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How PTSD Makes My Mind Go 900 Miles per Hour

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I’m in bed, asleep, according to anybody who would look at me. My body is resting and still, barely moving. What would not be obvious to an onlooker is the fact that my mind is running at 900 miles per hour.

• What is PTSD?

Many of us have that short period in the morning, between sleeping and waking, when we have “flashes of inspiration,” as we cross the threshold into consciousness. The answer to something that bothered us the day before, suddenly comes to us. For me, I find myself in that state for an hour or so on most nights. My awareness of my body is such that I feel the weight of the duvet and my weight on the mattress, but they are just sensations of being safely held in the middle. My body feels rested and separate from my mind, so I just leave it sleeping. I must be clear at this point, I do not have any sensation of being “out” of my body, just separated from it. I am still aware of it as described, but no longer in need of controlling it. Let it rest. I do not feel trapped inside my body either. If I wanted to wake up, I could do so with a single thought, and get on with life.

I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and when I have flashbacks and they wake me up, it is instant. I know what woke me and why (being bathed in cold sweat is a clue, I find). My mind will be open to me in such a way that I am able to “see” every thought that passes through it, at once. The only analogy I can find is that it is as if I am by the side of a motorway, watching the traffic pass by. The difference is that the motorway has thousands of lanes and hundreds of vertical levels, all packed with traffic at the same time. At first, I used to be worried by this, but now I accept that it is just a part of my “normal” life and nighttime routine.

Since I started practicing mindfulness, I have learned to just observe, and allow the flow to happen, instead of trying to fight it. As a result, I no longer get so much brain fog during the day, and my levels of tiredness have also decreased. It helps me sometimes. If I have to write a report or an important letter, I gather all the information I need and read it all through. Then the night or two before I write, I find all the pieces just drop into place for me, and I can write freely. The downside of this is that if I haven’t recorded all the sources I need for a report somewhere physical, I cannot cite the information when I write it. I just write it and then have to check my material for the sources. It may seem long-winded, but I find I am writing quicker nowadays.

I have learned to accept my twilight world as a part of who I am, and no longer find it a problem. I have learned how my mind works, to some extent, just by watching how it does things when I am in this state.

I have tried to explain this to people around me, and they split into two groups. They either put it down to me being “crazy” or “damaged,” or the new-agers think I am “gifted” in some way, and want to know how to do it themselves.

Me, I’m just me.

Unsplash photo via Neill Kumar.

Originally published: May 23, 2017
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