hypervigilance

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This week’s tarot tuesday is card #19 - The Sun

The Sun obviously forms another thematic pair with the card that precedes it. Where The Moon represents the unconscious mind, The Sun represents bright, brilliant consciousness. At best, it can even stand for a raising of consciousness - jumping out of a restrictive way of thinking in order to better consider a certain situation. As such, The Sun is usually thought of as a positive card - but I think it could probably stand for some bad stuff too, like hypervigilance, neurosis, insomnia.

I like this card, although I messed around with the colours a lot. I like how big and dumb and happy and straightforward it looks.

previous week: THE MOON ««       »» next week: THE AEON

If you know someone with PTSD

Please be aware that one of the symptoms is hyper-vigilance. That means they have a high startle response and are hyper-aware, whether consciously or not, of changes in their environment.

It is NOT OKAY to repeatedly poke someone so you can watch them scream and flinch.

Or walk up behind them and scare them.

If someone you know has PTSD, despite how “funny” it may seem in the moment, it is not nice to activate their startle response on purpose. It does not feel good for us and can sometimes take a while to calm down.

I need more people to follow

I unfollowed quite a few people recently. Please like or reblog if you meet one or more of the following criterion, and I’ll check out your blog:

  • You have avoidant PD.
  • You are on the autism spectrum.
  • You have schizoid or schizotypal PD.
  • You experience derealization, depersonalization, or dissociation in general.
  • You experience sensory overload due to hypervigilance. 

Bonus points if you are:

  • Nonbinary or a binary trans person.
  • PoC.
  • Not heterosexual.

Have you ever witnessed the process of masculinization operate on a young boy in real time? They go from unapologetic enthusiasm and candor to a state of hypervigilance, stoicism and aggression. They stop letting themselves like the things they used to like, or they continue to do so in solitude and shame. They start manually lowering the pitch in their voice. Sweet, caring boys turn dull, cruel and sad. 

Gaslighting: The After Effects

I’ve already gone over the classic signs of Gaslighting, but what about the effects on the person suffering the abuse?  What does that look like?  What are the lasting effects?  The answer is many.  Many, many, MANY lasting effects and issues are the result of gaslighting and mental abuse.  I suffered at the hands of my ex-husband who gaslit me as well as…..other things.  I’ve also had ex boyfriends who did it too so believe me when I tell you that the list is more or less endless when it comes to after effects.

And that’s what a lot of people just don’t understand.  The neurotypicals of this world seem to think that once you manage to get out of an abusive relationship, everything goes back to normal and it’s all fine.  It isn’t.  It’s so far from OK it’s ridiculous.  The mental scars left by gaslighting and mental abuse can take years to heal, most never healing at all.  This is why i think it’s so important to be aware of the signs sooner rather than later.  The sooner you can protect yourself and take yourself out of the situation/relationship the better/  It will save you years of emotional turmoil, and save your sanity.

So, what are the after effects of gaslighting?  Well, the following list is from personal experience and what i’ve identified as my own after effects.  As I said before, the list is pretty much endless and depends on each person and each situation.  These are just some of what I experience and suffer with as a result of a very abusive marriage and a string of abusive ex partners.

Second Guessing - I still, even after a decade away from my ex husband, second guess my decisions and life choices.  I have to catch myself constantly and convince myself that it’s my life and my decision to make, no-one else’s.  I don’t have to consult anyone else about it anymore.  I no longer need approval and to see if i’m ‘allowed’ to do something.

Trust Issues - I no longer trust.  I have a very small group of people around me that I consider close friends, but ultimately, I trust no-one but myself.  If I meet someone new that makes me feel good about myself, I am immediately suspicious and pull back from them.  It is exactly how most of my abusive relationships began: the person made me feel good, safe.  I didn’t know at the time that one was going to become my rapist and one of others would put me down repeatedly to make them feel better about themselves.  If I don’t put my trust in anyone else, then I won’t be disappointed when  they use that against me.  Which they will because they always do.  Partners will always cheat and lie to me and friends will always move on and leave me disappointed.  It’s always happened to me and it won’t change so why trust anyone else but myself?

Hypervigilance - My subconscious is constantly on the lookout for threats and it’s exhausting.  My anxiety levels will always be more heightened that a neurotypical person as I have experiences things that I would not want to repeat in a million years.  It makes me paranoid, skittish and hyper-aware of everything that is going on around me at all times. Even when I am seemingly unaware of it, by brain will be processing situations, some of which will never happen.  This will often manifest itself as avoidance eg: not going out with friends as that will avoid the possibility of meeting anyone new who might turn out to be a possible abuser.

