The “sounds” make me crazy

Some days, I can’t win. A familiar topic I’ve written about before is my hypersensitivity to sound. It has a name; Misophonia.  Today, for some reason, is significantly more difficult than other days. For me, this is a real thing. I’ve attempted before to explain what it sounds like for me to others, but words don’t seem to express, in an appropriate manner, what I hear and feel.

Eating is by far the most frustrating sound I deal with. Hearing someone eat, regardless of the food, is just shy of enraging. My reaction to this is to put on the headphones and turn on some music to drown it out. As I work in an office where most of the colleagues I work with are remote, it isn’t always convenient to listen to music. I’m left to endure, in silent protest, the sounds of eating around me for most of the day. For me, a sound a few cubes down of someone eating chips is as loud and distracting to me as if they were sitting next to me in my cubicle. The sound is in my ears, amplified, louder than any of the other sounds much closer to me. Another way to describe the sound I hear, think of a gun going off in a shooting range, but you’re not watching the gun so have no idea when it actually gets fired. The sudden jolt to your system when you finally hear it is a fair description of what each chip, chew, slurp sounds like to me. Definitely something that makes me anxious at times.

Naturally, there are a ton of other sounds that do this as well, just not to the same degree. Any one sound by itself is bearable, something that can be almost ignored. Being in an office though, this stuff tends to pool and coalesce into a myriad of sounds that is all but impossible to ignore or eliminate. I’ve attempted to explain, complain, silently protest without success. To someone who doesn’t think any of this is annoying or frustration, I’m the crazy one for being bothered by it. The general reaction is mediocre, and does bring a little relief, however forcing someone to stop something that doesn’t bother them or others around them will generally lead to more, not less sound. Try to be quiet in the morning so you don’t wake someone else, and you actually make more noise. It’s the same type of result here as well. The worst part of trying to explain this to someone is the reciprocated “well this sound you make bugs me, so we’re even.” I don’t get relief, they continue about their day.

While researching this condition, I found that it develops usually around the ages of 11-15. Vaguely recalling some of those years, I was an extreme isolationist and often would spend hours at a stretch in my bedroom on the stereo (had a hobbled together system) and then, around 13, a computer where I would get lost online in bulletin board systems and the like. Once I discovered online chat systems (Diversi-Dial), I spent hours online chatting with other computer geeks. It was a text-based system that ran at 300 baud (or 0.0003 Mbps) and connected you with 6 other people, also dialed in. Diversi-Dial was loaded into an Apple IIe with a cassette, and had 7 300 baud modems installed to allow people to dial in. Most of them cost a monthly fee as it was expensive to have 7 phone lines running into your home to run a system of this nature. I did nothing else, so I had no problems spending my money on my own phone line and monthly subscriptions to dial-up chat systems. I rarely chat online anymore except, as of late, Twitter.

I’m affected so much by this that I’m able to easily get a weeks worth of work done in the 9 hour day I work from home in my basement office. No sound, no distractions, no people doing things that make my brain want to evacuate my head. I’m fighting currently to get more days approved to work from home, but it’s an up hill battle with the level of crotchety thinking by the dinosaurs that run my company. They are very much “butt in the seat” types and have a ridiculous resistance to anyone working from home. Ten years ago, there were over 400 servers here on-site, and over the last decade, that has dwindled down to just 15. Everything else has migrated to virtual systems hosted at a third-party cloud provider. Virtual servers are the future, virtual working is the future, people working from “anywhere” is quickly becoming the norm and dinosaurs be damned, they’re outnumbered and going extinct. The asteroid, in this case, is a millennial forcing the changing of policies that allows flexible work schedules and teleworking from anywhere.

