Every year when September 11th arrives, my depression skyrockets. Anyone who was old enough to know what was happening on the day of the terrorist attacks probably agrees that 9/11/01 is a day you will never forget. The horror, the fear, the pain, and the anger were palpable. September 11th is an extreme example, but other anniversaries affect us, too.
Think about the way you feel on or near the anniversary of the death of a loved one. We go back to that day in our minds, and the feelings come flooding back over us. We remember where we were when we got the news. If we were there when it happened, we relive the event. We remember the weather, or even what we were wearing at the time. Itís amazing, the way our memories preserve details of the events in our lives which impact us the most. Those memories can also affect our depression levels.
Those who experience violent, catastrophic events such as 9/11, might also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I believe that some of us who were nowhere near New York or Washington, D.C. on that day, and do not personally know anyone who was lost, might also suffer from PTSD on some level. It depends upon the degree to which you internalized the event(s). I feel that I was personally attacked and violated that day, which I believe is the reason I get so upset every year near that date. I sob as I watch the images of the planes hitting the buildings, the people running from the massive debris clouds, and most of all--the people jumping from the towers.
Okay, you are probably thinking that I shouldnít watch the images, right? I agree. But to me, that would be like being in an accident, and not seeing the accident report. I feel like I was a part of the horror that took place on that day, and itís hard to tear myself away. But if I am going to stop getting so upset on that day, I am going to have to distance myself from it. But how do I do that? Donít turn on the TV, donít listen to the radio, and donít look at a calendar. Go shopping, go to the beach, or paint a room. It will probably require all of that, and some therapy, too, but I can do it.
As for the other painful events in our lives, the same applies. After thinking about what happened, and analyzing it so we can learn something from it, we need to try to let it go. Since we canít erase painful memories, we have to distract ourselves from the anniversaries of the painful times. Try to spend time with family or friends, watch a funny movie, or read a good book. Take a vacation when a particularly painful anniversary is approaching. Avoid the things that might remind you of the pain, if at all possible.
For those of us who have experienced abuse of any kind and/or been a victim of violence, it might be impossible to avoid all the triggers. To truly heal from experiences such as these, we need talk therapy.
Some people think they can handle memories of abuse or violence without therapy, but they donít realize that unhealed wounds can fester and cause us to be angry and depressed for many years. They end up avoiding, rather than coping, and carrying the pain with them, only to create a scab that is easily torn off. Those of us who have been the victims of violence, abuse, or trauma need to get past that scab stage, where it is so easy for us to bleed. Talking with a therapist can help us to heal to the point of having a nice, tough scar, rather than a fragile scab.
Anniversaries might always remind us of the events weíd rather forget, but if we learn to cope with them, they wonít have the power to bring us so far down. If events from your past still cause you to become, or to stay, depressed, it is time to get some help. If you donít, you give power to whomever (or whatever) hurt you. As your mother probably told you, ďHolding onto anger or pain from something someone did to you doesnít hurt themó-it only hurts you.Ē Take back that power, and leave the pain in the past.