In February, I went home to Brooklyn for about 9 days. My goal, aside from checking in with my roommate and her new family, was to find triggers to PTSD symptoms and tackle them using Sensory Emotional Regulation, aka TIPI, which I like to call the EDIT process: emotional difficulty identification technique.
The first trigger happened while looking for a kitchen utensil. I could not find it. And I began to dissociate. A few seconds passed before realizing what was happening, but I managed to pinpoint the exact moment when the dissociation started. The second trigger was going back into my apartment after deciding to bring a water bottle with me on my way out. Putting the filled water bottle in my bag, I felt anxiety begin to build. The third trigger happened on my way to the airport to return to San Francisco. I smelled an electrical fire that must have happened earlier that day. Again, anxiety began to build.
All three triggers caused different sets of sensations in my body. Twice, after finishing emotional regulation from the dissociation and responding to the smell of fire, my eyes sprung tears of release. After smelling the fire, I sobbed with uncontrollable spasms in my face while sitting in a subway car. Nobody needed to ask what was wrong. My dog licked me until I calmed down.
While recalling and writing this, my eyes fill up with tears. But they are tears of gratitude. This long journey after 9/11 has brought me to this point of reckoning on the experience of living through trauma and being able to overcome the illness it brought on. Every New Yorker has this connection. This connection helped me decide to go home. San Francisco has been great for me. I believe I would not have healed this much otherwise. It’s time to go home.