James - Navigating misophonia in military and beyond

S7 E9 - 9/13/2023
In this episode, the conversation revolves around James, a former military member, who navigates life with misophonia, a condition intertwined with experiences of tinnitus and injury during service. James shares how his misophonia influenced various aspects of his life, from the military environment filled with uncontrollable noises to the challenges of college dorm life, where he eventually resorted to living in a janitorial closet for a quieter setting. He discusses the lack of understanding and resources for misophonia, his journey towards self-identification of the condition through podcasts and groups, and the ways he has attempted to manage it—ranging from avoiding triggers to using white noise and music. The conversation also touches on the effects of misophonia on professional life, the tools and techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, and the personal realizations about misophonia being a trauma response, possibly triggered by his father's death when he was nine. The significance of recognizing and naming the condition as a means of finding ways to deal with it is emphasized, along with the discovery of personal tools for management, despite the lack of a cure.


Adeel [0:01]: Welcome to the Misophonia Podcast. This is Season 7, Episode 9. My name's Adeel Ahmad, and I have Misophonia. This week I'm talking to James, ex-U.S. military and now a management consultant, actually on a break from his job to deal with Misophonia. We talk about how it got really bad during the pandemic, living at one point in a college dorm janitorial closet, his coping methods when traveling, life in the military, working with Tom Dozier, and using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Really fascinating and wide-ranging conversation. After the show, let me know what you think. You can reach me, as always, by email at helloatmissiphoniapodcast.com or hit me up on Instagram or Facebook at Missiphonia Podcast. By the way, please head over and leave a quick review or rating wherever you listen to this podcast. It helps move us up in the algorithms, which gets us introduced to more listeners. A few of my usual announcements. Thanks for the incredible ongoing support of our Patreon supporters. If you feel like contributing, you can read all about the various levels at patreon.com slash misophonia podcast. And I want to mention the book Sounds Like Misophonia by Dr. Jane Gregory and I is being released in the UK September 14th, in a couple days now. It will be released in the US later this November. Sounds Like Misophonia is a self-help book on Misophonia, the first one published by a major publisher. It's coming out by Bloomsbury Publishers. A lot of tips in there on how to deal with misophonia taken from Dr. Gregory's research and clinical practice. And there's a lot of information about what misophonia is and case studies that I helped organize and contribute into the book from actual misophones going through the exercises. This episode is also sponsored by my personal journaling app that I developed called Basil, B-A-S-A-L. Basil provides AI-powered insights into your journal entries and guides you with new writing prompts based on those insights. And you can explore different therapy approaches and philosophies. It's available on iOS or Android. Check the show notes or go to hellobasil.com. All right, now here's my conversation with James. James, welcome. Welcome to the podcast. Good to have you here.

James [2:25]: Yeah, good to be here, man. I've heard your voice so many times over the past few months. That's good to see you in person.

Adeel [2:30]: Yeah, no, it's good to hear. Yeah. Thanks for reaching out and everything. And I'm glad things are helping a bit. So, yeah, maybe. Well, actually, first, do you want to talk a little bit about where you are, kind of what you do?

James [2:42]: Yeah. Yeah. So currently in California, Southern California. I do management consulting, mostly for the federal government. So a lot of travel and then I'm taking a break right now from work to sort of deal with the misophonia stuff. So yeah, inflection point in my life, I guess.

Adeel [3:05]: Yeah, did something happen a few months ago when you found out about this podcast?

James [3:09]: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it was kind of funny. I was working primarily remote in the pandemic, and then I would travel to client sites pretty infrequently. But I think in retrospect, I was kind of really feeling the misophony kick up a lot in those experiences as well. But I had... this project that was over in Europe. Um, and I was jumping around from kind of country to country every week, um, staying in hotel rooms and traveling on airplanes. And I started to like really realize something was going on in that experience. That was like, um, kind of a next level of like anxiety and sleep deprivation and, and sort of all the, the, I think experiences we get with misophonia. Um, and I'd gotten back from that. Uh, and was looking about, you know, doing that travel pretty frequently. And I just, I just couldn't do it. Um, so yeah, I just kind of like, I mean, I'm sure you may have had similar experiences, but being in like these environments where you can't necessarily control what's going on around you in terms of like the sound profiles, um, then repeating that day after day, it was just, uh, yeah yeah definitely next level of trap so i think it was just before that time i picked up your podcast and sort of like started to realize there was this was called something that people had dealt with that and i started to sort of reach out from help from that for help from that point um but yeah so taking some time to sort of um i guess address the underlying problem right now it's kind of where i'm at yeah well it's good you're doing that you recognize that um

Adeel [4:50]: So was the pandemic something that kicked it up next level? Can you identify anything in particular that changed?

