Dear PTSD

I know you mean well. Really, you do. You come from my cortex, and from the dim history of human evolution. You track things that might be a threat, and when you see them again, you send an emergency message to the emotional part of my brain, to prepare for fight or flight.

You want to keep me safe; you have one job, dear cortex, and you do it exceedingly well. When you perceive a threat, you snapshot everything.When you see any of those things again, you raise my anxiety levels according to how threatened I was when you took that snapshot of that thing you just noticed again. And how often it was there when I was threatened.

But the problem is, I now have a consciousness. Your feudal-like workmanship (unquestionably excellent - but also unquestioning) is simply out of date in the modern brain. I wish you’d listen to the more modern part sometimes; the part that knows that sitting in a pub is a perfectly safe thing to do, even if that song gets played, or somebody mentions the summer of 2010.

By all means, please do alert me to a bloke in an EDL t-shirt which you spot out of the corner of my eye! But please, please, Mr Cortex; take feedback in the constructive manner in which my consciousness offers it. Mr Consciousness doesn’t want to hurt your feelings; he’s well aware of the tough job you do. When it seems like he’s trying to ignore you - or even when he tells you to please, please just shut the fuck up – it’s not that he doesn’t appreciate your services in general. In fact, he thinks you’re invaluable! But if only you could more easily take on board the corrections when you flag up a false positive, all our lives would be so much easier, and so much more pleasant.

Being in a specific room, or on a specific road, or with a specific friend may once have been in a time of real danger. But that doesn’t mean the room was dangerous in itself. Really!

Maybe you see the more modern part of my brain as a spoiled youngster, and you hark back to the simpler times, when you were a lad, and when fight-or-flight was the only way to be. I understand; nostalgia is a wonderful thing – but the world has moved on, Mr Cortex. I know that – realistically - you will never join me in the present, and you are stuck in your ways. But I want to embrace you for the useful things you do for me (making me jump backwards if I hear a car horn sound as I step into the street) and yet distance myself from the other things you do (making me shake all over in panic when I hear a name or a phrase or see somebody wearing a certain type of headgear).

But I can’t distance myself from you, Mr Cortex. You are an inseparable part of me. So instead, I shall embrace you. I shall learn more about you, and I shall learn how to train you to not recognise those signals that don’t mean danger. You’re so old., Mr Cortex, that I don’t even speak the same language as you. I have to communicate with pictures, and actions, and it takes a few attempts to get the message over. You’re a bit slow, in your old (evolutionary) age.

Dear old Mr Cortex; my distant ancestor (yet current biology), who loves me and cares for me – yet who can seem so alien - and a bit doddery, if I’m honest.

We’ll keep on plugging away at those pesky triggers, you and I – until one day we can both be at peace again.