Why do bad things happen around 9/11? Eight years ago, my whole world fell apart. Even as I sat with friends last night speaking about that day, I had to fight the tears that welled up in my eyes. Tears are welling up now as I write this. People always ask me whether I had a friend or relative connected to that day because of how strongly I feel about it, and I don’t, but I don’t see why I have to in order to be so affected. We all should be so affected. I can’t NOT be affected.
I could FEEL the pain of the families who couldn’t find their loved ones. It haunted me all day and night. At the time I thought “How can I sleep soundly in my bed knowing hundreds of people are walking around with pictures of their family….frantically searching, waiting, slowly losing hope”. I couldn’t sleep. And if I did, I’d have recurring nightmares of looking out my window and seeing the nose of a plane crash straight into me.
The day after 9/11, the boy I had pined over for three years told me he was falling in love with me. A week later on my birthday, my sweet sixteen, he broke my heart in the worst way. Even now, he’s someone that has taken me the longest to heal from.
I stopped going to school. I didn’t see the point. I was so angry at the world. At my peers for being materialistic and ignorant. At the people who purposely do harm to others. At my parents for ignoring my obvious self isolation. I was so angry!!
After missing two months, I ended up getting kicked out of school. My counselor could not comprehend why a student with testing scores in the top 5 percentile of the school was failing all her classes and always absent. Thank God for him…he knew there was something more going on. He referred me to my counselor at my new school. They both saved me.
The alternative high school I went to after that was basically independent study. They gave you books and assignments, then you came in once a week to hand them in and take a test for that week. Seems easy enough, right? At this point, I just didn’t care. Even going once a week for two hours I couldn’t do.
I started cutting. You can judge me, I’m not afraid to admit it. It was addictive. Please understand that rarely are cutters trying to commit suicide. If anything, they are trying to feel a distraction from the pain too deep that cutting is the only way to bring it to the surface. I was trying to feel alive. Human. I was trying to FEEL. There was something real about seeing those little droplets of blood rise to the skin after a slice of the razor. I can’t explain it, it felt satisfying.
I eventually got to the point where nothing mattered. I attempted to overdose, took a handful of sleeping pills and Tylenol. All it did was make me sick beyond belief. In retrospect, I probably should have gone to the hospital. But nobody made that call because nobody noticed, nobody cared, nobody asked me what was wrong, nobody bothered to TALK to me. We didn’t do that in my family back then. Getting to know each other just wasn’t that important.
I finally got help when the cutting got to the point where the cuts completely covered up and down my arms…and that’s only because a small part of my wrist was showing while I was sleeping and my dad was walking by. I had never seen him cry. He kept saying how sorry he was for not paying attention. I just lay there, listlessly, not feeling.
He wouldn’t take me to the doctor until my wounds healed a little more. He was afraid they would send me to a mental institution. That’s when I officially was diagnosed with Severe Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That’s when I started seeing my therapist regularly and got put on anti-depressants. I HATED the pills and stopped after a couple of months, but continued seeing a counselor.
Then, my mom got pregnant and my whole world changed again. But this time for the better!!! I had a purpose! I had to show my parents that you need love and affection and to be involved in your children’s life! When Emily was born, I felt like a million dollars! I had to be a role model. I had to show her life was worth living. I had to help her reach the stars.
In the years after, I figured out with my therapist that 9/11 was my trigger to the worst depressive episode of my life. In talking with relatives, I found out that all the women in my family were dealing with mental illness, they just never talked about it. I had already known I was susceptible because of my mom’s schizophrenia and anxiety, but didn’t realize how prevalent it was in my family. If we had only had communication! But mental illness doesn’t exist in Mexican culture. At least, not in conversation.
I went back to high school my senior year. It was hard and I spent most of my lunches alone in the library, but I stuck through because I wanted to graduate with my class.
Every year, around 9/11, all this comes back to me, so this weekend…seeing these people who have broken my heart, I can’t help but let the overall tone of the time affect me that much greater.
Most would think this would information too personal to tell and this may change your perception of me. I disagree. These are things we MUST talk about. Mental illness should not be taboo!! The only way we’re going to understand each other is if we take the time to listen. To not judge! To have acceptance. We’re slowly getting there with gay rights (slowly, but still getting better), why can’t we begin having understanding about mental illness?
Back then, I felt like such an outcast, like NOBODY could possibly understand….now I know I’m not alone. I plead to you, take the time to listen, to open your eyes to those who can’t control what their mind does to them. I plead for open conversations and expression. I plead to keep the arts in schools so kids have a way to show what they’re feeling or thinking when they simply don’t have the words. I plead for less ignorance…fueled by the media and bad representations of mental illness in the movies. I plead for change.