James [5:00]: That's a good question. In some sense, the pandemic was easier because we're all in our own environments and separated from each other. And so those triggers were more manageable. But honestly, coming out of it, it probably got more challenging, I think. Yeah. did uh so going back i guess um you know before the pandemic was miss phony something that you obviously didn't know what had a name you just found out that that out recently was this like a lifelong thing that you remember a hundred percent um and again it's like i i had no conscious awareness of it for years but if i had if i had to tag it i'd say i was probably around nine when it started um and i you know i remember the more or less challenging throughout the years. But, you know, in those experiences being younger, I didn't understand what was going on, I don't think. So I was kind of like, I don't know, just kind of like tagged as like an angry kid or like a kid with a lot of anxiety or something. But, you know, in retrospect, I mean, I was getting these sort of like auditory triggers all the time and visual triggers that were sort of setting off this anxiety, fear response. how did uh was it at home uh where you had your first triggers like around the dinner table kind of thing yeah i think so i you know i asked my mom about this the the other day um and she has a distinct memory of us having to eat separately like in separate rooms um somewhere around the time i was nine and after Um, so that was, that was definitely an experience. And I remember, um, Oh God, I remember being like a little kid and our, our, uh, our maid son was, I can't remember exactly what he was doing, but there was some kind of like, um, of that sort of triggered response. And I just remember. beating the hell out of them as a little kid yeah like putting them in the hospital oh wow yeah that's that was my only experience of it ever like sort of like going beyond like the you know into a physical manifestation of it i mean but you know the same thoughts and like occur uh to this day where it's like you know you want that thing to stop so badly that you get that sort of rage sort of response right fight or flight yeah yeah

Adeel [7:33]: how did uh yeah i mean well i guess how did um your family members deal with your reactions you know i mean they obviously let you eat separately so there was some kind of acknowledgement yeah there was that um you know my my dad passed when i was nine and i think that's when it really sort of kicked up and i don't you know

James [7:56]: reading a lot of like the research and stuff it's it's unclear but i think this sort of thing has to do with trauma to a degree at least in my experience um because you know when i sort of go through my history and then you know talk to people that i knew at that time like i generally didn't have this problem before the age of nine i don't think um and then afterwards it was like you know it really turned up um so yeah eating separately was a thing um Sleeping situations have always been super challenging. Sleeping around people or dealing with ambient noises in an environment, things like air conditioners, traffic noise, that's a killer.

Adeel [8:40]: Being able to tune them out so that you can sleep.

James [8:43]: Right, right, right. And so it's always been a process of me trying to control the environment and then reach out to people around me to try to help me control it and participate in the collective insanity of the experience, which puts a lot of strain on relationships as well, I think.

Adeel [9:02]: Do you wear earplugs and do anything like that or noise machines and things like that?

James [9:07]: Yeah, so sort of another challenging thing that I experienced, I have tinnitus. I was in the military for a long time, so I got ringing in my ears constantly. So if I put earplugs in, it's like a whole different sort of hellish experience. So that's... generally not a great option for me. I have been experimenting with white noise and different sort of ambient sounds to help drown it out. And I think for a long time I was trying to do that as well, but it's again it's this like there's some element of like the disorder where it's like you're seeking out the sound in like a conscious way to try to control it so it's almost like when I put stuff on top of it I'm still looking for it oh you're seeking yeah it's like it's sort of like builds this like obsessive cycle or something interesting yeah because we've assigned danger a threat level to it and so we're trying to look for it in some ways yeah

Adeel [10:08]: That's right. Uh, have you heard the, there was an episode I did with, uh, so, uh, I think her name's Hazel. She has tinnitus too. She runs, I guess, the big, uh, tinnitus, um, organization around the world. She has misophonia as well. She came on. That might be an interesting episode for you to listen to. Yeah, I'll check that out. I'll check it out. So, okay, cool. Um, yeah. And then, well, how about, I mean, maybe sticking around, uh, uh, around, like you were in school, was it starting to affect, like outside of the house, school, friends?

