Space for a Miso

Shelby Elzinga
3 min readAug 25, 2021


Can’t live with it, can’t live without it

Photo by @chairulfajar_ on Unsplash

The 202 Nobel prize went to a psychiatry professor from Amsterdam into a condition most still don’t know about. If you told most people about it, they would think you are actually talking about autism or pettiness. For me, I was just told women were more sensitive to sounds. To be fair, they are the same sorts of people who would think that they know more than Nobel prize winners.

It wasn’t just any sound that bothered me. It was sniveling in particular. It didn’t matter if it was 100 inches or 100 feet away. It would feel like a personal attack on my senses and psyche, even though the person sniveling probably didn’t realize they did. At least I know now my conditions has a name, and ironically a pleasant-sounding one — misophonia. Those who have it often self-identify as misos. I know self-diagnosis is cringed upon by the larger internet. But what do you do when most doctors don’t know your “alleged” mental disorder exists? You can just hope they are sympathetic to the agony space causes you.

Most probably think of physical space as the area in which other physical things are not. There is no such thing as empty space to me. I used to try constantly separate noise and space, only to realize sound is as inevitable as death, taxes, and Twitter drama. This is not least of which because noise is caused by vibration of the air. But I feel like I have spent a lot of my life trying to find new spaces. But it doesn’t matter if I am in a Columbus apartment, Chicago hotel, or a Boulder house. There are people sounds everywhere, and no societally acceptable way to make it stop. The sound feels like it is gradually moving in on you.

Because of this, space is paradoxical concept to me. I need space, it is there, but yet can never quite seem to get it. It’s all around and nowhere to be found. Thankfully, nothing creates creativity like frustration. In college, I repurposed some cheap headphones that stopped functioning but fit my ears perfectly. I cut off the actual bud part and wore those during tests. That, and a particularly flexible disability coordinator, is the only reason I graduated college. It made the noise less encroaching at least. I have also tried desensitization. This involved listening to hour-long compilations of people sniveling (It’s a fetish apparently). All that happened was that I learned hyper-sensitization was a thing.

This all probably sounds like justified moaning and groaning. It is, but in this fight with space I learned I could be just as mean as space itself. There were times I fought with people when really I was fighting with space. Thinking of it now reminds me of a story of a YouTuber I watch once told. A family they knew had a rabbit that was mean. There was no cuddliness to be had; it bit whenever you tried to do anything with it. They were almost happy when it was gone. When they moved though, they found out in the process there was an auditory repellent for rodents in the walls. It emitted a high-frequency noise that only rodents would hear and be driven crazy by.

When you are a miso, you are that rabbit. You get mean, people resent you for it. You can’t really blame them. You just wish that they knew what being stuck in space that didn’t want you there felt like.

Eventually much of the answer for me was therapy and Prozac. But most importantly, I think realizing there was an existence and a community for my condition helped the most (Even if it is just to whine together on Facebook). When I accepted my misophonia, I accepted myself more. When I accepted myself more, I made peace with space.



Shelby Elzinga

THE scooter girl. Jill of all trades. Mostly best at failing at tech. Needs to get better at writing bios.