To start with what is hyper-vigilance or at least what is it to me? Hyper-vigilance is like being on red alert, being a soldier always on guard. I have to know where all the exits are, I usually sit in a seat that puts my back to the wall if I can, and if I can’t then I am constantly looking around to see who’s behind me. I need to know what every noise is, and sometimes is leads me to believe that someone or something is out to get me but I never know just what that something/one is.
It took me almost a week to get use to being in my house alone with just my dog. I had to double and triple check that every door was locked every night, even though I locked them the minute I came through them. Then I had to leave the living room light on all night, check every room before bed to make sure it was empty then shut the door to it. Then last but not least I would take my dog into my room, check the closet then shut and lock the door to my room. Then I’d spend most of the night trying to convince myself that every little noise I heard was not someone IN my house, before falling asleep somewhere around dawn. Then the week was up and my parents were home and you would think that then I would sleep, right? Wrong! My mind had gotten use to the sounds of a quiet house and suddenly there was my dad snoring and my mom moving around at all hours of the night and I was once again, huddle on my bed praying for morning where all those sounds didn’t mean someone was coming to get me.
This is only one of the things that sends my hyper-vigilance into hyper-drive. I still have to swallow a scream whenever someone comes up behind me, and God, forbid they actually touch me, even in the most none threating way. That is a sure way to send me into a panic attack. This is the reason I can only go shopping in the middle of the night, because there are very few people then and I can usually find a checkout line without people in it. Thank goodness for 24 hour stores and self check out, otherwise the only shopping I’d be able to do is on-line.
I’ll never forget the first time my hyper-vigilance really kicked in – I was 18 and at a party for one of my cousins, I was waiting for cake or something and one of her guy friends tapped me on the shoulder. I almost broke his wrist, and I don’t even remember how I went from standing there all peaceful, to having this guy begging me to let go of his hand, which I had twist behind his back. I have so many memories like that. One minute its all normal, the next I’m either screaming or trying to break someone’s bones. All of them are brought on by guys, and the really sad thing is, is that I know that none of them mean to hurt or scare me. My best friend’s son got this treatment once and after that he always announced himself from across the room, so that he wouldn’t scare me. It was kind of sad and funny all at the same time. When his mom said something about it to him, he told her that he didn’t like being taken down by a girl so it was better to be safe than sorry.
Sometimes I don’t even know that my anxiety/panic attacks are being set off by my hyper-vigilance until I go over the situation in my head afterwards. The other day I was sitting at the beach in my locked car with my big, bad dog which I know would scare off anyone from coming over and talking to me but I was still feeling panicky, in fact with each passing moment it keep getting worse and worse, till I finally had to leave. I realized later that the way I parked my car had people coming up from behind me and walking pass my car, and that if I had just parked my car in the opposite direction I could have seen the people before they got to my car and I wouldn’t have been so freaked out about it. The other thing that I notice is when I go to church if I sit in the last row, I do better. For one thing I don’t have a bunch of people behind me who I can’t see (this also worked the few times I actually went to the movies) also we have a Q&A part and the microphone guys freaks me out if they come from behind me. By sitting in the last row I don’t have as much of this going on so I can usually make it through.
It has taken a lot of backtracking to see what makes my hyper-vigilance worse and what I can do to stop it. Sometimes there is nothing, but sometimes there is.