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I Get Up. I Walk. I Fall Down. Meanwhile, I Keep Dancing. My 9/11. What's yours?
Today I want to talk about psychological trauma, as it is clearly a big part of 'the 9/11 story', which we are generally celebrating and acknowledging and in my case, studying, today. There are countless thousands who were directly involved ten years ago, who had woken up one day like every other day and walked like every other day.
But that day they fell down --- some went down in the towers to their deaths. Others directly or indirectly rescued and cleaned up "Ground Zero" and today at ten years later, have a 28% higher than average incidence of some diseases. On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, how many will have chronic illness? 50 years? I'm guessing we'll see the same or similar exponential curve we see with most illnesses in the United States, which is exponential. I'm sorry to have to day this and to not be writing today about the challenges of oragami, which has a risk of paper cuts, I'd imagine! But I have had chronic illness diagnosed since 22 years ago but when you look back further and further at symptoms, I was having the first "off and odd" things going on with my health when i was born. I went into occupational therapy to help people improve their health and functioning and so I repeatedly share my stories if they serve as beneficial examples.
When it comes to adverse childhood experiences and one of the top things people fear, which is of public speaking, I had an adverse experience related to another event in our nation's past: I was asked to stand up in front of the class just like all my other classmates and talk about how Martin Luther King, Jr's death affected me. I'd never heard of the man, knew nothing of the civil rights movement as we weren't allowed to turn the television on (it was actually unplugged by my father after my grandmother left to care for an older sister), and to me, it sounded like he was The King of something, so when I started out by saying something about his being a king, I was interrupted and corrected. My classmates didn't all get a fear of performance and public speaking that day, but I did -- why me and not them? It has every so much to do with the mix of genetics and environment, and mostly is influenced by the HOME in which the child is literally and figuratively bathed in toxic or healthy people and experiences, foods, liquids, air, and lotions!
In some cases with the NYFD responders, there is already an EIGHT FOLD (800%) increase over what was going on before 9/11 (they'd been tracking these guys!). However, many more do NOT have illnesses than do -- why do some 'fall' and other's 'walk'? Some are even 'dancing' today -- living fulfilling, enriched lives. I think the answers come from childhood and the research called ACE - "Adverse Childhood Experiences". There will be more about ACE on Lumigrate in the near future, so keep looking in Forums for it.
While it is such a tragedy that occurred on 9/11/2001, I believe much good is going to come from the research and they way that we as a nation chose to move forward. There's much for us to pay attention to and learn from and while I am sorry it happened, it will shed light on things which millions will benefit from, myself included, I believe. Really ALL human and nonhumans on the Earth will potentially benefit because if they're chronically well there might be more people operating in a wellness model instead of an illness model.
We've heard for years of all the differing opinions about Ground Zero and the project to rebuild and have a place to memorialize and reflect. What prevailed through the process of that debate and the way it was handled by those in charge of the project, is something we should be very proud of collectively and serve to be a role model for us all who are in the process of any kind of debatable process or organization which has different opinions to consider. Such as health care!
Interestingly, when I fill out the ACE questionnaire for myself or for my parents, my father's life and my life before ages 18 result in identical 'yes' and 'no' responses and we both had life-long chronic illness. With my mother's life prior to age 18, she has only 2/10 'yes' answers but things that occurred in her family just after she was 18 and in college crushed her and destroyed her sense of well-being and safety because she'd had an illusion until she was an adult that then was literally 'burst' one dramatic day. So with any 'screening' or 'test', rule, law, it takes some insight into the concepts behind and flexibility of application.
Just like the responders who are being covered in amazing stories of 9/11 ten years later, "Why does one person have a manifestation of health problems and another that was there in the same capacity, for the same time, not?" People are complicated! Life is complicated! My suggestion is to not spend more time asking the questions than looking for the solutions and sometimes the most effective solutions are so easy they are overlooked!
How many of us talked the last ten years about the US being 'the sleeping giant' -- but why were we asleep in the first place? The future attackers were taking classes right here in our country and saying 'we don't need to learn how to land or take off'. Think about it. Then quit throwing the stones and turn instead to holding the stone and seeing what it might teach you about yourself if you just think with it.