James [10:37]: yeah um i mean high school it wasn't you know there was no i was sort of living at home so it was it was a little more controlled but i think when i got off to college it was uh that's when i started experiences like the real challenges around mostly finding like a, a, a place where I could sleep to be honest with you. Cause I mean, you have those misophonic triggers during the day and if you're well rested, I think that they can be more manageable and you know, you move away from them even if you don't really understand what's going on. But you know, it's, it's super essential. I mean, sleep is like sort of a baseline of our needs and when it affects that, it becomes extremely challenging. I remember my first year of college, I was going to school up in LA and, um, was living in student housing. And, uh, the first place they put me in was like, I don't know if it was street noise or like the people sort of walking above me, but I just couldn't handle the sound profile. Again, not understanding what was going on. I got them to move me into like their, uh, the janitorial closet it was like basically it was like a room right but it was like for living but it was like placed in the right spot in the building where i wasn't gonna get like sort of street noise or like yeah me and i lived in this janitorial closet for a year like that seinfeld episode where elaine is living in a janitor closet to get chinese food that's great yeah no chinese food involved unfortunately i was able to sleep so it was like such a relief but i mean that's just like a perfect illustration of like the lengths that like you know i'll go to to regulate my nervous system sufficiently that i can like get good rest and function um and it's been sort of like these cycles of that sort of story playing out over my life when i get back

Adeel [12:28]: Did you talk to anybody about it? You know, like, I'm assuming your school or whatever just said, you know, assumed that it was just some weird idiosyncrasy. Yeah. Did you ever run into anyone else who had a similar issue and maybe try to work it out with you?

James [12:45]: No, no, not specifically. It was like, you know, it was really, again, like, just the past maybe six or seven months I've really identified what the actual problem is. How did you do that?

Adeel [12:53]: How did you identify what it was?

James [12:56]: It was... listening to your podcast was, was a huge part of it. I was, I think I had started to join some Facebook groups. I'd heard of this thing before. Yeah. I knew there was something going on with noise. Right. And then I started to identify with the folks that you were having on. I was like, Oh my God, this is what I have. Like, this is exactly what it is. And it was like, I mean, you know, I think like the first step of any problem is like identifying it, right. Calling it out, bringing it to conscious awareness, giving it a name. So that, I mean, that's a, you know, it's a more powerful place to operate from than I have been in the past because it gives me a baseline to, you know, how to deal with something. But... No, for years it was unnamed. And it was, you know, I had been in and out of sort of like therapy and like taking psych meds for anxiety, depression, sleep, all those kind of things. And I think all of those problems have really sat on top of. of this more fundamental thing. I mean, I'm sure you know, it's not in the DSM here in the States. It's not a very well understood phenomenon at all. So there's not really any resources for it. So, I mean, I think I talked in a general way about like, my anxiety and depression and problems with sleep, but, um, not about misophonia specifically now.

Adeel [14:24]: Do you remember ever mentioning sound and having a discussion about that with a therapist?

James [14:29]: Not now, not maybe not over probably a year ago. Yeah. Probably a year ago is when the first time I addressed it, I bought this, this house out in Texas. Um, cause I had spent some time living there and, uh, unfortunately I bought it too close to an airport. was like 20 minutes outside but i didn't really sort of like study the flight paths before right the first night i'm sleeping there i'm hearing these 747s sort of take off and land maybe you know 20 000 feet above and it was just like i was like oh my god um can't do this so it was like i think it was that so i had to move out of this house that i just bought and then go on this sort of you know project slash trip where i was like getting the the sound thing in my face constantly. And like, by the time I got from the trip, I'm like, Oh my God, dude, something is going on here. Like this, this is the specific problem. And so that's where it kind of all sort of.

Adeel [15:24]: Yeah. I'm curious. I mean, um, you said you were in the military. Was there any, was there any difference during that period? Um, cause obviously there's sounds you can't control and, um, and then there's maybe, I don't know, maybe there's a cultural, you know, thing too. It's not like something you'd maybe want to bring up with everybody.

