Do You Struggle With Hypervigilance?
This piece was written by Holly Riordan, a Thought Catalog contributor.
I hate crowds. I hate loud noises. I jump at the sound of thunder and fireworks and doors slamming. For that same reason, I have a fear of confrontation. It doesn’t matter if someone is screaming at me or if a couple in the other room is screaming at each other, either way, it makes me highly uncomfortable. It puts me on edge. It increases my anxiety. I can’t be around it without losing control of my breathing.
Because of my hypervigilance, I have a tendency to overreact. I think situations are worse than they are, because my mind only sees things in black and white. There isn’t a gray area. Either things are going well or things are falling apart at the seams. Either something good is about to happen or something horrible is about to happen. That’s the way I see the world.
That is why some people consider me overly-sensitive. I will read too far into their facial expressions and tone of voice. I will misinterpret their actions as a sign that they are upset with me, that they hate me, and then I will overreact. I will defend myself. I will explode over something silly.
I have a tendency to jump to conclusions. I am always waiting for the past to repeat itself, which is why I am wary of anyone who enters my world. I think they are going to hurt me in the same way I have been hurt before. I think it’s only a matter of time until they disappoint me, so I keep myself guarded.
I am constantly worried about something horrible happening, and not just emotionally. I am worried about someone getting hurt. About someone dying. When I hear yelling, I assume the worst.
That is why I have trouble staying asleep. I am jumpy. I am startled easily. I wake up whenever I hear a noise and wonder whether someone is breaking into the house, whether I am going to die.
I hate the unexpected, which is why I don’t want anyone touching me without giving me warning beforehand. Surprises are difficult for me to handle. I prefer routine. I prefer predictability.
I hate putting myself into new situations. I hate talking to new people. I hate when I’m not sure what to expect, even if it’s something as small as not knowing where the bathroom in a building is or how much traffic I should expect on my drive there.
I am always on guard. When someone walks into the room, I check their body for weapons. When I’m alone in my room, I keep my music down so I can hear if glass shatters or someone screams. When I leave the house, I keep a knife and bottle of mace inside my bag.
Because of my hypervigilance, I am always on alert. Always looking out for danger. Always expecting danger.
My hypervigilance makes it impossible for me to relax, even when there is nothing realistic for me to worry about. It makes me feel like I am never safe, like I am never home.
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Unsplash photo via Matheus Ferrer