This is something that was part of my training and learning at the VA in Denver in 1996 -- 5 years before 9/11 and now 15 years ago, when doing internships to become an OT. There is the benefits from turning your attention while thinking and talking to keeping your hands busy doing something in order to allow the mind/body to 'flow' differently (crafts are a huge part of the tradition of occupational therapy), but the question "Why did some Vietnam veterans have a PTSD diagnosis and other of their 'brothers' not?" What they found in the research way back in the 1970s and 1980s, was it had to do with CHILDHOOD experience and coping skills. So I've known this since 1996, why isn't it being implemented more into the 9/11 story? So I am asking YOU to read and think about this and help this information get 'out there'.
Those in New York for the 9/11/01 incident have the benefit of a now-recognized 'event' that leads to their illness, which in my opinion is being too focused upon the 'dust' and not the combination of toxins to the body, mind and spirit; their coworkers DIED rescuing people. Others who had gone to work in the buildings or shopping like every other day were lucky to escape and many acted heroically toward their fellow man in what turned out to be a man-made and very deliberate 'insult' and injury, caused by a faction of people who taken their culture's predominant religion and twisted it with anger that resulted with some money resources in a terrible attack on what had just been a beautiful day where people got up and were walking and dancing away in life.
What is YOUR 9/11? Mine is that other people representing the 5% of adults who had autoimmune conditions onset after they received a vaccine in the early 1980s, as I did, were 'recognized' in the late 1980s by the biggest class action lawsuit prior to the tobacco industry. I was unaware of it so obviously did not get any financial 'renumeration' for it, but I do have the benefit of knowing that's part of what lead to all these health issues that came on with a vengeance in the mid 1980s. I was home on a Friday night, too unwell to go out from a mysterious illness I was recovering from which now goes by the term 'chronic fatigue syndrome'. I focused for too long on the physical/toxin aspect due to that 'recognition' I saw on the TV program 20/20, though remediating those toxins in a variety of ways has been part of my improved health in the past.
But it also did a disservice which I'm concerned the 9/11 "Trade Center Illness" victims are experiencing, which is to look not at the total but at the most obvious to throw the book at, in one case a vaccine, in another the toxic particles people were breathing in. We are better served by thinking BODY, MIND, SPIRIT.
Every time my health has improved or regressed in the past 25 years since my health started dramatically 'failing' after the realities of adult life and responsibilities in my mid 20s, it has just as much to do with the people I'm bathing in as it does what's in the immunizations or air.
Mine was a case of a lot of stress from work, family of origin stress (my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly and my father was quite 'needy' emotionally because he's relied only on family for socialization, or as he said later to me, he didn't realize my mother's friends really her friends and he was along for the ride; he was a different kind of guy from the kind of person my mom was and the people she attracted into her life; nothing unusual for most couples socially, and seen in breakups routinely. ). My immediate family was highly stressful to me due to my husband having seizure disorder and having about died of an infection in the summer of my 26th year, which also included our becoming the 24/7 parents of a teen aged girl aged 14 who was only able to go visit her mother in the summers, so suddenly without any warning I became a mother for nine months!
I'd tried to go back to school/college, we had hobbies which caused me stress even though I lived doing them (riding on a motorcycle in cold and wet sometimes for hours and days on end, and with someone driving who had seizure disorder. Not to mention the 'obvious' and exposure to toxins at the office (new, cheap construction with lots of chemicals outgassing), and home (furniture finishing for which I wore a respirator but no gloves as I didn't appreciate the uptake of the skin. What has allowed me to get as far as I have in the years since is addressing what I become aware of as contributing to the problems; I started taking wood projects to a professional shop as soon as I became aware of the toxin's contribution to my health.