PTSD - I have diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder thanks to my marriage, and literally anything can be a trigger.  I’m still discovering new ones a decade later, and that will continue for the rest of my life.  It’s not something I can switch off or ignore, it’s with me forever.

No Love - I no longer love and I can no longer give 100% of myself in a relationship.  I refuse to repeat history so I don’t invest myself wholly into a relationship.  It all goes back to trust issues and I know that if I don’t open myself up completely, I can’t get hurt again and I can’t be abused again.  I can keep my sanity intact and my feelings safe.  For me personally, it’s easier and less risky to not to fall in love, and i’m totally fine with that.  I don’t need love in my life, it’s not a necessity to me and i’m very happy without it.  Love complicates things and forces me to compromise myself and my life and I’m never doing that again.

Dissociation - This is a part of the PTSD and means that I sometimes find myself completely dissociating from reality in order to avoid being triggered into a panic attack.  I’ll admit that it’s not the best coping mechanism, but it works for me and means that I can avoid spending the next few days in a state of panic and anxiety. Switching my brain off and running on autopilot for a few days is more preferable for me and I’m very glad that I taught my mind that little trick.

Fakeness - I will often fake how i’m feeling to people if i’m feeling particularly vulnerable to avoid someone taking advantage of that.  I can’t show any weakness top people.  Only  those closest to me that I trust will ever see the real me or know exactly how I’m feeling.

Nervous Ticks - Nail biting, humming, let jiggling, constantly looking behind me and flinching at raised voices or sudden movements are all ticks that I now have thanks to gaslighting and mental abuse.

OCD - I have always have a certain level of OCD, but my marriage has magnified that and made it worse.  And it all comes down to one thing: control.  Having spent 7 years being completely controlled by my ex husband, my OCD is a product of me taking that control back, just in a very extreme way.  My OCD ranges from checking things a set number times to controlling my food intake.  I suppose you could call it an eating disorder as I will become extremely strict with what I eat.

Picking The Same Personality Type - Bar one or two lovely exceptions, I seem to always manage to attract the same kind of assholes.  Or is it that I subconsciously seek these people out for some reason? Perhaps I’m still wired like that. Or it could be that i’m still, even now, learning to recognise the signs early enough.

There are more side effects, but these are the main offenders for me.  As you can see, the list is long and diverse so it’s different for everyone.  But what is the same for all victims is that the scars left by gaslighting and mental abuse are deep and lasting.  Life will be changed forever and the perception of other human beings will be altered forever, and not necessarily for the better.

Part 1 - Gaslighting: Recognising The Signs

The card at the bottom says:

PTSD, As a Heroine

Wisdom: She is wise, with a deep understanding of how to protect herself

Ability to Turn Head 270°: She has an acute awareness of her surroundings; hypervigilance

Silent Flight: She is able to disappear and go unnoticed; dissociation

Nocturnal: She stays awake at night, fending off nightmares

Hunter: She is a strong, intelligent, and intuitive warrior

At first I thought about drawing PTSD as a monster, but then I decided to think about what it would like as a heroine instead. And she turned into this very protective guardian-owl. And I added a chrysanthemum because that’s my birth month flower, and it also apparently symbolizes compassion. Which was really fitting because I really tried to use this prompt to practice being compassionate towards myself.

Okay but I think Bastion actively made the choice to not seek revenge on the humans of Stuttgart for the fallen Bastion units. Bastion is heavily coded as having PTSD (or the Omnic equivalent) in the short. It suffers from hypervigilence, and the woodpecker’s rapping causes a flashback that sends it transforming into turret mode defensively.

Many humans soldiers in real world conflicts, afflicted with PTSD and unable to cope with the grief and trauma of losing friends and comrades, commit atrocities on civilian populations associated with “the enemy.” They do this out of a misguided attempt at seeking revenge or restitution for the people they’ve lost. 

I think Bastion was planning on doing the same. Coming upon a field littered with the corpses of its kin, and reliving the horrifying battle that took place there likely not only ignited Bastion’s defensiveness, and thus its combat parameters, but also likely filled Bastion with grief and vengeance at seeing its “siblings” fall in battle (it watches an entire column of Bastion units get struck down by a Crusader in seconds). It wants to complete its mission to avenge its comrades.

But then Ganymede shows up and Bastion is torn. The flickering between red and blue is indicative of Bastion’s internal psychomachia. It can choose between war and vengeance, or the gentle curiosity it showed towards life and nature in the woodland. Given the choice between observing and partaking in life, or ending it further, Bastion makes the decision to opt for peace.

