Assal - Navigating Misophonia Across Cultures

S5 E24 - 5/9/2022
This episode features Asal, a program manager at Uber, who shares her experiences growing up with misophonia in Iran and later in Dubai. Asal's journey began at age eight when she noticed an adverse reaction to the sound of people eating cucumbers at the dinner table, leading her to eat alone to avoid the noise. This issue was compounded by cultural misunderstandings and the lack of awareness about misophonia in the Middle East, making her feel isolated and misunderstood, even by her own family. Asal's condition worsened with the sound of seed-cracking during cultural gatherings, further alienating her. Despite the challenges, including an insensitive reaction from her uncle, she found ways to cope, such as listening to music to drown out triggering noises. Asal also discusses the broader implications of misophonia, such as its impact on social interactions and the importance of advocating for oneself. The conversation concludes with Asal expressing hope for future understanding and research into misophonia, and shares her relief at finding others who suffer from the condition, offering solidarity and understanding.


Adeel [0:01]: Welcome to the Misophonia Podcast. This is Season 5, Episode 24. My name is Adeel Ahmad, and I have Misophonia. This week I'm talking to Asal. Asal works in engineering at Uber in Seattle, but has a bit of an unusual background. She's the first person I've interviewed who has been detained in another country due to geopolitical tensions when she was stuck in Iran for a few years. She was actually born there and grew up in the Middle East, so we talk about life with misophonia in that part of the world. We talk about... tea delivery boys punching a boyfriend and some weird suggestions by a past therapist. Despite things about being a prisoner in another country, this is actually one of the funniest interviews I've had so far. Remember, you can shoot me an email at hello at Misophonia Podcast, or hit me up on Instagram or Facebook at Misophonia Podcast. I sometimes also check the Twitters at Misophonia Show. You can also actually message me in the Misophonia Podcast app as well, and I'll get your messages there. Thanks for the ongoing support, as usual, by our Patreon supporters. And if you can contribute, you can read all about that at slash misophonia podcast. And of course, as always, one of the best ways to spread the word is to leave a quick reviewer rating, and it helps us rise up in the podcast algorithms. All right, here's my conversation with Asal. Asal, welcome to the podcast. It's great to have you here.

Assal [1:40]: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it. It's great to be here.

Adeel [1:44]: Yeah. So want to tell us kind of where you are?

Assal [1:48]: Absolutely. Yeah. I am actually located in Seattle, Washington.

Adeel [1:53]: Okay.

Assal [1:53]: Yeah. I've been living here for about 15 years or so. I was born in Iran, lived there until I was about eight years old, moved to Dubai. So the United Arab Emirates. Lived there for about eight years, moved back to Iran for a good four years and then moved here to, you know, go to college and all that. And then I just happened to stay.

Adeel [2:17]: Yeah. What do you do there for work?

Assal [2:20]: I work for Uber on the engineering side, so corporate.

Adeel [2:26]: Yeah, okay. What kind of engineer are you?

Assal [2:32]: I'm actually not an engineer myself. I'm a program manager and I'm on the learning and development side. So we design trainings for engineers and my focus is primarily on policy and compliance.

Adeel [2:49]: Gotcha. Okay. Yeah, I used to live very close to the headquarters in San Francisco down on Folsom Street. They were on market.

Assal [2:58]: I was actually there until yesterday.

Adeel [3:00]: yeah okay yeah i lived at uh seventh and folsom for a long time i'm not giving anything away because i don't have that house anymore so no privacy issues there but yeah i know that area very well uh i actually coincidentally used to live in seattle downtown for a while before that um but enough about me very excited to have somebody who uh you know grew up in uh the middle east uh iran and dubai because um Well, we'll get into your kind of the origin story. Maybe we can start there. But, you know, if Misophonia starts around that age eight-ish or whatever, I'm very curious. Also having, you know, I was brought up in a Muslim household. You at least had, you know, that kind of culture around you. I'm very curious, kind of like, how did it all start with you? And what was that like?

Assal [3:50]: Yeah, absolutely. So I just want to mention this from the very beginning. I am not trying to hate on any culture or any religion or anything like that. But it's so different, the amount of information and knowledge people have in different parts of the world regarding things like misophonia that didn't really surface until much later. So for me, it started around eight. I used to sit around the dinner table with my family and we're like three siblings and my parents. And the first thing it started with was with salad. So cucumbers, cucumbers and lettuce. And actually Iranians use cucumbers as a fruit. We always have a fruit bowl on the table and they're always present. And I couldn't understand. the feeling I'd have towards the sound. It was almost like a twitch, you know what I mean? I didn't know why it was bothering me. I didn't know what was happening. I just knew that I, you know, I was being bothered. So since the age of eight, I actually would put my food on a tray and I would eat alone in front of the TV. And I'm glad that my parents would allow me to actually do that because nobody in my family had any idea about Misophonia, neither did I. But I would just, you know, I'm like, I can't, I'm being bothered. I don't know what's happening. So it didn't really escalate from salads. It was like that for a long time until I remember visiting my family in Iran for, I think it was the Iranian New Year, so around springtime. And Iranians, they tend to crack seeds, like sunflower seeds.