James [15:42]: Cause it was, it was pure hell looking back and I have no idea how I got through it because, um, mean you're surrounded by you know a few hundred people all day long uh in communal living environments and it was i didn't obviously didn't know what was going on at the time but i was like oh my god in like the deepest state of anxiety and fear from this thing and just constantly sleep deprived i remember going through training cycles and being in these open bays with like 100 people and like people have you know they're turning lights off and on and people are snoring and you know being people yeah yeah yeah like normal and regular and like should not be a big deal but you know my mind interprets all these sort of sensory auditory and visual inputs in this way and i i just remember like being in my in my bunk at night like up to like 3 34 in the morning and then getting a couple hours of sleep and having to function all day in that environment like sitting on the floor like totally exhausted like almost like ready to pass out and like i think one of my buddies was like what is wrong with you he's like he's like is there something wrong with you and i was like i don't know like i don't know what's going on but like like i'm always exhausted like i feel like i'm about to panic all the time and like you know i mean in those situations you just keep pushing right you just push through it push through it And it's not, you know, the brass tacks of the job aren't complicated or difficult, so you can sort of do it on autopilot. But it's, you know, the experience was quite overwhelming at the time. Gotcha. And then, you know, the other thing about the military is you can't get out, right? So, like, you're in and you're going to deal with whatever situation you're put in for as long as you need to. Right.

Adeel [17:29]: Yeah. yeah that sounds like an yeah it sounds like a um yeah an unusual place for someone in misophonia maybe rewarding in other ways but yeah yeah um so when you got out of it was it just did you get any uh i don't know did you use this did you get out of a normal normal way out or was it um did you try to

James [17:54]: get out early um yes no i i yeah fulfilled the contract and everything yeah yeah cool yeah but i mean i you know i was i think i'm sort of like uh have the military mindset by nature i'd always wanted to be in the military and i wanted to do a long-term career but um unfortunately got an injury um and in retrospect you know if i if i really think back the injury was really caused in sort of a tertiary way by misophonia i was um I would, I would run all the time. It was like, you know, obviously like they, you know, they want you to be physically fit, but I was really excessive about it. Um, and I'd run maybe 12, 15 miles a day. Uh, and you, you know, you run on like these sort of asphalt, uh, sort of surfaces. And what that does over time is it breaks down your, your knees and your lower back. And, um, I just got to the point where I couldn't, I couldn't run anymore. I couldn't wear gear. Um, so yeah, a couple of back injuries and knee injuries and, That I think that running behavior was I was really trying to regulate the whole experience. Right. Because you get that sort of, you know, endorphin rush and like you feel good and it exhausts you. And it's like, OK, here's something I can go to that makes me feel good. Right. Whether I slept well or I'm having like all this stuff going on in my head. And over time, it just broke my body down. So it was not it wasn't a sustainable career long term. Aside from the fact that, you know, the misophony was going on. So. Yeah. Yeah. Gotcha.

Adeel [19:23]: Okay. Okay. Um, so you got out, um, and so maybe talking about like workforce, did you go right back to the workforce, uh, management consulting or back to school or at all?

James [19:35]: Yeah. Back to school. Um, got my MBA, um, and ended up working in, uh, defense contracting for a year and then onto management consulting, which I've been doing since then. Um, But yeah, I'm trying to think in terms of workforce, all sort of the standard experiences I've heard on the podcast, you know, like clicking keyboards. Yeah, you know, and then like coworkers, you know, chewing and then you can't get away from the, you know, the source. And yeah, so yeah, very challenging. In some sense of, you know, a lot of the consulting work I've done has been sort of remote, so it's made it easier. But every time you go on the client side, it's a whole experience because you've got to deal with the travel piece and then being in a facility.

Adeel [20:23]: Right, right, right. Gotcha. So then what do you... Day-to-day tools, I'm assuming for traveling, you've got the headphones or earbuds or something going on.

James [20:35]: Yeah, I've got the AirPod Pros. I've always listened to music all day long. And Part of it's because I like music, right? But, you know, when I look back, it's because I've been trying to avoid sounds for sure. So that's been helpful. And then what are some other tools? I mean, I've picked up quite a toolkit in the past couple of months, which we can go into. I don't know if we want to go into that yet, but... Yeah, yeah, we might as well, yeah. Okay, yeah. I guess the other thing is like... Sort of like muscle relaxation. Yeah, okay. That's like a big one, like progressive muscle relaxation. I'll think about like sort of like what works for me is like my jaw, like relaxing my jaw. Like I'll tell myself that and sort of like consciously like relax your jaw and then I watch it relax and like feel like the muscles around my eyes. And then like I'll breathe sort of deeply as low as I can and then out. And somehow that like sort of re-centers that impulsive response or reflex. I mean, it's not 100%, right? But maybe it gradates at 5%, 10%, which is something. So that, the white noise, I mean, a big thing traditionally is just avoidance, right? If I can get away from the sound, I will. Yeah.

