not partying, you know, partying with all these people. Uh, but you, did you find, um, I mean, did you find your own, you find your own group of friends, I guess, uh, in, uh, in university, by the way, anybody, uh, by, by this point, had you met anybody else who had misophonia?

Olivia [31:43]: so i think i went to university in like 2008 and i'm trying to think if that had been a widely like noticing i don't think i had met anyone who said oh i have misophonia yeah right yeah but i i have met people and i remember meeting people at university also who were sensitive so i know that it existed, but we never really talked about, like, we never had, like, a sesh about, oh, my God, this person annoys me so much, and don't you hate it when, like, but that's definitely where I started to meet people who were also, like, no, like, sound bothered me as well.

Adeel [32:21]: So while you were there in Ohio, you did meet people who were very sensitive to sound? also the other term, selective sound sensitivity syndrome, which was going around, which I'm sure was even less of a buzz, you know, less of a catchy, catchy phrase for people, regular people to know. So, yeah. Interesting. Okay. And, and then, yeah, so once you graduated, kind of, what did you do? Did you just, is that when you, did you just kind of dive into grad school at that point? Or was there a little, a little break when you were working?

Olivia [32:59]: So there was about a seven-year break between undergrad and graduate. So between that time, I worked at an insurance company that will remain nameless where I had to work in the open offices. And then I went to teach English in Korea for two years. Then I came to Germany to teach English.

Adeel [33:23]: Wow, okay. Did you go to other countries because you... Obviously, because you want to teach English to others, not because you want to run away from people.

Olivia [33:34]: I would not recommend Korea as a place to run away from misophonia, just in case anyone's wondering.

Adeel [33:41]: Okay, yeah, yeah, yeah. So yeah, so you've been to Korea and Germany. Maybe, yeah, just, you know, without like getting into any cultural stuff, but I'm just curious, like just kind of Misophonia awareness and, you know, environmental, yeah, the kind of like, what's it like for Misophones? And then I'd be also curious to know if you had a sense of any awareness of Misophonia in those countries.

Olivia [34:11]: So I really love Korea, but I don't think there's any awareness.

Unknown Speaker [34:15]: Right.

Adeel [34:15]: Any about mental health in general, do you think, in Korea?

Olivia [34:22]: So this is just my perspective, but I think it's also backed up by if you watched a lot of videos from Koreans and you look at the policies in Korea and you talk to other expats who have been to Korea, that Korea is at the very beginning of accepting what mental health is. People don't want to talk about the fact that they have depression. They don't want their bosses knowing. I remember one of the first things that we learned, and I'm not sure how true this is still, because this was about five years ago, so hopefully it's changed a bit, but I remember people saying, like, don't say the word, like, oh, you're so crazy. Like, crazy, like, oh, you're so funny, you're so whatever.

Adeel [35:06]: Because...

Olivia [35:07]: But the way that it's translated into Korean is like you're actually crazy and that's a really, really bad thing to say. Like it's quite insulting and kids will get quite angry about it. They'll be like, no, I'm not. So there's still this need for an ongoing awareness of mental health and that having depression doesn't mean that you're like sort of a lost cause and it isn't something that should be discussed in December. So I think It's quite an interesting place to be. So I never talked about my misophonia in Korea. And I think also at that point, it was just something I kind of wanted to hide and something I kind of just wanted to like hope would go away sometime.

Adeel [35:53]: Right. Okay. So you hoped your own misophonia was going to go away during that time?

Olivia [35:58]: I guess during my lifetime. I just hope that it was just something like eventually they would find a cure for it. And then, you know, I would be.

Adeel [36:07]: Gotcha. Yeah. Okay. Um, yeah. And then, um, I guess you said, yeah, you're in Korea and yeah, stigma is, you know, couldn't, couldn't do much. Right, right, right. What about, um, and then you were being triggered a lot over there, right?