Adeel [5:42]: Mm-hmm.

Assal [5:43]: which is the bane of my existence. They, during, especially like during the new year, everybody visits each other and they bring out like mixed nuts and fruits and they crack seeds. And I tell my mom, like, I don't want to go visit. I just like, it's so bothersome to me. And she's like, no, this is rude. It's the culture. You have to come and, you know, stop being so spoiled. And it's not being about sport. Like, I'll have to sit in the bathroom. And this is like, I think I was around maybe 11 by this time. Yeah. I remember so vividly, I was telling my uncle, whom I love very much, about this issue. And he kind of held my wrist and chewed a whole cucumber in my ear because he thought I was just being like a little... I don't know, like a spoiled brat. And I was just flowing. Yeah. And I'm like, this is the meanest thing anybody could like, how is it that nobody believes me? If, if I could not pay attention to it, I would, but I can't. like you know so then it was from there like going to school um sniffing sniffing you know people yeah your kids would you know catch a cold um and they would sniff all the time or like breathing um and again back then i didn't i i really thought i had an issue like i was crazy and i don't know what i why i would keep doing this i'd get angry and it's funny because many years later and this might be a tangent of what like 20 years later i kind of get in contact with friends from back in middle school in dubai or elementary school even and randomly people would tell me hey remember how pissed off he used to get when this sound happened Like, what? Like, I don't even remember that. But it's so interesting that I had made such a point about it, even in, like, you know, my early years. Interesting.

Adeel [7:57]: So your friends have remembered, like, even though you forgot about it, it's so vivid to your friends and so odd to them that they're calling you up randomly 20 years later in the middle of the night.

Assal [8:12]: The truth of the matter is, I'm a very happy person. I laugh all the time. It looks like life was gifted to me. So when I, I call it my Hulk mode. When I get my meso attacks, I'm just the, as I'm sure you can, you already know.

Adeel [8:32]: Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde.

Assal [8:35]: Like Hulk angry, you know, and I turn into a completely different person, which really shocks people. Right. And I guess maybe that's why they remember. And also I keep looking, like I keep looking at the sound, almost like I'm going to come eat you if you don't stop. Yeah, so it started with salad, but it kept growing. into breathing, sniffing, clipping of nails, typing, chewing anything, slurping, scratching.

Adeel [9:13]: Pretty quickly, right? Like in kind of that while you were still in school.

Assal [9:17]: In like half a second. Yeah. And again, I had no idea what was going on. I remember I started working in Iran and the poor girl next to me, she ate all day, right? all day and i would actually hide in the conference room and cry like i can't tolerate this this is when i was like 18. yeah and and people would just kind of like don't pay attention to it why are you so sensitive to it just think about something else and that's what i hated most because i felt like people wouldn't why would i want to suffer if i could like shift my focus i would but i can't

Adeel [10:03]: um and so what would you tell them like would they just see you in the conference room then you'd have to explain or did you ever just kind of say hey I've got this problem. And I know that's not the kind of thing that we would tell people of our culture. But I'm curious if that ever crossed your mind.

Assal [10:21]: Yeah. So I wouldn't tell the girl next to me because I felt so bad.

Unknown Speaker [10:25]: Yeah.

Assal [10:25]: But everybody else, I'd be like, she's eating again. And I didn't know what it was. I'm like, is it because she doesn't eat politely? Yeah. Did you think...

Adeel [10:37]: Did you think that other people were also annoyed? Or did you realize that this is probably just me?

Assal [10:43]: Gosh, I was sure I was crazy. Because nobody else would ever talk about it. Nobody. And just to set the scene

Adeel [10:54]: the sunflower seeds there's probably not a lot of like background music it's not like or maybe it was I don't know but it seems like in at least in our in our cultures it's not like music's playing it's usually pretty quiet It's very quiet.

Assal [11:12]: Here's what it was. I was 18. I was an executive assistant to this private firm. And you can imagine there's a big desk with two people sitting behind it. So myself and my coworker. and silence right it was just us in this big room the accountant who used to type all these numbers and use the calculator which i could have thrown out out the window then the what we refer to and i'm not being rude this is what it's referred to as the t-boy And the tea boy is the person who brings tea to everybody, cleans the office, all of that. And he would be washing stuff. And I would pray every day, like, please continue washing dishes or doing something. So that would be like the background noise for me. But other than that, it was just silence. And you can imagine, like, my coworker would open up her little Tupperware, and there it was, because she was trying to be healthy, carrots and celeries. Oh, my God. And what you tried to do. So I discovered that I could use, you know, headphones. But the headphones back then, man, technology wasn't that great back then. There were these like measly headphones that would have sound as well. Like the higher you would turn, you know, turn off the volume. And it just hurt your head, but you could still hear the celery.

Adeel [12:40]: Right.

Assal [12:42]: I don't even want to go back to those days. Awful.

Adeel [12:44]: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then speaking of T-boy, T-boy would bring around tea that would then have to be in, you know, put in the mouth in ways that are not necessarily the quietest. We should put it that way.

