We are all cursed, or maybe blessed, at some time or another with hyper-vigilance, excessive watchfulness, especially to avoid danger. It might come when we're crossing a busy street, woken out of a sound sleep by a strange noise, or peering out the window as we listen to the radio give reports on an approaching tornado. This is good. It reminds us to use caution and common sense. Hyper-vigilance puts us on high alert, causes severe anxiety and places eyes in the back of our head and antenna thrusting out from every part of our body. Thankfully it lasts but a short time and comes seldom. It is there for us to draw on when needed and put away once the danger is past.
But how would you like to be hyper-vigilant the majority of your waking hours? The strain would be demanding and wear us out, weakening all of our other senses. Draining our energy, it would cause us to feel continuously worn out, as if we'd had a bad night's sleep. Becoming hyper-vigilant is one of the hardships that develop as a result of childhood sexual abuse. As a child, out of nowhere, appeared a threat, one we were unable to see coming. Even if we could, we would be unable to define it as a danger. We only know what has been taught us up to the time of the abuse. The younger we are the less information we have as to what is right or wrong, harmful or beneficial.
In my case I was thirteen when my abuse happened. Despite my age I still did not know how babies were created. I figured moms bought them at the hospital because my mom, who was a little overweight at the time, went to the hospital and after three days she was able to lose her weight and buy a baby while she was there. I assumed she was able to fill out a form stating what color eyes and hair she wanted and especially if she wanted a boy or a girl. She bought my little sister Jeanne. My siblings and I knew this for sure as we went with my father to bring mom home after she finished buying the baby. Our parents thought it best to keep us as naive as possible, saying, "I hate it that you have to grow up." They spoke a strange language around us, one that had letters instead of words. One of their favorites was SOB, usually used when they spoke of President Roosevelt. PG was another, although not used as often. I couldn't wait till I was grown up and found a copy of the book that explained what all these initials meant. As a result my siblings and I were emotionally retarded.
At the age of 13 I had the emotional immaturity of an eight year old. When my father entered my bedroom in the middle of the night I knew nothing of what was happening, only that it frightened me and was painful. To make matters worse, when I screamed hysterically for my mother, she was of little help. A deep sleeper, it was several minutes before she heard me. By then my father had left the room and was standing at the door holding his robe closed as he listened to my pleas for help. My mother, after hearing me say "I don't know", as responses to her questions, insisted I had had a nightmare and to go back to sleep. I couldn't tell her what happened. I didn't know. I had no words to describe the horror of what had happened. I could only liken it to being run over by a steamroller.
After that night hyper-vigilance became a walking part of me. I shook with tremors at the slightest noise. The smallest criticism made me faint with insecurity. I was on high alert all the time. As the abuse continued my hyper-vigilance increased. When my mother found out what happened she reverted to her motto about my father, "Even when he's wrong, he's right", and badgered him into beating me with regularity as punishment for what he was doing. Any hope I had of being rescued disappeared.
For the next 27 years I thought hyper-vigilance was a necessary part of everyone's life, perhaps in my case more intense. I lived in fear on a daily basis. After running away from home when I was 18 I increased my need for hyper-vigilance by choosing domestic violence partners. My bag of fears became so overloaded that after marrying my third abuser, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I entered recovery. I knew it was either that or die. I had tried suicide many times over the years, twice winding up in a psychiatric ward. Something always intervened to keep me from carrying out my plan.
One day, half way through recovery I was getting ready to cross a busy street on my way back to work after lunch. As anyone who has ever been sexually abused as a child knows, you are able to carry on through your day without anyone knowing that you had a worry in your head. But inside I was filled with despair and wanted nothing more than to die. I saw a large truck racing down the street toward me and knew that this time nothing could stand in my way. Just before the truck reached me I thrust my body forward. I felt a hand pull me by my shirt out of harms way. My feet tottered on the curb as the rush of air from the truck as it passed blasted me in the face. I was enraged. How dare anyone interfere? I turned around, ready to give the rough edge of my tongue to whomever it was.
No one was there.
I stood for several minutes trying to sort out what had just happened. Maybe I wasn't meant to die. Maybe God was saving me for something. I never attempted suicide again.The closer I got to the end of my recovery the less hyper-vigilant I felt. I was using what would later be called my REPAIR program and it worked. Today, I rarely feel the need for hyper-vigilance. I turn problems over to God on a daily basis. Now I know that the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world. Now I am free from fear and any need for excessive watchfulness.
I have been REPAIRed.
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