Hypervigilant and disassociation with social anxiety

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I entered freeze mode when I was 16 which really hampered my life. I was disassociated to the point where it felt like paralysis for years. Activities that used to be normal/feel normal like going to the salon for a haircut or going to the grocery store or just sitting in a classroom with all my other classmates. All these activities suddenly became too much and impossible to do. I had severe disassociation and isolated myself because the minute I was in public i would become hypervigilant and disassociate. I would lose touch with reality whenever I found myself in a public place. At the same time that would make me restless because I would feel the anxiety rising. I used to love going to school and going to the grocery store to buy chocolates or just any of these normal activities. After freeze mode that is when I was 16 everything just became impossible.
I want to be able to do these activities that were normal and it just makes me feel broken that I cant. It feels like failure even though I'm now aware that my brain is protecting me by disassociating. It got in the way of me doing things for myself and building a life out for myself. I feel guilty and heartbroken that because of disassociation I can't do normal things I used to. Before it was to the point that I couldn't do anything at all.
It’s super common with PTSD Avoidance (as a symptom) for lives to constrict into smaller and smaller circles, as people attempt to avoid triggers & stressors, instead of dealing with them; as well as avoidance (as a coping mechanism) to attempt to manage their stress levels ( see The ptsd cup explanation ) by isolating.

Neither works, unchecked &/or in the long term.

The good news is that there are super solid effective ways of working with both. Chipping away at triggers/stressors until they’re not longer triggers & stressors, ditto going after the root cause of both by trauma processing; as well as learning stress management so that any isolating is something done by choice, in deliberate ways, rather than uncontrollable & unrecoverable reactions.

The bad news is that it’s a slow process, and a pain in the ass.
I see you. I have been there and know what it’s like to be frozen/stuck in dissociation and avoidance of people, places, and situations out of fear of being triggered, becoming hypervigilant, and losing touch with the present. It’s hard, no one gives you a book to say this is how you navigate your symptoms.

Healing looks different for everyone. I ready to that you are feeling guilty. While your feelings are yours, this guilt does not serve you. I know it’s difficult, but consider reframing your thoughts from this behavior is “not normal” to “this is different”.

One is from a place of lack and judgement, the other a place of acknowledgment that offers an opportunity for growth.

I’m glad to hear that things have gotten a little better for you. I know how debilitating this can be. Although it may feel that way, please know that you are not failing and you your responses are not abnormal. Life may feel surreal, but you are here, your physical body is in the now. How does one catch their mind up to speed?
The journey forward won’t be easy, things will come up and you may get frustrated with yourself, but I encourage you to give yourself grace. You are navigating life becoming unfrozen/ thawing out.

I understand the frustration of being frozen, dissociating, and avoiding. I had been frozen for years, and am still thawing out. I thought I had gotten better, but it turns out I had been emotionally numb, didn’t feel a thing, and didn’t want to remember. I lost the past few years because I wasn’t present. I felt broken on many levels, unhinged, spoke to myself negatively, and felt so alone. Things started to change when I went back to therapy (3 year gap).
I was exhausted from being on high alert all the time, the jumpiness, the thoughts and memories and lack of sleep. In this mode I missed out on life, I lost gaps of time, and even avoided people I cared about. I didn’t want them to “see me like this.”
I hadn’t gotten better with prior therapy because I refused to sit with myself, look at my pain, be truthful about what was happening in life, or identify triggers. I saw myself as “this is just me”, but was not living to the fullest.

My new therapist started with CBT-TF then transitioned to EMDR. It was difficult, but it helped tremendously.

I encourage you to work with someone get to the root of your avoidance, why you lose touch with reality, why you feel unsafe, and to slowly reintroduce yourself into public spaces. You are not broken, are not a failure, and have nothing to be guilty for.

Guilt implies that you’ve done something wrong. You haven’t done anything wrong, you’re trying to navigate this post experience world with a mind that has gone into overdrive to protect you.
Things have changed, give yourself the space to mourn the loss of time and mourn your younger self, then when you are ready to move forward, suit up and get the tools to relax your mind, heal and grow.

Growth is not linear. Please take care, breathe, and give yourself grace. You will make it through this.

One tool I used was PTSD Coach Online they have a website and an app.
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