Brian, LCSW - Therapist's insight on living with and managing misophonia.

S6 E18 - 12/31/2022
In this episode, Adeel chats with Brian, a private practice therapist from New Jersey who has lived with misophonia his whole life. They delve into Brian's early recognition of his misophonia during a family vacation, the catastrophic impact it has had on his family relationships, and his constant battle with internalizing negative self-perceptions due to his reactions to triggers. They also discuss how misophonia has deeply affected his social interactions, particularly highlighting an incident from his grad school years where he physically confronted a friend due to a trigger. Brian shares his insights on managing misophonia, including the importance of separating triggers from personal feelings towards individuals and finding effective coping mechanisms for different environments. His unique perspective as both a therapist and a person living with misophonia provides valuable insights into handling the condition's complexities, including the struggle with hyperawareness in various sensory domains and the significance of individualized coping strategies. Adeel and Brian conclude by emphasizing the importance of preparing and managing one's nervous system to navigate triggering circumstances, underscoring the exhaustion that comes with continuously adapting to live with misophonia.


Adeel [0:01]: Welcome to the Misophonia podcast. This is season 6, episode 18. My name is Adeel Ahmad and I have Misophonia. Hope everyone had a quiet or at least a manageable holiday. It's now the end of December 2022. I'm also wishing everyone an incredible 2023 coming up. This week I'm bringing it brian a private practice therapist in new jersey this is a good one for the holiday period because we talk about the catastrophic effect niso can have on families i and i actually learn a ton in this conversation because we talk about things like alexithymia which is the difficulty of describing and expressing our own emotions something i know many of us are very well aware of We talk about tactile triggers, unwanted arousal, how the stress of Misa might even affect our bowel movements. This is a wide-ranging and eye-opening conversation. We even talk about one incident where he physically attacks a friend at school growing up. As always, let me know what you think. You can reach out by email at hello at or find me on Instagram or Facebook at Misophonia Podcast. By the way, if you get a chance, please leave a quick review or rating wherever you listen to this show, whether that's Apple Podcasts or Spotify or elsewhere. It really helps reach more listeners. Thanks for the incredible ongoing support of Patreon supporters. If you feel like contributing, you can read all about the various levels and how to contribute at slash misophonia podcast. All right, without further ado, here is my conversation with Brian. Brian, welcome to the podcast. Good to have you here.

Brian [1:47]: Hey, Deal. How's it going? Nice to be here.

Adeel [1:50]: Yeah. So, yeah, you just said you've heard a lot of episodes. I always ask at the beginning, like kind of whereabouts are you located?

Brian [1:59]: I'm located in central New Jersey.

Adeel [2:00]: Okay, sweet.

Brian [2:02]: Yeah.

Adeel [2:03]: I just had a couple, you probably heard a couple New Jersey episodes earlier this fall. So, yeah, really interesting stuff going on. So, yeah, so I guess what do you do?

Brian [2:17]: I am a private practice therapist. I'm a licensed clinical social worker. And I started my private practice about three, a little over three years ago, just before the pandemic started.

Adeel [2:32]: Okay, gotcha. And you also have misophonia as well, right?

Brian [2:37]: Absolutely. Lifelong.

Adeel [2:39]: Yeah, lifelong. Okay. Yeah, so I guess, yeah, I've had a couple, yeah, I mean, as you probably heard, I've had some therapists who also have misophonia come on the show, and there's so many things we could talk about. But I guess in these cases, I found that maybe just kind of going chronological is best to kind of cover everything. Sure. If that works for you, and we can kind of like, you know,

Brian [3:02]: yeah we'll just start kind of at the beginning lifelong so how how how far back like how when's when did you first kind of notice well i kind of preface this usually by saying like i don't remember a time that this wasn't a thing i don't remember not having triggers i don't remember a comfortable family meal um so with that being said um I don't have a lot of clear memories, you know, of, of, of a lot of my childhood. I, you know, I have these little clear moments, these very crystal clear moments, but, um, the, you know, I can't remember like swaths of time or spreads, but, um, I would imagine that it started becoming an issue for the family, not just for me, um, probably around the same time as most people, like seven to eight, somewhere in that range. I actually remember a family vacation to the beach. where it really like stands out in my memory of childhood as being like, this was the first time that this became an issue. And I sort of remember being identified as problematic.

Adeel [4:13]: Like by your family.

Brian [4:15]: Yeah. Like it was like, Oh, Brian's temper. Right. what what do you remember what happened was it being in the car or was it just kind of like just being around family it might have just been a combination what i remember most about that is that i would my my mom would take me for walks at night to kind of like chill and cool out um i'm not exactly sure where the triggers were again like those memories are spotty i do remember that like um There was a popular Paula Abdul album at the time. Again, my relationship with sounds is very intimate and interesting. So I remember my life chronologically more based on what music was playing at the time, what was popular. So I remember that. I remember my mom taking me out for walks to kind of cool off.

Adeel [5:06]: After the triggers? Or was it just a general kind of thing?

Brian [5:09]: I think at the end of the day, because I think probably at the end of the day, we were in the hotel room. We were no longer going out and doing things. And probably my ability to distract or whatever from triggers during the day had waned. And probably I was tired and, you know. But again, I can't really say particularly. I'd have to call my parents into that conversation, and their memory might be kind of spotty as well.

Adeel [5:38]: Well, speaking of that, I mean, this might be jumping forward, but is calling your parents and talking about this stuff a possibility? Are you still close? Did this have an effect?