I can only dream that policies change allowing me 2-3 days of teleworking so that I may be spared from having to resort to drastic measures of mitigating the amount of sound around me. Perhaps I can blame the slow change on the Democrats and Clinton….. it works for Trump 🙂

Craving silence is not a bad thing

silenceThere are times I feel that something is wrong with me in how I process the world around me. Sounds, particular sounds, send me off the rails immediately and will always ruin the rest of my day if they persist long enough. Using an example that is affecting me right now, my colleague over the cubicle wall is being overly aggressive with his mouse. He clicks hard enough to make the mouse sound hollow, lifts and drops the mouse like it has a ball but is an optical, and doesn’t like to use the scroll wheel evidenced by the hundreds of clicks in a row all day long. This shouldn’t bother me. This also isn’t the first time crap like this has been the focus of my online writing. This sensitivity to sound is a constant reminder to me that I’m not like the ordinary person that can block this ambient background noise out. The frustration with my sound sensitivity manifests itself as anger, anxiety, and depression (when it persists without recognition). I’ve been off and on talking with doctors and being on this medication or that, always pushing to get away from those things. Medication specifically dulls all my senses and takes the color out of everything around me. I see the need for it at the time, but addressing the underlying issue in some way negates the need to keep taking said medication in my opinion.

As my wife and I were looking for a new house, I was extremely particular about where my office would be and immediately removed homes from the list that didn’t meet my requirements. The office had to be in the basement, and more importantly, in the corner to be less likely I’ll hear people walking around above me. It also had to be away from any common area in the basement or have a solid door to help block sound. She didn’t understand how one room could have so many requirements, she’s not an introvert. In the end, I got my office in the corner, but not with a solid door. I compromised when I saw that the radon mitigation system was going to be installed in the corner of my office providing the low hum of white noise that is so well at covering over other way more annoying sounds around me. I have yet to work from home to see if it truly is adequate or still bothersome. The only time it would be an issue is when my daughter is home during the summer, any other time, she’s at school all day.

I’m not alone in the fact that true silence is a fundamental motivator for me. In the absence of true silence, like now, I find that music in the background is the best method for concentrating on a task at hand. Silence to me lets my brain process, think, and wind down to where I can more easily focus on what I’ve decided to do. The week we moved in, I found the chaos of the house too much and ended up snapping nastily at everyone around me, mostly towards the end of the week. I ended up making a list, with my wife’s help, putting in the Bluetooth headset and just working through the list listening to music. Taking my time and working at my own pace, I got more done than either my wife or I thought and it was done right instead of half-assed. She saw that letting me work through a list without interruption or interactions with others was actually quite efficient. I truly think she’s starting to at least understand what I need even if she still doesn’t understand why, if ever.

The past several months I’ve noticed that my seeking silence has lessened to a certain degree. I’ve been continually saying to myself that getting frustrated or angry over something that isn’t in my control isn’t worth my time. Instead, I’ve considered alternatives that decrease the level of hell my brain is putting me through. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, depends on the day and how many problems have been dropped in front of me. I’m not full on with meditation, but I do try to get somewhere for a little bit each day that is completely quiet to clear out the brain buffer. I’ve also resisted having a beer or a drink like I had been doing the week I was off and unpacking into the new house. I came to the quick realization that it was just clouding things and artificially pushing thoughts into the background for a while before they would come rushing back. I do enjoy a beer or two over the weekend though when I’m much more relaxed.

My daughter is also showing signs of behavior that leans more towards the introverted rather than the extroverted. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when I tell her she needs to go outside while I remain inside, I’m not sending the right message. I’m still not sure if she’s being a typical 9 year old or if there is something more that is underscoring her behavior. The wife and daughter over this past weekend decided to go swimming at a neighbors house we’re watching while they’re away on vacation (they told us we could use the pool). They left and I decided rather than sit at home watching TV or unpacking something, I ended up heading down to sit near the pool while they were there. It was forced from my perspective, but they appreciated the fact I was there even though I wasn’t swimming. I ended up relaxing a little more despite not trying too hard to do so. Silence, while something I seek all the time, isn’t always the right answer for every situation. I have to keep reminding myself that being around people is a good thing.

