Hypervigilante: Anxiety Intruder

Hypervigilance sucks ass.

People who have PTSD, anxiety issues or schizophrenia often experience hypervigilance.

I already hate feeling anxious, but when you are hypervigilant, anxiety never really goes away. Even times when I feel calm, what I feel is much less anxious, but not really calm.

I’m always worried about something.

Joey leaves for work and a few minutes later I hear sirens? My stomach churns until he comes home.

I worry about bills and work and health.

It takes very little to make me jump. I hate that. It’s embarrassing. This happens at work all the time. It’s bad enough when I jump, but there have been times when the jump is accompanied by this weird intake of air that sounds like a baby dinosaur who got their tail stepped on.

It’s part of my charm. 

New places or people horrify me.

One of my worst case scenarios is a party at another person’s house. Not family parties. I can handle that. I’m never going to love them, but they don’t freak me out.

Going to someone’s house for the first time for the purpose of sitting around with a bunch of other people feels like punishment to me.

This is not an exhaustive lists of all my anxious thoughts, but a fair sampling.

What if I can’t find the bathroom and have to ask someone where it is? I’ll die. 

What if the bathroom door doesn’t lock?

What if I spill something? Oh god. I’ll probably spill something. I spill shit all the time. 

Or worse, what if I break something?

Fucking hell, what if the toilet backs up? 

Don’t drink too much. You’ll say stupid shit and your face will turn purple. 

Shit. I think my face is already purple. 

What if people talk to me? 

What if people don’t talk to me?

What if I start talking in that weird loud voice I get when I’m nervous? Because the flop sweat comes right after.

What if the bathroom door doesn’t lock only I think it’s locked? That could happen. 

The hypervigilante who lives in my brain works 24 hours a day.hypervigilance

Well, I think she sleeps sometimes. But often I have anxiety dreams, so I think she’s on the case even when I’m sleeping.

My hypervigilante gets super concerned about everything.

I don’t think she’s bad, she just wants to make sure I am prepared for everything. No matter the situation, she rushes in and starts screaming and yelling all the things I need to be aware of that can go wrong.

She is thorough. Also, kind of ridiculous.

I mean, she rarely makes up impossible situations, but she is the queen of improbable situations.

For instance, when I go into a public toilet, the first thing I do is to make sure there isn’t a human head in the toilet bowl. Why do I do this? I don’t fucking know. I just know that when I go into a public bathroom, I have to check to make sure because my hypervigilante usually whispers a few sentences like “Probably going to be a head in the toilet this time” or “Check for the head before you touch anything. Fingerprints”.

So, almost always, I have my hypervigilante watching out for me.

Making sure I’m always at least a little keyed up. Sometimes, when she is tired and not being creative she just says things like “Something horrible could be happening right this minute and you just don’t know about it yet. Good night!”.

I wish making fun of hypervigilance made it easier to deal with, but it doesn’t. If you have your own internal hypervigilante, then I wish you all the peace you can get.

I don’t think this hypervigilante will go away any time soon. It hasn’t yet.

I guess I just have to make my peace with my intruding fucked up anxiety superhero.

If you don’t identify with this, but know someone who “worries a lot”, then spare them an extra thought and let them know that everything is going to be okay.

We need to hear that often.

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  • You got in my head today, too.
    Maybe it’s my head talking and it got to your head?
    You said everything is going to be OK and I believe you.
    Everything is going to be OK.
    From my head to yours <3

  • Reminds me of a counselor I went to for a while. She talked about my hypervigilance and my anger. I was in a job I absolutely hated so both were pronounced. It got to the point if I was talking about a situation and getting angry she would put her hand out to tell “calm me down”. Talk about really getting pissed! She was going to retrain me I guess ha!
    The counselor I go to now says be mad if you need to be which instantly alleviates my anger.
    However, hypervigilance gets better with age I think. For me it has so there must be hope for everyone!