Brian [5:50]: Yeah, absolutely. So it's affected my family relationships catastrophically. And I mean that from a sense of intensity level. I have good relationships with most of my family, but that is... largely in part these days because I keep my distance a lot. I actually, prior to scheduling this appointment, I had put it off for a very long time because I was kind of nervous about the intimacy and the personal nature of all of this and how these things can be perceived by people who don't have misophonia, my family, friends, etc., Um, but I, I actually let them know, Hey, I, there's this podcast. They've, I've, I've mentioned it to them since simply because it's been so helpful to me to listen to episodes of this podcast. But I did let them know like, Hey, I'm going to do this show. I'm going to talk about family. I'm going to talk about you guys. It's not personal. It's about misophonia. Um, and they were all supportive. They were kind of excited about the idea of me doing it. And, um, My father actually said, well, would you ever want us to listen to this? And I said, probably, yes. I think you would probably learn a couple things. It's really hard to talk about it. It's really hard for me to talk about it and make any sense and not get overwhelmed just by talking about it. And it's very hard for, I've noticed, I don't know if anybody else or you have this same experience but it's very hard for people to hear about it it's very hard for people to not get overwhelmed you know if the conversation is about hey like i have this thing and it affects me in these ways and always has and you know you are a part of what triggers that um i think you know there's a lot of defensiveness on all sides of those conversations so i said you know i look at it as an opportunity for me to reach an audience that, that I think needs to hear things like this. And I have benefited so much personally, but also for people in my life who I have not talked about it too much or have struggled to talk about it. Um, I think it could be really eyeopening for them to hear me talk about it.

Adeel [8:08]: Um, yeah, absolutely. And this is kind of, and you know, to any of those people who, any of those people you mentioned who are listening, I mean, this has come up. in conversations on and off the podcast for me, especially recently, it's like, you know, it's not about parent shaming or anything like, like that. It's, it is very easy to get defensive, but we, we, it's hard to, it's hard to, it's hard to believe sometimes, but we actually, we really honestly don't blame the people who are causing, unless they do it on purpose, although there are cases, there have been cases like that, but, but, you know, we, we do try to assume best intent in, in a trigger. Our brains go into weird places. Yes. Yes. But outside of that, it's, yeah, we understand. We're able to rationalize it, but it is hard. We understand. And we also understand that it is hard to see from the other point of view. And that obviously, like you said, makes it very difficult. Absolutely. Because honestly, the last thing I'll say is we generally, I mean, I do the podcast, but we generally don't want to talk about this when we're outside. We just want to get on with our lives. And so it's hard to find a good time to discuss it.

Brian [9:16]: Yeah. Especially at this point in my life, I have really built up my ability to separate. the triggers from the people who trigger me from my feelings about them, from how I think about them. That's a lot of layers of complexity, but I think most people who have misophonia will understand what I'm talking about. Um, and, uh, but it doesn't make it any easier a lot of the time to talk about it. Um, And that's, you know, when I was, as I started to think about this through a lens of trauma, through my work, and also just my studying professionally and personally in, you know, sort of therapy, psychology, learning about trauma and the concept of alexithymia, which is like the inability to... form words for feelings and thoughts when you're in a sort of fight, flight, freeze, trauma response state. Even though I want to talk about it with people, it's always still very hard because it immediately becomes overwhelming.

Adeel [10:25]: that's interesting i hadn't heard that term but i've been looking for something to describe like why why me who you know i talked to some people about right especially in a moment i can't explain it yeah or i can't or i'm trying to find words to make it not sound

Brian [10:40]: you know crazy there's a word for that yeah interesting i thought to stop maybe i just need to uh yeah you know look it up more or just kind of maybe write it down well it's tricky it's tricky because you're not going to find it in just a google search like nobody's gonna you know i mean maybe you know maybe i should write an article or something although that's not really my strong suit in terms of how i write um i'm more of a sort of creative fictional writer when i write but um But I do think that, you know, I made the connection for myself when I was reading The Body Keeps the Score, which is, you know, I don't know if I can mention names of titles or whatever, but... Oh, I mentioned it on this podcast.

Adeel [11:22]: I loved the book. I haven't finished it yet, but yeah.

Brian [11:24]: I'm currently in the middle of The Body Remembers, which is something that you brought up.

Adeel [11:29]: I've got that on my desk right now, yeah.

Brian [11:31]: Yeah, so... But when I heard alexithymia and he explained it, I was like, wow, like... This explains why it's not even like I can't talk about it. Once I get to a place of feeling safe and self-regulated, I can talk about it. But in that moment of trying to talk about it, particularly if you're met with any sort of apathy or perceived apathy, I don't mean that in an literal sense, or defensiveness, God forbid, it's over. It's done. My ability to form my emotions and thoughts into words is completely hijacked by my hyperactive central nervous system. And there's a word for that. And I think that's amazing.

Adeel [12:17]: was really helpful to me when i found that word to finally understand like oh it's not just me um it's this whole concept absolutely not no you're i mean you're describing something that we all have felt but we just thought we were the only ones or that there was something wrong with us which is you know just piles on the to the shame and guilt that we all feel right um Okay, wow. A lot of interesting stuff that we'll double down into, but maybe just kind of like rounding out kind of your childhood experience, how, I guess, do you want to get into, you mentioned a little bit about, I'm assuming like kind of, or maybe not, like kind of small T trauma, like were there things happening around your childhood that you feel like were kind of difficult as well?

Brian [13:04]: I mean, not really. I really, in terms of like looking at this through a trauma lens i don't have any like traumatic events there was no abuse there was nothing like that so it was really kind of difficult for me to conceive of it in this way but once i started to read some literature and start to understand uh through you know professionally in in my grad school training um about trauma and how it functions Really, the thing that I look at as traumatic about my childhood is my experience of misophonia. And it was a constant presence. You know, like so many people that I've heard on here and have read about started with my it started with my dad. You know, my father is just one of these. And I think you've used this term before, but he's a dad sounds kind of like he makes dad noises. You know, just it's a constant thing. There's there's no being around him without knowing that he's there because he's making some sort of. breathing, mouth, all these kinds of things. And so I used to eat, this is maybe the best way for me to illustrate this. For years, I can't even tell you how long at the dinner table, because we would eat as a family every night at the dinner table in the kitchen. My parents were I don't know why we did it. I think just to have a distraction. But we had a TV that was right next to me on my right side and we would watch TV during while we were eating dinner. That might have evolved as a part of me being dysregulated during dinner. I'm not really sure. Again, I don't remember. exactly how that happened but I would eat with my left hand like shoved inside of my ear as if I was like supporting my head with my hand as if that was some sort of way to hide that I was desperately trying to stop the sound from my father who was sitting directly to my left from, from getting in there. And, and I did that for, I can't even tell you how long until probably I stopped until I probably started deciding, like, I don't have to eat at the dinner table. I'm, I'm not going to do that.

