I saw a headline somewhere that said this year's incoming high school students will learn about 9/11 as something that happened before they were born. Really? It's been that long!?! Unbelievable. I remember that day so clearly.
Thankfully, I did not lose anyone on that day. I feel for the people that did. I watched everything unfold around me. It all happened in a whirlwind around me. I knew people that lost loved ones and co-workers at the Pentagon. I worked with contractors and engineers that had been working on the rehab of the Pentagon. They had just completed work and moved people in to the section that was hit, and then worked on the repairs. One of my projects was put on hold because the engineers worked in New York city and they couldn't get to in to their offices. Some of those engineers lost family members in the towers. My office was two blocks away from the White House.
On 9/11, I was at the dentist. I had an early appointment and then I was headed in to work. When I got in my car, NPR was broadcasting news of the first tower being hit in New York. As I arrived at Metro, they announced the second tower had been hit. When I got into the metro station, they were making announcements over the loudspeaker about bombs going off on the mall. One announcement said the State Department had been bombed. No trains were running in or out of DC. I called my office and told them I was heading home to my apartment. One of the news stations was set up on the corner of Connecticut and K - just outside of my office building. So, I sat in my living room watching everything unfold. I tried to call a friend that worked in the Pentagon. I couldn't reach her, so I made plans to go over and watch the dogs if I didn't hear from her by dinner time. Sometimes I would dog sit for her. The television station announced that a perimeter was set up around the White House. Any buildings inside of that perimeter, would be closed indefinitely. My building was two blocks from the White House. I wasn't sure if it was going to be open or not.
The whole day was completely surreal. I was watching everything unfold. Worried about my co-workers and my friend. Thankfully, everyone I knew was fine. My friend at the Pentagon survived. If you look at the hole in the Pentagon, her office was the last set of complete windows on the left.
I went into work the next day. There were marines on every corner with big guns, full battle fatigues, and humvees with missiles. They stayed around for months.
Washington DC issued emergency plans in case the city was attacked again. The city would be divided along Pennsylvania Ave. Everyone south of the road would be forced to leave to the south. Everyone north of the street would have to evacuate to the north. I worked north of Pennsylvania Ave, but I lived to the south.
I was nervous every time I left the office and went around the corner to get lunch. What if something happened and no one knew where I was? What if something happened and I couldn't find anyone I knew? I wasn't scared of being attacked or anything like that. I was afraid of being alone, and I felt so alone every day. It wasn't exactly a rational fear. It wasn't based on anything logical. There was no rhyme or reason to my thoughts or emotions. I know that.
I worked in a small office. There were about ten of us. We were a close knit group. My co-workers were incredibly generous and kind. It sounds too good to be true, but I learned over time that working with that group of people was a once in a lifetime opportunity. My family was only two hours away and we talked all the time. They would do anything in the world for me. My husband and I were dating. He was finishing his last year at Virginia Tech. We talked all the time. I had caring people all around me, but I felt alone. No rhyme or reason.
It wasn't just about me, either. I worried about everybody else. What if something happened to one of my friends? My dear friend worked a couple of blocks away and lived in DC. She and I got together and came up with a plan. We shared the phone numbers of all of our family members. We gave each other instructions about who to call first and what types of reactions to expect. We had a plan.
I just felt so alone. As I walked down the street, I realized that if something happened, no one would know where I was. If something happened on Metro, no one would know where I was. If something happened while I was standing in line getting lunch, no one would know where I was. No rhyme or reason.
I didn't have any full blown panic attacks. It wasn't anything I could explain. It didn't even make sense to me. I knew it was irrational to think I was so alone. It didn't affect my work. I wasn't paralyzed or incapacitated. I went about my life.
After six months or more, I did get better. I started to get used to things as they were. I realized that as loud and scary as those marines were, I was pretty sure they couldn't actually do anything to regular citizens. I stood back and watched them work. It was fascinating. Most people didn't pay much attention to the DC cops or traffic signals, but they listened to those marines! All they did was shout at people. But they did it so well. With their fatigues on, carrying big guns, and a missile behind them, I realized the importance of psychological warfare. DC cops seemed so soft and cuddly in comparison.
My friend and I came up with our emergency plan. In had an emergency pack at my desk. I realized that most days I went to lunch with someone from my office. If I didn't, they generally knew where I was. It worked itself out. It was a couple of years later that I first got treatment for depression. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. I realized it was something I had been living with for quite some time. I had been able to manage for a long time. It was episodic, not chroni. In a way, I knew what was going on, and I had my own techniques to manage it. It was years later that my depression got to a point I couldn't manage it on my own. I got treatment and then I felt like I had a new lease on life.
(Much) More than a decade later, I realize this is a condition that I live with - similar to high blood pressure, diabetes, all of those other things that many people live with every day. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It doesn't affect me on a day to day basis and it doesn't control me. But I have to consider it when I make decisions. Diet, exercise, sleep. Those things have to be considered when you have any of those many other conditions. Same thing with depression. Personally, I have limited myself to one major life changing decision at a time. (You have to start somewhere.) I try to watch my diet - with varying degrees of success. I try to exercise. I can tell a difference when I walk regularly and I don't. I try to sleep on a regular schedule - that one is a little easier to follow.
At the time, I never talked about it. Can you blame me. "People that think they are depressed just need to get over it." "I believe you just pick yourself up by your boot straps and move on." "I've been depressed before. I got over it." "People that think they are depressed just need to take a pill. They think it helps." "Just found out my neighbor is on anti-depressants. I can't believe they haven't taken her kids away." "I was down before. I drank a lot and then I got better."
Now...whatever. People run to the doctor for any little stuffy nose or ailment. But depression, anxiety. "It's all in your head." Actually. It's not. People believe that your mind set can help them get healthy after surgery or a sickness. But, for some reason it doesn't translate that your mindset can help with depression and anxiety.