I've left many relationships with people and employers when they were not working in my best interests. I've moved my possessions to a new home even once, and sold the home, when they were beyond 'concerning young people' and moved to being "dangerous young people". That was actually 10 years ago, as I was sweating bullets that 9/11 was going to affect the sale price, and fortunately someone came along just before the end of the year, desperate after a deal fell through, who needed to reinvest by year's end. Things work out the way they are intended to, it just sometimes takes some time to see and appreciate. And sometimes it's the things that give you more money or are FREE which help; an example, giving up non organic beef in order to eat beans and rice might save you money! Breathing deeply can do tremendous things for your health of the mind//body/spirit, and it's FREE! Getting chemicals out of your body can be expensive and sometimes is what people need ideally, but I've seen people say 'I can't afford to do that' and they throw their hands up and don't do ANYTHING.
It saddens me but makes me feel less 'dumb' in retrospect when I see that thousands of people didn't think they needed proper respirators after 9/11. There are highly trained professionals related to their work around smoke and inhalants, lead by even higher educated people in process, safety, and we all see now how many mistakes were made. It was a mistake for me to get an immunization in 1981 just to get married -- I should have protested, there's no life or death reason to get married, that was to satisfy society and parents, in retrospect. The shot was a requirement at the time if the required blood test showed you didn't have immunity to the disease which can injure unborn babies if contracted while pregnant with them. Ironically, I have never had a child, and divorced the man who I married because of the multiple lifestyle incongruencies which I didn't want to deal with anymore -- it was a tax on my soul, to put it simply. Sadly, after 7 years, he was finally liking DANCING!
I had a recurrence of health problems when I was first in OT school and took cadaver anatomy over the summer, doubling the normal exposure per day breathing fumes. Before the class began I talked to the instructor who told me incorrectly there was not a respirator for the toxins. On my own after I had a HORRENDOUS headache after the third day over the body I was studying so that I could work some day advising people about their health and wellness and functioning in their occupations of daily living, I found if I just drove three hours and paid $100 I could have a respirator and no headache the next day, so I did that. However, in sharing my story with other OT students in order to help others get that information, I found out a pregnant student the year before me had told the teacher about her obtaining the necessary respirator. To me, that's inexcusable but you see the same 'failure' in the stories of 9/11's response systems leadership/management.
That day in 2001, we all got up. Walked (if we are so fortunate), and went about our 'dance in life', which, if we're lucky and want it, includes working. Whether in New York City or in Colorado Springs, as I was, their lives changed. I had just been hired to work for a young OTR who had to have surgery on a lumbar disk which had 'gone' when she lifted a patient one day. The facility was in the shadow of "Cheyenne Mountain", which is known as 'The Mountain' and houses NORADs amazing facility constructed in the Cold War to have our defense's top command center buried deep within a mountain in the middle of the United States. I found out later that it was the only time since it's opening somewhere around the time my lifetime began (which was 1960), they closed the 'everything proof' doors; this is a place designed to withstand a nuclear bomb and well - known to be 'the' hallmark of America's defense system, just as the Twin Towers were the symbol of our financial systems!
For a while there, we'd heard an incorrect report on the news that the terrorists had hacked into auto-pilot systems and ALL the planes in the United States up in the air at that moment, were potential lethal weapons. And here I was working with a bunch of elderly people trying to rehabilitate themselves to better independence and safety and WALK better, literally in the shadow of The Mountain. The advantage of having been raised in stress is that I learned how to function in stress, so I was functioning well that day. I remember my voice shaking when I had to explain to an attorney I was working with (retired, older, with a neurological disorder), why he was still in bed -- I normally got him ready to go to lunch but not the WHOLE getting out of bed, to the bathroom piece as it took too long and wasn't therapeutic with his goals as much as other things I worked with him on. But much of the regular staff were having to scramble around due to all the concerns for what was going on and just the 'distraction' of the news that day, which naturally had everyone's heads spinning, especially those who knew The Mountain's ability to be a target!
So no matter WHAT your relationship is to the world, please look at the areas you might be letting things get past you, and in particular when it comes to your health and that of those you care about. Then, WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT? The power of the mind is something being under-communicated in this story, I believe. Yesterday, when talking with someone related to 9/11 and stressors, I was asked to consult with someone related to a severe anxiety (aka 'phobia') of public speaking. In order to ascertain how to route the person, I asked how far back the condition goes, and the response was "I've always had it". For those of us who are gregarious and outgoing when speaking 1:1 with people, we aren't born with a fear of speaking to bigger groups of people, it comes from SOMETHING.
