hypervigilance-red-400The new therapy office does take my insurance after a deductable, and it is a doable deductable. That’s exciting.

Mostly this meeting wasn’t therapy, it was ‘intake,’ get to know you stuff. But it was still more pieces to my puzzle to work with. For instance, we discussed my insomnia and my recent understanding that the biggest problem there is actually that I fight going to sleep, actively, no matter what. So it doesn’t really matter what i take, since I’m not working with it, I’m fighting it off. I know that’s dumb, but I really cannot help it right now. I hate going to sleep, and I don’t remember a time I didn’t.
Honestly- as far back as I can recall, and that’s really far, I hated going to sleep.

“You don’t really have insomnia,” the new guy said, “You have hypervigilance, and this is just one more manifestation of it. It’s very typical. I would be more shocked if you didn’t have it given this history.”

Well. More later. I just knocked a cup of coffee over.

The hypervigilance is a coping mechanism which has a legitimate function when you’re living in a dangerous or abusive situation.  You need to be alert, aware, keeping an eye on things.  You’re on guard duty 24 and 7.  So falling asleep is letting your guard down- dangerous, dumb, failing in your responsibilities (which may be entirely self appointed).

But once the emergency, crisis, dangerous, or abusive situation is over, it’s not such a useful tool. I don’t fall asleep easily at night.  I do fall asleep during the day when other people are around.  Probably because that feels safer- daylight, other eyes are open and other people are there as potential sentries.  I don’t know.  I just know I hate to go to sleep.

Sleep difficulties aren’t the only manifestation of hypervigilance. You might be the kind of person who is always thinking through every possible way things could go wrong and making plans for what you’ll do for each of them. You probably have a crazy mad startle reflex. You might be the person who only sits in the corner of the room, never near a window, and only with your back to the wall, looking out.  You might go around securing the perimeter, and warning your family about ways to avoid dangers that are almost never, ever likely to happen (and some that are quite possible, thank-you very much).  You’re probably tense all the time, although if this has been a way of life for you long enough, you don’t even know it.

Updated to add: I knew I had hypervigilance, a classic PTSD symptom.  I just didn’t connect the sleeping issues with it.

He probably won’t be my therapist.  He thinks (and I agree) we should try RTR, rapid trauma… something.  Recovery?  He’s not trained for that, but three other therapists there are, so he’s submitting my file to them and requesting they take me, and then we’ll see which of them is available.


Updated to add- for more about hypervigilance, especially if you are looking for help for or somebody else to overcome it, see here.  I am finding it very helpful and will be going back.

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