The natural tendency I have is to be alone. My entire life, that has been my tendency. Up until I met my wife, my life wasn’t anything special and I often spent many hours and weekends alone despite having friends that constantly invited me places. Most of my close friends understood me to an extent, and never really gave up asking, because they knew at some point I would say yes and join them. Now that I’m married with a daughter, being alone is more of a luxury I enjoy at the expense of everyone else. It’s a hard line to balance on that I need to continuously work on or things start to fall apart. After 18 years (16 married) with my wife, she reminds me when I go too far to one side without actually telling me and eventually I figure it out and come out of my inner reflection. Only time will tell if I’m able to continue adapting and balancing socialization with seclusion. What I do know without a doubt, if pushed or forced, I will always choose seclusion over anything else.

This was inspired partly by this post from The Indecisive Eejit

Individuals are smart, people are stupid

Naked Security: Cyberbullying is worse than face-to-face bullying, teens say

StopBullying

I’ve talked about this before here and here.  It’s a topic I feel VERY strongly about having been bullied through my entire school career.  My daughter, who will be 9 in December, is most likely going to be bullied at some point in her school career as well.  There are some traits I can see will be topics for other children to point out and make fun of.  Both my wife and I are doing our best to raise her with self confidence and instill in her that she can manufacture her own strength.  That is a lesson in life that neither of us had when we were growing up.  We also didn’t have pervasive 24/7 technology driving our bullies over 20 years ago.

So, before anyone gets offended by the title, here is my explanation.  Individuals in this context are normal, intelligent and sane minded people that act on impulses with morality and knowing right from wrong.  They’re able to see a situation or problem, make judgements on the correct course of action, then act on those decisions.  People in this context are just the opposite of an individual.  People refers to a crowd of individuals that have lost the ability to think on their own, they’re following a slightly smarter individual that is empowered by the “people” behind them.  The thoughts and actions of people are justified if more than one person performs the unintelligent or insane action.  Mob mentality is what its referred to as in the news.

Lets steal some stuff then burn it down!
Lets steal some stuff then burn it down!

Explanation done, this same idea holds true online.  The consequences are much much worse however in that individuals that are targeted often are alone.  They feel alone, they are alone, no one is supporting them.  The article at the top goes into some detail, but I think fails in trying to address the root of the problem by using emojis that evoke compassion.  Really?  WTF is that about?  We are so afraid of offending someone or pissing off someone that we end up not being candid and blunt about the true nature of the problem.  Here is my theory.

  • Parents are partially to blame for not monitoring what their kids are doing online.  Growing up it was easy to keep tabs on a child.  Mom screamed out the door and we came running or we were home when the street lights came on.  Trouble, if caught, would easily be communicated.
  • Schools are partially to blame for not being tougher on the kids who do bully.  The schools are bound by ridiculous rules and policies that turn their discipline from a sword into a spork.  No one benefits from that.
  • Kids are partially to blame in that they’re not getting the right life lessons from people around them.  From age 7 to about 15, children are literally soaking up the world like a shop vac sucking water out of a basement.  What they see, do and hear shapes their decision processes for the rest of their lives.
  • Technology is partially to blame due to its pervasive ability to completely take over someones life.  We have, as a society, come to depend on our technology and are starting to lose the ability to function without it.  How many times have you asked someone for a phone number and heard back “it’s in my phone, which I don’t have right now.”

My wife and I are split on the technology front unfortunately.  I’ve had multiple computers and phones for years now due to my fierce separation of work and personal tech.  Work doesn’t need to know what I do on home time.  I don’t carry a phone on Sunday, not because I’m religious or anything, I just need to disconnect one day per week.  It supports my requirement for solitude.  My wife, mother in law, brother, etc. are all the same in their reaction:  “How can we get a hold of you if there’s an emergency?”  My response is always the same:  “The same way you would get a hold of me 20 years ago, leave a message.”  It’s received with mixed reactions.

I want my daughter to be exposed to technology, but on my terms.  I know there is absolutely horrible content on the Internet and I can’t shield her from all of it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try and watch her activity daily.  My wife gives her the iPod and leaves her alone.  I give her the iPod and want to sit with her and watch what she does.  My wife lets her on the desktop to do math homework and leaves her alone.  I sit with her and watch what she does and helps when needed.  Technology for me is a tool and should be used as such.  You don’t carry around your hammer or wrench 24/7 so why should you carry around your smart phone 24/7?

