Archive for April 14th, 2008

Winding Plant (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Hypervigilance is one of the aftereffects of child abuse that drives me the nuttiest. I do not struggle with it too much during the daytime. I am much more likely to “zone out” when triggered than to get hyper-focused. However, during the night is a different story.

When I lie down to sleep at night, the smallest noise can jolt me awake. I can be dog-tired and just about to fall asleep when the slightest sound makes me feel as if I have been given a shot of adrenaline. I react most strongly to any sound that makes me think that someone is about to open my bedroom door. I become instantly awake. My heart races, and I feel panicky.

I have taken several steps to ease my hypervigilance at night. I do yoga and meditation before bed to make sure I am very calm. I burn a vanilla-scented candle before bed to calm my startle reflex. I run some sort of white noise (humidifier or air purifier) to drown out noises. I also moved into my own room so my husband’s movements do not disturb me. Despite all of this, I still struggle with hypervigilance at night. I do not know what else I can do other than accept that this is part of who I am.

At least this is only an issue at night for me. I know many people who live like this 24/7. They go to a movie and cannot relax because they are so focused on the people in the movie theater around them. My sister had to get a private testing room in college because her hypervigilance caused her to bomb tests even though she knew the material well. It is tough to go about your day with your armor up, ready to fight or flee at the slightest provocation.

If you struggle with hypervigilance, you are not alone. This is a common aftereffect of child abuse.

Related Topic:

Hypervigilance and the Traumatized Adopted Child

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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