The hyper vigilance used to be worse. When Ms. D and Mr. I first came to our house they were always on guard for more trauma to happen. At three, Mr. I would hardly sleep, and when he did, his eyes were open. Both kids would hear someone whispering in the other room. They figured we were constantly plotting something terrible against them, and they'd better be ready for it. They'd hide under the table and behind doors when they heard a siren. They'd constantly scan their environment for danger. I can't tell you how many times they would walk into a wall, or a shopping cart, or a door, or a pole because they weren't looking where they were going. They felt adults couldn't keep them safe, so they needed to protect themselves.
It's been nearly ten years since they first set foot in our home. Some of those years we all went to therapy to help them learn that we will take care of them, they are safe, we love them. But there still remains a certain degree of hyper vigilance.
What concerns me is that I have lived with the kids' hyper vigilance for so long, it has become almost normal. Then they say something that a typical teenager wouldn't say, and I wake up. Mr. I asked me for a pocket knife last week that he could carry around and put under his pillow at night. I can't leave them for long, or they get afraid. One of them sleeps with the light on. They still notice every siren and say "five oh" when they see the police. They complain about every lump, bump, and ache in their body, since they think they must have some terrible illness or injury. They also worried when we were preparing for a refinance of the mortgage and when I told Mr. I that I didn't want to shop for shoes and hats every day. He looked at me with terrified eyes, and cried, "Are we poor?" They look for signs that we won't be able to care for them and keep them safe. They don't believe us if we say otherwise.
On the other hand, we have to be careful what we say around them, even if we think they are asleep or can't hear.
Last night I was talking to Blackbelt Daughter about educational techniques that can be helpful to Mr. I and Ms. D. I had a great time chatting with her, since she is excited about her future career. It was late, and I thought everyone else was asleep. Then this morning, Mr. I said, "I don't want to read The Cay!" I looked at him in shock. He had been listening!
The other day, at the guide dog meeting, a lady asked Ms. D about school. Ms. D said she was home schooled but didn't want to tell her more. So when the lady pressed further and asked if she did PE or math, Ms. D said no. Hubby didn't know what to do. He didn't want to explain things, since Ms. D would listen to everything he said, even if he was half a block away.
The hyper vigilance can be annoying for other reasons too. How can we discuss future plans to relocate back to Oregon without the kids worrying? How can we visit new places, or attend events without the kids getting fearful? It's even hard to watch the news, since if they overhear, they will worry about it, even if it happened far away.
But there is one thing we do that uses the hyper vigilance to our advantage. If we want them to listen, we just have to whisper it like we want to keep it a secret. Then, they'll be sure to hear!