Last week I really tested out what I learned about Hypervigilance with a great group of people. Each time my mind started to wonder things like “What did they really mean by that?”, “Maybe they don’t like me,” and etc., I stopped and responded to myself with things like, “Let’s table that for later in case I still feel that way about it”, or “Do you really think that’s true?” Before I knew it, the hyper arousal turned itself off and I had a great time. People even commented on how much more involved I was with the group than last year. I got to know two amazing people on the trip a lot better now too and am looking forward to hanging out with them more over the next year.
When I got home though, something devastating happened. Instead of internalizing everything and isolating myself, I reached out to someone and I am really glad I did. Reaching out to one person triggered a chain reaction of reaching out to more people throughout the week. I made plans and spent time with people who I enjoy spending time with who gave me great support and who I wanted to get to know more. I even stopped someone in the hallway to talk about one of my most favorite hobbies, running, and made lunch plans for next week. It was a big difference from the rut I kind of got myself in since starting my life over a year ago. Every once in a while I make the effort to get myself out of it, but this time I felt like I had a major click go off in my head and I hope that this will be a permanent change. By Friday, I responded to a post about needing allies for coping with major life changes to not be so isolated.
Over the past year and a half I’ve dealt with major life changes and so are a few of my friends. A few of us have now gone through divorces, new relationships, moves and one of us have lost someone who was extremely close to them who they used to be a caregiver for. All of us have been dealing with these changes by asking friends for help, setting days and times aside to regularly spend time with friends and continually making plans with each other to do things, even if it’s a couple months in advance like running marathons together or going to a wine tasting or camping or renting a cabin for a weekend together to hang out and go skiing. These things and asking each other for help make us grow stronger and closer together. The key thing is anytime someone invites you to something try to arrange things so you can accept the invitation and open up to people and listen. Also don’t be afraid to call, email, text people to make plans for anything like coffee, a walk or just to say I saw this article you’d think was cool or etc. it’s funny! I’m just learning this stuff and am getting the hang of it. Once you start doing this more and more you get hooked on it. If you don’t already have people in your life, you can get some by making time to do activities you love or talking to someone in the grocery store or on your bus or who you work with who you think is neat.
I couldn’t believe I found myself giving this advice. I’ve know all along how to do this from watching other people, but what made it so hard? Why do people isolate themselves?
Looking into myself and my past, I realize I had been “shut down” or “numb”. I also had a large amount of social anxiety from past experiences. But, this devastating event pushed me to completely open up and need to reach out. I would like to really encourage others who are going through something similar to not be afraid and reach out to people. You might be told no or be ignored from time to time, but do not let that discourage you, and keep trying it. I think back to the day I left my abuser. I made one phone call to a domestic violence hotline and having that one person support me and help me through it made the world of a difference. Why wouldn’t I keep reaching out? The world is full of amazing people and some of them are really going to care, as you will for them too.