  • At least your hypervigilante is trying to make you do better things. I know a couple of folks who have the opposite of that; they will find a way to cause a police-get-involved situation out of shit like washing the car, or getting the mail.
    I always looked at it as a talent of sorts, but maybe they have the same thing in their heads as you, only giving different advice…

  • OMFG I needed this today. Hugs sweetie. And I’m so lucky we met at Erma. Because let’s be honest, our Hypervigilantes didn’t want us to.

  • Michelle, I think what you have (among real anxiety) is called having a good imagination. Coincidentally, you’re a writer! I’m the same as you, too sensitive, but its that same sensitivity that makes you see things others might miss. I have found accepting it all helps… a little bit.

  • Everything will be okay, HyperVigilanteGirl!

    And to you, Michelle, I’m sending very clean, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory HUGS. We should meet. I give the best hugs. My hugs are so good, HyperVigilanteGirl will want to carry them around with her all day. Of course, that will only confuse her superpower, so maybe I should just continue to send them electronically, so HVG can sweep them for bugs (which she won’t find because they aren’t there, much like the lack of heads in toilets).

  • wait. Were you following me?
    Because this sounds like me.
    Except for the heads in the toilets. I don’t worry about that.

    I worry about running out of TP and having to ask someone and A) there is no one around or B) there is, but they are a clown.

    I do come up with ridiculous situations. I hate small talk because I get nervous and then I talk too much and then I go home and rock in a corner because I talked too much and now everyone thinks I’m insane.
    And while I’m in there I realize the shoes are a mess and so I straighten those and then I put my clothes back into order by color and season and then I realize how much I was blathering and freak out again.

    Anxiety sucks.

    • OMG I hate replaying conversations. I swear to christ, I have one from 1969 that I had with my first grade teacher. I really REALLY think it’s time to let that one go.

  • For instance, when I go into a public toilet, the first thing I do is to make sure there isn’t a human head in the toilet bowl.

    I check for toilet snakes. And toilet paper roll spiders. Also, I used to be a petsitter (yes, people really trusted me with keys to their homes) and whenever I was entering a house I would touch nothing but the shiny, easily polished doorknob until I’d checked the house for crime stuff. You know, in case criminals had broken in and committed crimes while the owners were out of town and left the idiot petsitter to take the fall for their drugs or bodies or whatever. Nope! Not me—I can wipe my prints from the doorknob and erase my presence and disappear like Keyser fucking Söze. (I was also super-paranoid of what people would think on overnight jobs, so I would make sure to put the TV remote back exactly where I found it, including any fuzzies that might have been placed as a trap and sat only on the edge of cushions or used wooden furniture, etc.)

  • I spent last year discovering my anxiety was rooted in ptsd and then joining a support group for recovery of ptsd. It has taken my hypervigilance down to a manageable level most days which is a good thing.
    I still jump at loud noises, and am surprised by people suddenly entering my space.
    I am a work in progress.
    We all are.

  • Both my brother and mother in law have put locks on their bathroom doors for me.
    I felt comforted by how many of your anxieties I identified with, but I am fascinated by the head in the toilet thing.

  • This is me to a T. I make light of it, and my coworkers know not to sneak up on me, but I don’t tell them the real reason why I jump out of my skin at sudden movements or noises. It’s exhausting. I don’t call myself The Queen if Wordt Case Scenarios for nothing. Thanks for sharing this–sometimes I feel like the only one.

  • Wow! Amazing how you an make this yucky situation funny. I don’t have this most of the time UNLESS my kid is late coming home and it is snowing, etc.

    We went of vacation with my husband’s family last summer. Just a long weekend because none of us would have survived a longer visit. Stayed in a rented house. One bathroom door didn’t lock. No one told me. Yep. You guessed it. My father in law walked in when I was going to the bathroom. I did survive, so maybe keep the chances of survival in mind. Not sure if that will help.

    BTW – my stupid phone keeps telling me page not available after I try to comment. I finally remembered to comment from my desktop while I was home. This is why my comment is so damn tardy. 🙁

By Michelle


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