One of the most annoying interactions I have with people is in reference to PTSD and the “symptom” of “hyper vigilance.” I can’t tell you how many times people ask me if being around crowds is frightening to me. I guess I can’t fault the ignorant too much. But, it gets a little old when I’m treated like I’m some kind of paranoid creep.
In the last couple years, I’ve had several girls roll their eyes when I request a table close to an exit or insist on facing as many entrances into a restaurant or room as possible. “What are you worried about?” “What’s the worst that could happen?” “Would you relax and enjoy yourself?” are usually the reactions I get.
I think it’s time to define and differentiate between HYPERVIGILANCE and SITUATIONAL AWARENESS. There’s a clear line between paranoia and preparedness that I think the layperson is all too quick to ignore.
Webster’s defines Hypervigilance as the following: “the condition of maintaining an abnormal awareness of environmental stimuli <a person suffering from PTSD may have…hypervigilance, heightened startle responses and flashbacks—Ellen L. Bassuk et al>” I don’t mean to demean those with PTSD at all. I know that there are those of us that can’t walk outside the front door some days. We can’t go into Walmart without all the sensory stimuli driving us into an anxiety attack. Trust me, I’ve been there, several times. A baby crying turns into a baby crying and a squeaky cart-wheel, which snowballs into a cacophony of noises and smells that starts as a headache, then moves into a crushing feeling in your chest as your heart picks up the pace, then it gets hard to breathe and you want to sprint out of there, screaming….That is what I think hyper vigilance is. It’s like a waterfall of sound and people crashing into you. You are more aware of every little minute thing going on around you, and instead of noting it, it picks at your nerves until you’re grinding your teeth.
But my question is, what is “abnormal awareness?” Let me preface with this: I am in no way, shape, or form, a “doomsday prepper.” I don’t have a bunker packed with things to ensure my survival should the sun explode. I don’t have gas masks, ninja swords, and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammo stored up to slay the zombie hordes.
However, I do have enough to sustain me and a loved one for a month or so in case of a natural disaster, but that’s it. When in public, I maintain awareness of my surroundings. I watch people’s hands, I memorize faces, I study behavior. I scan rooms and always have an exit plan. I don’t strut around with my chest out, extra-small Superman T-shirt on, gun on my hip, glaring at people and looking for a conflict. I don’t make it obvious. I try to bring as little attention to myself as possible. Trying to be the “Grey Man” wherever you go should be your goal.
My girlfriend asked recently, “what do you think could possibly happen?”
My answer is, “turn on the news.” From some crazy kid blowing away a bunch of people in a movie theater in Aurora, CO because he didn’t get enough hugs as a kid, to the most recent clown shooting people for apparently being Jewish (which none were) in Kansas City several days ago; there are bad people in the world. Like Alfred said in The Dark Knight, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” I agree completely. After working on the ambulance for years, I’m well aware of the staggering number of mentally-ill people roaming the streets freely, without access to meds to counsel.
I also live in an area where one of the greatest pastimes for teens is the “knockout game.” If you watch the footage of these attacks, none of the people assaulted were aware of their surroundings one bit. Take a look at most people walking the streets these days, what are they doing? That’s right, heads down, face in their smartphones. Even a minimally intelligent criminal could spot a victim in today’s streets. I guarantee, most people could have someone walk at them from the front, punch them in the face, have their wallet or purse stolen, and not have even the slightest inkling of a description of who did it. Luckily, most bystanders would have stood there watching and doing nothing but recording the event for youtube.
We should treat our friends and loved ones as our principle/protectee. We are one-man protective details. While your girlfriend is looking at Facebook, you should be looking at actual faces. Make sure to always open the car door for the lady. It’s sweet and gentlemanly…….and allows you to take a look around for anyone waiting to car jack your sweet ass. Personally, I don’t wear flip-flops in public, because I CARE about my family and friends and want to be able to get them to safety as quickly as possible. As the big homie, Pat McNamara says, “mobility is survivability.” Always be thinking about how you’re going to avoid a situation that could become volatile, and should it, have a plan to get your people out.
Strive to maintain an extreme proficiency with your personal carry firearm. Practice draw strokes, presentation, sight alignment, and trigger press at least 10 minutes a day. You want to be an asset to society, not a liability. You are a professional, accountable for every round, not someone that carries a gun as a conversation piece.
Does all this mean you’re suffering from PTSD and need to be medicated? No. It means you’re a citizen that is aware of the bad shit that walks among us. I’d like to think we practice common sense. We are warriors among the meek, gents. Let’s make sure we’re able to protect them, sometimes from themselves.
Keep your heads on a swivel and be vigilant. Don’t worry about what some doctor says about your concern for the safety of you, your loved ones, and the innocent bystanders around you. Next time someone gets on you about trying to maintain excellent situational awareness, tell them that someday, they may thank you.