Adeel [22:02]: do you do that? Um, that progress relaxation, um, like I'll tell other people that I, you know, self-sue that talk to myself and tell my, tell myself that I'm, you know, not under threat. Like before I enter a situation is that these, these kinds of things you would do, like, you know, maybe I'm assuming it'd be hard to do right in the middle of a trigger. This is probably like things you would do in advance, maybe in the morning or something.

James [22:25]: Yeah. Yeah. Now it is hard to do when you're getting triggered. Um, And it's like when you're in the situation where you can't escape the trigger. I think like an airplane is a good example, right? And then you get into that sort of fear reactive mind state where your sort of prefrontal cortex is not online. It's like, how do you tap into that? I think like you got to sort of train the habits prior to consistently, which I've not been the best at, not been the best at. Um, but they do exist. And, you know, when I do pick up those tools, like, like I said, it doesn't change it, but it does maybe the, um, sort of like the cascade of emotions and, um, that physical response becomes just a little shorter or a little less intense.

Adeel [23:18]: Or like, like kind of like mean reversion, uh, in, in finance, you can get back to the, back to equilibrium a little bit better, a little bit faster. Yeah. Less of an oscillation.

James [23:29]: yeah the problem is i talk to my therapist all the time it's like if you're in a situation where it's like you get re-triggered re-triggered re-triggered like your ability to regulate between the triggers becomes less and less and then you get a cycle um and it's yeah so i mean man if i can avoid a sound or get away from it like it gives me the space to sort of come back into it because yeah i mean exposure in my experience and then talking to you know some folks are maybe more expert than me. It's like not the solution, right?

Adeel [23:57]: Oh, special therapy. No, it's yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It tends to be frowned upon. Yeah. I think it works for things like OCD. And if, you know, if you get a therapist who just assumes it's that, then that's what they'll give you. But yeah, I think there are other things. that work better for me so yeah um yeah i mean what about in terms of um how it's like social life relationships um things like things like that yeah devastating man totally devastating um like in a fundamental way it's like the problem is is that

James [24:32]: people and the things that people do trigger that response so i want to avoid people you know um and then you know you iterate that over a whole lifetime like i mean isolation is not great for you you know it's not not what we're supposed to be doing and and that's that's where i i tend to navigate to because uh of the challenges around this around this condition um So it's been extremely limiting and devastating in a fundamental way over my life. And then all the, you know, I have a history of sort of drug and alcohol use and abuse, and I've been sort of clean and sober for several years now. But when I look back, the reason I was drinking and using was to regulate that.

Adeel [25:20]: So Medicaid? Oh, 100%.

James [25:21]: And, you know, I remember being in... a college dorm maybe like the next year after what we were talking about and my roommate's air conditioner and the and the room over was like was setting me off like i don't know i didn't know what was going on but i was obsessing about it i was like talking to my roommate about turning off his air conditioner he's like you're crazy and i was like i guess i am i don't know yeah um but you know i would you know pick up a muscle relaxer or like some kind of pill or a drink to not often sleep and like turn the anxiety level down. And that turned into a real progressive problem real quick. I use drugs and alcohol to medicate that, um, anxiety response. Um, and so, yeah, and then obviously that was, you know, socially challenging, uh, for all the reasons that, you know, drug and alcohol use are for everyone else. Um, So that and then, you know, the misophonia itself have been driven me to sort of social isolation as much as possible. You know, now that I'm aware of it, you know, I can see it, you know, when it's happening. It's sort of like maybe navigate a bit better, but it's still challenging today, you know.

Adeel [26:37]: What about your, and so your family members now, I'm just curious kind of, are they aware now of that misophony exists? Or you said you were talking to your mom about it recently. I'm curious, you know, other than that, you know, the kid you beat up, has it kind of affected relationships with like family members or people from your childhood and maybe driven a wedge or maybe brought you closer again now that you know what it is?

James [27:00]: Yeah, that's a good question. Definitely driven a wedge in terms of, I mean, Grew up single child, single mother. So over the years, it was challenging navigating that relationship and trying to basically constantly request that she stop doing certain things, right? Normal things. She's a professional musician, pianist, and sort of a servant and an amazing sort of musician. and uh the piano sort of like sets me off and gives me this anxiety really okay okay yeah it's like she wants to play i've got to be sort of out of the house um really okay yeah so like i mean that's just one example but it could be you know obviously the traditional stuff eating uh sort of all those noises um but yeah it's constantly this battle of like okay i'm having this um response to this trigger and it's giving me anxiety and i can't quote unquote deal with it um and so i want to control that person's behavior right and i think really just in the past couple weeks i've gotten to the point where i'm like i gotta stop trying to control other people's behavior you know, like that's not the answer.

