When I Realized Why Mealtime Noises Make Me Irritable


I was a teenager when my grandmother moved in with us. My grandfather had passed away and my grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s. My parents brought her back to Virginia so we could help care for her. Grandma was an “old school” kind of gal. She wore polyester dresses, stockings with heels, she had her hair done weekly and carried a pocketbook.

My mother and older sister were her primary caregivers. She enjoyed sitting with me to watch television in those days. She also had false teeth. I would cringe at the sound as she played with the teeth in her mouth while I was trying to watch a show. That was just the beginning.

Many years and four kids later, I started to notice how moody I became when my kids would chew with their mouthes open while eating or chewing gum. I was also easily annoyed at repetitive noises such as the tapping of a pencil or the sound of a dog licking. I felt like such a “mean mom.” I was constantly saying “chew with your mouth closed” and “stop making so much noise.” I convinced myself that this was normal because I was teaching my kids manners. I worried I was becoming less patient with age and chalked it up to being overwhelmed. During that time period, I had read somewhere that when you are stressed, your senses are heightened. I am not sure if that is true, but considering what I was going through, I embraced the theory.

Many times we would hang out with our family and friends on the weekends. We traveled frequently during the summer and spent most holidays together. They became our extended family. We have seven children between our two families. An average get-together included slamming doors, toys being thrown, movies playing, temper tantrums and kids screaming in laughter. The kids usually ate before the adults due to space and the urgency of playtime. As the kids grew older and actually sat with us for meals, I started noticing the sounds of mealtime became less and less tolerable. I remember specifically on one of our trips to the mountains, their daughter was sitting next to me during dinner and eating. I heard every scrape of the fork on her plate and every slurp of her drink. It sounded as if it were in stereo. The sound sent a “rage-like” feeling to my brain. I literally wanted to punch someone (of course I wouldn’t). From that moment on it became common knowledge that I was moody and irritable with noise. However, for me it was frustrating. It wasn’t all noises. It seemed to center on meals and repetitious noise.

Out of the blue one day I received a text from my friend with a link attached. When I clicked on the link, it was an article talking about Kelly Ripa and her struggles with misophonia, also sometimes called selective sound sensitivity syndrome. Miso-what? I thought. I read the article and other information that surfaced after the announcement. I was finally vindicated! There was finally an explanation for my peculiar mood swings!

Today my family and friends are more understanding about these aversions. They still tease me, but they understand it could be neurological. Understanding my reaction has been a lifesaver. Thank you, Kelly Ripa!

A version of this post originally appeared Her View From Home.

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