More Thoughts About September 11th (from the archives from 2001, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11)
By Li Faustino, PhD
By now, all of us have experienced shock on some level from the events of September 11. Many of us witnessed the attack from the street or on television; some escaped from the scene; most of us know someone first-hand (or by a degree of separation) who worked at the World Trade Center. Surely, we have noticed that since the tragedy, we have experienced troubling symptoms of trauma—loss of concentration, insomnia, loss of appetite, crying, a feeling that our work is insignificant, and a sudden interest in Middle Eastern affairs among other things. People have moved forward in many ways, volunteering in the relief effort, running to city hall and getting married, getting back to flying, going out with friends and shopping in New York City.
Whoever you are, in the wake of the biggest terrorist attack on America, the process of grieving and growth are just beginning.
I think many of the coping skills needed to go on with our lives are similar to skills possessed by those who suffer from mood disorders. Setting up a support network, questioning the control we have over our lives and grappling with the idea of fate are concepts people with mood disorders have long dealt with. Could it be that those already in therapy, taking medication, and dealing with an illness like depression or manic depression are better equipped to process this disaster? Who knows.
I do know that since September 11th, I have seen people, who I thought might not have much resiliency, bounce back quickly. I have seen people who felt almost helpless find meaningful work in volunteering, donating blood, cooking for firefighters, giving applause on the West Side Highway to those involved in the recovery and just plain going on with their lives because they have a life and suddenly that was more precious than before.
I wish you all strength as you persevere in this world so dramatically changed. Never have I felt so close to people I know and the strangers I see on the streets. I know that each of these people has lost someone in the World Trade Center, lost a workplace, a home, a piece of their heart as the buildings collapsed, lost a familiar skyline, lost sleep, lost patience, lost an innocence of some kind.
I am confident we have not lost joy in our lives because we, especially those who have had mood disorders, have been striving for joy our whole lives.