Assal [12:56]: So tea, of course, I'm sure, you know, in the Middle East, a lot of cultures, oh, huge part of the culture, three, four times a day. And I'm not sure why people insist on drinking it the moment it's poured. So then they'll have to slurp it. Right. Because it's so hot. Yeah. Yeah. It would be mind-boggling. Let it cool so you wouldn't have to slurp. I'm sure it's not a very nice feeling burning your tongue. So I'm getting angry. I'm getting annoyed. I think these people, they're out of their mind all day, every day. No joke. Like there were so many triggers at work that it was like fight or flight for me, right? And the thing that has always been with me and it still resonates today is I don't tell people of my problem. Or I try to avoid explaining it to anybody because I feel like it's my situation and I need to do something about it. I don't ask anybody to change their habits because that would bother me more. I'm like, oh, I'm such an inconvenience to people, you know? So I would just run away and cry. It's not funny, but I mean, yeah.

Adeel [14:20]: It's not funny. I think we all understand the laughing at it because we do the same thing. It's like tears of, well, it's like, yeah, tears of tears. And then we laugh at our own tears. Exactly. You have to. You have to. It's just no other way to stay sane.

Assal [14:41]: Right. And so, yeah, go ahead.

Adeel [14:45]: Yeah. No, I was going to say, so how did you, did it start to affect like your school and your work performance? Did you feel like it? Because at some point then you get that added stress of like, oh, like, am I going to not be able to, you know, move, advance my career or maybe, you know, my grades will suffer. It seems like you're super successful now. So that obviously wasn't the case, but. But that's going to be a level of stress too. A lot of people are able to get by school age and college without maybe getting triggered too much. But it sounds like it was like maximum for you from eight years on.

Assal [15:22]: So it didn't affect my school. I can't say I was always focused just because, you know, the sniffing. The sniffling would just drive me nuts. So I can't say I was focused all times, but it didn't really stop me from getting the grades I wanted or anything like that. So I moved to the States when I was 21, and I started working as a contractor at Microsoft, actually. And I was working out so well with my school. I was attending the University of Washington. I would take night classes. And of course, the night classes come with people who haven't eaten all day.

Adeel [16:05]: Yeah, I was going to say. I've seen the forks come out of the bags already in the Tupperware.

Assal [16:10]: The Doritos. Those darn Doritos.

Adeel [16:13]: Right. They need that snack after.

Assal [16:15]: And I mean, when you live in Seattle, it's allergies, cold, rain. So I would go to work. And at that time, I was very lucky to have an office by myself, even though contractors don't really get that fancy deal. But it just happened that my team had an extra office. So that would be fine. School, however, not so fine. I started dating somebody right around that time. And he was actually the only one.

Adeel [16:47]: We just offended so many people.

Assal [17:00]: It didn't last. It didn't last. Okay. Yeah. And he, you know, I told him what the situation, I actually ended up punching him a few times.

Adeel [17:11]: Does it sound?

Assal [17:14]: Yeah.

Adeel [17:14]: Like, wow. Yeah. Okay.

Assal [17:16]: So here's the situation. I won't say anything until it's too late for me. Like, I'm like, tolerate it, tolerate it, tolerate those damn Pringles, Pringles, Pringles. And then I just, like, I punch him on the arm, like, oh. And he's like, well, why don't you say something? I'm like, because I don't want to. Because this is my problem. And it's so emotional for me. And I'm crazy and this and that. I started seeing this therapist at the same time. And I remember he said, you know, Write all these sounds that bother you on a piece of paper. and go in the shower and let it wash out. I'm thinking, what?

Adeel [17:53]: That's a new one.

Assal [17:54]: What is that? No, I really have a problem. And he was like, no, it's not a problem. It's this, this, this. Anyway, my savior at the time was my boyfriend who actually said, Asal, I'm sure other people suffer from this like you do. I'm like, no, they don't. He's like, I promise. Do a little search on the internet. You know, hatred of sound or, you know, repetitive sounds that bother me. And my gosh, that that wasn't the best day of my life. I don't know what was. There is forums and people just saying my coworker is, you know, typing with acrylic nails. And I'm like, oh, what a relief.

Adeel [18:36]: Yeah.

Assal [18:37]: I have never met anybody who has felt the same way. This rage, this anger. Oh, my God. I felt so free. It was amazing. And I read that somebody had started using earplugs and that it would only, you know, kill like 33%, like 33 decibels or something like that. And my boyfriend at the time was like, try it out, try it out. Oh, I would take those earplugs to school. And of course, if they asked me a question, I would answer it really loudly.

Adeel [19:15]: Whoa, I thought I was a very assertive student.

Assal [19:20]: How do you feel about the environment? The environment! Everybody would just look at me like, what is your problem? It took a while for me.

Adeel [19:28]: They're like, she's the one with sound sensitivities?

