Hypervigilance: Emergency Mode

Imagine that your ears are tuned and listening constantly for the drop of a pin in silence that signals impending explosion.

Imagine your eyes scanning the room, straining to see behind your head as you walk, even half-open in rare moments of sleep, unable to close for fear of missing the approach of the evil that comes with the dark.

Imagine your skin so thin and so sensitive that even the still air rubs like a rasp.  Clothes are agony.  Underwear is torture.  No, no, don’t touch me!

Alert, always alert, and jump at the least sound.  Don’t close that door.  No, don’t open it.  Move my chair, I want to be able to see that door.  No, I don’t want that window at my back.  Close those drapes.

Who cooked this food?  I don’t want it, then.

My bags are packed.  I can leave at any moment.  My taxi money is set aside.  The driver’s number is in my phone.  No, not any driver.  Only this one.  I know him.

The bags inside my brain are always packed.  I can leave at any moment.  Any time and anytime, if my eyes see me something, if my ears hear me something, if my skin crawls at the feel of the air.  Or if the air in my lungs chokes danger, I can be gone in the blink of an eye.

I am always on the move, never in one place for more than a moment or two, maybe less if you think about it.  There is no place to rest: I must stay alert, on guard, watch out: someone may approach, may get too close, may brush my skin and leave raw places and burns that turn into scars, scars that hold pain, scars that pile on top of scars.  Don’t touch me.

Tough?  You said I must be tough, then.  No.  The opposite.  The longer I travel, the more I am lost.  My bags are packed.  I can go at a moment’s notice.

Leave a comment


  1. oh how i understand this state. even when i am not in ’emergency mode’, i am still jumpy, startle easily, and listen to the silence for any change. and ’emergency mode’ is worse, just like you describe.

    • I’m sorry that you have what it takes to understand this….and yet there is relief at being understood. Sending blessings for good days and better times.

    • i sometimes find myself in the tub, inside the bathroom, the only interior room with a lock… freaking out and listening for noise, and wondering why it’s happening to me. I’m sorry you all know how it feels, but i’m a little glad to know i’m not alone.

      • Whew, that’s scary. Yes, it does help to know that you’re not alone. This community of mental health bloggers has helped me a lot. Just knowing that someone else experiences similar symptoms helps me to feel less crazy…..

  2. Reblogged this on My Mind's Not Right! / Teetering on the Brink of an All-Out Breakthrough and commented:
    This must not have been easy for this blogger to (a) have experienced many times in his/her life, and (b) to so succinctly describe for the rest of us. A great little piece of writing.

  3. reblogging 🙂

  4. this is agonizingly familiar. i didn’t know what this was called though. hypervigilence and emergency mode. i don’t have words for it except
    ‘panic attack’ but it doesn’t quite fit this. Why does this happen to us? is it a bipolar thing?

    • First of all, I’m sorry that you have to suffer this. For me, it’s symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that I got as a “free gift” (yeah right) after having been a homeless teen, suffering serial rape. Other people might experience similar symptoms for other reasons, I think. Another commenter who reblogged this related to it as the beginning stages of a manic attack. So I guess I’m not alone in this particular unpleasantness…..

      Be well and take care

  5. Reblogged this on Dharma Goddess: The Journey to Me and commented:
    Nailed it. Exactly how I am feeling right now. Wow.

  1. Mental Health Monday: A New Tradition | A Way With Words

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