As I type this text, I feel tears of bittersweet relief welling up, because what seemed impossible only a few years ago now seems like a possibility. My panic attacks have been gone for three years; they used to be on the verge of uncontrollable overwhelm on a daily basis with hyperventilation as its precursor. I can now feel the subtlest anxiety. Otherwise, I have none. My hypervigilance has become energy to act. The last nightmare I remember was more than a year ago. I still feel grief when I think about people lost on 9/11, but the sense of loss no longer appears out of nowhere. In the last several months, I still had fogginess from mental exhaustion that depleted only after a few hours of work. I also had trouble recalling words and names without pregnant pauses. But this past week, I had no mental fogginess even after working overtime, and I’ve been able to recall words and names as if I were 30 years old. I’m now 47. The 9/11 tragedies were nearly 17 years ago. Writing has become easier, too.
In 2013, I learned to be a Sensory Emotional Regulation specialist on the urging of Cedric Bertelli, Director of Tipi USA and founder of the nonprofit Tipi English World, a project to teach people how to regulate their own disruptive emotions. Tipi USA is an affiliate of Luc Nicon’s French research program, Tipi, or Technique d’identification sensorielle des peurs inconscientes. Cedric believed that I could heal from PTSD if I learned the ins and outs of the technique that he uses with clients and to teach people. The cost would be “less than seeing a psychotherapist,” he said. Not for me, actually, since I could see therapists through the World Trade Center health program funded through the Zadroga Act. But psychotherapists were taking a long time to help me see positive results. During my first year in psychotherapy, I became mentally disabled after realizing what having PTSD meant. It’s common for life to get harder after a PTSD diagnosis, because one learns the repercussions of the injury and senses the difficulty in recovery.
It has been four and a half years since becoming certified as a specialist. When I received my certification, I had no intention of becoming a professional at helping other people overcome emotional triggers. I just wanted my life back. To me that meant being an entrepreneur, hustling, working overtime because I loved what I did, and having multiple projects concurrently because I get bored otherwise. Before 9/11, I worked full-time in the evenings and was building an interior design business specializing in small space furniture design. I abandoned my business plan on September 12, 2001, but kept the DBA (Doing Business As license) switching to graphic and presentation design. Graphic design bores me, but it paid the bills.
Today, I am writing this blog, building a nonprofit startup, am enrolled in graduate school, and as of this week am building a Sensory Emotional Regulation practice. I happen to be on school break.
Before last week, I had still been struggling with memory and other mental issues, but wasn’t sure and still am not sure how I will do at an airport. In a post from 2015 I wrote, “I no longer cry when I’m at the airport.” Shortly after that post, I cried at an airport. Seeing if I feel grief at the airport to the point of streams of sobbing tears might be the final test.
Last weekend, I extended my training and learned how to resolve physical ailments such as asthma, body discomfort including pain, and skin reactions. Incidentally, I’ve had asthma since 9/11. I haven’t worked on it yet, since it hasn’t been that bad, but I did work on some other ailments. Then, this week I had no mental fogginess even after completing my final semester paper, building a new website, and writing more than five articles. Is it connected?
I’m finally near the end of a very long tunnel. Thinking about where I am today, it’s hard to believe this journey is mine.