Hypervigilance sounds innocuous, but it is in fact exhaustingly distressing, a conditioned response to life-threatening situations. Imagine there’s a murderer in your house. And it is dark outside, and the electricity is out. Imagine your nervous system spiking, readying you as you feel your way along the walls, the sensitivity of your hearing, the tautness in your muscles, the alertness shooting around inside your skull. And then imagine feeling like that all the time.
—  Mac McClelland, Is PTSD contagious?
I can’t get past it. I feel like damaged goods. Why am I still so broken over something that happened years ago? I just want to be normal. I just want to be happy.
—  Posted by Anonymous
A little attention to detail helps with a more realistic evaluation of the social world.

Yet too much attention to detail can interfere with basic day-to-day functioning, as evidenced by research from Queen’s University psychologist Kate Harkness, who found that people in a depressed mood were more likely to notice minute changes in facial expressions. Meanwhile, happy people tend to overlook such second-to-second alterations—a flash of annoyance, a sarcastic grin. You probably recognize this phenomenon from interactions you’ve had with your partner. While in a bad mood we tend to notice the tiniest shifts and often can’t seem to disengage from a fight (“I saw you roll your eyes at me! Why did you do that!?!”), whereas when we’re in a good mood, we tend to brush off tiny sleights (“You tease me, but I know you love being around me”). The happiest people have a natural emotional protection against getting sucked in by the intense gravitational pull of little details.
—  Todd B. Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener, What Happy People Do Differently
For Derrida, melancholy implies an ethical stance, a relation to loss in the mode of vigilance and constant re-attunement. You do not have to know or understand the meaning of a loss and the full range of its disruptive consequences, but you somehow stand by it, leaning into a depleting emptiness. It takes courage to resist the temptation to bail or distract oneself. Entire industries stand ready to distract the inconsolable mourner.
Meditation and Anxiety

There are a million books and articles and posts about how meditation can sometimes help with anxiety, or more specifically, people who have chronic issues with anxiety, whether it’s a diagnosed condition or not. And you know, finally, after a long time and with regular practice, it DOES help me with my anxiety.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

I’ve been meditating off and on since I was 11. One of the longest periods where I was not doing it came in college, when I was at the lowest point with my depression and PTSD. When I was 20 (I’m 23 now) I started getting back into spiritual practices, including meditation, and I was very rusty.

Also, my anxiety got in the way of meditating. Every time I sat down to do breath-style meditation, my anxiety would flare up and my chest would constrict. The fact that I was supposed to be focusing on my breath would only aggravate this feeling, and my panic of “not being able to breathe” (which is one of my worst fears/triggers). Before I could find a place of calm, my body and mind had to go through this wall of physiological anxiety symptoms which were almost Not Worth It.

This issue is linked in my mind with another I used to have, which was that I was afraid to go to bed. The very thought of going to sleep triggered anxiety and panic, and the most rationality I can drag out of both of these reactions is:

  • the main symptom of my anxiety/panic/depression/etc has always been hypervigilance; basically, being chronically stuck in fight-or-flight mode when you aren’t supposed to be
  • going to bed or meditating, aka calming down, made my brain feel like I was opening myself up to being vulnerable, to being blindsided or “not prepared” for “bad things happening.” Hypervigilance often tries to rationalize itself by insisting that you are always on guard/worrying because that is what keeps you SAFE and PREPARED.
  • or I was also trying to constantly distract myself from how awful a headspace i was in, and meditation or bedtime meant no more distraction

I bring this up now because it’s been happening again—hitting a wall of anxiety when I attempt to do my nightly meditation. My life right now is 5000x better than it was back then. I still suffer from pretty bad anxiety, but I am no longer depressed and only a few mental scars linger from the PTSD.

I’m not really sure what this means about my current mental state. Things are good, nothing horrible is happening, etc. I know that mental illness happens regardless of this—I’ve been heavily involved in education and awareness activist groups—but I can’t help sitting here going “what do I have to be so anxious about?” or, because I COULD list things i’m aware of, “why am I so damn sensitive?”

Does anyone else have this issue or a similar one with anxiety and meditation?

