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.


Written by MutedMouthful

Native New Yorker, amateur artist, sarcastic social worker, professional people watcher, and alliteration addict.


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