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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  1. Lora
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    I have lived what happens to your support system when you talk about your mental/emotional/abuse issues, so I hope, for my own selfish sake, that you continue to write on these issues as you are processing, even if doing so is affecting your readership numbers. Those who need to hear, who know what you are saying but aren’t brave enough to say it aloud themselves, are listening.

    And some of us are getting braver. Even though it’s hard for our SOs and mothers and friends to hear the challenges we face. Even though they all think we should be better by now. 🙂

  2. Lori in Wheaton
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    I just want to thank you for allowing us to walk with you through all this. I can’t imagine the guts (both on a daily basis to deal with this, but also in sharing). It is a real blessing for me, as I have at least one important person in my life who also suffers. It is so helpful to begin to understand what it is really like “from the inside,” as well as the occasional tips on what to say/not say. Thank you.

  3. Linda
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I have been reading your blog since the mid 2000’s and never commented before. I began reading because of your homeschool posts, but since, I have come to love your family and read everything you post. I also want to thank you for your posts on PTSD. I have a friend with this condition and it has helped me enormously understand at least some of what she is going through. I am so sorry that you have this. You have given voice to how awful it is and for that, I appreciate your writings and I appreciate you.

  4. Rebekah
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I always feel that it is a good sign when a doctor/ therapist etc. is willing to refer to someone more experienced. Good luck with the new office!

  5. Ruth
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    From Google, it appears to be Rapid Trauma Resolution therapy. I hope it helps you!

  6. E
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I am SO glad you posted this. I thought I was just losing my mind (it’s especially bad since I’m just 4 weeks postpartum!)… but the hypervigilence totally makes sense for me & my husband. I’d never heard of it before. I thought we were just bad at sleeping… 🙂

    Praying that your therapy goes well & that you are able to make great progress.

  7. Headmistress, zookeeper
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Thank-you all so much for the encouragement. It means a lot to know these posts are helpful to somebody else.

  8. jules
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I second Lori and Linda. Thanks you for sharing. You are helping me so much to understand.

  9. Sally Thomas
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Yes, yes, they’re tremendously helpful. And they remind me to pray for you. I am so very glad to hear about this hopeful-sounding meeting.

  10. Donna
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    SO happy to hear you found a helpful therapist and are walking the road to recovery. We’ll be praying for the future therapist (and therapy) to help create calm from the chaos. I am proud of your persistence because I know it is easy to quit, and I am sure Satan is whispering that daily in your ears. May God’s Spirit fill you and bring comfort and strengthen to you as you walk this difficult path to recovery. (((hugs)))
    Isn’t wonderful to see the comments above on how God is using your weakness to bring glory to Him already!

  11. 6 arrows
    Posted October 8, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I did not know how much I needed that article you linked to in your “updated to add” section on hypervigilance. Wow. Thank you.

    Blessings to you, DHM. I appreciate very much that you are sharing your journey. You are in my prayers.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted October 8, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      It’s really a good one, isn’t it? Thanks so much.

  12. WRC
    Posted October 16, 2014 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this post.

    I do not have PTSD but I do have problems with hypervigilance. This is helpful.

    I hope you are helped by your new therapist.

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