Assal [19:33]: The other part was, then you'd learn that you're talking loudly. So then you would talk, you know, to yourself. And people are like, what? What? I'm like, what? So it's a situation for a while. But those helped me out so much. And my, bless his heart, my boyfriend at the time would always carry a pair of earplugs in his pocket. So when we'd go to restaurants, especially Mexican restaurants, because of the chips and the salsa and all of that stuff. Socializing had become so difficult just because people want to eat chips. We're very tribal. We want to hang out all the time. We want to socialize. It had become really difficult. I started wearing the earplugs at work, but then we got some more contractors and then I had to share my room with two other people. The earplugs were no longer helping.

Adeel [20:30]: Yeah, I was going to say at some point, the honeymoon period of the year.

Assal [20:34]: Oh yeah, it's over. The typing, constant typing was driving me insane. So I resigned. I went to my manager and I said, I can't, I was bawling. I said, I can't do it. It's like I feel like I'm dying, like little by little. I just can't do it. And I called my sister at the time. Oh, he told me, you know, take the day off, relax. You know, I called my sister and I said this, this, this. And I don't want to work anymore. I can't do it. So she was nice enough. She bought me a pair of noise canceling Bose headphones. Oh, I do. I went to work the next day. It's like, type, type, type, type, type. And it's almost like I put the headphones on and it's like.

Adeel [21:22]: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's like medicine.

Assal [21:26]: Oh, it was amazing. I still have those. This was back, I don't know, 10 years ago, maybe. So I started wearing those. I wear them on the airplane. Helps me a lot at work. I still use earplugs here and there. I still use them when I eat with my family. It seems like the closer you are to the person, the more you kind of memorize their mimics and their sounds and their ways of chewing um so you get more bothered because i anticipate it right i'm like my mom is about to you know so you have some visual triggers at this point too I'm so happy you said that. I would actually like to discuss that because I thought, what is this? Because the sounds sure should bother me, but this visual thing, what is this? Is this a new thing?

Adeel [22:24]: It's part of the anticipation, I think. Yeah, I think it's just like your brain's working backwards, trying to give you a more advanced warning. of uh of the the danger that lies ahead is is the only thing i can uh the only way i can explain it um yeah that that's very common but yeah it's at first like oh god i'm just you know trying to keep up with the visual uh the audio audio stuff and then the visuals

Assal [22:51]: or a whole other thing yeah i started noticing that so we um we eat herbs with our food parsley cilantro mint tarragon whatever and my mom always has this big you know bamboo bowl of um herbs and herbs they're not that noisy to me but she refuses to take a handful and put it on her plate So she always reaches out. There's this constant motion of her right arm reaching out to these herbs.

Adeel [23:23]: Oh, okay. Okay, gotcha.

Assal [23:24]: I cannot.

Adeel [23:26]: Yeah.

Assal [23:28]: Yeah. Yeah. So it's become much worse. I mean, the range of things... That's probably more like repetitive motion. Exactly. Repetitive motion.

Adeel [23:39]: Or repetitive, I mean, sorry, mom, but unnecessary emotion. Yeah, I can definitely see that. Because your brain is like, why is that happening? Why does that need to happen?

Assal [23:50]: It's like, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Right, yeah. Repetitive emotions, now, some of them, it's not definitely to the extent of my misophonia.

Adeel [23:59]: Right, right. Your parents are here?

Assal [24:05]: They're in Seattle, yes.

Adeel [24:06]: Okay, okay.

Assal [24:08]: They're in Seattle. And believe it or not, my dad still doesn't know what bothers me. Because I don't say it. okay he has no idea you haven't mentioned it at all no he knows but he just doesn't know the extent he does this weird thing with his ear which sounds like snorting when he gets out of the shower and i i become suicidal lydia i'm like i i cannot so imagine this i'm 37 now maybe about two years ago he came up to me and he said does this noise bother you And I'm like, honest to goodness, I love you, but it's the worst. I cannot, please. And he stopped it. I am. he was going to make the sound and he stopped it like no he no no he has stopped it he doesn't do it anymore oh gotcha okay so he's he asked you like okay yeah does this bother you and proactively it was just like so many years i haven't said anything well that's good yeah but i have um a better tangent story in the middle of all this yeah yeah please Imagine this, 2016, I'm working at Microsoft. I'm now a full-time employee. I've got my life in order, you know, living the life. And my brother still lives back in Iran. So I take a three-week vacation to visit my brother for his 40th birthday. And let it be said, I've never said this live, but I'm going to tell you now. I flew to Iran at the airport, pass airport control, passport control, airport control. And they call my name and the Iranian government confiscated my passport. And instead of staying for three weeks, I ended up staying for three and a half years.

Adeel [26:01]: What?

Assal [26:02]: Yeah, they were keeping me as collateral. for a man who had fled the country and pulled this snowden and is under u.s protection this is still true to this day by the way so yeah he um so the reason why they kept me as collateral was because this man was my aunt's friend's husband and because i'm close to my aunt and i live in the states what i should have known about it i'm not sure And I, you know, to pull it back into misophonia, I thought, you know, when we stress out, when we're tired, when we're angry, of course the misophonia gets worse. But I found that I'm using the earplugs less in Iran than I was in Seattle, even though the stress of everything was just, it was tumultuous. I mean, the PTSD I have from that, But I think it's because it was such a populated, noisy world. It was never fully quiet. People listen to music all the time. There's cars honking everywhere. People don't sleep until 3 a.m. So there's all these sounds. And of course, I like to explain to people, for me, it's the sounds of humans that bothers me. It's not the ticking of the clock. It's not the water drops, you know, dripping from the tap. None of that, that doesn't bother me at all. My dog, my dog's chewing is actually very pleasant to me. He has these kibbles and I sit there and just watch him chew. Babies chewing and eating, that doesn't bother me. It's just from a certain age that I can't explain why it's the way it is. And so even though that period of my time was so stressful, I just didn't use the earplugs as much.