Olivia [36:26]: Um, in some ways, yeah, in some ways more, but that's also because I think my life changed quite dramatically in the sense, like, well, when I lived in the States, um, because I was in suburbia and in Arizona, the public transit at that point was quite terrible. I never took the bus. But now when you're in Korea, you're taking the bus. Like if you want to go to Seoul, you're taking the bus every weekend. And being in public transit when you haven't had to really rely on that in your lifetime is quite jarring. Yeah. So yeah, lots of gum chewing and lots of sounds like popping gum. Right. I think that was the main thing. And I think, too, sometimes, like, eating was also quite hard because, like, when you're eating super hot food, you have to, like, eat quite loudly sometimes. So, I mean, I love Korea. Like, so, you know, like, don't let your misophonia stop you from going to Korea. Just be aware of it.

Adeel [37:31]: No, yeah, no, it's a great place. Definitely, yeah. Many great things about Korea. But yeah, just get to know. Yeah, and public transportation, yeah, it's rough anywhere. It sounds like if you would, if it was kind of your first major foray into it, that's going to be rough. Hey, and yeah, let's talk a bit about then, did you go directly from Korea to Germany, you know? Almost.

Olivia [37:57]: I had a few months where I stayed with my parents while I was trying to figure out the paperwork and stuff. But yeah, so I came to Germany, and Germany is kind of a weird situation in some ways. Okay. It's great in a lot of ways in the sense of they have noise ordinances, and they actually identify that. So, for example, you're not allowed to make noise between these certain hours. or you're not supposed to make that connection.

Adeel [38:30]: Oh, so that's by individual people out on the street, or is it just like a more intense version of that, of like, you know, like late night noise ordinances that you get in those suburban HOAs?

Olivia [38:47]: So it's kind of both because it's definitely like apartments within your apartment building. and where people are allowed to have parties and stuff like that. And then for bars and stuff, they can only be in certain kind of areas, I guess, because most neighbors wouldn't accept that they have a bar next to them if there doesn't be one. Obviously, there are certain areas that are very popular to have bars, but you know that when you move in. But also things close. We just moved to Bavaria, and grocery stores close at 8 o'clock at night. so when you're closing places you know because of these different reasons then like all sorts of sounds go away yeah okay okay so and that's good so it sounds like it's a more miso friendly environment because of these kind of regulations I mean yeah I think so I think it can be especially if you have triggers that are brought on by loud music or things like that um i mean it's it's definitely not like don't come here expecting that it's like a peaceful zen place i guess um because you know you can still be triggered on public transit which will certainly be using that's kind of universal right yeah yeah i think japan was the only place i've ever been to where i didn't see people chewing gum in public and so i think it's just a thing worldwide um but Um, it's definitely, I think people have a bit more of an old school to approach certain things like of manners, sort of more like you may have experienced like in, from your grandparents about chewing food with your mouth closed and things like that. So it's not always followed, but a lot more people are aware of it.

Adeel [40:48]: Yeah. It's interesting. Uh, yeah. Cause we were talking earlier about how old school can sometimes means just, uh, can sometimes be bottled things up, but then old school could also, mean better manners, you know, being a little bit more disciplined in that way. And so what are some of the, other than public transportation in Germany, what would you say are some of the things that are maybe unique about Germany that, or if there's anything unique about Germany that can kind of cause issues? October fast, slamming beer, bugs and stuff.

Olivia [41:25]: I actually still haven't been to October fast, but I would say definitely be aware that Germans really, really love analog thoughts. And they don't mean cuckoo clocks, like we don't find many people have cuckoo clocks in the house because they're also very annoying to like normal people or to people who don't have misophonia, sorry. but just clocks. People love analog clocks, and they'll have them in every room of their house, and they'll be the ones that have the second hand that's ticking, and that's something to be aware of. Trying to think, that's a good question.

Adeel [42:05]: No, that's good. That's right. I would not have thought of that. Yeah, that's the kind of thing.

Olivia [42:12]: I just think about it because my husband's mother, who's a very lovely woman, has clocks in every single room, and every time we go there, it's just like, She's even taken them down because when I first went there with him, he was very nice enough to say that he had a problem with them. Because I didn't want to meet these people and be like, yes, I don't like your cock. Like, please take it down.

Adeel [42:39]: Yeah. So that's interesting. Yeah, I've heard that where somebody takes the fall for people's misophonia. Sounds like you had a conversation. I'm curious how you talked to your partner, your husband, about that when you met. Was it proactive or was it a reactive kind of situation?

