September 11 on the West Coast

Every year since the 9-11 tragedy, as September had approached, I would feel more depressed. This year is different. I have not felt sadness until now. It’s September 8.

The west coast doesn’t treat the day like New York. In New York there are memorials. People go out, but parties are not publicized events. In San Francisco though, I haven’t heard one mention of any memorial. Instead it’s business as usual. There is an event happening on September 11 this year in San Francisco. I don’t remember what it was, or if there was a poster or if someone mentioned it. I chose to forget about it. I didn’t know how I would handle that day let alone being at an event surrounded by people who aren’t New Yorkers. As the day approaches, it becomes more clear that I won’t want to do anything or try to have a good time. I will go to therapy that day.

In a supermarket produce section earlier today, it was Sunday shopping for dozens of households. The chaos brought me back to the hospital on 9-11 when nurses and hospital staff rushed around triage while dazed and shocked patients wandered aimlessly or sat catatonic. In the market I felt overwhelmed. It was a good opportunity to practice TIPI. So I went outside, sat down, closed my eyes, and found a number of different sensations related to anxiety: chest pain, shallow breathing, tense muscles, and dizziness.

When I think back on that day, I didn’t feel any of those things until late that night when the president of what I think was Fuji Bank called. He lost 12 employees. As he listed the names, I felt utter helplessness. The pain today is as real as it was then.

My PTSD symptoms are worse today. Work emails have come in and I don’t want to deal with them. I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything.

I used to think that the day of September 11 would get easier. But this year is the first year I’ve realized the gravity of the tragedy. Denial is not a good place to remain. It might help deal with other aspects of life, but eventually reality will kick you in ass until you’re upside down. It’s not easy navigating life in that position. We need good friends to help us turn right side up.

While I’ve left New York to heal, sometimes I feel I need New York to heal. It’s different from Washington, DC, where nobody could see the devastation of the Pentagon. In New York, people could see from miles away. It was a tragedy like no other. The camaraderie can help with loneliness. But since each person’s response to trauma is different, and differences can create unneeded tension on a daily basis, leaving seemed to be a better choice. On this coast I do know someone who was there. Maybe we’ll be bosom buddies on Wednesday.

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