Adeel [15:22]: Yeah. Did anybody notice your reaction?

Brian [15:27]: I can't imagine. I can't imagine that it wasn't noticed. It certainly wasn't discussed. Were there other?

Adeel [15:35]: Yeah.

Brian [15:36]: Go ahead.

Adeel [15:37]: Well, were there other than that? Did you ever lash out or something?

Brian [15:42]: I'm certain that I did. I mean, there was probably a certain passive-aggressive reaction. hostility or aggression that I was just projecting because my whole entire body was tense and in pain and looking for a way out. So yeah, I have to imagine that I was a significantly unpleasant person.

Adeel [16:06]: Did you run off after dinner or did you just kind of like. Oh, yeah, I would. I would.

Brian [16:10]: Yeah. As I remember it now, not always, obviously, but as I remember it, I would kind of shove food in my face and get get the heck out of there as quickly as I possibly could. You know, and. Yeah, it had to be noticed at all times. And, you know, I did sort of appropriate this image of myself as like, oh, well, you know, Brian's just a. you know, for lack of a better, you know, like an a-hole or Brian has an attitude or Brian has a really bad temper, which, you know, I still work through those internalized beliefs. But I've certainly gotten much better at understanding them, being aware of how they manifest in my life. Because I don't really have, you know, I'm probably one of the more down-to-earth people you'll meet outside of being triggered, which unfortunately is kind of a constant thing.

Adeel [17:09]: It's a constant risk of turning into Mr. Hyde.

Brian [17:12]: Basically, yeah.

Adeel [17:15]: Or the Incredible Hulk.

Brian [17:16]: Yeah, and I mean, obviously, like... I think that I have a lot of really strong ways of hiding that and I never ever wanted to show it. But thinking back on childhood especially, I can't imagine it wasn't abundantly clear that something was going on.

Adeel [17:39]: Yeah, it's always interesting. I mean, most of us, when we're children, we have no idea what it is. Obviously, it was no label, but somehow we managed to identify that this is not good. We need to hide it. Yes. That's kind of interesting to me that we develop our coping mechanisms and whatnot. I mean, there's other things that we get angry about, but this one thing, I guess, where we either somehow know in the back of our mind that we shouldn't be showing this, or it's internalized because we're told that it's some other problem or something, that we have a bad temper or whatnot.

Brian [18:13]: did you have siblings around that time i'm curious yeah yeah i have an i have an older sister um who's like you know my best friend in the entire world um but again you know she was on my right side um so i was blocking my left side and i mean there was there wasn't there's if there was anybody to block at the table it was my father on my left yeah um he just like very much um How do I describe that you just eat very loudly?

Adeel [18:44]: Yeah.

Brian [18:45]: And clearing your throat and taking an in-breath and doing what I compare to in yoga they call an ujjaya breath, which is sort of breathing under your breath. It's like that held exhale. I don't know how else to describe it.

Adeel [19:00]: I know exactly right.

Brian [19:02]: Yeah, I had a feeling you might. But yeah, so I was shielding that with my left hand, sort of crammed into my ear in various different configurations. But then that left my right side vulnerable. And my sister eats with her mouth closed, but I hear everything happening in there.

Adeel [19:25]: Even with a TV on, right?

Brian [19:26]: Oh, totally. Yeah, I mean, it was helpful. It was very helpful. Thank God for that TV. But I still, I mean, it's very hard for me to be around her a lot of the time as well. Even if we're just sitting around watching a movie, I can always hear her breathing. You know, because once you start to develop triggers with somebody that you're constantly around... i have found that that process doesn't it doesn't just stop you know it's a point of no return yes exactly what about mom um mom has mom mom actually has um tmj so mom's what is that so it's um it's like a they it's it's like you know incorrectly and commonly referred to as like lock jaw um but um people who have it often their jaws kind of knock while they're eating and and i would say that she's probably the last person that i developed triggers with because she sat on the opposite side of the table um but i have just as many with her now um and her you know throat clearing breathing things like that and again i like i hesitate to talk about even triggers um But, yeah.

Adeel [20:43]: Oh, you mean just mentioning it? Yeah, I mean, I think enough people have mentioned them. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian [20:50]: I know it's a feature of the show. So, yeah, so her jaw kind of, like, knocks and makes, like, a clicking or a thudding noise. She also has, like, veneers on her teeth, so sometimes she, like, can make contact with silverware. Mm-hmm. But she also, you know, has like issues with her throat. She had surgery on her neck. So she's kind of regularly feeling the need to clear her throat. So there's all of these, you know, my whole family, it's just, it's just the.

Adeel [21:19]: I'm curious, did those, did that surgery and stuff happen when, did it happen later? Or I'm curious if that happened maybe around the time you started to develop triggers.

Brian [21:28]: That happened later. That happened in college. But I, you know, there were there there have always been like slowly developing yeah just these triggers and it looks i mean you mentioned i think in in your note earlier that uh the visual triggers are also a big part of your life oh yeah they develop around the same time or as you know later on yeah that's kind of hard for me to place um because i it took me long enough to become aware that like the auditory triggers were real and and were a thing um and even once i did like like really become aware of them. I didn't really accept them. I thought I was crazy. And I constantly worried about like going crazier, so to speak, quote unquote. But so to really, I didn't even know that they were a thing until much later, but I don't think that they were not affecting me. I can't, I can't see any of this. It's just as good as hearing it. And this is something that I think probably people in my life understand less because for some reason it's easier to talk about the auditory stuff. And it's hard enough for people to understand and accept. So then if I, so then if I turn around and say like, oh yeah. And by the way, like I can see you across the room and it's the same thing. That's just like a bridge too far. You know what I mean?

Adeel [22:56]: We know. And we know that nobody else knows. Yeah.