Olivia [43:03]: no the funny thing is i don't remember but i must have had a sort of a proactive thing of being like by the way sounds bother me certain sounds bother me yeah so like if i don't sit somewhere in public transit or if i stand up and like i stand somewhere else um it doesn't mean like i'm angry at you um it just maybe means there's like a trigger nearby and i have to and i think it may have also come up when we took our first um, trip together because we, I think we flew to like Georgia, like Georgia or something. And I was like, Hey, listen, like I'm going to be like, probably not the greatest person when we're at the airport and on the plane because of the people and around eating and around public traffic.

Adeel [43:50]: Yeah.

Olivia [43:50]: And around gum because like it's an airport. So like, so I think I, I was, I think I was probably proactive.

Adeel [43:58]: Okay. And so he's gotten used to it.

Olivia [44:01]: Yeah, I think so. I think he's accepted it. He doesn't seem to put up much of a thing of like, well, she just got used to it. He doesn't say it's not bad.

Adeel [44:10]: Yeah, that would be bad news. Yeah, oh yeah. For him. Yeah, for him and for us.

Olivia [44:24]: you're in germany now and um um and are you what about aware oh yeah i guess did we talk about awareness uh i guess no we didn't um yeah no so i mean if if i'm wrong anyone can like please like reach out but as far as i know there is no awareness um i've never seen a group about it um i never seen any flyers or something about it. You know, like my German isn't perfect, so I don't read German magazines. Maybe it has been in a German magazine and I'm just not aware. Or maybe they call it something else. Sometimes they don't use Latin words, they use Germanic words, so maybe it's called something else. But I've never seen anything about it, but I've also never tried to get treatment. or any kind of therapy in Germany. So maybe, maybe there are people who are aware of it, but I kind of doubt it personally.

Adeel [45:28]: Yeah. I know there's something in, uh, there's research going on in Amsterdam. So some of the neighboring, I mean, yeah, neighboring countries, other countries in Europe are talking about it, but, uh, yeah, it's pretty patchy over there in Europe. There are countries I've talked to people as like zero awareness, um, I haven't talked to a lot of people from Germany. I mean, obviously a lot of people there. So you would think that, um, somebody's gotta, I mean, it's gotta be, something's gotta be happening there, but, uh, yeah, it's interesting. Mental health in general. I mean, I know, I mean, I know people in Germany and, and I've definitely heard of, um, um, you know, the mental health being, um, you know, an issue in certain kind of, uh, certain types of mental health, but I'm curious in general, from your perspective, is it taken seriously? I guess compared to Korea, it is.

Olivia [46:25]: Yeah, compared to Korea. Once again, love Korea, but God needs to get some progress on that. So this is a difficult question to answer because I've also heard that too from people who, especially if they're in a tiny village, maybe sort of mental health isn't seen as something that's that concerning but from in my experience overall like actually germany is quite good um i mean it always depends on the kind of job you have but there are jobs where you can take a lose of absence because of mental health and it can be quite lengthy um and of course in germany you have four to six weeks of paid vacations So, you know, you're not deciding whether or not you take a sick day or you take your vacation. Like, you do one or you do the other. Like, it's not really a choice. I mean, when you're in certain privileged positions. I don't know what the situation is like if you're, like, in the restaurant business. But, yeah, if you're in, like, research or you're in, I think, a lot of other kinds of jobs that just require you to have, like, a bachelor's degree. So the system is more aware, I would say, than the American system. You can get coverage for mental health. Sometimes it's not always the best, depending on your provider, because it also still is a parity between mental health coverage versus physical health, I would say. But I think people... are more aware in the system. I think for individual issues, because Germany is not a very individualistic country compared to the U.S., but the U.S. is like the most individualistic country, there isn't that much awareness for like saying like, oh, I have this, like, oh, I have like a physical or a mental, what are they called? Like a companion dog for when you have lots of stress and stuff like that. For those kind of like issues where you're saying, I've made this, or I've had this special accommodation for myself, there isn't that much awareness, I think.