Adeel [28:07]: Interesting.

Assal [28:08]: Yeah.

Adeel [28:09]: So you said this is Tehran, right? Yeah, this is Tehran. Yeah, the giant city. Okay. Yeah, I can see a lot of background noise. And you were stuck there, but it wasn't like you were, you know, in like...

Assal [28:23]: I just couldn't leave the country.

Adeel [28:24]: Some underground cave or something. You were probably staying with your brother or whatever for a few years.

Assal [28:30]: No, I was living with my brother for three and a half years. I lost my job, my relationship, my apartment, my savings, everything. Iranians tend to call it like the MP3 format. Everything. Yeah, it was a very challenging period of my life. Um, then I came back here and that was when the misophonia just turned, you know, another corner. I came back.

Adeel [29:01]: Another step up.

Assal [29:02]: Oh yeah. I came back. So exactly two years ago is when I came back to Seattle. And I think it was almost like waking up from a 50 year coma where, um, life has changed your friends have moved on everyone's married or they've moved to another state the you know the city looks different you don't have that identity no more job and i think i came back with an expectation and of how life was going to look and i was going back to the same identity but that just didn't exist anymore and that's when Everything just, you know, it was really bad. This is September, August, September of 2019. Yeah, exactly two years ago.

Adeel [29:52]: Were you in contact with anybody here? Oh, yeah.

Assal [29:56]: I was.

Adeel [29:57]: But things were changing. People were moving on.

Assal [30:00]: Yeah, exactly. That's how it is in America. If I were to find my first great friend in Tehran, she probably still lives in the same house. But it's not that way here. Yeah, I woke up angry, the noises. So I had to live back with my parents because I wasn't working and emotionally I was just a mess. And I wake up in the morning with hearing my mom put the dishes away. And that would just send me off the edge. I was angry all the time, yelling. I couldn't handle it. It was just so awful. And I wanted to go back to the therapist that I was seeing before I left. But of course, with no job, the insurance situation, you know. So finally, May of 2020, I started working. And I started seeing the therapist again. And she said, you know, you're doing everything that I would recommend for you to do. you're exercising, socializing, eating healthy, but I feel you are down spiraling so fast and you don't, you know, your anxiety levels are just insane. And I would recommend, you know, you get a psyche bout. And I thought I was the biggest loser. You know, if I can't control this myself, if I can't help myself, then, you know, I've lost the game. And I've always been like that in my life. I just want to fix everything by myself, kind of like the control thing.

Adeel [31:33]: Yeah, yeah.

Assal [31:34]: but you know i talked to my mom about it and she she kind of begged she was like please see the psychiatrist it's we're scared of you it's so bad and so you know of course the psychiatrist um said you know anxiety is pretty bad we recommend um you know this anti-anxiety medication i don't know if if i can say the name is that okay

Adeel [31:58]: Yeah, I don't have any rules against it. It's up to you.

Assal [32:01]: Yeah, no, I just didn't know if it's okay. So she prescribed Lexapro. And I've been taking it for about a year now. And the reason why I'm saying this is because I feel like it's actually helped with my mesophonia.

Adeel [32:15]: Okay.

Assal [32:19]: I, of course, still get triggered. But I feel like I can... focus my attention elsewhere much faster than I could have before. Or sometimes I just stop hearing it.

Adeel [32:33]: Ah, interesting. Okay.

Assal [32:38]: Right. You're able to take your mind away from... Yeah! I can just divert my attention somewhere else. Although, I must tell you, we've been working from home for such a long time. And I'm living in my own space with my dog and it's very quiet and it's lovely and it's heaven and everything. This past week, I was attending a summit in San Francisco and I went back to work and I can't say there were as many people as there would have been pre COVID. But there were about, I don't know, 30 people in one huge conference room. And I could hear the typing again, because people pull out their laptops and that still I never want to come back to work again. You know, stay at home. So yeah, that's that's my long story long for you.

Adeel [33:31]: No, no, that's really fascinating. There's a bunch of things that I want to get into. Actually, one thing is curious how then when you came back, how was it like to kind of go back into the workforce? Did you have any dread like taking this job at Uber? Was it something you brought up during the onboarding or pre-onboarding process?

