Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Take on the 9/11 Tribute - PTSD

With all of the tributes for 9/11 going on this week, it made me feel like I should do something via the blog to pay my respects as well.  Two things have been coming to mind pretty frequently regarding this historic event.  I remember it so clearly, and it's so hard for me to believe that it has been 10 years since this tragedy took place.  I was getting ready for work when the first plane hit the towers.  All the news coverage commented on it like it was a horrible accident.  Then, as well all watched in horror, the second plane hit the other tower.  At that point, we knew something was not right.  I remember rushing to work to tell the others who might not have heard.  We pulled a little TV into the front area of the office and sat there together watching the news unfold for several hours.  I was just a couple of months pregnant at the time and kept thinking, what am I doing bringing a child into this world?  At that point, we had no idea what our future would hold.

Now, 10 years later, most of us have moved on.  Life kept going and we kept going with it.  But for many of those who were at or near ground zero or the Pentagon, life did not keep going.  It stopped.  For some, I would wager, life as they knew it still has not returned to any semblance of normal.  And some of that may be due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD.  Most think of PTSD when they think of war veterans who are forever changed by their circumstances.  But PTSD can be found in people who've experienced a wide variety of traumatic events, including those who were on hand to experience the attacks on 9/11.  And there have been many more traumatic events throughout this country in the years before and since.  Hurricanes, flooding, massive tornados, earthquakes, violence, and the list goes on and on.  Something we need to understand is that people who are afflicted with PTSD can't just "get over it" like we wish they would.  It takes not just time, but therapy to address the traumatic events, and this can be a long and difficult process.  Individuals dealing with PTSD wish it would go away, and they need our support, encouragement, and patience as they find their way back to "normal," however that is defined for them.  For many, it's just one day at a time. 

We also need to recognize that children are affected by trauma as well, even the very youngest of children.  What often happens is that young children who have been negatively affected by traumatic events tend to display symptoms similar to that of ADHD or oppositional defiant disorder.  And therefore are treated for these disorders, rather than addressing the trauma that they have experienced.  The southern chapter of the Illinois Association for Infant Mental Health, of which I am a member, has been working recently to provide information to flood victims on how that experience may affect their young children and ways to help them deal with their fears of water.  If you would like more information on this, please comment or email me and I'll be happy to share!  Ultimately, whether an adult or child, if someone you love has experienced an event that was traumatic for them and they are having difficulty dealing with it over a long period, or you are seeing dramatic changes in behavior or mood, seek help.
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The second thing that I have been thinking about while reading and watching all of the various 9/11 tributes for those who died relates to the common theme of "Never Forget."  Now while I agree that it is important that those who lost loved ones never forget those lost, and that America should never forget what happened that fateful day, we also cannot live in the past.  The greatest tribute we can give to those who are gone is that we keep on living.  That we live our lives to our greatest potential.  That we continue to strive to make this country even better, even safer.  That we learn from our mistakes and keep growing.  That we pray for one another and for our country.  And, as Walt Disney said in one of his famous quotes, that we "keep moving forward."

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