Let's talk about Hypervigilance

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KuolleidenMaa

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Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« on: August 10, 2017, 05:20:02 PM »
Let's talk about hypervigilance! 

Does anyone have any help they're willing to offer in terms of helping the general public understand what it's like to be hypervigilant?  Cause I'm coming up blank a lot of the time. It's hard!  And it's such a big part of my struggles with CPTSD, I feel like being able to help people understand it would go a long way for me feeling less isolated.

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Lingurine

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2017, 09:48:04 PM »
 :yes: I agree, it's a big part of CPTSD and crazymaking sometimes, because so hard to explain to others. It does increase the feeling of being isolated. I think people who 'get it' suffer from hypervigilance themselves.
How do you explain it to others?

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woodsgnome

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2017, 12:01:48 PM »
Unfortunately hypervigilance is one of those quirks so dominant in the cptsd experience, but so hard to explain. And of course we feel better if we're understood, so this can even backfire if misunderstood. Around and around this stuff goes.

On the whole, I don't try to explain too often; just hope my reactions (EF's, dissociation, etc.) don't reach a critical level--in public, anyway. When I have tried to explain, I run the risk of the "poor-you" looks and comments given in an invalidating sort of way (even if seemingly well-intended) which of course can make things worse; inside if not immediately outside. No ifs, ands, buts--it hurts. So I choose the option of not explaining if it doesn't seem vital to do so (still I want so much to be able to share what runs so deep within; as in...please understand me, please?).

So I'm very selective. I work on handling it better internally, mostly in hopes of feeling better when it next happens. I recall once when I expressed to my T how I was dissociating so much with her; to which she patiently pointed out that hypervigilance and EF/dissociation is a trauma victim's natural reaction in these situations, and that even my recognition of its occurrence was entirely alright.

Having let that sink in more, at least I realize I needn't feel awful and/or guilty about a natural reaction. So often before it could devastate me--nowadays it still hurts when I realize I did it (again) but I'm more self-compassionate about it.

Thing that rubs me still, though, is having to give myself all these pep talks (still important to do, though) but know I can't fully share what I'm going through.

I hope you can find some angle to at least ease this pain, KuolleidenMaa. 

 :hug: 
« Last Edit: August 12, 2017, 12:20:11 PM by woodsgnome »

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Minnow

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2017, 01:05:51 PM »
I think it's hard to explain hypervigilance because it manifests so differently in everyone according to what they were forced to become hypervigilant about.

You could possibly explain it's like animals in the wild who always have a part of their brains active when they sleep to stay on alert for predators.  Sounds exhausting to us privileged humans, when we can completely shut our brains off when we go to sleep and rest peacefully on our perch at the top of the food chain, doesn't it?  But that's the reality for these animals, and that's the reality for us.  Because there has been a true threat to our physical or emotional safety in the past, and maybe we just need a little more time to get out of that wilderness and become "domesticated", so to speak.

Of course, our "predators" usually don't literally eat us.  They may physically hurt us, in which case the analogy is more straightforward, but some of us have predators that eat our souls instead, make us wish we could become robots.  At least that's the case for me.

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Kat

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2017, 09:21:45 PM »
I hadn't realized how hard it is to explain hypervigilance until you asked. 

I've always been aware that I "notice" more than others.  So, to someone on the outside, it might just appear that I'm especially observant.  If I'm in a restaurant, I realize I'm aware of the conversations happening at other tables.  To someone on the outside, it might appear that I'm simply nosy.  I notice the little details others miss.  I'll be the one to lock eyes on a lost child in a crowd while everyone else walks by oblivious. 

Recently, I was watching a show called American Grit.  In the show, four "cadre" (leaders) from different military branches are in charge of small teams who compete against each other.  In this episode, the cadre were the ones who were going to have to compete in a challenge.  This was a complete switch up to how things normally work, so the cadre were surprised.  There was something ever so slight and even inexplicable about the way one of the cadre responded to the news that told me right off that he would be the first to give up.  (Most of the challenges are more mental than physical.)  This was before he even knew what the challenge would be.  I was right.  My mother has borderline personality disorder, so her moods were completely unpredictable and changed on a dime.  I learned to read all the minute changes in her face to help me cope.  I really think that's why I was able to "read" the man's face on the show.

These descriptions, however, don't capture how exhausting, overwhelming, and painful hypervigilance can be.  My therapist has described it as having very thin, very permeable psychic skin.  Everything gets in.  The filters most people have just aren't there, so we're bombarded by everything.  Our minds are on overdrive. 

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DavidKishmoda

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2017, 01:43:33 PM »
Came into this thread wanting to comment on hyper vigilance, and I've just found out that everything has been explained better than I could have and also learned so many new things about it lol.

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Liminality

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2017, 02:37:45 PM »
Sorry I'm late to the party. But I'll throw my two cents anyway.