Adeel [48:46]: Gotcha, yeah.

Olivia [48:47]: Yeah.

Adeel [48:49]: Yeah, the healthcare system is overall, you're right, I mean, that system is great over there in general for... for healthcare and if you can get, yeah, if you can get your condition or whatever is recognized, I'm sure there are a lot of opportunities there more so than here. Where it seems like people talk about it a lot, there's more awareness, but I mean, nothing gets covered here. So.

Olivia [49:15]: Yeah, nothing gets covered. But yeah, I think it's, I've never been to a therapist in Germany. I can imagine that some of them could be quite hopeful and be like, what are you talking about? But I can also imagine that, you know, the system covers it and that you can go there and you can at least talk to them and say like, hey, they found this in this paper, this is what I have. Like, I would like to think about cognitive behavioral therapy.

Adeel [49:46]: So I guess, yeah, I'm curious now, your own thesis and maybe other research you've done in preparation for it or leading up to it in some way, have you been reading many papers or reading any literature to kind of, you know, inform your understanding of misophonia? Yeah, definitely. Maybe talk about some of the standout interesting things that you've come across.

Olivia [50:21]: Well, since you brought up Amsterdam, I was really shocked when I read the sort of codex they had made from Amsterdam of trying to screen for Misophonia. I was like, oh, that's just right next to us, and I had no idea that would quite stand out. I mean, I think a lot of people talk about the case study, the desire for deafness. I thought that was quite a shocking paper to read, especially because sometimes I also wish I was deaf, but I've never sought elective surgery to bring that about. I think the Misophonia papers have never super... I guess shocked me because it's like, oh yeah, that makes sense. Um, I think sometimes when I've read papers that are kind of from the mid thousands about exposure therapy, where people are really trying to promote it, I'm like, uh huh. Yeah, sure. Like maybe it will work, but then they always say like, well, we did this with a patient for over a year and they came to us like three times a week. And you're like, okay, but that's not a realistic, uh, treatment for anybody but especially for people in the US. It's not a realistic idea of treatment. So I think that also kind of spurred the topic because you also have to just think of like realistic treatment or realistic coping mechanisms because going to therapy three times a week and being part of a study is probably not going to happen.

Adeel [52:05]: Yeah, that's a lot of us are like, I mean, I'm not holding my breath for a cure. So a lot of this is the things I'm most interested in are the things like your thesis topic is like, OK, it's I've had to advocate for myself and I got to figure out how to make this work at work. I work from home, but, you know, I've spent many years working in the same kind of environments as BuzzFeed. And so, yeah, like a lot of people. So, yeah, it's. Yeah, the thing, the papers I'd be more interested in reading are, yeah, the ones like yours is like, what were the interesting ways maybe that, what were the interesting ways to kind of deal with stuff and how do I, how can I take this knowledge and take it to my employer and convince them that they need to pay attention to this and make some changes.

Olivia [52:56]: And I think that kind of brings up something I'm kind of shocked by is that HR, from what, from my experience, like if anyone has anything where the HR section made a change in sound sensitivity. But I have not seen that in any HR manual or any HR study. And I find that quite incredible, especially when you can read research that's been done on the effects of open offices on people, but still that's not included in the HR thing. Maybe it's because they can't do anything. You know, they can't change the design of an office. But I think it's just so strange that the sound wouldn't be a part of it when they talk about light, when they talk about ergo therapy kind of things that sound doesn't come into the equation.

Adeel [53:49]: Yeah, I would love to compare notes as you're starting to do this because I might sound like a broken record on this podcast, but I've mentioned it a bunch of times where I want to approach, I want to put together, I don't know, like a training session or something on the website where it's information for HR folks to get on this because if we can convince them that this is going to affect the bottom line of the company, Someone in that HR department can get promoted with this kind of genius realization and that we can retain people better. We can attract more people because misophones, as Dr. Johnson mentioned, are, I wouldn't say overwhelming, but a lot of them are engineers. And so we notoriously hire people to attract, retain, and pay. Yeah, I've thought about going to HR and I've done some talks where I've had like at a local tech conference where I had an HR team come just out of curiosity and we can start to riff on that and I can see the light bulb kind of go off over their head. where they're like, yeah, this is, I had no idea what misophonia was. I came randomly to this talk and now I'm thinking about how to make some changes. And so I think it doesn't take much to convince them and to see the light. yeah so this is why i was excited to have you on the podcast because it's such an interesting topic that i think can uh we can actually like you know make a um a movement within within hr that can spread and that can just raise awareness to employees i mean imagine you're a new employee and you're like um never heard about this this is bothering you for so long and you hear about it now suddenly you have another person who's aware i think you can make some um have a big impact in this funny awareness