Brian [23:02]: Yeah. The other thing is that like I started to notice this when I was dating somebody for a long period of time. Um, and obviously triggers developed over time in that relationship. Um, I started to notice that like it's a tactile thing as well. So mesokinesia, uh, is all about like various different kinds of movements. So if I can feel someone breathing, Again, it's just the same. It's not a different reaction at all. It's as if I'm hearing it. It's as if I'm seeing it. I don't have to be able to hear it or see it. So when I was in this relationship, obviously, in the beginning, it was fine. But very quickly, I started to wear earplugs, which is something that I... would like to go a little bit more in detail.

Adeel [23:54]: Yeah, we'll get into coping mechanisms.

Brian [23:56]: Yeah, yeah. But I started to notice that, like, if, if, if, you know, if I'm like, big spoon, and I can feel the rise and fall of your breath, like, I tense up it's all the same it's all the exact same responses so that you know cuddling is is is a limited proposition for me i like i crave that that contact and that that tenderness and all of that but like at the same time There's a hard limit to it most of the time because eventually it becomes triggering.

Adeel [24:31]: Yeah. No, that's interesting. And I and this is something of I'll just jump in with my kind of interpretations. And I've mentioned this on some recent episodes that I may have not been. broadcast yet but like but it just got me thinking that I think like sound is like the hardest it's almost the hardest sense to kind of hide away from because it's like you can you can close your eyes right you can not put something in your mouth to taste it or you cannot touch something but it's almost like if misophonia is kind of a canary to a larger you know your brain trying to warn you of danger. Um, it's, it seems to make sense to me that, um, being extra sensitive to sound first would, would, would come first. Uh, and then, and then the visuals and then, and then, and then touching. So I feel like, you know, maybe in the future, we'll find that this, this misophonia is, it's, I think it'll be, I think we're seeing signs that it is far, far greater than just the sound.

Brian [25:28]: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, the, the, it's so interesting because like, you know, I think of it as just when I describe it to people, I don't, I don't start by saying I have this thing called misophonia. I start by saying like, I have this sensory sensitivity thing. Um, because for me, I'm not just sensitive to all those things too. I'm, I'm very sensitive to like everything about my environment. So as I started to speak kind of stuff where you think, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Um, I've since I started learning more and highly sensitive person for those who don't know.

Adeel [26:07]: But yes, continue.

Brian [26:08]: Right. Yes, exactly. So like, you know, I can smell things that people don't smell around us. Like I hear everything so that there's no limit to that. Like, you know, the guy who idles his car outside of my outside of the wall of my bedroom for like two hours every night. That is triggering to me. I feel it. I feel him out there. But it smells the lighting in a space.

Adeel [26:39]: Are you one of those people, sorry, I don't know if you heard, a friend of mine came on and he's like, I can tell, my friends know that I can tell if a TV is on in somebody's house because it's got that high-pitched sound.

Brian [26:52]: I thought I was the only one. Yeah, so I actually don't have that. And I believe that there's a genetic component to that feature. There was a woman in a class of mine in college who could always hear it and would ask the professor to turn off the TV. And I remember thinking even back then, like, thank God I can't hear that because it's bad enough. But one thing that I can perceive is the very fast flicker of LED lights. Most people don't even realize that LED lights have this like almost imperceptible. Yes. So I've noticed recently in driving, which I don't do too much of anymore because I work from home. that I constantly think that there's an emergency vehicle behind me. And then I go and look and I realize, oh no, it's just these obnoxious LED lights. Because I don't see the flicker direct when I'm looking straight on. But in my periphery, it's very much pulsating.

Adeel [28:03]: Yeah, no, it's definitely a flicker. And I've actually, yeah, because I'm an engineer, I've actually programmed a lot of those. So I know exactly how those work and I've seen them go wrong, which is even more annoying. But yeah, we spent a lot of time trying to smooth that out. But yeah. Yeah, it makes me dizzy.

Brian [28:20]: Like when people have Christmas lights that are LEDs, it makes me dizzy.

Adeel [28:24]: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian [28:25]: okay uh no these are just excellent uh going back to well then maybe uh how about like around school and friends as you were growing up yeah again like these are things that i don't really remember like you know i don't know how i got through some of these times i don't know how i got through living with roommates in college for the first two years year three and four i had my own room in like an on-campus apartment um but the first two years i slept in a room with somebody and the first year in particular that person like would would like talk to himself in his sleep and like um i don't i i honestly don't know how i got through some of that because back then we didn't really have ear buds we had those like over ear little like big foam those foam spoons that you would put over your ears and obviously i i kept them by my bedside at all times um i do think that there has been an intensification over the years and and maybe even particularly within the last 10 years of all of this for me um which is which is which is going to go back to the the ear plug conversation um but but i think that there is a i think that this can and for a lot of people as i've heard on the show and just in general looking into the community and and hearing stories it does seem like a lot of people do experience an intensification over the years gradual kind of continuous. Some people, some people seem to have the opposite experience, but like, I do think there are a lot of people who have mirrored my own experience, which is, this just keeps getting more and more layered and intense.

Adeel [30:13]: yeah and i think i mean your your experience of like not like it kind of like um not noticing it so much or not remembering it so much around those college years at least you know the years when we are basically kind of like first out of our house and away from our initial most intense triggers there seems to be a i don't want to say a lull or well that's a really good point like you know it was it was like finally thank god out of that

Brian [30:40]: So and that, you know, that's still that's still that still holds true. You know, whenever I get like a respite from a certain environment. It's like nothing can hurt me right now. Yeah.

Adeel [30:51]: Yeah. Superman. All right. Yeah. Yeah. That's what I was going to say. Yeah. That's yeah. That's very much very much the case. And then, yeah, since I guess the mid at least for me at the mid 2000s, it started to just intensifies, you know, I got into the workforce and started to work in open offices or have to have, you know, lunch with your coworkers and whatnot. Right. But, okay, so, yeah, you had friends. Who knows what they noticed because you weren't really noticing it. Although, are you still friends with some of these people from that time?

