The Hypervigilante

If I were a super hero, I’d be “The Hypervigilante.” My power would be seeing every detail, pointing out potential issues, and making the world a ‘perfect’ place. A hallmark of PTSD is living your life on guard. Once upon a time in Gotham city, the Joker invaded your life and took away your sense of safety. Now, you spend every day in a high state of escalation.

Noticing everything has made me amazing at so many things. I’m great with data details, which helped me escalate in my profession. I specialize in possible sources of gluten contamination, which is why I don’t get glutened very often. “Did that bread touch my salad?! Take it away!”

Yet I am exhausted most of the time. It’s the little switch I struggle to turn off. I jokingly say, “I live life at a 10.” The sentence I don’t say after is, “Because I don’t know how to live life at a 5.”

In the age of a pandemic, my super power came in handy at first. I could see every threat better than most, and as a result I kept my family safe. However, as March stretched into April, and now July goes into August – life at a 10 is taking its toll.

What makes this stage of my life unique, is that I’m now no longer alone in my vigilance. As COVID has killed 150,000 in our country, many other Americans are also living life at a heightened state with me. We question our grocery store trips, getting our hair done, what to do for child care, and whether we should try to dine out for the first time in months.

Talking to my mother-in-law I said, “I’m use to living in this state, and I’m exhausted. So I can only imagine how exhausted everyone else is.” I’ve spent a lot of time explaining PTSD to people. After living through this pandemic together, I’ll never have to explain trauma to people again. We are living through this thing together.

Out of thin air we lost so much. Doctors and presidential candidates were taken. The memories we wanted to create were stolen. Grandparents have yet to meet their new grand child, graduates never got to celebrate their accomplishment, and weddings were moved to backyards instead of dining halls. It’s sad. It’s exhausting. And we’re all tired together. This way of living cannot subsist for much longer.

We were meant to be social creatures, embracing each other’s company. For some time we can embrace life at home. But slowly, the embrace is feeling like a choke hold.

“If only everyone would wear a mask!” I scream in my head.

“Stay six feet away from me and my children.” I whisper to myself when anyone comes near.

“If only the nation had better leaders who could wrangle us together!” I shout to my husband.

If only we could all be vigilant for a few weeks, instead of this dragging on for months.

If only … If only… If only…

Until then, my practical prayers have turned to asking for miracles, and my hypervigilance stays on track until exhaustion wins over. The hypervigilante stands on guard. Trying to keep my family safe.

On my mission field…

You haven’t lived until you’ve cried in front of your boss. You new-ish boss.

Someone very close to me has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD does not kill you, but it makes your life very uncomfortable. People COPD are often short of breath, they may wheeze a lot, and they are prone to respiratory infections. Watching this person I love live with COPD is difficult. They have trouble walking quickly, and sometimes they struggle to breath. For most people, breathing is just what we do. But with COPD – breathing is difficult.

Working as an analyst at a hospital I’m asked for a lot of data. A few weeks ago my boss asked if I could pull data on COPD, and then present the findings to a group of leaders. The data pull was simple enough. Login, enter the parameters, some excel stuff – and presto – COPD data.

But then I had to present the data.

I drove to the meeting alone and thought about what I was going to say. The more I thought about COPD, the more I thought about the person I love. The more I thought about the person I love struggling to grab air, I started to cry.

I see more data than you can ever imagine; rows and columns of numbers and percentages. I have login after login for number after number. My excel sheets have excel sheets.

But in health care, numbers aren’t numbers – they are people.

And in this report – COPD wasn’t just a diagnosis code – it was a person.

And this person, was someone I love.

I’ve worked as an analyst for about 10 years. I’ve pulled data on everything from Pop Tarts to Free Press page views. I’ve always believed my role as a data analyst is special. I get to be the person that sees all of this data, and hears from ALL of these people, and I get to summarize what I see to people that can make changes. I feel humbled to be this person that gets to represent so many voices.

Tell a VP about the year-over-year percent change and why we’re flat? Not a problem.

Market share reports for the north region? You got it.

But yesterday, for the first time in my life, the data I was going to speak on represented someone close to me. And even though I practiced what I would say, I could not get past the tears.

I got to the meeting looking like a soggy mess and had to tell my boss, “I can’t stop crying. I need you to do this.” And she did, because she’s fantastic. Then, my tears brought forth conversation. My boss and I began talking about this person I love, and how with this data – maybe we can help more people. I think we will.

For the first time in my adult life I get to work in the community where I live. These numbers are my neighbors, and people I care about. When I talk about them, I’m talking about people I love.

I may never lead a church or travel to another country to preach. But these numbers are my purpose. And when I speak about them, I know that this is what I was always meant to do.

Yesterday, I fell in love with my job.

Yesterday, everything became real.

 Today, and tomorrow, and every day after – numbers are my mission field.