Adeel [28:24]: It's not a sustainable, um, no, it's not.

James [28:28]: No. And, but like in that moment, you'd want to escape it so badly. Um, so it's like, okay, like then, then the question becomes like, yeah, what can I do? Okay. Like I can move away from this thing, right. I can get out of the house or go to another room. Um, I can put those sort of white noise in. I can sort of do these progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, um, But yeah, so this is, when I said inflection point earlier, that's kind of where I'm at. It's like, how do I operate in the world without trying to control everyone and everything all the time?

Adeel [29:03]: Yeah, right, right. Well, I mean, like you said, it is a first step. It's got to be, it's kind of a revolutionary moment. I mean, at least there's some, you know, you're not alone. Other people are going through the same questions. And so hopefully we can kind of, figure it out or at least I don't know it just kind of helps to know that when you're when I'm being triggered I'm probably not the only I'm definitely not the only one in that moment who's who's dealing with this and there is that I'm reminded that you know it is a construct in my mind or my body and so uh you know if i can whatever whatever i can tell myself to kind of it you know tell my brain that i'm not in threat um whatever i can remind myself to to from because that seems to be the crux of it if i can kind of somehow convince my body that i'm not under threat um it's it really helps the situation that's why you know weirdly making jokes about it uh in a tasteful way can really reduce the threat level as well um humor is a good coping mechanism um you know when i can't stick headphones on right yeah no that's interesting have you met um i guess in the short months that that you've uh that you've known what it is have you you know, met anyone or, or maybe thought back, Hey, that person from, you know, my past, whether it was in the military or school may have had misophonia. That's a good question.

James [30:32]: It's funny. I'll, I'll, I'll walk around kind of all day thinking about like, and I read some literature, like something like one in five people have this to some degree. There's a significant percentage, whether it's 10% or 20% or something, or even 5%. I'll think like, man, is this person being effective right now? I'll kind of be looking for it. I remember I was in the gym maybe a few months ago. It was a tough place. It was a tough spot. Very tough spot. Yeah, definitely. Um, and this, I had my music playing on my phone, um, without my ear earphones in. Um, and this guy made some sort of like, uh, comment, you know, that was like off the cuff, kind of like, you know, I was like, didn't say anything except for something negative about my music being on. Right. And I was like, I felt like very angry. I was like, what? I don't know you, dude. Um, but then afterwards I was sitting there thinking, I was like, I can probably use Misophonia, you know? Like I know that is like uncontrollable reaction where like you have some rage and some sort of like auditory input. And then I was like, huh? You know? So I'm trying to think of the folks around me in my close relationships. I don't think so. I think, you know, I think my mother might have it to a degree. I remember sitting at like dinner and someone had like sort of whistly S's in the conversation behind us. And she was like, she put her hands over her ears and said, that woman's S's are like, I can't deal with it. I was like, that's misophonia, you know?

Adeel [32:01]: I'm curious, what kind of music do you listen to? Is it like piano and just not your mom's? Yeah, good question.

James [32:08]: I listen to, she's like a classical musician. I do not listen to any of that. No, I listen to electronic music and country and rock and all the stuff that she does not want to listen to. Yeah, that does not trigger me. I think it's very context dependent too, man. I've heard you talk about this before too. I might listen to,

Adeel [32:32]: a certain sound profile in a given context and then if it switches the context all of a sudden that becomes a trigger you know yeah i mean right if if your mom is triggering you the same another person in the same thing might not necessarily do that right um yeah that's uh Yeah, that's definitely the case. Do you have, so now that you've, yeah, I'm curious, is there anything that you've been reading that's been particularly interesting that you haven't tried yet? I don't know that...

James [33:03]: therapies that sound interesting or yeah so i guess i'll just sort of jump into the big thing that i reached out to you about um i picked up this book i don't know so interestingly enough um i uh had gone to see a audiologist to sort of deal with uh tinnitus um and uh he had directed me to um This guy, Tom Dozier, who I've been working with for a while, and he wrote a book called Understanding and Overcoming Misophonia. It's called Does the Sound of Others Chew and Fill You with Rage? And I got this book and I started reading it and I was like, oh, wow.

Adeel [33:48]: Yeah, Tom Duescher has been on the podcast kind of early on about the convention. He's definitely, yeah, he's definitely a well-known figure.