I’ve digressed unfortunately, such is that of a random mind.  I hope that I’m giving my daughter the sense of safety that she can tell us anything that is bothering her so we can take the most appropriate actions to help her.  I’m aware that our involvement in her life will be more and more unwelcome, but that doesn’t mean that I stop helping her.  It’s just a shift in helping to something indirect rather than direct, such as a meeting with the Principal after hours as I did two weeks ago.  I hope that my daughter never experiences bullying or cyberbullying, but the reality is that she will.

It needs to stop and it starts with awareness and an individual to counter the decision of people.

9/11, Never Forget

To all the people who died in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., I remember.
To all the people who died in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., I remember.

Already preparing myself to sit and watch “102 Minutes that Changed the World” with my daughter, I’m aware that this is something she will never experience as I had experienced it. The profound loss I felt for all the people that died that day is more than words can describe even 14 years later. I, along with millions of others at that time, was a mess of emotions. I still can’t think about that day without tears welling up in my eyes, which I’ve come to accept as an involuntary reaction not to be suppressed.

My 9/11 story (we all have one)

At work, figuring out what I didn’t want to do that day, my wife called on the phone as she usually does so we could go get coffee (we worked in the same building).  This time it wasn’t to head down.  She almost screamed “A plane just flew into one of the Trade Center buildings in New York.”  I thought it was a joke and laughed.  I told her I would meet her at the steps, as usual, to go get the morning coffee.  I focused on an email that just came in and then received a phone call.  I never got to the steps as around 20 minutes later she called again, crying, and said “Another plane just flew into the second tower.  I saw it, the fireball, what’s happening!?”  This wasn’t a joke anymore.

I told her to meet me down in the conference room with the television as it had cable access.  Surprised to be the first one in the room, I turned on the television to one of the news stations to see both towers on fire.  I literally said out loud “What the fuck?” just before my wife walked in, still crying.  I sat down and just watched.  I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t feel anything, didn’t talk.  Others had come into the room and there was now a standing crowd in the back as all the seats had been filled.  Some were crying but most were silent.  We were all in a state of disbelief.

As the morning progressed, we learned about the Pentagon attack and the crash in Pennsylvania, however the majority of coverage was obviously on the towers in New York.  We had friends in New York.  Were they okay?  Neither my wife or I could reach them as the island was practically isolated from anything related to technology.  We could see people jumping from 100 stories.  Clearly see people jumping.  I thought to myself how bad is the situation up there that jumping out the window is actually the better choice.  The room started to light up, people were now getting angry as more details about potential theories started to emerge, despite them being fantastical.

Then it happened.  The south tower collapsed.  We were watching ABCNews, I remember because Peter Jennings didn’t say anything.  I’ve been watching him for years, since I was a pre-teen, and never NEVER had he ever been speechless.  He cleared his throat, and said just “I have no words.”  I was numb, couldn’t focus, the room was disturbingly silent to the point all I heard was my own breathing.  I turned to my wife, tears rolling down her face, and took her hand.  It was the only thing I could think of doing at that moment that felt familiar.

The news started talking again and it snapped my focus back to the television.  The helicopters were pushed back to 5 miles so the Airforce jets could patrol over the city.  Would they shoot a plane out of the sky over New York I thought?  Did this have the potential of getting so bad that the President would authorize a plane, with American citizens, out of the sky over a populated city?  Then they said it with certainty, it was a terrorist attack.  The United States of America was attacked on their own soil.  Anger welled up inside me.

I thought what couldn’t get any worse just as sure as hell got worse.  The north tower collapsed.  The news we were watching was trained on the spire at the top of the north tower, it was almost as if they knew it was going to collapse.  My heart stopped when I saw the spire start to tilt and then disappear below the smoke.  Seeing one tower fall was devastating, seeing both of them fall was too much.  I lost control of my emotions and tears started flowing down my face.  I couldn’t take the silence anymore.  I got up and left the room.  My wife followed.  I told her we were leaving and to go get her things.  I went upstairs, sent an email to my manager that I was leaving, logged off then packed up my things.

