In the Beginning

In order to understand the nature and flowing references throughout my blog, I recommend reading my initial post The End of the Beginning first.


The Breakthrough Crisis

Hypervigiliance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. It is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause extreme exhaustion. Other symptoms include:
    • abnormally increased arousal
    • high responsiveness to stimuli
    • constant scan of the environment
    • high alert to be certain danger is not near
    • obsessive behavior patterns
    • difficulty with social interaction and relationships
    • losing connections with family and friends
    • difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
Hypervigiliance is a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.


This is precisely what happened to me in August 2012 in response to a minor change in my life: my mother came to live with me. She had come to visit me on many previous occasions, so I had no reason to believe this would be a negative experience. In fact, I was looking forward to it. The arrangement was to be temporary (less than 3 months) while she transitioned from one home to another. However, it only lasted 4 weeks. In a state of utter despair and desperate for relief, I moved her to a residential hotel for the remainder of her transition.

At the time I was mistakenly blaming my suffering on her snoring and late-night meowing cat. There is also the part about her being schizophrenic, or more accurately having schizo-affective disorder (because her bouts of delusions and catatonia are sprinkled with a fair dose of severe depression including multiple suicide attempts), rendering her disabled and now under the financial and legal care of yours truly, but that is another post for another day. Even so, a part of me knew there was something more going on with my state of unrest. Much more.

This was my Breakthrough Crisis. The ASCA Survivor to Thriver Manual describes this experience as a time when "something happens to release a flood of old memories, feelings and even physical sensations of the abuse. Although this crisis does not necessarily destabilize all survivors, for many it can be the most harrowing time in recovery, and it often provides the impetus to finally face the past."

The Manual goes on to say this experience, albeit terrifying, is quite normal for survivors of abuse. It can leave you feeling liked a frightened child without any adult control over your life. Feelings of powerlessness, disorganization and agonizing fear hijack your mind-body. In fact you may very well think you are going crazy. I certainly did. 

I experienced prolonged periods of suicidal ideation. I was barely able to function at work especially while juggling a busy travel schedule. I immediately sought therapy and, for the first time in my life, made a few failed attempts to cycle on and off different anti-depressants. The side effects were debilitating for me, as I have a job which requires me to be en pointe in social settings. I opted to take the non-medical route, upon which I elaborate in a later post entitled Unstuck in Tibet.

You may be wondering, as did I, why a long visit with my mother brought about my breakthrough crisis. It would be many months later before I would discover that the major abusing episode(s) occurred during the last time I shared residence with my mother 25 years prior. While living with her again as an adult, I was simply re-experiencing the panicked state of hypervigilance I must have donned during my childhood. Always looking over my shoulder, expecting someone to attack me like a creature in the night. Because he did.

It's enough to say for now that I did survive both the original hypervigilance and its reliving. It felt like hell, but it was the beginning of a wonderful pathway to eventual freedom. During this time it is noteworthy that I found great comfort in this blogspot from Hyperbole and a Half. It was nearly the only thing that made me smile for nigh 2 months. Thank you Allie!!

An image from Hyperbole that epitomizes precisely how I felt during the Breakthrough:

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