Senior Column: Learning to Deal

Senior Column: Learning to Deal

Growing up I didn’t notice the noises too much. Or I just didn’t think my acute awareness of every single sound going on in a room was unusual. Looking back, I can recall certain events as early as fifth grade. But it wasn’t until a few months ago, after two years of therapy for anxiety and trial and error with medication, that I finally received a doctor’s diagnosis of misophonia, or selective sound sensitivity. For me and thousands of others, everyday sounds (pen clicking, typing, chewing, nail biting, feet shuffling) are amplified in the mind and distorted to sound like nails on a chalkboard. Despite the lack of available treatment, just knowing a name and that I was not alone was a huge turning point in my life. In the past I had felt guilty or embarrassed about my “annoyances”, because the person or cause of my anxiety was usually doing nothing wrong or out of the ordinary. I convinced myself it was something I could eventually just learn to ignore.

Because of all this, sitting behind a desk surrounded by people for seven hours a day wasn’t my favorite thing to do. Math and science, already difficult for me, became an even more daunting challenge. The thought of taking a test in a crowded room overwhelmed me and finding a seat where I could concentrate was always difficult. I often worked during lunch to avoid certain situations.

This year, I’ve tried to find ways misophonia can benefit me. I’ve found hobbies, movies and music that I probably wouldn’t have discovered if I hadn’t had to occasionally isolate myself from society. Those interests led me to find jobs at a record store and a cupcakery, and I’ve learned so much from being a small business employee. Therapeutic meditation has led me to discover my interest in world religions, which has also had a positive impact on my life.

I was able to go through all this with the support of a few great friends, my family and some amazingly understanding teachers. Despite all this, I desperately hope 2009-2013 are not my glory years. I’ve had plenty of good times, but high school has also been uneventful and full of upsets.

The most important things I learned in high school didn’t happen in the classroom, and I know I’m not alone. If I could give myself advice as a freshman I would say that it’s never too late to start over. Learn how to deal with what you can’t, or shouldn’t, control. Optimism isn’t synonymous with naiveté, and cynicism can sometimes be a mask for unintelligence.