Brian [31:29]: Oh, yeah, I have a lot of friends from all different, you know, sort of... Epochs. Yeah, epochs of my life, exactly. And it's interesting. Like, I can think of one instance where... Something that my best friend in high school was doing was just irritating me to no end. And we were at like a sort of, I think it was like a New Year's Eve sleepover with like mixed company and you know but everybody was kind of scattered around and my one friend just kept doing this one thing that was triggering me now I know I didn't know then I had no idea I was just I was just filled with rage and I actually like I actually like this was maybe the one time that I got like legitimately physical and I kind of like attacked him and was like stop doing that or i'm going to do something more than this like i i kind of threatened him and i'm like just remembering this as we're talking um so yeah there were those instances which is why when i look back on it and i'm like how did that guy meaning me how did that guy get through these experiences like how did i function in a classroom being triggered and I know that I was, I just don't have like, again, this is how like trauma functions that like we remember things with a stunning clarity, but then other things It's gone. I have no access to it. Again, I'm not really sure how I got through some of these times, but I did. Yeah.

Adeel [33:01]: During these times, were you ever, and you don't have to get into specifics, but were you ever diagnosed with any comorbidities? Did you get misdiagnosed where maybe you had this?

Brian [33:15]: No. I think I had significant ADHD. I couldn't sit and do anything ever. I think part of that, especially when we're talking, I'm very musical, but I'm not very good at playing musical instruments. My voice is my main instrument, and I try my hardest to get better at other instruments. I took piano lessons for eight years, but I never, ever practiced. Part of that, I think, just ADHD. Part of that, I think also, I had to sit in the living room and be triggered. I also there's interesting dynamic of like, not, you know, having such an intense reaction to hearing other people and not wanting to hear other people kind of gave me this strong aversion to being heard, if that makes any sense. Even now, I don't like to practice where people can hear me. There's this weird thing about being heard. And I think that that comes from just childhood of not wanting to hear other people. So I kind of never wanted to be doing the thing that I didn't want other people to do. So I have a lot of kind of like internalized patterns and thoughts and feelings and beliefs around being heard, if that makes any sense.

Adeel [34:39]: Dude, you're blowing my mind. You just described something that I've never heard anyone else describe. This is like, I don't know how many episodes of this podcast, but wow, yes. I, yeah, I just thought, yeah, that's, I don't know what to say because, yeah, I understand there are situations when... even when i try to practice again like i don't really want to play it out loud because i just don't want the attention i just thought it was because i don't want the attention on me yeah or um i don't want to disturb what other people are doing sometimes i will but i'm always thinking in the back is this too loud or is this totally are people going to comment on like i don't even want people to say oh that's nice like it's just weird i just kind of want to be my own bubble

Brian [35:21]: Yes.

Adeel [35:21]: Yeah.

Brian [35:22]: Cause my mom would always walk by and say like, Oh, that sounds so nice. And I'd be like, don't, don't say anything. Oh God.

Adeel [35:28]: Don't acknowledge me here.

Brian [35:30]: Pretend like I'm not here. You know? Yeah.

Adeel [35:32]: Yeah. I just assumed it was something completely, it might be something completely unrelated, but I feel like maybe we have some.

Brian [35:39]: Yeah. I had imagined that there's, that there's, that there's multiple, that that's a multifaceted thing and a multilayered thing. But I also, it's hard for me at this point to separate it from the idea of like, I didn't want to be the thing that I was so bothered and disturbed and in pain because of. And I still don't. So I'm very careful. I eat with my mouth closed. I am aware of the volume of my breath. I'm constantly making efforts to not be heard. And I don't think that that ends at bodily sounds. I think that the way that, especially when we're younger, the way that we think about these things of course it's going to extend into like just being heard, you know, playing instrument, talking, you know, all these things. So it's interesting the way that that affects everything.

Adeel [36:33]: Yeah. All right. Let's, let's talk about us because I know, I think you're going to blow my mind probably on many things. I just want to get to as many topics as possible. uh so then you decided to be so did you start to become a therapist kind of right away i'm curious how that decision was made or was that made um during college um yeah maybe talk about career stuff i was real directionless um i i still kind of feel fairly direction i mean i have directions i just like don't know where i'm going Again, you're mirroring kind of my midlife crisis kind of situation. Right, exactly.

Brian [37:08]: Yeah, well, and, you know, I'm on the threshold of 40. I'm going to turn 40 next year. So, you know... that is what it is. But, but yeah, so I was, I was directionless. I, I, I got an English degree in college because like reading and writing was the only thing that I thought I was ever good at. I didn't, I, I was very practical about my creative pursuits and I just was like, I'm never going to be able to make that into anything. you know lucrative or successful um which like i look back and think why did i like why did i bet against myself so much but um and i i think it you know again like everything else i think it's all intertwined um in how i viewed myself and all of these things but so i graduated with an english degree i had no idea what to do with it i i was working with like the county recycling riding on trucks and picking up barrels and dumping them into the truck. I wore earplugs on that job every single day because you're basically breaking glass directly in your face. So that was a whole necessity of wearing earplugs, which was an interesting experience that whole time. So I just stayed at that job. through the the beginning of the fall and it started to get very rainy and very cold and I'm very sensitive to cold and all of that obviously HSP and a friend of mine just came up and said hey like I work for you know this nonprofit we have this position that is like a mentor you'd be a mentor for you know teenage adolescent boys you know kind of working with them and their families and And I was like, yeah, sign me up for that. That sounds great. I always had an idea that maybe I could be a therapist or that I had a knack for talking to people and empathizing and understanding, even if I didn't understand, but being able to kind of take that perspective. So that experience of being a mentor and working with these kids and their families really did kind of solidify like, oh, not only do I like this, but I'm actually very good at it. And I could maybe make this into something of a career. And that was 10 years ago, I decided to, probably 10 or 12 years ago, I decided to apply for grad school. And now, 10 years after I graduated, I'm a privately practicing therapist.

Adeel [39:44]: Nice. Okay. Okay. And when you were, um, when you were starting out, were you dealing with just kind of any kind of cases where you, where did you know it was kind of honing it? Well, actually maybe we should talk about like, when did you, when did it, when did you find out that misophonia was a thing that it had a name?

