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Hypervigilance Is Soul Sucking

I've touched on this topic before but I decided it was time to dive further into it.


Hypervigilance became one of my biggest trauma responses after the incident.


It wasn't something that I really even had conscious thought over. It just happened. I suddenly found myself checking the windows and doors to make sure they were locked TWICE before I could go bed, for example.


Because it often happened subconsciously, I didn't quite realize just how much time it was sucking out of my life. I didn't fully understand how much anxiety it created when I thought that completing these tasks would, in fact, have the opposite affect.


I want to share with you 3 ways that hypervigilance infiltrated my life and how I deal with them now.


1. Constant Threat Alert

I always used to think it was funny when people would lock their doors during the day when they were home. It just wasn't something I did before. But then this thing happened that was the biggest security threat I had ever known. Even though it didn't happen in my house or have anything at all to do with my house, I NEEDED to ensure my home was safe. Every night before bed I would go around my house TWICE make sure that not only the doors were locked, but that the windows were locked and the outside senor lights were on. And even after doing that and settling into bed, I would often get out of bed and go do another check, doubting myself and being sure that I had missed one.


Now, as part of my bed time routine, I go around the house only once and make sure everything is locked up. That's it. Just once. And even though I go to bed and still have that sense of doubt that I've missed something, I force myself to keep lying down and tell myself that I'm smart and capable and that we're safe. It used to be about 5-10 minutes of this talk and playing my steps over in my head before the intrusive thoughts would go away. But now, it just takes that one reminder. Just one reminder that I've made sure we're safe and I can settle in. I call that a win.


2. Deep Sleep is Different

Anyone who has experienced trauma will tell you that nightmares are the absolute worst. They are retraumatizing, sleep-stealing, intrusive assholes. And for the person sleeping beside the one having the nightmares, it is heartbreaking. Sleep is where you are supposed to feel the safest and that is being taken from both of you.


For me, this meant that, without realizing, I became acutely entuned to my husband's sleep. Very often...actually almost 100% of the time, I hear him having a nightmare before he wakes up. When I say acutely entuned, I mean that I will wake up just by hearing his breathing change. That's how light my sleep became. That's how deep my unconscious need to protect him went. I started keeping track of his nightmares to see if there was ever a pattern or certain things that would happen during the day that would lead to a nightmare later.


I haven't found tools that have changed this function that my body took on. But I did develop key tools that I use when there is a nightmare. I don't try to wake him suddenly. Instead, I place my hand on his chest and gently say his name followed by "You're here. You're home. You're safe." Thankfully, almost 5 years later, the nightmares are fewer and far between.


3. Control Freak To The Max aka The Worlds Best Micromanager

I've always been pretty go with the flow. I would have considered myself impulsive and spontaneous. And I would say I'm slowly getting that way again. But for years now it has not been that way. I had to be in control of EVERYTHING so that I could try and make sure NOTHING would go wrong. Realistic, I know.


Here's a perfect example of how extreme it got. I would plan 24hrs away to the city with a friend. Well it wasn't as simple as packing my bag and taking off. I would make sure the house was clean and organized, the kids' laundry was all done, the groceries were bought and meals were premade and ready to go in the fridge. I'd also make sure the kids had some activities or play dates planned to ensure that my husband would be able to have some "downtime". I was sure that if I didn't do these things, a meltdown or blowup would occur. And it was never about me thinking my husband wasn't capable of holding down the fort, it was about me trying to make sure nothing could go wrong. Again, realistic I know!


But as time has passed and as I've started to work through my demons, I've slowly been able to get past those urges. In my last blog I talked about how I went away for 4 days and I actually did just pack my bags and go. I didn't micromanage every little detail. I knew that my kids and my husband had the skills and capabilities to handle a few days without me there. Don't get me wrong - there were moments as I sat in the airport waiting to board my flight where the voices crept in my head telling me I should have done a, b, or c to make sure things went smoothly. But I said with the discomfort and reminded myself that I can't keep pouring into my family's cup if mine is empty. I also had to remind myself that my husband has come so far in his healing journey and that he's not the same person he was when these micromanaging tendencies started to take hold of me.


Hypervigilance is such a common trauma response and it can be so debilitating. When you feel like you can, start talking with someone about the real fears behind them. Only then will you slowly begin to realize that they don't have to be in control...you can be.


Take care and be kind,

Daniela





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