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To the People Who Don't Understand My Chronic Hyperarousal

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You were right. I do “operate on a different wavelength” than you. You were right that I “have it in my head” that you and others are bad. But you’re wrong in thinking it’s paranoia.

• What is PTSD?

It’s chronic hyperarousal. It’s not the “fun” arousal. It’s fear arousal.

Paranoia is unsubstantiated beliefs, but my fears are founded in reality. My fears of everything and everyone are caused by my history, my past experiences or my “load” as my counselor calls it.

Basically, I’ve been through a lot of things my body and my subconscious perceived as a threat. As a result, I’m chronically aroused into “fight or flight” mode.

Whereas others enter fight or flight sporadically, I always feel threatened, and I am always looking for a way out.

It’s like this. Maybe you’re not chronically hyperaroused. Maybe you’ve never been in fight or flight mode. But maybe one day, someone breaks into your home, you enter fight or flight mode and fight him off. Whew, you sigh, glad to have escaped that situation. But, then, you realize your house is on fire, and you enter fight or flight mode again, this time choosing “flight.”

While that situation is, hopefully, unlikely to occur, I hope it shows you what I go through. I escape one threat, but another threat is there to replace it, so I remain constantly in fight or flight mode.

Does it affect my relationships? Absolutely. Any little thing you do can put me right back in fight or flight mode. I can think of a few times I did take flight from you, hanging up the phone or simply saying I needed to take a walk alone.

You said I seemed to get mad at you for no reason. I had a reason, albeit maybe a small-seeming one. For example, to me, the lack of a response to my email is the end of the world. To you, it’s an acceptable everyday occurrence.

So, yes, I do operate differently than others. Yes, I get mad easily for little to no reason. And yes, I have it in my head that you are bad.

But can you understand that none of that is my choice?

I’ve been through years of counseling and tried many different medications, but my subconscious mind is still constantly on-guard, perceiving even the little things as threatening.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Thinkstock photo via Valeriy_Katrevich.

Originally published: May 25, 2017
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