Model: Valerie Rogel

As someone who likes to focus my time and effort on many different things, it can be hard to have a disability, especially one which affects my ability to be in social settings. However, developing misophonia over many years has made me a stronger, more empathetic person. Most importantly, I’ve become able to accept the situations I cannot change and adapt life to be something that is beautiful to me.

One of the things that misophonia does not afford me is anonymity. In times of total calm, I will always have my headphones around my neck, regardless of the setting. At research presentations and the beach, my Bose are around my neck. And when I am around sounds or visual stimuli that trigger my fight-or-flight response, I flinch, put on headphones, or squeeze my eyes shut. I have had fellow students recognize me as the person who sits outside of the lecture hall or has to leave early during the class. While misophonia causes me to stand out in a college setting, I embrace the anonymity of millions who visit Manhattan every day.

On the subway or the street, I can react to stimuli as I see fit, holding my ears, or blocking my view with objects or my hands. Nobody gives this type of behavior a second thought. This photograph represents who I am when I am in New York: just another person on the street, with headphones around her neck. Nobody around me knows that these headphones are a medical necessity or that I am constantly aware of every sound made around me, and instead just sees me as another person. It is beautiful to be among others.


Photographer: Romina Hendlin