Olivia [55:44]: as well so yeah i i totally agree and i think it's i would love to do that yeah like sure no it's like get your perspective because i think one of the other things i'm quite interested with this aspect is as much as when i hear a trigger i would love to actually ban it um yeah you know i know that actually that's quite a restrictive thing and that i've been told by other people that actually like when they chew gum very loudly when they snap gum. It's like a relaxation technique for them.

Adeel [56:17]: Yes, I've heard about you. I mean, yeah, all these stupid tics and habits that people do. Yeah, it's not just chewing gum.

Olivia [56:26]: Yeah, but all other kinds of things. Yeah, so I think for me, one of the things I'd be interested in, also just exploring within HR concepts, is flexibility in the office space. You know, that you say, okay, like, well, if there's a trigger near you, you can pick a different office place to work at, or you can have a white noise machine, or you can wear earplugs, because I think there are people who work for giant corporations where literally nothing is allowed, you know? So you're asking people to work in positions where, you know, you already are working at a job that maybe isn't that interesting, but now on top of it, you're working at a job where you can't even seek some kind of relaxation in your job. So, like, you don't want to, at least in my perspective, you don't want to impose that on anybody. You don't want to say, well, you can't shoot them at all. Like, obviously, if you don't have a job on the phone, you probably shouldn't be shooting them.

Adeel [57:26]: You're right.

Olivia [57:27]: But it is what it is. It does happen. But I think, which is also saying, like, have awareness, have modalities for people to seek, and have flexibility, you know, like, okay, you have a sound sensitivity, um, disorder or you're hyper. I can't even say it anymore.

Adeel [57:47]: Anyways.

Olivia [57:48]: Yeah. Um, then we have like a special room where we have a special part of the office.

Adeel [57:56]: Yeah. You might want to, yeah, you might want to, so I, I'm, I've moved to Minnesota from, uh, I just spent many years in San Francisco. So, um, I've been to many tech companies in the last 10 years. All those modern tech companies that you hear about having slides in their lobby and whatnot. Yoga. Yeah, all that stuff. I've worked at those companies and also done interviews at a lot of the other companies or had meetings. I get introduced to... I get to see all their different... environments and you might want to, yeah, you might want to just try to make connections or I can maybe help you. But yeah, I've seen like there seems to be trends towards your multimodal environments where it's like, yeah, you got your open space, but then you have like there's, you know, the big conference rooms, but then there's small conference rooms. There's like little breakout rooms, there's little, I even saw, at uh at one branch of paypal like almost like bunk bed kind of situations and oh wow as part of their lounge like just you different places you can escape to that are not just on the same level but uh like uh interesting little um like telephone booths kind of thing you see that everywhere now but uh yeah all kinds of different telephone booth is like my favorite thing to see Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, um, yeah, yeah. I mean, you can go to like a way we work if they still exist, but, uh, to get some, some ideas as well. But, uh, yeah, a lot of these different companies have different, um, Yeah, they're coming up with different types of little rooms and environments that you can run off to. So, yeah, I've seen that explode kind of in San Francisco and beyond. I'm reassured. I don't think there's any Misfunions necessarily in the handbook, but I feel like it's kind of in the zeitgeist, to bring this back to a German term, but that there's, you know, something happening, and this is a perfect moment for... for this kind of work to be talked about.

