(CW: 9/11, mental health issues)
I’m describing here what worked for me and hoping that you or someone you know might benefit. It’s not medical advice. Please discern what’s right for you.
I moved to New York City a very starry eyed 23 year old in 2000. Less than a year after my arrival, I was working in the Financial District and I saw a lot of what happened on that infamous September morning. A week later, I had to go back to work amidst the onslaught of smells and the sight of workers in haz-mat suits making their way from building to building to clean up the thick layer of dust I was walking through in pantyhose and flats.
The nightmares started early. Aliens in spaceships wreaking havoc from above. Bombings. A sense of foreboding as I walked the city streets in my dreams. I also had morbid daydreams of being in another disaster.
I felt a numb fascination with the news as they continued work at the site for months afterwards. I couldn’t look away, even though I couldn’t bear it. I startled at the sound of sirens. City life was a constant barrage of triggering noises.
I could call up that smell at the slightest suggestion. Sitting at a friend’s table, two hundred miles away and in perfect safety, I’d remember a bit of the story and instantly feel like I was there, the noxious odor in my nostrils.
These symptoms continued and were joined by depression, which covered me like a thick grey fog. Things I loved didn’t bring me pleasure anymore. I couldn’t make plans to see friends because I had no sense of the future: how could I possibly know what would happen in three weeks? Maybe the world would end. Maybe I’d lose my job and have to save every penny. Maybe someone would die. I was always waiting for a cosmic shoe to drop.
A friend suggested I go to a therapist. I found someone who took my insurance, told her what was going on, and heard her say “It sounds like you have PTSD.” It was a relief to have someone give a name to my experience. It was also terrifying so I said thank you and left her office and never went back.
A year later, after my first panic attack, I went to a work luncheon and met a different therapist who invited me to try EMDR. Eye Movement…