To me, hyper vigilance is like being the last human in a society of zombies. To feel safe I have to stay inside, out of sight and completely alone. Every time I go outside, I'm on high alert. There are zombies everywhere. What if they notice I'm not like them? What if they talk to me attack me randomly? What if they try to lure me into complacency, then try to become friends eat my brain soul, mind, energy, whatever fits best?

I walk the streets sweating and short of breath, eyes and ears trying to be everywhere at once. When I meet someone a zombie in the streets, I never cross their eyes, but take everything else in. The way they walk. Their body language. Their voice, if they're on the phone. Are they displaying interest in me? Try to be invisible, walk quickly, appear preoccupied. Are they distracted by something, not paying much attention to their surroundings? Keep an eye on them, stay prepared to run for your life.

I do have zombie friends. Sometimes I even go out with them. They don't seem to care I'm not a zombie, or maybe they don't realise. It's easier when I'm with one of them. They can shield me from others, and if I trust them enough to focus all of my attention on them then it gives my brain respite. But if I don't trust them enough, everything else distracts me. I don't always hear them talk because my mind is too busy processing the threat of others. Then they get mad hungry and attack my brain. It's understandable. My fault, for befriending a zombie.

Our whole society is made for zombies. Their senses aren't as heightened, so they don't mind crowds, they don't mind being bombarded with loud noises, flashy colours, bright contrasts. They only mind temperatures extremes, hot and cold and rain and snow, because of how it harms their bodies. That at least we can all relate on the same level, or nearly enough.

I could keep going on with the analogy, but I think you get the picture. To me, hyper vigilance is tightly knit with severe anxiety and integral to the experience. Most people have trouble relating to the experience of a hunted animal. But everyone understands the horror of zombies.

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Piou

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2017, 09:08:59 PM »
Lim,

Your description is so accurate! Wow.
These are exactly my thought processes whenever I have to leave the house, go to school, etc.

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Sceal

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2017, 11:46:55 PM »
Liminality,

That is such a wonderful analogy. Quite spot on really. Though there will always be people who require different explanations.
I've heard that if you can explain a thing so a 5 year old understands the concept of it, then you've truly understood the thing yourself. And I feel there's some truth to that.

When I worked at a doctor's office and were going to take blood samples of children (or of people afraid of needles) I would always explain exactly *what* I was going to do and they could expect. And why we needed to do this. I would also explain that sometimes it would be required to draw blood more than once, and list some of the reasons why that would be, and how the child/adult could best help me to avoid that from happening. Explaining the what's going on, why it's going on (as far as it's possible to) and what to expect/or do would always help ease the fear they felt. And I think it's the same with most subjects, including hypervigilance.

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Liminality

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2017, 02:55:26 AM »
Thank you, Piou and Sceal. I'm glad you could relate to this too. It helps that I'm irrationally afraid of anything to do with dead bodies, and that autumn usually triggers dreams of zombies for 1-2 months every year. At one point I realised the feeling I get from those dreams is the exact same I get when I go outside and meet people, and have been using this analogy to explain anxiety and hypervigilence ever since.

Sceal, you're very right that breaking down complicated issues in small simple explanations helps a lot. And I think it could work even better if those explanations were specifically tailored for and addressed to our Inner Child/Children (or at least in my case, seeing as my insiders are usually the reason I'm on high alert). I'll try it next time I need to go out, explain everything aloud, maybe it'll help alleviate the anxiety. Thank you for this! It's really helpful.

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Sceal

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2017, 06:41:47 AM »
Thank you, Piou and Sceal. I'm glad you could relate to this too. It helps that I'm irrationally afraid of anything to do with dead bodies, and that autumn usually triggers dreams of zombies for 1-2 months every year. At one point I realised the feeling I get from those dreams is the exact same I get when I go outside and meet people, and have been using this analogy to explain anxiety and hypervigilence ever since.

Sceal, you're very right that breaking down complicated issues in small simple explanations helps a lot. And I think it could work even better if those explanations were specifically tailored for and addressed to our Inner Child/Children (or at least in my case, seeing as my insiders are usually the reason I'm on high alert). I'll try it next time I need to go out, explain everything aloud, maybe it'll help alleviate the anxiety. Thank you for this! It's really helpful.

I hadn't thought about that, the inner/child-ren as well! I  hope it gives you some help next time you have to go out. Best of thoughts to you!

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dsgirl

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2017, 07:02:13 AM »
When I explain to people I use the word ' profile'. I explain that where ever I am, what ever I am doing I am consistently profiling my immediate vicinity and humans for signs or red flags of danger.  I explain that it's a safety awareness skill that I have which in a sense serves me well, however it's not something that I can switch off, even when logic dictates there is no danger, and that it can be physically and mentally exhausting. Because I am consistently alert, it  uses a lot of adrenaline, which puts my body at a high stress level ALL the time, and for that reason its a danger to my health. For that reason I have to spend a lot of time practising relaxation techniques etc. (hope that helps)

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Candid

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Re: Let's talk about Hypervigilance
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2017, 02:29:52 PM »
Liminality, you nailed it.   :thumbup: