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Hypervigilance is Not Your Friend

Sheridan Taylor

I realized today, waiting for my physiotherapy appointment, that I was sitting with my back to a plate glass window. I knew that window faced an open parking lot, with a street and then another parking lot, and then a multi-level building with public access. Anybody could have had me in rifle sights.

Of course, nobody would. But not so long ago, that would have prevented me from sitting in that chair. I wouldn’t have thought about it. That was all instinct. Programmed paranoia. Three years ago, I couldn’t have sat with my back to a giant-ass window without extreme anxiety. Six years ago, it would have been impossible.

No more hypervigilance. I healed my nervous system. It was really fucking hard. Took years.

I had to learn what anxiety was, so I could learn to regulate out of a panic attack. I had to do so much work into catching unhelpful thoughts and stopping unhelpful behaviour. I had to do so much work daily on deliberately focusing my brain on helpful thought patterns.

I used to go to therapy appointments and complain, then leave and ignore the mental work my therapist suggested. I had to really focus on hearing what she was saying.

But I couldn’t have done it without my therapist because I couldn’t recognize the false narrative I was constantly telling myself. I needed an impartial referee to point out the lies I was telling myself so I could change the story.

But I did it.

You can too.