And I think that’s really cool, and powerful. Overwatch’s plot and characterization, as loose as it is, asks us to sympathize both with the understandable anti-Omnic prejudice of Torbjörn and Zarya, and the grief and personhood of Omnics like Bastion and Zenyatta. 

What the game, I think, is telling us, both in general and through The Last Bastion, isn’t that lasting peace is won by force of arms or proving one side “right.” There’s a reason that a second Omnic Crisis is brewing. It’s because Overwatch wasn’t the solution to the human/Omnic conflict. It’s a symptom of it, and at best a band-aid. The genuine solution is actively choosing peace and life instead of conflict and war, deciding to see the other side as people just as complex and just as wrought with grief. Which is, at least in part, what Bastion does.

When I go out after work and notice myself assuming that everyone  must have mental health issues

“Hypervigilence in our work creates a dynamic of being wholly focused on the job, to the extent that being present for anything else in our life can seem impossible. Hypervigilence makes it difficult to ever turn off the information, get away from work, and relax and be present in our lives.” from Trauma Stewardship

Originally posted by westerross

give me more about sam wilson

talk to me about how he spent three years unlearning hypervigilance only for it all to come roaring back in one afternoon

tell me about the dreams he has with riley falling, with nat falling, with steve falling, and he swoops to catch him but then steve turns into the winter soldier ripping his wings to shreds, rumlow down below beating the shit out of riley’s body, dead and riddled with bullet holes and still begging for mercy, God, please, Sam, please make him stop, tell me about the times he wakes up with the lurch of freefall in his gut

tell me about the nights he can’t sleep because he’s too busy checking the locks in his apartment over and over again, mechanically running through the same motions, because every time he’s just about to drift off there’s a jolt and the needle skips in his head and he has make another circuit of the room he just has to just one more and he’ll be safe, so he gives up and slumps down on his couch and texts natasha because she’s probably off somewhere halfway around the world and she won’t make anything of it like steve would

they chat for a while until she says im coming over and lo & behold, ten minutes later she’s climbing through his window, she’s pulling some fucking??? power tools ?? out of her purse, it’s three-thirty in the morning and she installs brand-new locks on all the points of entry and his bedroom door, and then she sits with him on the couch and runs her fingers over his head and murmurs pretty things to him in Russian until he dozes off

i thought you were in thailand, sam mumbles, mostly asleep. or norway or, like, mars, you didn’t have to,

yeah, nat smiles, i got back a couple hours ago. the jet lag from mars is a bitch, i’m not even tired, don’t worry

How to Help a Partner Who Has Been…

Physically Abused

Physical abuse covers anything where there is bodily harm being inflicted upon the person–scratching, slapping, hitting, kicking, choking, pushing or pulling, grabbing the person/the person’s clothes, throwing items at the person, or using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, mace or other weapon.  Physical abuse may not always leave a physical mark.  If your partner has been through physical abuse, they may:
- fear sudden movements
- fear loud noises
- have triggers that can cause anxiety, flashbacks, or shut down
- feel damaged, or like they don’t deserve a better life
- have low self-worth
- fear trusting others
- struggle with trusting others
- have fear of abuse being repeated
- have difficulty sleeping
- be hypervigilant
- feel empty or like reaching out is not worth the effort
- feel unsafe, even at times when they are safe
- have PTSD

How can you help them?
Help them get to a therapist who can see them regularly and help them work through their abuse; this is very important, as a therapist is key to recovering from abuse.  Respect their triggers–don’t try to push them outside of their comfort zone, no matter how much you think it might help, and do not deliberately trip their triggers.  Make a list of things to avoid doing, with the clear understanding that it’s going to be an incomplete list–triggers can be unknown for a long while before you trip them, and some things that used to be fine/not fine sometimes evolve.  Additionally, make a list of things that can help when your partner feels crappy.
Some examples of things that might help:
- calling their name gently
- touching them (if yes, ask where, and if are there times to avoid touching, such as during a panic attack)
- bringing them a toy to squeeze or pet
- making them some hot chocolate/other soothing drink or food
- closing the blinds
- making sure to stay in another room

Of course, what will help your partner and what won’t help them when they feel like crap will vary from person to person, so make sure you talk to them about what they do and don’t want you to do. Another good thing to do is make a list of things that can help if/when your partner has flashbacks.
Some examples of things that can help:
- touch (if the person feels it will help AND if you ask first while they are having the flashback)
- sounds (talk to them, play music for them, etc.)
- smells (specifically smells that link to the present and not the past and/or have good memories attached to them)

Try to minimize stress at home and make sure your loved one has time alone for rest and relaxation.  Let them know on a consistent basis that you love them and are here for them, and with them for the long haul.  Create routines, as structure, routine, and predictable schedules can enhance their feeling of security.  Talk about the future, as this can help them realize that their future isn’t limited by their past.  Keep your promises, be consistent, and prove you can be trusted.  Set rules to help them feel safe: for instance, if they are scared of loud noises, make a “no yelling” rule, and if someone gets heated in a discussion about problems in the relationship, have everyone walk away until everyone is calmed down.  Be sure to educate yourself about abuse and PTSD.