The drive home was surreal as neither of us said anything the whole ride.  No one was speeding, no one was aggressive, no one did anything but pay attention to their driving.  Everyone was as shocked as we were.  I don’t remember the drive home other than noticing how calm everything had been.  As my wife and I got home, I turned on the television and started my three day obsession with all things related to this tragedy before returning to what would be the new normal.  America was no longer immune to this type of horrible violence.

Never forget

“Never forget” became the single most important statement in recent American history.  It summed up, in two words, the entire event as it unfolded.  I can’t speak for everyone else, but I know with every fiber of my soul, I will never forget and always use September 11th to reflect and revisit the events and emotions of that day until I die.

I’ve tried several times to explain how I felt and still feel about that day, but my words always fail me.  Words aren’t enough to describe the loss, the pain, the anger, the pure hatred I felt.  All of those emotions have tempered over the years as I’ve learned to accept and express my thoughts.  For those of us that didn’t experience this first hand, its hard.  For the ones who did experience this day, all that is required is a single look and both “just know” how the other feels.  Schools don’t routinely teach or talk about this day.  Perhaps its too soon, who knows.

As we get one, two, three generations away from this tragedy, will we start to forget?  Not if I have anything to do about it.

Senseless Bullying…. What a waste.

This story is really depressing and brought back a lot of memories of my high school years.  I’m sure you’ve heard by now about this Freshman that was bullied so harshly by fellow so-called classmates that taking his own life was the better choice.  I can’t begin to understand what he went through as it seems the bullying in schools now is at least a few levels more intense than the worst of mine in four years of high school.

Jamey Rodemeyer Suicide

During my Freshman to Junior year, I was teased for what I wore, called names, and a host of other horrible pranks that don’t require detail here.  Just know that for 10 months out of those three years I dreaded getting on the bus knowing what was awaiting me when I got to school.  I wasn’t athletic (still not), I wasn’t the attractive “popular” kid, and I didn’t have a lot of friends.  With a last name starting with W, I generally sat in the back of the room and stuck to myself a lot.  I guess that made me a target, to this day I really don’t know for sure why I was singled out.  The treatment I received in high school during this time launched me down the road to depression that lasted into the first few years of my marriage to G.

It wasn’t until my Senior year that I finally had enough of the treatment and I fought back physically at first, then with words.  The singular event that was physical resulted in the other guy getting a broken nose and causing a nice dent in a locker door.  In all but a few cases, I realized that I was smarter and quicker on my feet with a battle of words and generally would smack down insults and teases relatively quickly.  The teasing eventually stopped only to be directed at some other poor soul.

What most don’t realize is that the pain from bullying often carries with a person long after the actual abuse stops.  The torment from three years was at times excruciating to deal with and I would retreat into my own world of online chat, bulletin boards, and other Internet related stuff.  I internalized the pain, anger, and “why me” thoughts until it became too much to handle and I broke down following a huge fight with G that I can no longer remember its subject.  The point is that I could have easily gone down the same road as Jamey Rodemeyer.  I personally did not, but so many others have.  It started for me in high school, and it took almost a year of therapy for me to determine that.

Kids can be cruel, plain and simple.  The slightest bit of weakness or difference is amplified in a group of kids and often targeted.  The reasons vary, but they’re all senseless.  I told myself for years that all those kids that targeted me were less mature and didn’t know themselves well enough to do anything different.  Lemmings following the pied pipers.  It needs to stop, there needs to be some form of discipline that is effective enough to make a would-be bully think twice before making fun of someone else.

I’ve made my peace with all of them, personally, within my own life.  I had to, for my own sanity.  What they did was cruel, terrible, horrible…. describe it anyway you want.  The support from G and making a success of my life is what made me overcome my hang ups in the past and move past them completely.  Jamey will never have that chance, and that is sad to think about.  My mind often wanders at times thinking about all the people that don’t get the chance to live their lives completely and what are we all missing out on because of that?