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There has resided a demon inside of me since adolescence. It told me that I was the only one. It told me to suffer and let the despair and agony smolder inside me till the end. I was alone on a planet with millions.

A few months back, while scrolling online I froze. A major news publication headline entitled “Misophonia”… translated to “hatred of certain sounds.”

The words “chomp”, “slurp”, “munch”, “popcorn”, “swallow”, “anxiety” and “panic”, etc., were just words, but they jumped off the tiny screen and blanketed me with the most intense comfort and understanding I have ever known.

Growing up, eating with my parents at the dining room table was unbearable.

“Something is really wrong with me,” I thought. Sleeping with my husband requires earplugs and a white noise machine. Eating with him as well as my children at mealtimes , also extremely challenging. They never knew or suspected. I never shared my secret to a single soul.

There have been recent groundbreaking findings and studies out of the United Kingdom published in the journal, “Current Biology” revealing that during MRI testing of both misophonia sufferers, and non sufferers, the part of the brain that joins ours senses with our emotions — the frontal lobes’ anterior insular cortex — was overly active and went into “overdrive” upon hearing various trigger sounds presented to them in the misophonia sufferers group.

A “fight or flight” response is almost always physically and mentally experienced, and can be devastating in that moment for the one with this disorder. There is knowledge and rapid ongoing studies worldwide, involving confusion happening in the brains auditory and limbic pathways.

My case is somewhat less severe than many with misophonia, as my reactions to trigger sounds are limited to my loved ones in the household. Many suffering simply can not live “normal” lives within the general public, as well as sustain healthy relationships with family members. For example, it is sometimes impossible for many of them to enjoy a simple trip to the movie theater for fear of having to leave prematurely do to the plethora of popcorn munching around them. Also, many with misophonia refrain from dining out in public because of typical restaurant sounds. Some sufferers will quickly vacate an establishment at the first hint of the sound of someone simply chewing on gum.

Fortunately, support groups are popping up everywhere, and help from the medical community continues to grow daily as awareness emerges.

Ironically, my life from the outside appeared as close to perfect as one could get. I am a former “Miss America” state finalist five times over, an actor, radio host, community volunteer, with thriving and succeeding grown children, and have an adoring husband, who, if I may add, has the patience of a saint.

My demon now has a name, and it is free to leave as I am no longer alone in this. There are thousands of us, most likely thousands more, and possibly millions. I recently gathered the courage and finally broke my silence to my family of my lifelong struggle, and they are immensely supportive. I made myself a solemn promise to spend the rest of my days bringing awareness, supporting and inspiring others with misophonia.

Reach Jill at forsaleby-jill@hotmail.com.

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