Brian [40:00]: So that happened in grad school. Um, I had started to talk to talk about it just a little bit here and there, wherever I felt safe. Um, but that was a very small pool. And one of those people was a very good friend of mine in grad school who is still a very good friend of mine. If she ever listens to this, thank you so much, Mary. But she kind of took an interest. She got interested in what I was talking about and curious about it. And she went and kind of did a little bit of homework. And she came to me and she said, I figured it out. I figured out what this is and there's a name for it. And what she said was hyperacusis. And so I immediately was like, oh my God, what? And I went and looked and I started reading and immediately I was like, okay, I see why you identified this. There are some attributes of this that make sense to me. There's some overlap, but it is absolutely not on the nose. But I took that cue, and I went to the bottom of the page, the resources, and I started just clicking around. So there's tinnitus or tinnitus. There's hyperacusis. There was another one that was, again, there were some features, but it didn't quite do it. And then I got to Misophonia. I just clicked a link to something. And even just the name, I was like, hmm, let's see, what is this? And as soon as I started reading what they said, it just started hitting every... single box and um the box that was hit that really like tipped me off that i was like whoa this is it there is no way that this could be like this could not be what i experienced because i have never told anybody in my entire life about this um was the was the presence of um unwanted sexual arousal as it is phrased, if you look it up.

Adeel [42:07]: Yeah, so you mentioned this in your notes. It hasn't come up that often in the show, but it's a thing. So I want to hear more about that.

Brian [42:15]: Yeah, it's just... I guess I... I had never mentioned it, right? Like, I had never opened my mouth and phrased that into a thing. And I don't even know that I had ever really thought about it explicitly for myself. But I certainly knew that it was a thing. Like, you know, this idea that, like, even when I'm feeling, like, totally triggered and totally unsafe and awful, and sometimes there was this aspect of, like, why am... Why is there blood flow happening? What is that? Where is that coming from? Or there was these weird sensations that would come along with it. Again, unwanted. I wasn't like, ooh, this feels nice. That didn't come along until I discovered ASMR. which again, there's a lot of wire crossing and signal crossing in misophonia that I don't necessarily hear a ton of people talking too much about, but I think it's really, it's a really vast phenomenon. But yeah, so when I read that, I was just like, wow, not only am I not crazy, but other people have the most like shameful, embarrassing aspect of this shameful and embarrassing experience that I have. enough people that it's being written about yeah following a link right and and this was and this was like 10 11 12 years ago so you know if if we're still in the fledgling stages now when i learned that there was a word for this there was nothing there was like a there was like two resources online you know about it um and it was called a selective sound sensitivity syndrome for a while as you know like even before the new york times article but uh yeah

Adeel [44:08]: right um so yeah so you found out it had a name and okay yeah so mary mary uh thank you mary again helped you uh identify it um right then what happened for a lot of us obviously you went down i'm sure you went down to google yes absolutely she just she gave me like she gave me some hope

Brian [44:27]: that I then like took and ran with it and really figured it out quite quickly. I think it was, we were sitting in the student center where we would have lunch and she said, Hey, I think this might be it. And then I think within the next hour I was, we were still sitting there and I was like, that wasn't it, but here it is.

Adeel [44:45]: Oh, right. The hypercuse was not it, but yeah. Okay. Gotcha. Yeah.

Brian [44:48]: Right.

Adeel [44:49]: amazing uh yeah isn't it amazing how quickly you can do it you don't have to go to the alexander library in egypt to like find information anymore yes thank goodness so then then uh so at this point you were still in grad school okay um so did it change kind of how did you get more tools did it kind of change how you looked at misophonia how looked at yourself

Brian [45:11]: I mean, it immediately started changing how I looked at the experience of it. It immediately started changing how I thought about myself. Obviously, these are lifelong, ongoing processes. There will never come a day, and this is something that I talk to my clients about, regardless of what they're dealing with, there's not likely to come a day that you don't deal with this stuff anymore, whatever the stuff is. Because that's the way our brains are built. There's no on and off switch. And we want to think that knowing something, whether it's a childhood trauma or the source of a point of pain in our life, we want to think that knowing that and understanding it is going to free us from it. But it doesn't. I'm constantly telling my clients, you can have a really cathartic session and you can leave here thinking, man, Like, I can't believe I finally realized this. I can't believe I finally remembered this. And you can feel amazing. And then you're going to go back to your life and you're going to do all the same crap that you've always done. Because it's all about maintaining your awareness of these things and continually choosing the way that you interact, react, respond, etc. Um, so, um, I don't really, I'm sorry. I lost my train of thought in the middle of that. Um, but yeah, but it did, it did immediately start changing, uh, everything really, because finally I wasn't alone. And also finally I wasn't crazy. Like this wasn't, I still was not not thinking about it as like mental illness. There was still, I was still like, yeah, but, uh, doesn't this sound like a mental illness? Um, But I really I really immediately started to prepare that relationship that that had me kind of in the back of my mind, just like quietly fearing that I was one day going to lose control. If that if that makes sense, that really started to repair almost immediately.

Adeel [47:20]: Yeah, I think maybe it put what you were experiencing in the context of... It's just good to know that other people have it and they haven't all gone completely over the edge. Yes, exactly. People are living with it. People are finding tools to use to work with it. Exactly. But, actually, maybe we should just go back to that one topic that doesn't come up that often, the unwanted sexual arousals. I mean, you saw that written down, but were you able to kind of learn anything about it? Have you... I, you know... Yeah, I don't know what you found out there. Just for other people listening that might be experiencing stuff like that.

