When did that happen, I wonder? That other’s thoughts intruded and became more significant than mine? That the entire world became a dangerous place to be on the lookout for any possible threat? Somehow, there is wrongness with who I am and what I am doing?

It all started when that was my world. Those I was supposed to trust were not trustworthy. So I had no choice but to trust my parents, to take care of me. And they failed time and time again.

That is when I learned the necessary skills of self-preservation. That self-preservation is everything from scanning a room to rehearsing what I will say when I walk into a café or shop—trying to make sure that every movement I make will not draw the attention to the ire of anyone else. 

Self-preservation is not self-care. In Tethered to the Old Thoughts, I wrote that self-care is self-preservation, but that is wrong. I thought that self-preservation is self-care, and those terms are interchangeable. I now realize that is not true at all.

Self-preservation is the way that I have been living my life. But, self-care is my goal. It’s how I will live my life, er, how I want to live it.

What is the difference? Reacting based on previous experiences is self-preservation. I know that I do that. Most of my world is reactive. That is how I learned to perceive the world. There was no way to plan for anything. It was very chaotic.

Now, I struggle with planning. I attempt to soothe my anxiety and help myself to interact with the world because that is how I learned to preserve myself. What little I could maintain all those years ago.

Although I still either avoid situations or push myself further than my comfort level.

When I push beyond my abilities, immense exhaustion overcomes me. I can’t take one more thing. I can’t handle making the smallest of decisions. I have done that recently, and I became depleted. Even though my pushing was to spend time with people I love and genuinely enjoy being around, I couldn’t deal. I still pushed to the point of exhaustion.

Now, I struggle with planning. I attempt to soothe my anxiety and help myself to interact with the world because that is how I learned to preserve myself. What little I could maintain all those years ago.

Although I still either avoid situations or push myself further than my comfort level.

When I push beyond my abilities, immense exhaustion overcomes me. I can’t take one more thing. I can’t handle making the smallest of decisions. I have done that recently, and I became depleted. Even though my pushing was to spend time with people I love and genuinely enjoy being around, I couldn’t deal. 

That all occurred during a recent trip to New Orleans. I love New Orleans. I love the vibe, the music, and the people watching. And for me, this trip, the most important part, was to visit with friends who were attending a conference.

I miss my friends in Maryland, and I will do anything and go anywhere to spend time with them.

To spend time with my friends, I had to push myself past the point of comfortable exhaustion. It was not all because of all of the time that I was spending with my friends.

It was all of the people everywhere doing peopley things. I can’t fault them for that. And I am not going to. They are people.

My reference to those people is about knowing myself and knowing that walking down Bourbon Street is NOT my thing. I did it anyway. I persevered. I did not take care of myself. I did what I could on that walk to preserve myself. That, I am realizing, is a difference I need to start paying attention to.

I didn’t realize how much not my thing walking down Bourbon Street was. You are probably wondering why a recovering alcoholic wants anything to do with Bourbon Street? Fair question. My hubs had never been, and I wanted him to experience that. And I am glad that he did. I am glad that I was there.

But holy shit, it was A LOT for me.

That experience was so much for me for several reasons. First, I am an introvert, so that was way too many people. Two, I am a highly sensitive person (HSP). Third, I am recovering from early childhood abuse (hypervigilance was ON). And fourth, I am a recovering alcoholic.

Those are some of the things that bind me to have particular experiences in certain instances. Apparently like walking down Bourbon Street. Some of them are ones that I do like. I enjoy being an introvert and an HSP for the most part. I enjoy being sober all the time too. Sure, there are challenges with those, but they are my strengths. The hypervigilance I can leave behind. And I am working on that. It is exhausting all by itself.

I am going to break that down into the four components that were all active for me that day. Showing the multiple things that were vying for my attention, pulling my attention, and I was doing everything I could to preserve myself. 

FULL HYPERVIGILANCE MODE

Hypervigilance — the elevated state of constantly assessing potential threats around you — is often the result of a trauma. People who have been in combat, have survived abuse, or have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can exhibit hypervigilance.

FULL HIGH SENSITIVE MODE

 

Being an HSP means that the feelings and emotions of others constantly bombard me. I can FEEL EVERYTHING that other people are feeling. I have to put up shields, but those shields do not block the emotions entirely.

FULL HOODCON 1 MODE

(Introvert Protection)

Hoodcon 1 mode is when I am beginning to feel overwhelmed. I put my hood up to protect myself from the onslaught of all of the other things going on around me. I have referred to this as introvert burritoing.

FULL DEFENSE MODE

(Recovering Alcoholic)

As an alcoholic in recovery and walking down Bourbon Street takes a special amount of willpower. I was bombarded by the in my face signs for alcohol. The specialty drinks, the two for offerings. It’s a lot to not get sucked into just saying screw it, give me a drink.

All of those combined is what it was like for me during that walk down Bourbon Street.

All of those modes require A LOT of energy. Constantly scanning as a hypervigilant person, especially in a crowd like on Bourbon Street, and other situations too. I guess anytime I am outside my comfort zone, like at my house or friends’ houses, I am in that mode.

I WAS BEYOND DEPLETED. I was so upset about not being able to do all of the things. I turned to my hubs and said, “I don’t want to be like this.” That was my truth at that time.

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