Assal [33:59]: It's interesting you ask, actually. So Microsoft kept me on board for two years without being in the office when I was stuck in Iran, which was fantastic of them. October 2018, they sent me an email that they don't have a business justification to keep me on board anymore because they don't even know if I'm ever coming back. which is understandable. I came back. My manager at the time, she actually came to the airport to greet me. And it was just, you know, so I was still in touch with so many people from my work and all of that. And at the time, they didn't have any headcounts. And, you know, all this stuff happened. I couldn't go back to Microsoft. And I started applying vigorously. to everything i knew right all these big companies even at microsoft it was like a black hole a deal just i i would get nothing back nothing no rejection no acceptance nothing and it wasn't that i wasn't working in iran i i was and as you can imagine iran being sanctioned you need to be so creative because you need to work around for everything connecting to the internet is a situation of its own you know and i came back thinking i'm so much better i'm so much stronger i'm so much this so much that i have so much more knowledge i worked you know in a startup i worked in advertising i worked in you know funding investments so why why am i not getting any leads and that's when you start getting discouraged like i'm not relevant i am not as good as these people and Everybody must be so much more advanced than me. And of course, there's all these softwares they're learning and all these things that they're exposed to. And oh, my God, I suck. And of course, I'm not going to get a job. And then I started getting, you know, sort of like the Stockholm syndrome of I need to go back to like the people that have captured me because I just don't belong.

Adeel [36:08]: Oh, so yeah. So when you, when you came here, you felt kind of, uh, you start to feel inferior and then you almost want to go back to your life.

Assal [36:15]: Super inferior. Yeah.

Adeel [36:16]: Yeah. Like imposter syndrome a little bit.

Assal [36:20]: Right. And you're looking at people. I mean, it's kind of mean for me to say, but like I'd meet people and I'm like, how do you have a job? And I do.

Adeel [36:28]: I do. I do all the time. No, I understand. Yeah.

Assal [36:34]: And there's these people who are like working for these great big companies and they're making, you know, so much money. And they're like, oh, I hate going to work. And I'm like, then give me your job because I would love to go to work, you know. um so yeah super inferior very desperate i it was awful i then my sister was you know she was getting her some sort of law degree at the university of washington and she told me and by the way let it be said i network like it's nobody's business like I have so many leads. I have so many friends that work in big companies, small companies. But there was just nothing. Nobody would follow up with me. Like I would reach out to a person like three times, four times. And then when you don't hear back, you're kind of like... i don't want to bug them i don't want to be the beggar i you don't know so um finally my sister met somebody who was working at like an aerospace company and they were looking for a pm in contracts i'd never been in aerospace never in contracts but i was like anything at this point anything i i just i want to feel relevant i i feel so stale like i'm losing everything i know So I was working there for a few months until somebody reached out to me who I had networked with prior. And they said, are you still looking for a job? And I'm like, what? Yes. Yes. Still looking for a job. Oh, you know, we have a few positions opening up at Uber, you know, in engineering. I always wanted to be in engineering. you know, if you're interested, please apply. And that was that. And it's been so blissful.

Adeel [38:30]: Fantastic.

Assal [38:31]: Yeah.

Adeel [38:33]: And it was just pretty recent. So have you had to do any office work there in the office or has it all been?

Assal [38:40]: Our offices are open actually, but you're not required to go in until January.

Adeel [38:46]: Okay. Okay.

Assal [38:47]: And even if we do go back in, they have presented us with a hybrid model. So 50% in office, 50%. Yeah.

Adeel [38:54]: Are you looking forward to that hybrid model or are you like remote only for me?

Assal [39:00]: Look, hybrid model for sure. Even though I heavy misophonia situation, I love, you know, seeing people and socializing and all of that.

Adeel [39:10]: I think with a hybrid is I feel like it's, yeah, I feel like you get the best of both worlds because at least for me, my stress level would be down knowing that, okay, if I'm triggered today, I don't have to be here all week anyway. So it's just like, you know, I can just compartmentalize it a little bit.

Assal [39:27]: And funny to tell you a deal. When I was in San Francisco this past week, I have a co-worker who actually is located in Seattle as well. And we were sitting and, you know, I don't tell people of my situation, of my misophonia. We're sitting and she turned around and she said, you know, I think this is going to be a bit hard for me. And I said, why should I suffer from this thing called misophonia? I know. Like, wait, what? I know. It's amazing.

Adeel [39:58]: And so are you two, like, BFFs planning trips together?

Assal [40:01]: Oh, for sure. So, you know, you start comparing. What about this? Does that bother you too? Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. That's fantastic. You kind of watch out for each other. Yeah.

Adeel [40:11]: Yeah, of course. Yeah, you feel like you kind of know... half a person's life because you've been through also a lot of the similar experiences except i've never had a t-boy but one day that's my aspire to that um oh yeah every office has it oh man um head of t-boy head of t is probably what we of teeth the name of the position here yeah um yeah fascinating uh well i'm glad i'm glad things have i know it was a roller coaster but i'm glad things seem like they've worked out quite well and you're in a pretty good position here at uh uber and um in your work environment um the another thing i wanted to talk about is kind of yeah like relationships with your um friends but also like your family i'm very interested in situations like your you know, that, that uncle that you say, you know, you, you love so much, but would, you know, did something like that, that, uh, that exposure thing to you. I mean, how is it, do you ever like, do you still remember that when you talk to him? Like, does that create any kind of like lingering resentment to have like, you know, people close to you who.