There is compelling evidence about genetics and 'shy' children and then how to foster changes for them in their formative years, but that was not the case with this individual. Studies also have shown that the only things human and non-human primates are fearful of 'by nature' (without learning through 'nurture') are spiders, snakes, and heights that are beyond what we can survive if we mis-grab/mis-step and fall. Like Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey, two occupational therapist 'sisters' who are now famous for their pioneering work with non-human primates, whose work I have followed because of the unique directions they took their legendary careers after the foundation of occupational therapy schooling.
And so today, I most respectfully ask you to consider that for YOU and all other people, there might be a lot more to look at related to the connection of the mind/body/spirit. I ask you to talk about it with others, and most of all act upon it. Reduce the toxins in your life, whether they be animal, vegetable or mineral (grins) and your health will be the better for it! If each person takes responsibility for that within themSELF and simply educated and encourages and SETS AN EXAMPLE for those around them, it's our greatest and most powerful response. Whether your 9/11 was in 2001 or at the hand of a family member, employer who injured you, the economy downturn which is injuring you -- what YOU 'make of it' is ... well ..... up to you.
In conclusion, everyone has a "9/11" in their life they just might not know it yet... or they know it but others around them don't acknowledge it, and it's really unfair and incorrect to try to compare one thing to another in severity -- trauma simply has an effect on our nervous systems. Toxic people, toxic elements in the air, water, soils is affecting each of us all the time -- there are traces of rocket fuel in tribal people in remote lands who have never seen other human beings! It's whether we re-program that or re-inforce the trauma, it's whether we detoxify and remove the toxins or add to them further by what we chose to breathe, eat and drink and slater on our skin!
With this 'big anniversary' and events that goes along with it, is it's always being brought up and each person is going to find it healing, traumatizing and I doubt many will find it 'neutralizing'. Personally, I believe in learning from history, and I've used the coverage to learn more about this important incident in our history and the people involved. Before 9/11 I'd helped many clients overcome the effects of horrendous car crashes in my two years working in driving rehabilitation and suggest we all respect the pothole and what it was caused by and keep that in mind always, but turn our attention to the solutions -- where do you want to go? Look in that direction and steer in that direction, put your efforts into steering and you'll have a much higher likelihood of getting where YOU want to go!
With honor and respect today, I dedicate this blog and my work to all the first responders, fire/rescue, military who have chosen to do this important work for 'us', society. And most of all, to all civilians who pitch in to help in one way or another -- we're all in this together. Overall, 9/11 serves to remind me of the goodness of people when they get together and have something REALLY critical; we protect each other, we help each other and much good results. Harder to deal with when it's a man-caused situation than 'natural disaster'. Those at the site of such horror ten years ago today serve as such examples of heroism and how to rebuild and have such hope after much work. I wish that for each person, my country, and my Earth.
Live and Learn. Learn and Live Better! is my motto. I'm Mardy Ross, and I founded Lumigrate in 2008 after a career as an occupational therapist with a background in health education and environmental research program administration. Today I function as the desk clerk for short questions people have, as well as 'concierge' services offered for those who want a thorough exploration of their health history and direction to resources likely to progress their health according to their goals. Contact Us comes to me, so please do if you have questions or comments. Lumigrate is "Lighting the Path to Health and Well-Being" for increasing numbers of people. Follow us on social networking sites such as: Twitter: http://twitter.com/lumigrate and Facebook. (There is my personal page and several Lumigrate pages. For those interested in "groovy" local education and networking for those uniquely talented LumiGRATE experts located in my own back yard, "LumiGRATE Groove of the Grand Valley" is a Facebook page to join. (Many who have joined are beyond our area but like to see the Groovy information! We not only have FUN, we are learning about other providers we can be referring patients to and 'wearing a groove' to each other's doors -- or websites/home offices!) By covering some of the things we do, including case examples, it reinforces the concepts at Lumigrate.com as well as making YOU feel that you're part of a community. Which you ARE at Lumigrate!