Hyper vigilance. Scanning through Facebook a yesterday, this word caught my attention so I stopped to read. It was just another post until it wasn’t. As I read, I started to self relate like nobody’s business. The post was explaining how hypervigilance is a main symptom of PTSD and then went on to give the explanation of hypervigilance itself. Before going any further, let me give you the definition of hypervigilance here. Then it was like BAM Kaite! Hit you in the face and chew on that one!
Never ever did I think about PTSD. That was something purely for those back from war, kidnapping victims, rape victims, people who had seen a murder, and severely abused victims in my mind. But after sitting in silence and thinking on this for about an hour yesterday morning, it came together. Emotionally abused victims are not safe from PTSD. I’m sure there are so many people that knew this before me. I’m usually number 1,563,402 to know anything. So the point of this post isn’t to educate you on hypervigilance or PTSD. It’s to connect the dots to how I’ve dealt with it, without knowing it, for so long.
With someone being overly sensitive (which I am), we recognize feelings in others right away. We can sense without words: anger, fear, happy, whatever the feeling is, we sense it. In those who are hypervigilant, the one key thing we can’t do is sense our own feelings or reactions. We are trained to be looking for those feeling, so we can react appropriately. Because those feelings were, at one point, always directed at us. Whether or not we were the trigger for the anger, we were the ones who received it. When I was younger, I wasn’t the one to trigger my mother’s sadness or anger. But I was always the one who received the results. In my relationship, I wasn’t always the one to trigger the anger, but I was the one who dealt with the consequences. So I learned how to not react with anger because it would only make it worse. I learned not to cry because it would escalate the situation into me being “selfish”. As a result, in my early 20’s I cried at the most inopportune times. Everything felt personal. Feedback I received meant to be constructive, people complaining or yelling at me in customer service, everything. I cried when I got angry and just got depressed when I got sad. My emotional reactions were all jumbled. But I had people who genuinely loved me and had my back. Friends who pointed out my greatest qualities, a father who always voiced how proud he was of me, and a sister who looked up to everything I did. These, my friends, are the strongholds that held me together. Those people who took the time to hold my soul close, remind me of my good qualities, those are the reason I was able to make a pivot. I took a step to confide in certain people. And those people didn’t try and change me or my situation, but they lovingly held on, gave advice, and listened. I don’t know at what point I turned my reactions. I don’t know when I was able to control those better. In high stress situations, I still struggle with how to manage my feelings and reactions. But they’re better. I talk myself through feelings and have for a few years now. I ask questions. Why am I angry? Why am I sad? Will this matter in a few days? Is this detrimental to my life? To my children? To my husband? Knowing those are the people I ultimately care about something affecting means I know how to say no and not allow anyone to be codependent on me. That is so very important. I used to stress about other people’s problems and try and fix them. Now, I can say, I’m so sorry that happened or is happening and walk away. This is why it was so important for me to switch my career. I needed to make sure I didn’t bring work feelings home and home feelings to work.
So I urge you to find those confidants and keep them close to you. They will be your lifeline in the midst of all the hopelessness you feel. And for those of you who know someone who is going through something, remember to be kind. Remember to listen and give them the love they need.
Example on my new life abilities for you: Yesterday I got frustrated with my husband, then I got sad with my husband, and then I got angry with my husband. I got frustrated because I wasn’t sure why I was upset with him. Then I walked through those feelings and realized I was sad about said issue. Then I got angry with him because if I wasn’t angry with him, I would forget my feelings and swallow them up, not talk about them, and the issue would never be resolved. The feelings of frustration I had were a symptom of a prior life. I know the issue I had pin pointed in my head was realistic, yet not for my husband. It took until today to realize this. But here’s where the biggest difference is: I was allowed to be angry without fear of retribution. I was allowed to go to bed and not be woken up in the middle of the night with screaming at me about the rightful anger I had. He knew I was angry and he respected that feeling. And that is exactly why I was able to feel better today.