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  -- ADHD: Not Just Boys
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  -- Anniversary of Sept. 11
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  -- Anniversary of Sept. 11

Kids and Community: Anniversary of 9-11

By Judy Shepps Battle

 

Like everyone else, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing on September 11, 2001. I was researching a column for this newspaper when a friend called saying there had been a bad plane crash in New York and to turn on the television for details.

 

While my mind has forgotten many specifics of that morning, the muscles of my body still store feelings of disbelief, dread, fear, sadness, and helplessness. I remember the roar of the fighter pilots as they patrolled overhead during that week and it is hard to feel completely safe, even though five years have passed.

 

If I were still a smoker, I would be chain smoking as I write these words. If I were still a drinker, I would have a beer beside me. As it is, I feel a craving for something sweet or at least a slice of pizza to numb the anxiety. It is hard to sit still and allow the memories to surface.

 

Like countless Americans I am experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that may last for weeks.

 

It is entirely appropriate that I was traumatized by the out-of-control events of 9-11. My task today is to calm the frightened child within me and not re-traumatize her on this five-year anniversary.

 

 In order to do that, I must maintain physical, emotional, and spiritual equilibrium.

 

A STACK OF TRAUMAS

As horrific as they were, the events surrounding 9-11 did not cause my PTSD. A new trauma was simply added to a stack of existing frightening and out-of-my-control experiences. 

 

We all have a "trauma pile" as a result of both large and small losses in our life. Our psyche does not differentiate between major events  illness, divorce, being fired  and less dramatic ones, such as having a flat tire or a favorite vase breaking. As long as an event is sudden and out of our control it will register as "traumatic."

 

When re-traumatization occurs, a self-protective mechanism of "fight or flight" is likely to be set in motion. We may explode into rage, become very depressed, or simply "withdraw" by means of substance abuse or mental dissociation.

 

MEDICATING THE PAIN

My strong desire to self-medicate painful memories with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, including food, is common among PTSD sufferers.

 

In the five to eight weeks after the World Trade Center attacks, researchers from the New York Academy of Medicine interviewed a sample of Manhattan residents and found that nearly one-third reported an increased use of cigarettes, alcohol, or marijuana.

 

Among those who smoked, almost 10 percent reported smoking at least an extra pack of cigarettes a week and among those who drank alcohol, more than 20 percent reported imbibing at least one extra drink a day. Three percent who smoked marijuana said they increased their use of this drug.

 

Although I have been in recovery from alcohol and drugs for decades, my risk for relapse is extremely high during the 9-11 anniversary time.

 

FORMULATING A PLAN

Knowing I am powerless to stop September 11 from arriving this year, I have devised a strategy for the coming weeks that involves selective television exposure, maintaining personal health, staying spiritually fit, and sharing my feelings with appropriate people.

 

First, I will limit my watching of "special events" commemorating 9-11. It is not healthy for me to experience reruns of the two planes crashing into the Twin Towers or thousands of people running away from the collapsing buildings.

 

 I have a choice about re-traumatizing myself and vote a loud "no."

 

Second, I will avoid sugar and excessive carbohydrates  two substances that artificially change my moods  as well as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. I will relieve existing stress by exercise, drinking lots of water, and getting adequate sleep.

 

Third, I will take time out at least twice a day to center myself through prayer, meditation, yoga, or another relaxation technique that puts me in contact with a spiritual force. At those times I will focus on both personal and international peace.

 

Finally, I will share my feelings with trusted people who will listen to my fears and support my strengths; friends who share a similar respect for trauma as a stern but loving teacher that shapes us into resilient and capable adults.

 

What is your plan to help yourself and your loved ones cope with this anniversary?

 

 

Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at writeaction@aol.com. Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at http://www.writeaction.com.

 

Copyright 2006 Judy Shepps Battle

 

 

 


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