It’s that time of the year. Time to watch our favourite Christmas shows together. There’s snow on the ground outside and we’re snuggled under a blanket on the couch.
All in our jammies, we have found our favourite spots and have begun to watch Frosty. Daryle claimed the loveseat while Andy and Daniel are snuggled with me over on the chesterfield. Excited about being able to stay up late, the boys haven’t yet settled down to watch. Which is fine by me – I’d much rather watch them than Frosty.
As the boys wriggle and finally settle down to watch the show, Daryle’s breathing begins to change. His day usually begins at 4am and, not surprisingly, often naps on the couch in the evening. Daniel loudly calls over to him “Daddy, I love you.” Loud enough to stir his slumber and just loud enough to make a person grouchy because they’ve been woken from a pleasant nap.
Frosty continues. The characters are parading down the street now… the officer swallows his whistle…
My boys laugh. I love seeing a classic through their eyes, fresh and new. Our living room feels perfect, I’ve got my loved ones around me, no arguments have erupted, no bickering. It’s lovely.
Daryle starts to snore softly on the loveseat. I can hardly hear it, but Daniel begins to clench. I can feel him tense up and within a minute or two he growls under his breath. After five minutes he grumbles “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to my room!” His door slams and Daryle wakes from his nap, furious about the slamming door. Gone is the pleasant evening gathered together to watch a Christmas special. * Poof *
I don’t know when Daniel’s sensitivity to snoring developed into a problem, but it is now to the point where it triggers a fight, flight or freeze reflex for him. His reaction isn’t always the same and it’s not always predictable. He has been overwhelmed by the loud sounds in the school hallway and has frozen. Stood still as a statue until the crowd passed, then carried on walking as though nothing had happened. He’s been reduced to tears if Andy falls asleep and breathes differently in the van when we’re travelling somewhere. Just this weekend Daniel sat in the very back seat of the van, put his coat over his head and cried just because Andy was breathing in his sleep. The rest of us couldn’t even hear the sound. At home he spends more time in his room than he should, just to escape Daryle’s snoring. His first Cub camp alone was terrible – he hardly slept for two nights. How did it come to this? What can I do to help him?
Avoidance of the trigger sound doesn’t make his situation any better and telling him to “deal with it” just results in him curling into a heartbreaking little ball and plugging his ears with his fingers while the tears roll down his cheeks.
We have sought help for Daniel and he has been diagnosed with a neurological disorder called misophonia. He cannot control being “triggered”, his primitive brain kicks in and prevents the logical part of his brain from communicating “Hey, it’s okay. It’s just snoring, it’s nothing to get worked up about.”
Daniel and I now go to counselling for his misophonia. It has been recommended that we focus on calming techniques to re-engage his frontal lobe so that he can think and act logically again. He’s resistant to using the calming techniques though, he feels that they’re just a waste of time. In the meantime, I’m going to install a program called Trigger Tamer onto my phone. We will put some music that Daniel loves into the program, along with some sound clips of the trigger sounds. The trigger sound will be inserted into the music at adjustable lengths and intervals and with repeated exposure the brain’s neural wiring will change. The misophonic episodes are supposed to significantly decrease and perhaps even disappear altogether.