Assal [41:27]: trigger you on purpose interesting you ask i have no resentment he's actually one of my favorite people in the world but i must say i will never forget that cucumber incident ever that never happened again right has he is he aware it never happened again okay yeah yeah at all. And I would never bring it up to him because I know he would feel awful about it.

Adeel [41:50]: He would take your list again. Grab a cucumber.

Assal [41:55]: Yeah. Right.

Adeel [41:55]: You'd feel awful about it. I see. Okay.

Assal [41:57]: Yeah. My brother who lives in Iran, if he wants to do something that he knows might bother me, he'll say SL earplugs.

Adeel [42:06]: Okay.

Assal [42:06]: Yeah. My mom, you know, it's so funny and so sad at the same time. she'll try to slow motion her eating. You know, she'll kind of take a spoon and slowly move it.

Adeel [42:22]: It comes from a good place.

Assal [42:23]: I know. And then I'm like, just chew it. I can't wait for this sound to come and bother me.

Adeel [42:33]: I can see it comes from a good place, but it's faster if you did it five times faster, even 1.1 times faster, just so that it could be done with.

Assal [42:45]: My sister does not care at all. She'll eat what she wants to eat. She doesn't care that I wear earplugs or not. won't change her habits because of me and I kind of appreciate it, you know, but at the same time, I have a little bit of resentment like, don't you know that this is going to bother me? But they always have, you know, a bottle of earplugs at their place and they know like once we start eating, she says, well, you know, it's, you know, in the laundry room, do you want to, you know, go grab it or whatever. Friends, very interesting question. You know how I don't tell people about it. Sometimes I feel close enough that I'll expose my vulnerability and I'll say, guys, I want to tell you, I have this issue. This is what it is. And the responses I get are so frustrating that it makes me not tell anybody for another decade.

Adeel [43:45]: Yeah.

Assal [43:46]: One response is they'll start doing something repetitively like... clicking their fingers or scratching or chewing or slurping. And they're like, does this bother you? Does this bother you? Does this bother you? Yeah.

Adeel [43:59]: These are adults, right?

Assal [44:00]: In their 30s. These are educated, cultured adults. Not saying that education brings much, but I'm just saying like people who have been exposed to information. The other thing is, oh, you're just too sensitive. That just throws me off. Like, don't listen to it. Don't listen to it.

Adeel [44:27]: How do you respond? Because you've obviously taken the step to, it's fascinating because you said you hold it in. You've only exposed your vulnerability until you probably made that calculation.

Assal [44:39]: My reaction is so bad. I'll be like, well, you're stupid.

Adeel [44:45]: Well said. I would have gotten up if I overheard that and started clapping. Well, your face is sensitive. Your face is sensitive.

Assal [44:58]: Your mom's sensitive. It really bothers me, right? Because I'm like, look, I am letting you in on this thing that's super vulnerable to me.

Adeel [45:10]: Do you have a question in your friendship? Like, you know, not to kind of get in there.

Assal [45:15]: They go on my shit list. Like, obviously you're not logical and you have no empathy. So I know how to deal with you immediately because... So they get cut off, at least temporarily.

Adeel [45:26]: No, cut off. Or permanently.

Assal [45:30]: In my internal mind, you know.

Adeel [45:32]: Okay, okay, okay.

Assal [45:34]: So... And the reason why I don't say it, so the other response is, okay, well, I'm going to take my bowl of chips and eat it in the kitchen because it's going to bother Asa. No, you don't need to change your habit. I will do whatever about, don't make me feel like I'm responsible for this big drama because you're not joining the other people. It's just, the responses are just insane. I hate it.

Adeel [46:04]: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It exhausts many of us. So we usually, yeah, we should just kind of like, don't, don't do it. Or we do, we do, you know, other indirect things like start a podcast, you know, announce it that way. Yeah. Yeah. That's unfortunate, but it's also, yeah, it's a common, unfortunately. reaction. Does it affect them making plans with people? Because maybe you're going through a rough spell and you don't want to go to the movies with your friends.

Assal [46:42]: For sure. It used to stop me a lot. I'm the person who wants everybody else to be comfortable and not myself. I always put myself last. And it used to bother me a lot. And then I've come to a place where now I'm like, you know what? I'm just going to do me. And I don't care if that's not most convenient or ideal to you. For example, before, you know, we'd like to do like these cabin getaways and people would want to carpool the whole time. And eat in the middle and all of that. And I used to get so bothered that I'd have to sit in a car with all these people with all these sounds. I don't want to carpool. Yeah, but there's no parking. And I'm like, yeah, but now I'm just like, I'm bringing my own car. That's it.

Adeel [47:30]: I can't.

Assal [47:31]: I can't share. Right.

Adeel [47:32]: Yeah.

Assal [47:33]: And it's become much better. I must say, like, just me standing up, like advocating for myself. um it's definitely become better but there are places where i'm like i i don't want to go you know i i don't know music has helped me a lot music is like is like my savior listening to music or yeah like if people come over i'll always have music on so i won't hear The chewing, you know, the whatever that's happening. And if I go to someone's house, I always ask like, hey, you know, you guys want to play something?