Dos and Don’ts:
- Don’t give easy answers or blithely say that everything will be fine
- Don’t stop them from talking about their feelings and fears
- Do reassure them that their fears and feelings are valid; validate them, and then work with them on ways to minimize or work around their fears (constant validation is not necessary, but if they bring up a feeling or fear, validate it.)
- Don’t offer unsolicited advice on what they “should” do (saying “I think you should see a therapist” is not the way to go)
- Do bring up therapy, but be sure to put it in a positive light (“Treatment is a way to learn new skills that could help you feel better”) and be sure not to use language that suggests they are crazy or a burden; additionally, wait for the right time to bring up your concerns–don’t bring it up mid-argument
- Don’t push them to share
- Do make it clear that you are available to talk if they want to
- Don’t blame all of your relationship problems on the person’s PTSD
- Do discuss relationship problems, but don’t blame them all on the person, and make sure to talk about the problems in a situation where everyone is calm, collected, and comfortable
- Don’t tell the person to “get over it” or “snap out of it”
- Don’t give ultimatums or make threats or demands
- Don’t deal in absolutes (“You always…”/“You never…”)
- Don’t make them feel weak because they aren’t coping as well as others
- Do reassure them they are doing the best they can and that you are proud of them
- Don’t tell the person they were lucky it wasn’t worse
- Don’t condescend to the person

Emotionally Abused

Emotional abuse covers anything in the nature of verbal offense, threatening, bullying, gaslighting, and constant criticism, as well as more subtle tactics like intimidation, shaming, and manipulation.  Gaslighting is denying that certain events happened, making the other person feel crazy or unstable.  Emotional abuse is used to control and subjugate the other person.  If your partner has been through emotional abuse, they may:
- fear loud noises
- fear yelling
- have triggers that can cause anxiety, flashbacks, or shut down
- feel damaged, or like they don’t deserve a better life
- have low self-worth
- fear trusting others
- have struggles with trusting others
- have fear of abuse being repeated
- feel empty or like reaching out is not worth the effort
- feel unsafe, even at times when they are safe
- be extremely sensitive to controlling behaviors
- blame themselves for their abuse
- struggle with emotional instability
- have difficulty sleeping
- be hypervigilant
- have PTSD

How can you help them?
Help them get to a therapist who can see them regularly and help them work through their abuse; this is very important, as a therapist is key to recovering from abuse.  Respect their triggers–don’t try to push them outside of their comfort zone, no matter how much you think it might help, and do not deliberately trip their triggers.  Make a list of things to avoid doing, with the clear understanding that it’s going to be an incomplete list–triggers can be unknown for a long while before you trip them, and some things that used to be fine/not fine can evolve.  Additionally, make a list of things that can help when your partner feels crappy.
Some examples of things that might help:
- calling their name gently
- touching them (if yes, ask where, and if are there times to avoid touching)
- bringing them a toy to squeeze or pet
- making them some hot chocolate/other soothing drink or food
- closing the blinds
- making sure to stay in another room

Of course, what will help your partner and what won’t help them when they feel like crap will vary from person to person, so make sure you talk to them about what they do and don’t want you to do. Another good thing to do is make a list of things that can help if/when your partner has flashbacks.Some examples of things that can help:
- touch (if the person feels it will help AND if you ask first while they are having the flashback)
- sounds (talk to them, play music for them, etc.)
- smells (specifically smells that link to the present and not the past and/or have good memories attached to them)

Try to minimize stress at home and make sure your loved one has time alone for rest and relaxation.  Let them know on a consistent basis that you love them and are here for them, and with them for the long haul.  Create routines, as structure, routine, and predictable schedules can enhance their feeling of security.  Talk about the future, as this can help them realize that their future isn’t limited by their past.  Keep your promises, be consistent, and prove you can be trusted. Remind them that their abuse is not their fault, should they bring up such a sentiment, and remind them not to feel guilty about needing help, should they bring up such a sentiment. Set rules to help them feel safe: for instance, if they are scared of loud noises, make a “no yelling” rule, and if someone gets heated in a discussion about problems in the relationship, have everyone walk away until everyone is calmed down. Be sure to educate yourself about abuse and PTSD.

