For Evelyn McHale

Last week I read an article about a very famous photograph. The picture included with the article showed a young woman seemingly in repose. It was the picture that attracted me to the article in the first place, as there was something ‘off’ about it. The beautiful young woman in the photo had just committed suicide by jumping from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. A photography student happened upon the scene and took the now iconic image of her body, almost peacefully splayed across the top of the vehicle her body had landed on.

I don’t know about these things, so I don’t know if the 86-floor fall would have killed Evelyn first, or if she would have, however briefly, felt the impact of her slender frame against the rough and weathered metal of the car, and that the impact itself would have been what ultimately took her life. I don’t know.

There are a few things about this story that break my heart. One is that Evelyn was only 23 years old when she chose to die. So young. Two, she was engaged to be married, and according to the internet, her fiancee never married. There is no way to prove that it was Evelyn’s tragic death that kept him from finding love again, but the romantic in me imagines it must have been so painful for him to lose her that he never recovered from his broken heart. Three, her suicide note. It’s not dramatic or fulsome in any way. It is actually very short and succinct. But, it made me cry, because of the emotions her words hint at but that she was never able to express, in life or in death.

And fourth…

The very first thing Evelyn wrote in her suicide note was this:

I don’t want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me.

It didn’t occur to me the first or second time I read Evelyn’s note, or the article that it was posted in. I was too distracted by trying to figure out why she wanted to die so badly that she was able to step, stone-cold sober, from such a merciless height. But, that one last request that poor Evelyn made, the one thing she asked for, was promptly and completely disregarded, first by that photography student who took the picture of her dead body and then distributed it to any interested party, then by every slavering media outlet who, at the time, would have circulated the photo nationwide in every newspaper, and finally by the various modern publications – online and off – where the photo has been published and continues to exist for anyone who knows how to use Google to see.

I hope that, wherever the molecules and the magic that made Evelyn who she was were able to eventually find rest, and peace.

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My Misophonia: Not A Love Story

One nice thing about being a person with mental health issues in this day and age is that there is a lot less stigma about mental illness, and a lot more sympathy and understanding for those of us who live with and struggle with these conditions daily.

In my last post I shared that, currently, Misophonia is not actually considered a psychiatric disorder. Well, I consider it one. Too bad I don’t have any credentials! Honestly, though… the way my Misophonia feels, the way it dominates my mind and my body so completely, I just really don’t know how else to categorize or define it. How about I describe my Misophonia, and you tell me what you think?

Wikipedia says:

“A mental disorder, also called a mental illness[2] or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.”

My Misophonia touches every moment of my day, from the instant I wake up, to when I eventually fall asleep at night. Technically, what actually occurs is the hearing of a sound – I’ll list the sounds that most trigger me most at some point – that for whatever reason my brain perceives as some kind of enemy. It varies, as there are many factors involved (including my mood at the time), but usually when my mind absorbs this enemy sound, it AND my body simultaneously react, and in a negative way. The aspect of Misophonia that I find the most distressing, other than its ability to ruin my life with so little effort, is that when I use the word negative, I probably should use the word violent.

A lot of people, when they talk about Misophonia, mention one particular triggering sound which I think most people can understand, and that is the sound of people chewing, or really, any kind of eating-related sounds. For those without Misophonia, finding themselves sitting next to a coworker who is slurping their soup might make them a little disgusted with the slurper’s table manners, and the sound might irritate them, but when the soup is gone, so is the irritation. Well, if I were sitting next to someone slurping their soup, things would not go so easily.

Physically, my heart would immediately start beating faster and harder. My chest tightens, like someone has wrapped their fingers around my ribcage and is squeezing their grip. My face starts feeling hot. Sometimes, my face feels so hot that tears start prickling in the outer corners of my eyes.

Inside my head? Well, this is where things can get a little hairy. First, there is an initial annoyance, and I review my options. Sometimes, simply removing myself from the setting is a possibility and I can easily excuse myself. But, there are occasions where that is impossible, and realizing that I’m “trapped” in a situation increases my anxiety tenfold. That’s when the anger floods my body with a river of heat that fills every limb, every pore, every cell of my physical self. Along with the anger is a bit of despair, as well. Nobody wants to feel the way this feels, and “this isn’t fair” is a common refrain.

Now, if I remain stuck next to the soup slurper, my anger will continue to escalate, until, if I still haven’t been able to escape, the anger turns into rage. And, with rage comes the scary part – the violence. Thankfully I have never found myself driven to physically hurt someone, but the fantasies of doing so… oh, they are something else entirely.

So, does that sound like something that might under the umbrella of mental illness?

Misophonia

From Wikipedia: “Misophonia, literally “hatred of sound”, was proposed in 2000 as a condition in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds.”

Some key phrases from the rest of the (considerably short) Wikipedia page on Misophonia:

  • Misophonia is not classified as an auditory or psychiatric condition
  • there are no standard diagnostic criteria, and there is little research on how common it is or the treatment
  • as of 2016 the literature on Misophonia was limited
  • Misophonia’s mechanism is not known
  • there are no standard diagnostic criteria
  • it is not clear whether people with misophonia usually have comorbid conditions, nor whether there is a genetic component
  • as of 2018 there are no evidence-based treatments for the condition and no randomized clinical trial has been published
  • re: techniques to manage Misophonia: none of these approaches has been sufficiently studied to determine its effectiveness

“The diagnosis of Misophonia is not recognized in the DSM-IV or the ICD 10, and it is not classified as a hearing or psychiatric disorder.[4] It may be a form of sound–emotion synesthesia, and has parallels with some anxiety disorders.[1] As of 2018 it was not clear if Misophonia should be classified as a symptom or as a condition.”

Wikipedia

As you can see from the limited information above, the illness I suffer from – Misophonia – is not very well-studied. In fact, I’ve talked to both medical and mental health practitioners who have never heard of it. Imagine enduring an invisible sickness that plagues every aspect of your life, every second of every day, but is not even believed to exist by the people you go to for help. I am so grateful for the internet, because until I googled what I had been experiencing on a daily basis for the last twenty years, I thought I was absolutely alone. And… worse… I thought I was insane.