Mental Health

Hypervigilance is Exhausting

It is tiresome to constantly feel the urgency to watch my back. I have yet to find proof that it is safe for me to let my guard down and run into the arms of a world free from harm.

My hypervigilance is intersectional; I have three strikes against me.

I am a woman.

I am a Black woman.

I am a Black woman with anxiety.

I am worried about everything from: how I say “hello” when I answer the phone to public speaking; being catcalled or harassed to being raped; facing discrimination to a poor interaction with the police.

I wish I could just relax and feel protected, but my sex and color seem to be consistently under attack in society.

I would love to walk into a room and not scan the social makeup for diversity. I would love to stand at a bus stop while listening to music or browsing my phone rather than search for good lighting, seek a store I could run to, or take notice of how many police officers have passed by. I would love to feel safe in the dark and not regularly alert my significant other or my parents about whereabouts.

I am extra aware of faces, body language and movement, articles of clothing, and small details or changes in a space. I can usually hear or feel when someone is quietly behind me. I am always on high alert. Being from New York, I have perfected the mean mug as a deterrent. A lot of the time an actual threat is not present, but you never know.

Hypervigilance can be a symptom of deeper trauma that can truly take over someone’s life. Constant oppression and lawlessness in daily life can cause someone to be hypervigilant; marginalized and disenfranchised groups often fall into this category.

I am chronically exhausted from a mix of anxiety, socializing, insomnia, empathy, and hypervigilance. These things overlap in my life in more ways than one.

Yes, I am hella cynical. Sure, I may be a little paranoid. And perhaps, 80% of the time things, immediately affecting me, are okay. Unfortunately, a mix of personal experience, historical context, and current events has not afforded me the luxury to simply chill.

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