September 11, 2001 is a date forever etched into the history of the world. I remember the day clearly. I had been an Emergency Medical Responder in Alberta for just under a year, and several months out of hospital for my first mental health related admission.
I remember getting the phone call telling me to turn on the TV. I remember turning it on minutes before the second plane hit the towers. I remember my blood running cold as I watched in shock. I remember the depression creeping in again, in the days and weeks after watching that tragedy unfold. I remember feeling guilt that I was not in New York helping at the rubble, despite I was a country away. I remember the anger at myself, and at the world that so many of my EMS bretheren had been killed.
I know logically that being as new in EMS as I was, unless I had been in New York anyway, there is absolutely zero I would have been able to accomplish by going down there. I also know that I was dealing with mental health issues well before that fateful day. I know that any emotions of guilt and depression that occurred from witnessing the greatest terrorist attack in modern history live on television were amplified well beyond what they should have been, thanks to the Borderline Personality Disorder. Guilt and anger, however, were not inappropriate responses to a tragedy like this.
We all know what the result of these cowardly attacks were. Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. We’ve all watched the headlines about the war on terror. They have been a fixture in most news reports for almost two decades.
What most people don’t know about are the U.S. Government’s immediate response before the invasions.
Last night, a friend of mine and I went to see the movie “12 Strong”. It is a movie based on the book “Horse Soldiers”, which details the government’s immediate actions, based on de-classified reports. Within days of the towers coming down, a 12 man US Special Operations team was dropped in the northern region of Afghanistan, with the mission of helping the rebels re-take a Taliban strong-hold, by providing targeting for American bombers on enemy positions.
As in any typical pro-American war movie, the operators who were dropped into Afghanistan faced overwhelming odds. They were able to connect with the rebels, which increased their numbers, and with the bombers at their command the American team was able to act as a force multiplier. What it came down to is a group of 12 men dropped in, joined forces with a rag-tag militia that was carrying old soviet era weaponry, and began fighting on horse back, an army that was vastly outnumbering the group, had better equipment, and was highly motivated.
The most amazing part of this story is the fact that none of the operators were killed in the battles, although many of their new rebel friends were. In short, the team’s mission was a success, and although bruised and battered everyone came home despite overwhelming odds.
The movie was very well done, with a high caliber cast, and from my understanding fairly accurate in it’s depiction of events, at least as far as declassified materials go. I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes war movies.
I chose to write about the movie today because of how it mirrors what it feels like to be dealing with mental illness. I know that over the years, I have struggled. I have fought myself mentally. I have felt overwhelmed. I have felt like giving up, that I have no chance at success. I also know that beating the odds is something that someone with mental illness does everyday
People who have never dealt with mental illness quite simply have no clue of the strength and mental fortitude those afflicted have, not due to any character trait, but due to necessity of survival. Like the special missions team described above, those of us with this illness are fighters. A quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt comes to mind:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”
In summary, keep fighting. Keep standing up, no matter how many times you get knocked down. Keep being the fighter in the arena. Keep fighting against the overwhelming odds, because everyone is worth it. Keep fighting so that you can know if you do fail, you can hold your head high that you never gave up as you walk through Heaven’s gates. Tap into the strength that people without this curse can only dream of.