In 2010, after just over a year in hospital, I was moved to an inpatient Psychiatric Rehabilitation Unit. It was in this Unit that I finally got to the root of my voices and they lost their power. I learned more about schizophrenia, from its symptoms and causes to what life with schizophrenia can be like. A lot of the things that I learned in this Unit stay with me to this day.
One symptom of schizophrenia that I learned about but didn't realise I had at the time was a preoccupation with a certain event or events. I was doing a questionnaire of schizophrenic symptoms and ticking whether or not I thought I had each of them. One of the symptoms was something along the lines of 'Preoccupation with events e.g. Racism'. At the time, I ticked No for this symptom as I wasn't preoccupied with racism and didn't think I was preoccupied with anything like it. However, in the months after this questionnaire, I realised that I did have a preoccupation with a certain event.
If I mention the date September 11th 2001, most people will instantly think of the terrorist attacks in America. I was 13 at the time but I can still remember where I was when I was told about the attacks. It was when my mum picked me up from school on a Tuesday afternoon. She told me that planes had crashed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in New York. I didn't know what the World Trade Center was or what it looked like but being told of the North and South Towers' crashes, I remember thinking that there were East and West Towers too. However, I didn't get to see the news until an hour later due to having a piano lesson after school.
I remember arriving at home after the piano lesson and rushing to look through the window so I could see the television. I vaguely remember seeing a grey building covered in smoke on the small television and once I had had dinner, I remained glued to the television for the rest of the night. I learned about the events of that awful day in America but didn't realise what an impact these events would have on my life later on.
September 2001 was the start of my third year (Year 9) in High School. It was this school year that the bullying started and I began my descent into mental illness. My later preoccupation with the attacks could have been because these attacks had occurred at the start of this descent but I don't think I will ever know for definite. At the time, I remember thinking that the world was about to go to war and I wrote about fears of war in my diary. Later on, I wrote about the anniversaries of the attacks in my diaries, the six-month anniversary, the one-year anniversary and the two-year anniversary. By the time the third year anniversary came along, I no longer kept a diary.
Fast forward to the end of 2007 when I had not long started at university. My student accommodation had free broadband use and it was the first time in my life that I had had personal access to broadband. I had used broadband in work and college but usage in both places were monitored and restricted. I was able to use YouTube for the first time and after listening to some music on it, I noticed a video on the side of the page to do with 9/11. I clicked on it out of interest, and a preoccupation was born.
I ended up viewing dozens of videos that night. I watched memorial videos and then learned of the conspiracy theories that surround the attacks. I knew that people had doubted the official version of events but I didn't realise why. It was only after watching videos this night and dozens of times afterwards that I realised why there were so many doubts in the official version of events. I am not getting into these conspiracy theories here as this isn't the subject of this post.
The year that I spent living in England to attend university was spent watching a lot of 9/11 videos on YouTube and reading more about the conspiracy theories. I started believing the conspiracy theories and felt like I needed to find out once and for all, what really happened on 9/11. I researched the events of the day to great extent and even today, my knowledge of the events on 9/11, particularly the events at the World Trade Center, is wider than the majority of people.
I know the times each of the four planes hit, the times the Twin Towers collapsed, the time Building Seven at the World Trade Center collapsed (many people still don't know that a third building collapsed on September 11th at the World Trade Center) and each of the flight numbers. I even used to remember where each of the planes departed from and where they were supposed to arrive at but now I can only remember that the two planes that crashed into the Twin Towers departed from a Boston Airport and a third plane, possibly the one that crashed into the Pentagon, departed from Dulles International Airport.
Knowledge of the day aside, I became so obsessed with that day that I would sometimes spend over 12 consecutive hours on my laptop, watching footage of the attacks, learning more about the day and trying desperately to find a crucial piece of evidence that would categorically say once and for all whether or not the conspiracy theories were real or whether the official version of events were actually correct. I believed that everyone had missed a crucial piece of evidence and I would somehow manage to find it in grainy YouTube videos. I bought a few documentaries about the day, one of them was the Loose Change documentary. Loose Change is a film that explains the conspiracy theories and shows the evidence that supports them. Whether or not you believe the conspiracy theories, the DVD is an interesting watch.
When I was sectioned the second time, I took a couple of my documentaries into hospital with me. I watched one of them everyday for several weeks. It was the one by the Naudet Brothers who were basically doing a documentary on a rookie or 'proby' New York firefighter in the months before 9/11. They ended up doing a documentary on the role of the firefighters on and after 9/11. One of the two brothers, Jules, was the cameraman who captured the dramatic footage of the first plane crashing into the North Tower. There are several conspiracies surrounding Jules Naudet and his brother Gédéon too, but again, I'm not going into these here. I found their two-hour long documentary fascinating, and as I say, I watched it everyday for several weeks.
The documentary made me realise just what the New York firefighters went through that day. Other emergency services who responded to the Trade Center attacks suffered greatly too and I think the official number of emergency personnel lost that day was 403, with 343 firefighters lost. Researching it now, I've found out that the actual total number was 412. That's a massive number lost but they saved many lives. I read somewhere that about 95 - 99% of office workers from below the floors of the crash sites were saved. The emergency personnel saved many lives but sadly many ended up losing their own lives.
Those of the emergency personnel who survived were left with survivors guilt. They felt guilty for being alive when so many of their colleagues died. They had horrific memories of the events of that day and the days they spent digging in the debris at the World Trade Center to find survivors. I think many left the fire department and several suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Those who worked in the debris suffered from respiratory illnesses and many have died in the years since. Hearing several personal stories of the firefighters on 9/11 only spurred on my efforts to find that crucial piece of evidence that I believed was out there to be found. However, due to being in hospital and not really able to watch YouTube videos on the mobile broadband I had, I was unable to search for this evidence.
I felt so awful for the survivors of 9/11 and the families of those who had died that day. I felt like I was wasting my time not being able to search for the piece of evidence in the footage that I believed no one had seen yet. While I wasn't as bothered about leaving hospital, I just needed to get a laptop with proper broadband that could enable me to view footage. I felt like I owed it to the survivors and families to find out what really happened that day. I needed to get answers for them and I believed that I was the only person who could do it.
I know now that the footage has been scrutinised by hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe even millions of people. Nowadays, I seriously doubt that there is anything in the footage still to be seen. Even if something had been missed, there would be no guarantees that the footage had not been altered somehow. I still watch a couple of the documentaries every now and then but I don't have the same beliefs around them that I need to find a missing piece of evidence. Quite often, I will turn on the Loose Change documentary at night as the background noise helps me get to sleep faster. I rarely watch the footage on YouTube anymore but I doubt that I will ever forget the events of that day.
Unless some new piece of footage emerges, I think that the conspiracy theorists will never be satisfied with the official version of events. I don't publicise any views on 9/11 as I believe the survivors and families shouldn't be constantly reminded of that awful day. All I will say about it now is that those who were lost should never be forgotten. Their memories should be honoured and their families should be supported for as long as they need it. And that's all.
NOTE: A preoccupation with an event or events does not mean a person has schizophrenia, even if the preoccupation is obsessive. Schizophrenia is made up of several symptoms, not just an obsessive preoccupation. Even the most obsessive preoccupation with events does not mean a person has any mental illness. It is only when a preoccupation is combined with several other symptoms that it is part of schizophrenia or another mental illness.