James [33:58]: Yeah, yeah, for sure. You know, I've been working with him on a weekly basis since I picked up his book and sort of gone through his process. Yeah, something has been shifting. Okay. It's not 100% at all. It's not even 90%. But, yeah, I've experienced sort of something happening. And, I mean, basically, I don't want to muck it up by being non-scientific about it, but there's this app that he's got called the Trigger Tamer app. Yes, yeah, yeah, I've heard of that. And basically like, I'll put this, these. earbuds in and listen to these triggers that are traditional triggers like chewing or dogs barking or whatnot. And I'll see a reflex when I play them at a significant volume. So the idea is you have this physical reflex within your body. And at first, it was hard to pinpoint where it was at. I think we thought it was my breathing response at first. But then it turned out to be this jerk in my chest and shoulder, my shoulder would go up and my chest muscle sort of like freezes up like that. And then as soon as the trigger's gone, it will release. And if you trigger the sound again, it goes, it's like this physical reflex. I think the idea is if you break the physical reflex, the emotional response will dissipate or become significantly more manageable. And I've been doing it. I can see the reflex happen every time. It's like clockwork. And then when I bring that signature to a sufficiently low volume, it'll lessen and then it'll go away. And then I work with that sound progressively. So I bring it from, say, 1% to 5% to 10% to 20% to 100%, 150%. And over a period of eight hours, maybe a few cycles of eight hours, that response goes away. And then when I hear that sound again, Not only is the physical reflex there, but the emotional response is not there, which is like amazing. So like, I'll be listening to like dog barks, like totally get me and my neighbors have dogs. And I'll listen to the Trigger Tamer app, sort of cycle through it. And then all of a sudden I'll be sitting in my backyard and a dog will be barking and I'll be having a conversation. And like, I think I was talking to my mom the other day and she was like, she's like, you didn't, that didn't bother you. And I was like, whoa. that's amazing you know yeah yeah um so yeah right now i'm in the space where i got my earbuds in all the time i'm listening to everything that triggers me all day long um trying to sort of decondition that that physical reflex and hopefully the emotional response um so i mean it seems to be working it's just uh it just takes time you know it's taking time

Adeel [37:02]: Interesting, yeah, because one of the things people say about Tom Durst's approach is it's a bit like exposure therapy, where it's just trying to build you up and get you used to something. And then people kind of wonder, debate, which comes first, the physical risk? Is it physical or is it emotional, causing the reaction? It's interesting your experience here.

James [37:29]: Yeah. So two things on that. It is not exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is not helpful. And I think he says the exact same thing. It's got to be to this like sufficiently low level that you're sort of, he talks about like the lizard brain, right? Like the brain is that response where it goes to your amygdala and just sort of like, there you go. And if you can get it to unlearn, that reaction at a sufficiently low level then it's sort of like it's like a predictive mechanism so then it okay so it goes okay at a one percent volume you did not have this reflex um so that gets banked into the historical sort of apparatus and then now next time at the two percent volume you're less likely to have it and so if you work your way up over time it learns But that's not a threat, basically. And so it's a bit challenging because it's like, I don't know, it's sort of like RAM on a computer or like a memory bank. So it's got all these experiences over the years of predicting a sort of trigger as a threat. And so it'll bank that along with all that historical experiences. So the next time you break one of these triggers... You may be able to go at a 15%, 20%, 25%, but if you go back to 75%, you're going to get triggered again. So it's a bit of like a stair step. One session you might get up to 25%, and the next session you might have to start back down to 15%. The hope is over time, if you keep doing it, you can hear this out in reality at a full volume and not have the response. I'm starting to get that experience. I did it with sort of dog barking. That was the first one. And then I did airplane sort of take off and things. And so I'll try to catch different profiles of these and like record them on YouTube with different sort of like plane engines and sort of very obsessive process that I'm in, but it seems to be doing something. app or does the app come with a bunch of yeah so he's got he's got a baseline of samples maybe like trying to look at it right now it's like maybe like 20 or 30 kind of standard samples so it's uh let me pull it up Yeah, so it'll have like airplane, dog barking, chip crunching, bass sounds, all the classic ones. And then the idea is you can sort of tag off those and then you would maybe catch five to six different profiles of similar sounds. You work with the primary, secondary, up to five of them, and then sort of cycle through them. And then maybe over a period of eight, 16, 32 hours, all of a sudden this response in the actual environment is lowered. And it's not to say that it goes away entirely. I mean, I think a dog barking is annoying to everyone, but it becomes this thing where it's like, okay, this is a normal response as opposed to this hyper-reactive response. Interesting.

