With what happened in Boston this week, I want to re-visit my own past experience in the hope that it's helpful for anyone currently struggling with this. I've realized not all of my friends A) know that I used to live in NYC, or B) know that I lived there in 2001 & witnessed 9/11. More on my experience that day here. Another thing you probably don't know is that I've been loosely diagnosed with PTSD. Long story, but because I never dealt with the trauma of that event, even though it's been almost 12 years, in my brain, it just happened. I know, I know. Therapy is on my life to do list. I just haven't gotten around to it yet.
Here is what I want you to know: if you are struggling, please get help. If you don't know where to go, I can point you in the right direction. When 9/11 happened, I didn't get help. I was in my early twenties & didn't understand the gravity of what I had witnessed or the damage it had done to my psyche. I was having a hard time re-adjusting to life. I didn't understand if I was supposed to go back to work, or not go to work & continue to watch CNN 24/7? Was I a bad person if I did something normal, like go to a bar? I felt bad if I realized 30 minutes had gone by without me thinking about 9/11.
I went about daily life & pushed everything aside. It took about 6 months for the panic attacks to start. And I'm talking intense panic attacks. I would actually wake up in the middle of night, unable to breath, smelling smoke that wasn't there. In hindsight, I can't believe I didn't go see a doctor. Ahh, youth.
I've since learned that I had (have?) survivor's guilt. I didn't allow myself to grieve because I didn't think I was allowed to. Yes, I actually saw, with my own eyes, the first Tower fall, but I wasn't hurt, nor was anyone I knew directly. I was in a city surrounded by people who had lost loved ones in the attack, & I didn't. What right did I have to cry? So I didn't cry, or feel. And 12 years later, here I am, with untreated PTSD.
If you were in Boston on Monday, & I know some of you were, please feel free to reach out to me. I can hug, I can listen & I can get you help. If you've never met me & it seems weird to contact me, I understand. Here is my advice to you - allow yourself to grieve; give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling; TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL. If you had the flu, you'd go see a doctor. This is the same thing. You're just not sick in a way that's as visible. Don't do what I did. Don't wait on it to pass. It won't pass. It will haunt you every time you're stressed/sad/tired & it will make it so much worse. You are allowed to feel what you feel. There is no glory in toughing it out.