Brian [47:59]: Not really. And, again, like, I... You know, I did try to look it up a little bit just today. I had all these lofty plans of like doing some real research to back some of this stuff up. But like, you know, the best laid plans. Yeah. So I haven't really done a ton of research into it. I don't know that it has been really researched very much. The research focus on misophonia seems to have a very narrow focus. It's expanding like that, that motor study. Mm hmm. kumar study yeah yeah the kumar study just uh man oh man like so so much gratitude for that happening um because i think it starts to break those walls a little bit that this is a multi-system multi-layered multi-faceted thing um but you know my experience of it was just in random situations um you know especially in like adolescence young adulthood uh you know um at school, like, you know, boys, we're kind of constantly nervous that, like, we're going to suddenly... Oh, right. Like, you know, have something we can't hide, like, right when it's time to get up and get off the bus or, you know, at the very end of class when the bell goes off. And what I know now is that, like, sometimes I would be triggered by a sound and my response wouldn't be anger or, you know... such like a sort of tense but but rather this like again why am i experiencing blood flow like where is this coming from um and you know i

Adeel [49:34]: And it's only the, like you said, only the physical side. It's not like you're, you probably don't even notice that your body is doing that because you're not actually psychologically aroused or anything.

Brian [49:43]: Yeah, absolutely. It's just, it was just like my body is, and I did read something today that did say that it could be linked to like hormonal systems. But I didn't, I didn't really have a lot of time to read too much into that. Like, that there could be some link between i guess that that myelinated part of our brain which is which is definitely in the sort of deeper brain so it would make sense that it might be connected to all sorts of systems in our body there was yeah i mean there was one somebody came on she said that uh it she swears it's it's connected to her hormones because she's now you know i think menopausal and it's just it's right this one is wreaking havoc and it did back in the day right so uh but you know there's probably i actually yeah i remember what you're talking about i was listening to that and i i was totally keyed in because i was like yeah of course of course of course this makes sense right this is we're talking about all these sort of primitive survival parts of our brain and the effects of these things are not you know they can't even they can hardly be measured most of the time like you know the And again, I've always had stomach problems. I've always had, not again, I guess I'm just bringing this up now, but I've had intense kind of gastrointestinal issues my entire life.

Adeel [51:04]: How so? Because I have too, but now you're blowing my mind again because I've had situations where, you know, I've... had difficulty controlling my... Real talk, difficulty controlling my bowels early in childhood, but later than you would expect. Oh, no, of course. And I just thought, maybe I'm lactose intolerant or something, but... And that may be the case.

Brian [51:27]: And in my mind, and I don't want to sound conspiratorial here, but that could be down to the fact that... most of us started with our triggers at the family dinner table now that's not a global thing but it does seem to be incredibly common um and you know what's the first thing to go when when you're feeling under threat when you're when your survival system is aroused the first thing to go is digestion all of that resource is pooled into your extremities so that you can fight flee or freeze up to make yourself safe. Um, and so like, you know, this kid sitting here at dinner with his left hand buried into his eardrum, um, he's not digesting really great. He's also like force feeding food into his face so that he can run away from the table really quick. That's not, that's, that, that is not helping that whole situation. Now, obviously now I have some skills and I understand the central nervous system. I understand sympathetic and first parasympathetic and I understand proprioception and all these things that can help us to self-regulate a dysregulated nervous system. But back then... I was dysregulated for hours, days, maybe years. I look at myself and I think I was constantly dysregulated.

Adeel [52:59]: Yeah. When I learned about the vagus nerve, I also thought, oh, there's a connection from your brain to your gut. That probably has something to do with maybe my digestion stuff, but I haven't really dug too deep into it. Let's talk about... Yeah, we're getting... oh man we're i know i have to be back for part two three four but we have to do a mini series here but um uh but i just have to get something to get to something uh yeah absolutely not too distant future but i would like do you want to maybe talk a little bit about yeah your take on the nervous system and maybe uh how how you i mean because i also want to maybe talk about

Brian [53:38]: what you what you maybe tell your clients maybe we can kind of like i don't combine those together yeah some way to get your thoughts there before we um you know start to wind down yeah so i've always um i've always wanted to have my practice be like legitimately helpful to people um i i want my clients to have a place where they can openly talk about whatever they need to talk about but i don't want them to leave with just having talked about it So I've always looked into and studied and sought out expertise and knowledge about the body, the central nervous system, all of these things. And so that's always been a part of what I've practiced is to have awareness not only of your thoughts and feelings emotionally, but when I talk about practicing awareness of feelings, I always split it. that's a two parter. That's your emotions, whatever sort of emotional experience you're having, but also what is going on in your body. And, you know, because we, in this society, we create this line between like our neck and And I would even say just our head, our skull, and the rest of our body, as if they're two different things. When in fact, they're not separated at all. They are one in the same. They're not just connected. They are the same thing. And so I always wanted to give people not only cognitive skills, but also physical skills. sort of sent you know sensory and um you know body-based things to help them get through stress difficult moments um the sense of overwhelm and i think my experience of misophonia and how physical it is has always informed that um just this past uh i think it was in january february i was able to take dr brout's uh first course that she offered for adults for the regulate reason reassure protocol which like I recommend very highly to everybody out there read up on it seek her out take the course if you if you can if you have the resources it was it took all these things that I had done with my clients for so long and gave me like a brand new lexicon of of ways to describe it in language to use which is so important in what i do to have the right ways to describe this to all different kinds of people um but also it gave me like a new practical sense of how to use it for instance like i'm sitting here talking to you um with my weighted blanket folded on my lap just because Just because it helps me to kind of feel that what we call deep pressure, which is a proprioceptive thing. Proprioceptive feedback stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system. This is getting into a little bit of jargon and details. But all of that is a good thing. It helps us to self-regulate. It reassures our central nervous system that we are, in fact, safe. And that helps us to do the cognitive work. that we can't do when we're protecting survival mode.

Adeel [57:04]: Gotcha. Um, yeah. So, uh, yeah, I'm going to add Dr. Brett's, uh, uh, definitely a legend. I'm actually going to be talking to her again for her second time on the show.

Brian [57:15]: I look forward to that very much. She's, she's a treasure.

Adeel [57:20]: Um, no, that's great. Okay. Um, yeah, the nervousness, honestly, that's something that it's in the last year I've kind of been, uh, learning more about. Um, and I definitely, this definitely, uh, I think definitely a key there when you're, um, and then, yeah, these are all good things to work in. Are there any, um, like when clients come to you, um you know you can do all this work on uh well basically are these practical these the kinds of tips that you tell them to do when they're out in the world like is there is there a separation between like calming your nervous system down and maybe um dealing with a trigger in the moment? Like, do you have tips for, like, how to deal with something as it's happening? That's another question that comes up.