Adeel [40:24]: Gotcha. Okay. Yeah. I'd be curious to see how that all works out. Yeah, me too. Very cool. Yeah. I'm curious. Do you have any, yeah. Do you have anything else you kind of want to, want to share with people who are, who are listening? It's really interesting to hear. Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of people listening like you who were learning about it through the podcast. So, you know, your experiences are definitely going to help a lot of people. Anything you kind of want to share?

James [40:51]: Yeah, that's a good question. We covered a lot. I guess I'd like to first thank you for your podcast and putting this information and these real conversations about it out there. It's certainly been eye-opening for me and sort of helped me on my journey. So thank you so much for that.

Adeel [41:10]: Actually, that reminds me. I'm also curious. Is there anything that I should be asking other people more about that you're kind of curious about?

James [41:21]: I mean, you do a pretty in-depth job. I don't think there's anything.

Adeel [41:24]: It's very free-form. I don't even look at my notes anymore.

James [41:27]: Yeah, no, you're good. No, I appreciate the authenticity of it. I think a lot of things I listen to in media or podcasts can be very structured and sort of have an agenda. And I think the fact that you're purely exploratory is probably the most helpful. So I think you're right on point. I really appreciate that. Yeah, but I would just say, like, I don't know this, you know, in my personal experience, this thing feels like quite a mountain to deal with, you know. But, you know, but I do think that there's things you can do, you know, and there's tools that are out there. So I would just say for anyone who's listening, who's sort of going through it. similar challenging experience with this it's like you know there are resources um and there are actions that you can take so i mean as devastating as they can feel in the moment i think that there's um there is a way out to a more manageable sort of relationship with the problem

Adeel [42:20]: yeah yeah there's no uh there's no cure but there seems to be a lot of tools you have to find your um i mean there's a lot of common things obviously like sleep and lower your stress level um i mean one of the one of the common things is you know actually one of the common things that i've learned about through the podcast as i'm sure you've heard is is that kind of early childhood um traumatic experience of some sort i'm curious if uh um i don't know if you've noticed any i'm i'm not going to get into the uh whatever you know whatever you talk about with your therapist but i'm sure it's probably something that your your situation your your your past experiences have come up i'm just curious if uh you've been able to somehow interconnect any dots other than chronological dot to to kind of what happened a hundred percent yeah i'm happy to share about it

James [43:09]: yeah, I mean, when I was nine, my dad passed and it was, um, I have this distinct memory of like the experience in the day and like, sort of, you know, I kind of knew it was coming. Um, I was sort of sitting on this couch in our family room and I, you know, I heard the phone call and, um, sort of like, I like, I was like, okay, it happened. I remember afterwards sort of like this, um, just like physical, like shutdown in my body, like being very numb. And, uh, It was like that for a while. I think it was like trauma response sort of like protective mechanism. And I mean, that was when I was nine. And then after that, misophonia started. That's when it started. I talked to people around me. They were like, you did not have this situation go on before. And then after that date, it did. So I mean, from my experience, it's definitely a trauma response. I'm sure it can be sort of different for different folks.

Adeel [44:05]: Or something was imprinted in your brain. Yeah. Yeah. And so I think it's important to just for other people to hear about who've gone through similar things. I've heard about it, you know, whether it's a parent or a loved grandparent or something. In some cases, it is like an on and off switch and it just turned on after that.

James [44:25]: Yeah, that was definitely my experience. So, yeah, I think that's probably the general pattern if I had to extrapolate out.

Adeel [44:32]: Yeah. No, thanks for sharing that. Well, cool. Yeah, James. Yeah, it's been a fascinating conversation. Wide ranging in a, yes, pretty short amount of time. But no, thanks again for reaching out. And yeah, it's great to hear about your background and feel free to reach out anytime.

James [44:54]: I will. I really appreciate you putting on a deal. Thanks for taking the time.

Adeel [44:57]: Thank you again, James. And yeah, good luck with the rest of your miso sabbatical. I hope things continue to improve in a lasting way. 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 hellofamissifunnypodcast.com or go to the website, missifunnypodcast.com. It's even easier to send a message on Instagram at Missiphonia Podcast. Follow there or on Facebook and on Twitter slash X. It's Missiphonia Show. Support the show by visiting Patreon at patreon.com slash Missiphonia Podcast. Music as always is by Moby. And until next week, wishing you peace and quiet.

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