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How My Hypersensitive Hearing Fuels My Anxiety

We live in a very loud world. Unbearably so, to someone born with hypersensitive heaing/misophonia like me. It's a form of sound sensitivity much like hyperacusis. I cannot stand sounds above a certain decibel level, and I live often in chronic fear of being overwhelmed by sounds.

I also have depression and anxiety. I'm not sure if my sensory disorder caused my anxiety, or if it's just adding fuel to a fire that's been burning for a long time. Either way, I am at my most panicked when I am being overwhelmed by sound.

When I was little, it was so much worse. My sound aversions were unbearable; I lived in terror of the fire alarms at school, I refused to flush public toilets because of how loud they were, Fourth of July was absolutely a nightmare. During much of the month of July, I would walk around in public with bulky headphones like you would at the gun range. I'm sure I looked ridiculous. Anxiety weighed on me and I didn't know how to get help.

These disorders blended together to create many phobias. I still am scared of thunderstorms. I get anxious and jittery around balloons. I cannot be anywhere near a gun. I still don't like Fourth of July. It's very hard to tell where one disorder begins and one ends, and maybe it doesn't even matter.

Perhaps the worst part about this disorder is how unsympathetic many people are. As I said before, this world is loud, and many people love loud. Fireworks, parades, balloons, rock concerts, gun hunting; these emblems of fun are nothing but points of anxiety to me. And yet, I have been chased with ballons, forced to endure loud school activities, and taunted with firecrackers.

Most people don't understand just how debilitated I am when I am overhwelmed by sound. I can't just block my ears and get over it. Many sounds are too loud and I can still hear them when my ears are blocked. Even sitting in a basement with headphones on, I had a panic attack during one year's fireworks for the Fourth. This is not something that can or will be fixed.

Even in the face of how hopeless and afraid I always felt, I have made progress. I accustomed myself to my brother's band concerts. I no longer cry during storms. Sometimes I enjoy balloons. My biggest accomplishment, however, was July two years ago; I watched fireworks outside for the first time without a full-on panic attack. I was blocking my ears, of course, but this time, I was still and calm and I actually realized how beautiful the fireworks are despite the intense noise.

The world hasn't gotten quieter. I still miss out on opportunities; I still sit out during chemistry when I know the demonstrations will explode. But there was a time when I was too afraid to even take a chemistry class.

I know that this world won't get quieter, but I do know that I will get stronger. To everyone out there with sensory disorders, there is hope. The world may be too noisy, too bright, too smelly, but it's still beautiful and it's still worth being here.

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