Brian [58:06]: Yeah, I mean, I think... My thing is, like, I can sit and rattle off these techniques. My memory of things is not fantastic, so, like, I... like as soon as i've learned something it's kind of like flown out like i keep like kernels of it but like listing off different techniques is not it's not my strength but i also encourage sorry excuse me i also encourage people that um you know uh it's individualized so like what works for my central nervous system and what makes and resonates for me what makes sense for me is not necessarily going to be the same as anybody else um and it's important that i find the things that do work for me and that other people do as well. So I will give people as many techniques as I possibly can with the hope that the message that I'm conveying is there are as many ways to do these things as there are, you know, thoughts in your head, grains of sand on the beach, et cetera. And I think it's important to have big things that you can do that take time and energy and maybe privacy to some extent. But I think they're also really important that you have little things that you can do that nobody will notice. Because I have to like, you know, when we're out like I was just at a at a family dinner with my cousins and, you know, the cousins group is a little less triggering than. everybody else but it's still it's it's not not triggering this was also at an indoor restaurant which I don't do I'm not comfortable but it was you know for my family it was not about me it was something that I was important to me that I go so I'm trying to regulate my sort of pandemic anxiety about being in an indoor space I'm trying to navigate my overstimulation of being in that environment, which I haven't really, I don't really go into those environments anymore. And part of it is not, it's not just COVID anxiety. It's also, this is over, this is so much more overstimulating now than it was two and a half years ago. Because I was used to it back then. And, you know, I... now it's like i i first like 20 minutes i i was really just staring at the menu and i'm sure anyone who was there is gonna be like oh yeah you were doing that for a reason and it's like yeah kind of because you know i could just like kind of have a single point of focus as i allowed my my mind and my body to kind of integrate all of these sounds not to mention there were some triggering sounds because the bread was already on the table you know my yeah People who trigger me were already doing these things. So I did, we do have to find things that we can do even when we can't walk away. Walking away is always... really wonderful way of kind of helping yourself and giving yourself an opportunity to self-regulate so that you can come back but we don't always have that luxury um and even when we come back sometimes we're right back in the you know the thick of it the danger of it um so it's important for me to be able to have those things and it's important for me to convey to my clients Again, regardless of what they're presenting, sort of difficulties or problems or issues are that we've got to have like a whole host of things that we can use all of the time. not just when we have the time to draw a warm bath, because that probably is the best thing, right? Or whatever it is, that big thing, the weighted blanket that you can't bring to the restaurant with you.

Adeel [61:49]: Right, right, right. Yeah, that's what I was getting at. I was imagining, I mean, yeah, I'm sure that's great even here in my office. But yeah, you're right. There's got to be an array of different tools that we need to use in different situations. Sometimes it's popping in those noise-canceling headphones. But other times at home, we can do things to kind of... And maybe part of it is kind of before we go into that restaurant. Yeah. So I went to a restaurant last night too. And I was like, I'm still surprised at how, you know, how trapped I feel because it's part of it's also like, I try to go to those restaurants where you order ahead, where you pay beforehand. So you don't have to wait for the bill and then be sitting there amongst triggers. So that's another factor, but, but maybe just kind of like just prepping yourself mentally before you go out.

Brian [62:42]: Oh yeah. It's essential.

Adeel [62:43]: It's essential. Yeah.

Brian [62:44]: And it's a whole thing. It's almost like we're experiencing the discomfort preemptively in order to start to pre-prep our nervous system to be in that place, which is, again, it's labor that we do. It's labor that we have to do if we want to have these types of experiences, interactions, et cetera. So I'm happy to do it, but it is definitely laborsome.

Adeel [63:11]: It's exhausting, yeah. Okay, Brian, I very, very, very reluctantly... I know, I didn't even get to the whole thing about the earplugs and why they're a problem, but it's okay. It's totally okay. Yeah, I'm going to look at my schedule. Maybe this will be a cliffhanger, one of those old 80s season finale cliffhangers.

Brian [63:35]: Yeah, I mean, listen, I know you are... uh very busy these days because i made an appointment in your schedule and i know what that's looking like and i'm so excited about it but yeah i mean literally um if you would ever want to continue this conversation i would be so happy to i'm going to be reaching out to you because you said the like yeah the airplug thing also the whole uh music and fiction writing there's stuff i'm working on related to um misophonia that i want to i want to talk about um So yeah, I mean I could talk I've lived this my entire life I could talk about it and like I could literally not you know, I could never talk about anything else and be perfectly fine, right

Adeel [64:16]: Yep. Once again, you've described something that I could not articulate till now. So, yeah, you're right. Yeah. I mean, I've had I just had like almost a two hour call yesterday with somebody. Wow. It's yeah. Yeah. But I mean, of course, of course. But we are not going on forever, too. And honestly, it was the first time I actually kind of almost felt exhausted because I was like, wow, we've covered a lot.

Brian [64:39]: wow stuff that i that i want to talk about and so sometimes when you do that you can know i mean listen i i appreciate you so much for doing this like i i can't tell you the impact that being able to listen to your show and so many different people who experience this scientists who research it i mean it has it's been a complete and total game changer for me

Adeel [65:03]: Well, I appreciate hearing that. Yeah, and it's the stories of people like you that come on that kind of, you know, just make it special. Yeah, we'll be in touch. This has been amazing so far.

Brian [65:14]: Yeah, I'd appreciate it. Yeah, that'd be great.

Adeel [65:17]: Thank you, Brian. This was such a joy, and I can't wait to talk more. If you liked listening to 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 the easiest ways, just send a message on Instagram at MrFunnyPodcast. On Twitter, we're actually at MrFunnyShow. Support the show by visiting the Patreon at slash MrFunnyPodcast. Theme music, as always, is by Moby. And until next week, wishing you peace and quiet.

Unknown Speaker [65:56]: ... ... ... Thank you.