We haven’t talked about therapy in a while, right? There’s a reason for that. The last time I visited therapy was about 18 months ago. Wanna know how long ago that was? The Pawdcast was still going, people were dressing up as clowns and terrorising the public. Pokemon Go was still a rampant phenomenon. It may as well have been another lifetime.
Why so long? The same reason therapy was even an option in the first place: Work. Firstly, there was a merger, our benefits got shrunk down. While we previously had $1500 per year to contribute towards a psychologist, under the new structure that became $500. Or rather, almost three sessions. Secondly, there was a merger, we moved building. My therapist was no longer an eight minute walk from work, but instead transit to and from therapy would take an hour in itself. This meant a therapy session would involve missing two hours of work in a day. Altogether, this meant therapy had become an obstacle. While it was immensely helpful, getting myself there (both physically and emotionally) required just enough work that it stopped happening. My therapist was accommodating and reduced my rates in order to fit with my downsized benefits, but I didn’t make it back there.
Why now? Misophonia. The more I talked about my misophonia symptoms, the more I realised it was something I needed to take action on. If this is your first time hearing the word “misophonia”, here’s a brief rundown of what it means to me. When I hear certain sounds, my brain goes into fight/flight mode. My heart rate races, I start to sweat and rapidly oscillate between a need to escape and/or attack the source of the sound. It feels like a triggered traumatic response. My assumption is that it’s psycho-somatic, because as soon as I stop hearing the sound (by putting on headphones and listening to music, for instance) all the panic disappears instantly. I figure it’s the kind of thing that, if I let it run rampant for the rest of my life, will only get worse. If I have the resources at my disposal to do something about it, why wouldn’t I? I figured my therapist could possibly have coping techniques, exercises or could examine and work through the source of the trauma. Why settle for a band aid if I could treat the underlying condition, right?
As the session approached, I found I was getting excited. I’d missed my therapist, which made sense. Obviously if there’s someone who listens to your innermost fears and anxieties without judgement, you’d warm to that person. Isn’t that a narcissist’s dream in a nutshell? She’s always been incredibly proficient at pointing out new neural pathways to work me past cognitive loops and the process has felt collaborative. It suddenly seemed strange that she’d been absent as a force in my life for so long and I was looking oddly forward to catching her up on everything.
The session started and I laid out my misophonia issue. We chatted about it for a couple of minutes. She said she was unfamiliar with the particulars, but was curious as to how it presented for me. I gave her a brief outline. She said she had a couple of thoughts, but was curious about how I’d been since we’d last met up. I harnessed all the coffee I’d consumed and gave her a 180 word per minute rundown of the past year and a half in ten minutes flat. It was a roller coaster, as indicative of the 18 months I’ve had. I finished up and like an assassin, she took what she’d heard and zeroed in on particular stresses and successes. She asked about my anger responses in particular, where I thought that was rooted. She queried the elements of helplessness that I felt in these instances and wondered if there were memory banks I could access in order to find correlatory emotions. I posited that I had an innate struggle with asking others to tone down behaviour for my benefit, especially if the behaviour wasn’t harmful or aberrant in itself.
She narrowed it down to a particular co-worker that I’d mentioned, who ate around 30 baby carrot sticks in the mid-morning. His loud crunching (and the sheer number of fucking sticks) sets off my misophonia in a pretty aggressive fashion. She asked me about the frequency and severity of my responses. I told her it was almost daily between 11.15am-11.45am. She asked how long he’d been eating the carrot sticks and did this correlate to my triggers ramping up. I did the math and figured that yes, the two were intimately related. She asked me why I’d never spoken to him about it. I replied that he really wasn’t doing anything wrong, that I felt bad about trying to get him to cease something he enjoyed. I mean, he eats so many of them, he must clearly love the fuck out of them. She asked what I thought he’d say if I spoke to him. I told her he was a nice enough guy, that I was sure he wouldn’t lash out in any way, but I’d still feel like I was asking something unfair of him.
She pointed out that while that may be true on some small level, it likely wouldn’t be as big a deal as I was making it out to be. If it was a major source of trauma to me (and likely heightening my reactions to other people around me), it was something worth having a conversation over and that conversation didn’t need to be confrontational in manner. By minimising my feelings and emotions in the exchange (which wasn’t even adversarial in nature), I’d been doing myself more damage than a quick chat could ever do. Plus, she believed I had enough emotional wherewithal to not lay blame, to be open and honest without judgement and seek compromise. I replied that maybe I could get him to take ten minutes and eat them in the kitchen instead of his desk, or that he could even just give me a heads up so I could put on some music. She said she’d talk with colleagues to see if they had expertise in the area, but to take action and see if that helped. Also to not be a stranger and maybe drop her an email once in a while.
Have I unintentionally employed a doting aunt?