Denise’s Story

Name: Denise C.

Occupation: Marketing Director

Instagram: @deniseca

Tell us your story: I arrived in New York late on Monday, September 10, 2001, and went straight to the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel. The building address was World Trade Center 3. Obviously, the hotel no longer stands. I arrived, around 10 p.m., the hotel staff put me on the concierge level, room 2018. I took advantage of what I thought was a benefit and went down the hall from my room to the lounge to get a drink and read a magazine. Things were uneventful that night. I wandered back to my room, took a bubble bath, put on my red pajamas, set my alarm for 9 a.m. the next morning, and called a few people to chat about arrangements for the next few days. I was planning on being in Boston the next evening to pick up one of my dear friends Megan who attended Harvard at the time. Unfortunately, I never made it to Boston. I missed our visit.

You can probably envision some of what unfolded the following day, and 27 days after as the world was flipped upside down by the events of 9/11. Without going into detail, what I can offer is this: my world was rocked and I was shaken to my core. Everything I knew from my prior lived experience of a relatively safe and ‘normal’ existence no longer applied. I was afraid. Of everything. I was confused. About everything. I was nervous of sounds, people, crowds and most certainly, planes. I vowed never to travel. I vowed never to step on an elevator. I vowed to keep clear of groups and large audiences. My lived experience of 9/11 had brought anxiety into my life and for the first time in my 28 years, I did not know how to cope. I went to work. I went to church. I continued my social norms and played the role of what I considered normal. Yet the entire inner fabric of who I was had been completely shifted in a matter of moments, and I knew I would never be the same. I flinched at loud noises, and fell apart at the sight of an aircraft. I hated fireworks and I hated crowds. I had to find answers. I sought immediate therapy and my mother’s urging. I needed to figure out a way to acknowledge my experience, feel the effects from it, and then release those patterns and behaviors the best I could. I talked about it, I wrote about it, I waded through the emotions, fears and overwhelm. I also realized that it was okay that I would never be the same – that it was okay that this significant moment in my life had changed me – and that I could, and would be okay, as long as I created safe coping mechanisms to use when needed, without judgment. I gave myself the gift of time and freedom to heal. I finally found my way to address my own anxiety and overwhelm over a period of time. Yet, I still employ tools to keep calm when I fly, to get through a fireworks show, to get on that elevator, or to walk through a crowd. In the end, the tools may alter over time, with my preference, but I’m keenly aware of when I need them and NOT afraid to say I need them – after all, we are all human.

What advice would you give another woman who is going through a similar experience?

  1. Find someone to talk to and give them your 100% fully authentic self. Be honest and open with them and don’t be afraid to try whatever mechanisms they provide.
  2. Try not to judge yourself. Leave the ego judgment at the door when you can in order to give yourself the complete self-focus you deserve. You’re human, we’re all human – and if we don’t give ourselves a full, unadulterated chance, who will?
  3. Find what works for you. Try something different. Breath-work or meditation. Relaxation techniques or a new and different organizational system. In the end, something new or unique, big or small may help you – don’t be afraid to try new methods.
  4. Time – give yourself time. It may seem like someone else can figure it out in a day – but we are all living a different path. Try to carve out 5 minutes a day to devote to you, your relaxation, your meditation, your journaling, or even a 5-10 minute yoga session JUST for you. Try to offer a space of allowance vs. expectation. See where that takes you in your healing work with anxiety or overwhelm.

Is there anything else you would like our readers to know? Thank you for ‘seeing’ me and reading my lived experience. I see each of you too and hope we can embrace this important work with passion and collaboration.

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