Dos and Don’ts:
- Don’t give easy answers or blithely say that everything will be fine
- Don’t stop them from talking about their feelings and fears
- Do reassure them that their fears and feelings are valid; validate them, and then work with them on ways to minimize or work around their fears  (constant validation is not necessary, but if they bring up a feeling or fear, validate it.)
- Don’t offer unsolicited advice on what they “should” do (saying “I think you should see a therapist” is not the way to go)
- Do bring up therapy, but be sure to put it in a positive light (“Treatment is a way to learn new skills that could help you feel better”) and be sure not to use language that suggests they are crazy or a burden; additionally, wait for the right time to bring up your concerns–don’t bring it up mid-argument
- Don’t push them to share
- Do make it clear that you are available to talk if they want to
- Don’t blame all of your relationship problems on the person’s PTSD
- Do discuss relationship problems, but don’t blame them all on the person, and make sure to talk about the problems in a situation where everyone is calm, collected, and comfortable
- Don’t tell the person to “get over it” or “snap out of it”
- Don’t give ultimatums or make threats or demands
- Don’t deal in absolutes (“You always…”/“You never…”)
- Don’t make them feel weak because they aren’t coping as well as others
- Do reassure them they are doing the best they can and that you are proud of them
- Don’t tell the person they were lucky it wasn’t worse
- Don’t condescend to the person

Finally: take care of yourself.  You want to be there for your partner, but dealing with the after-effects of abuse and dealing with PTSD can be draining and difficult, and you need to ensure you are safe and healthy so you can in turn help your partner be safe and healthy.  Remember that you are not “saving” them: you are helping them to recover, but they have to do the work themselves, however difficult it may be.  You can help and support them, but you cannot do the work for them.  Additionally, accept and expect mixed feelings from yourself as you go through the process of helping them get better.  Just because you feel resentful towards them one day does not mean you don’t love them and don’t want to help them.  Just be careful with how you manage these feelings.

Additionally, physical symptoms that can result from physical or emotional abuse include:
- chronic fatigue
- muscle tension
- involuntary shaking
- physical pain without cause
If your partner experiences these symptoms, have them go to their regular doctor/general practitioner, and see if there is anything the doctor can to do help these symptoms.

Tip for anyone with PTSD related hyper vigilance or ADD (or in my case, both!) Finding a way to actively engage with your notes during lectures really helps make sure you don’t space out. I take all of mine in French, but if you don’t know another language then try color coding them with a different color pen for every line, or adding illustrations, or writing commentary in the margins

This ability to assess people and potential harm, has gifted me with considerable discernment in people’s behaviour now.

I know when body language changes, when actions and words don’t match, I know when images don’t match behaviours and this constant studying of people is as much a part of who I am - as breathing.

It is something I do without even thinking about it - I just constantly assess people.

If something occurs that feels weird, feels off, feels not right, out of the ordinary, someone body language or tone of voice changes - I will sense it and I will know - if they are someone I have studied enough.

I view this ability now as a gift.

— 

Hyper vigilance - so much more than just where the exits are

i’ve always had comments about how i am so quick to judge peoples personalities based on their body language, tone of voice etc, how i can determine an asshole based on watching them for a few seconds and how i’m usually always right. it’s so interesting to read how others who have gone through similar experiences as children have also developed this ability.

The most common avoidant personality symptoms are:
  • Avoidance of occupational activities.
  • Easily hurt and offended by criticism or disapproval.
  • No close friends.
  • Strong reluctance to get involved with other people.
  • Strong reluctance to take personal risks or engage in new activities.
  • Very shy in social situations.
  • Preoccupied with criticism.
  • Exaggeration of potential difficulties.
  • Holding back in intimate relationships(!!).
  • Perception that they are socially inept.
  • Constantly using ‘always’ and ‘never’ statements.
  • Blaming others for creating a problem rather than dealing with the problem.
  • Catastrophising - always assuming the worst case scenario.
  • Depression and mood swings.
  • Escaping to fantasy worlds and daydreaming about ideal relationships.
  • Fear of abandonment.
  • Hardly speaking when forced to participate in a social situation.
  • Hypervigilant - having an unhealthy obsession with the actions, thoughts and interests of others.
  • Passive-aggressive behaviour.
  • Self-loathing and self-victimisation.
  • Tunnel vision - can only focus on a single concern while ignoring priorities.

Sometimes I think about the process that changed this Derek Hale 

sassy, trusting, playful and soft, oh so baby soft, into this Derek Hale

hardened, haunted, hypervigilant and weary, oh so weary.

It breaks my heart when I do.