Olivia [60:08]: Yeah, that's like a really great idea because I have met other people who have said like, oh, are you sure that's true? And then I'm like, where do you work? And they're like, I work at Google. And I'm like, oh, yeah, for you, maybe it's not true. Like you work at one of the premier companies. But I think, yeah, a lot of modalities can be copied over from those companies. And I think the other thing that I kind of want to ask on the survey or in the interviews on the focus group is, there can be a disparity between the formal rules and the informal rules. So for example, you know, you have this policy that says, yes, we're very, you know, mental health friendly and blah, blah, blah, blah. But like in reality, your bosses aren't aware of it. Maybe it's quite like, oh, you took a mental health day. Like, okay, good job at wasting your time. Like there can be a disparity between the

Adeel [60:59]: That's yeah, that's an interesting angle, especially when the thing that came to mind is the that the trend of the unlimited vacation where it's like, yeah, you have unlimited vacation, but. you you know you can't take it if you're in usually those companies are super high pressure so um yeah you have unlimited vacation but you're you're gonna get super frown it's gonna be super frowned upon if you like you basically already always have a deadline pretty much so when are you gonna actually take a vacation um these kinds of uh subtexts that are not uh

Olivia [61:34]: not talked about beyond the the you know the headline of some amazing perk yeah that'd be kind of an interesting thing to explore as well yeah and i think it's a good thing just to discuss also because i think that kind of opens the conversation up to like okay well what else is your company offering like maternity leave but people are kind of being shamed and cannot take it

Adeel [61:57]: What's maternity leave? I'm in the United States. No, just kidding.

Olivia [62:00]: What are we talking about? Or, I mean, just even maternity leave. We still have to fight for maternity leave. Yeah. I think it's a really interesting topic, and I think it kind of then brings it up to other things, because as I'm trying to explain it to professors, I'm like, oh, God, why would you care about this issue? It's very... As far as we know, it's a very niche issue. I mean, I think one paper said there's maybe 20% of the population that has it, but that hasn't been proven, and people have it at all different kinds of severity levels. So also trying to get it through to people is like, oh, it's also connected, though, to wider issues of how we treat employees, the kinds of messages we send out, mental health in general.

Adeel [62:53]: No, I mean, I think this avenue is a great way to potentially break this thing open to kind of really reach a lot of people who have it but don't realize that they have it. So I think, yeah, it could be definitely interesting. Well, I guess we're, oh yeah, we're only like kind of over an hour. I can go on and on. And yeah, I'm sure you can too. But yeah, I guess, yeah, I'd love to, you know, maybe talk about this more as you're getting deeper into the project. And obviously in January, whenever you have the survey ready, I'd love to promote it. But is there anything else maybe you kind of want to tell folks or raise awareness to?

Olivia [63:44]: Hmm. Um, or not, or not, but I think maybe just like saying something that was really helpful for me as I got older with saying like, you know, think of something to say to people, like if something's really bothering you, you know, go through it several times, make sure it's, um, not going to be offensive.

Adeel [64:05]: Yeah.

Olivia [64:07]: But that you can communicate to people. Sometimes people don't have the greatest reaction when you ask them about something, even if you ask them really That's just the way some people are. I mean, you can ask them to wear a mask and they still get upset. So it's going to happen. But that most people aren't aware of what they're doing and that if you just ask them really nicely and you give a reason, they might be quite open to your mask.

Adeel [64:33]: Yeah, no, that's important because we, in our heads, we obviously think that they're here to kill us, but... they're probably not even aware what's going on and they wouldn't mind uh they wouldn't mind taking a small step to uh give you a little bit of sanity so yeah that's an always an important reminder so um well yeah olivia um yeah thanks it's been a great great conversation like i said i could uh yeah i'm sure we could keep going on about this uh um Definitely will want to follow your work here. Yeah, but I want to, yeah, thanks again for telling us about your work, your life. And yeah, very excited.

Olivia [65:17]: Yeah, thank you so much. Very excited. Thank you so much.

Adeel [65:20]: Thank you, Olivia. Again, you can contact Olivia at oliviamisophonia at gmail.com. You can also reach out to me anytime on Instagram or Facebook at Misophonia Podcast or Twitter at Misophonia Show. Also email me at hello at misophoniapodcast.com. If you're enjoying the shows, please give us five stars on Apple Podcasts. Music, as always, is by Moby. And until next week, wishing you peace and quiet.