[Image: 18-piece green-coloured background with a common house mouse. Top text reads: “Extremely easily startled” Bottom text reads: “Friends make game of trying to sneak up behind you”]

My anxiety causes me to be really hypervigilant so I startle really easily (like if someone touches me unexpectedly). I had to rearrange the furniture in my dorm room so that I can see the door from my desk so people can’t sneak up on me. :/


3

I told you that I was practically discovered by Klaus and you’re worried about what I’m wearing?

Equius: Observe

You’re already perspiring a little by the time you duck through the slightly low-hanging door to the restaurant. Dave Strider is behind you, with Dr. Pyrope bringing up the rear. You can hear her tapping her way in behind you, having long since accepted that she will not take your arm and be led for love nor money. Her dress is awful, teal and vivid red, and you suppose she chose it for the loudness of the colors. You have no idea where a woman might buy something so terrible. Surely no company would deliberately create such a dress, not that it is any business of yours.

The manager gives you a nod from behind the till and you return it, leading the other two past the rows of booths. They’re expecting you.

There are several couples and a large family in the dining room, and you note with approval the way the father helps the toddler cut his pizza into several segments that will be small enough to eat on his own. The child is well-groomed, dressed in clothes that fit, and he is wearing appropriate footwear. The mother is composing a text message on her cell phone with one hand and navigating her way through a large salad with the other. As you pass the table, the toddler makes a squawking noise of the sort that usually means nothing more than “I am bored”. The father shushes him. You hear him tell the child “Joey, we don’t make that noise when we’re in a restaurant,” and there is a note of resignation in his voice, but no overt hostility.

You observe that one of the other couples in the room is expecting. You glance across the table: chicken dinner, shared, two glasses. This restaurant serves alcohol, but she is drinking what looks like some form of yellow soda. Not great, but all right. You note that the man has a bulge in his hip pocket that looks like the outline of a pack of cigarettes. The pregnant woman has a tattoo of a Chinese character on the back of her neck, where her hair is pulled up into a high ponytail. The man’s hands are very clean. They eat in comfortable silence.There are no visible bruises on either of them.

These are things you notice when you go into public establishments, these days.

The private room is small but not claustrophobic. One long table, heavy wood, with half a dozen chairs pushed in. A boring landscape painting on one wall, a pen-and-ink drawing of the restaurant as it would have looked fifty years ago on the other. The customary paper napkins wrapping a bouquet of flatware have been removed from the table upon request. When your food comes out, the server will bring plastic cutlery. 

There’s air conditioning, but you still feel your forehead beading with sweat.

Mr. Strider is already here, seated with his back to the wall, looking nervous. He has already ordered a drink. It’s soda, which is not what you would have expected. Previous conversations with Dave and the ever-present gossip that is the largest form of entertainment at St. Lobaf have painted a somewhat unkind picture of the man’s habits and demeanor. 

Without his suit, outside of the context of his failed custody hearing, Mr. Strider looks much younger. His t-shirt and jeans are clean. he has removed his dark glasses and put in what appear to be tinted contact lenses. His face is grim and he has shredded his drinking straw wrapper into tiny square pieces. His hands are on the table and you observe that all his fingernails have been chewed down to stubs that rival the results of Captor’s own nervous gnawing. He has shaved recently and his hair is freshly trimmed. The collar of his shirt is down, another thing you would not have expected.

"Hey," he says, quietly. Under their nearly invisible brows, his eyes are very dark. They skip off you and lock onto Dave as he enters the room, and it’s a little too intense. You stand to one side, allowing Dave pass you and choose his seat. He picks the one directly across from his brother, bonelessly slumping into it. He returns neither his brother’s gaze nor his greeting. You sit at one end of the table, giving them room. Close enough to be a steady presence, but not enough to crowd. Terezi enters last and makes her way to the other corner. Dave has requested that you both stay in the room until the meeting is over. If Mr. Strider acknowledges you, you will speak to him. If not, you will maintain supportive silence. Terezi will do any speaking, as usual. 

Dave’s hands are shaking. He drops them from the table to his lap and hunches forward. His new glasses are so dark you can’t see his eyes in the restaurant light, and so large they hide most of his face.

"Thanks for coming," Mr. Strider tells Dave. "I ordered you an apple juice."

I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the feeling of absolute absurdity that comes from living a normal life when your brain is in panic mode

Like its been a year and still every time I try to sit down and read or do yoga or whatever it’s like my mind is screaming WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU FOOL? DOOM IS IMMINENT! RUN! LEAVE THE CANDLES, THERE’S NO TIME!