Adeel [48:09]: Hey, have you heard the new Metallica album? Yeah.

Assal [48:16]: Exactly. I saw a segment on 60 Minutes. I don't know if you've watched it on Rizophonia. And they... yeah they there's people much worse than me i couldn't believe it there was one girl um poor girl she used to get her misophonia attack with her mom's voice and that's awful can you imagine and there was another person who would get bothered by their own sounds as well because as you know we can make all the sounds in the world and it doesn't bother yourself

Adeel [48:54]: yeah i've interviewed yeah i've interviewed one or two people where it's um it yeah they trigger like their own breathing sometimes trigger themselves triggers themselves to the point where they need help going to sleep like they they have trouble going to sleep so they have to take sleep you know sleep aids and and whatnot so um yeah it does happen sometimes oh my gosh i can't And I just interviewed someone recently who was the mother of a child who suddenly at some point in high school just could not be around his parents. And so it was very... And as a parent, the mother was obviously very confused. So that started a whole research and discovery and... But yeah, the child just would always leave the room. So yeah, I think there were a lot of triggers there, voice and otherwise. Yeah, that woman's actually writing a book about it. Well, by the time this goes live, it would have been on Mary Petrie. But yeah, she's writing a book that's going to be amazing. I've already read like little bits of it. My tangent there. But yeah, there are all kinds of, it's quite a wide spectrum.

Assal [50:20]: Wow. Yeah. I just hope they find something to fix it.

Adeel [50:27]: Mm-hmm. Yeah, research is starting to happen. Funding is starting to come forth through various foundations. And yeah, I hope there's progress. They're slowly getting closer to understanding bits of it. But some of these research papers answer some things and create some more questions.

Assal [50:48]: Of course.

Adeel [50:49]: But hopefully it goes in the right direction.

Assal [50:51]: Yeah, I sure hope so. Go ahead.

Adeel [50:55]: No, I was going to say, we're getting close to an hour here. Do you notice how this flies by?

Assal [51:02]: Yeah, I'm like, I can talk about all these noises forever.

Adeel [51:07]: I know, I know. I just have to not get back to my own day job for a little bit. Yeah, but I want to give you a chance to, yeah, is there anything else you kind of want to share with people who are listening? Maybe some of them have a similar background coming from place, you know, countries with T-Boys and other, you know, places with kind of a low, maybe a low understanding of mental health issues or just... Yeah, I think...

Assal [51:37]: I think the biggest thing I've learned is kind of lower your expectations about how much information people actually have regarding, you know, things that are unknown. And I used to blame it a lot on the people. I can't believe you don't understand. I can't, you know, what do you mean? And if you lower your expectation and try to explain it to them in a format that they can understand. And, you know, I think that would kind of actually help spread the information too, from person to person. And maybe more people will learn about it. And hopefully in the near future, we won't have to face this. Does this bother you? Does this bother you? already i i've met a bunch of people who are suffering from misophonia that i that's what i can ask you like have you met other people other than that co-worker yes and it's unbelievable to me i was sure i was the only person in the world and i can tell you about three of my close friends um they suffer from it we're all on different levels yeah And I would say I'm probably the worst out of all of them. But yeah, you know.

Adeel [52:56]: Did you kind of like team up a little bit on the names?

Assal [52:59]: Yeah, like sometimes we'll look at each other, you know, during like gatherings.

Adeel [53:03]: And he'd be like, you tag team and you punch the friend and then the other one tags in.

Assal [53:09]: It's just nice to know you are understood. You know, it's nice to know that there's somebody else that feels the way you do. And you're not alone in it.

Adeel [53:21]: Yeah, because it's so overwhelming. It's hard to express. So having somebody who you don't even have to explain it to is just a good feeling.

Assal [53:29]: And hey, don't be ashamed about opening up about it. I used to be because I was embarrassed about it. But don't be ashamed. I think you learn very quickly that other people feel the same and they might not know what it is. So you might be helping somebody else out as well.

Adeel [53:49]: Yeah, great, great words. Yeah, well, Sal, yeah, I want to thank you. Yeah, this is a fascinating and funny call. Funny chat, which, you know.

Assal [54:02]: You're a misophonia hostage friend. Thank you.

Adeel [54:05]: I was going to say safe travels. I mean that on multiple levels. When you do travel again. Yeah, we're glad you're here and good luck. Yeah, go for your job. Yeah, let's stay in touch. Thanks for coming on.

Assal [54:18]: Absolutely. No, thank you. This was fantastic. And I feel like I had so much built up aggression towards everything and now I feel so much better.

Adeel [54:26]: Thank you, Asal. Glad you're here and thriving at Uber. If you liked this episode, don't forget to leave a quick review or just hit the five stars wherever you listen to this podcast. You can hit me up by email at or go to the website, And the easiest way to send a message is by Instagram at missifunnypodcast. Follow there or Facebook at You can support the show by visiting Theme music as always is by Moby. And until next week, wishing you peace and quiet.