Earthquakes & Tsunamis of the Soul & How to Move On


 This sign is located less than seven miles from where I reside.

Ever since I was a little girl, I had a great fear of tsunamis.  I grew up less than half a mile from the Pacific Ocean.  I frequently discussed my tsunami terrors with my father who shared my fascination with the killer waves.  He always assured me that if a tsunami struck nearby, it would fill up the large Las Pulgas Canyon (The Fleas Canyon!) that our home overlooked long before the water could possibly reach us.  Dad’s confident explanation soothed me, although I continued to have nightmares about giant waves over the next few decades.

Surprisingly, I didn’t have the same obsession with another force of nature that occurred where I lived: earthquakes.  The Los Angeles earthquakes I felt as a child didn’t frighten me. Those jolts were nothing compared to what I experienced while living in Santa Cruz during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. The quake, which lasted only fifteen seconds, was 6.1 on the Richter scale, and it caused massive destruction and death around the Bay Area.  I started fearing earthquakes after that day.  

Last night while browsing on the IMDB website to see what was new, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I spotted a preview of an upcoming summer blockbuster containing both tsunamis and earthquakes made to the tune of 100 million dollars!  (That’s a disgusting amount, I know.)

The film’s title said it all in big, bold scary-looking font:


As a film buff, I squealed in both fear and excitement!  I called out to my husband Craig, a certified engineering geologist, and asked him to define what the San Andreas was, exactly.  He explained that the “San Andreas Fault is a major break in the earth’s surface running hundreds of miles along the California coast. It’s a boundary between two tectonic plates: the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.” Craig laughed when he saw the following preview, as he said the most shocking scenes are virtually impossible.

After 26 years, I’ve forgotten how truly terrifying the Loma Prieta quake really felt; I know I was frightened enough to sleep in my Jetta that night. I worried that my old apartment building would fall upon me. Ninety minutes north of where I lived, the quake caused an entire upper section of the Nimitz Freeway to collapse upon drivers on its lower section, crushing them to death.  Newspaper images of the scene haunted me for months.

However, I was fortunate to have no losses – none of my loved ones perished, and I didn’t have a loss of property.  

I was able to get over my immobilizing fear relatively quickly, unlike an earthquake of the soul.

My inner earthquake, if you will, was my 2007 postpartum bipolar diagnosis and my unremitting, severe depression over the past eight years.

When you haven’t been able to trust your brain for a long time, there’s a residual trauma – at least there has been for me.  Now, I’m not saying I’m a hopeless case, and if you’re suffering right now with bipolar disorder, you’re not a hopeless case either.  

Our lives won’t turn into sweetness and light, but there can be real improvement.  I’m starting to see that I can keep bipolar disorder from destroying me like a giant wave or a megaquake. There are steps I’m now able to take so I can keep my bipolar depression at arm’s length.  

I was able to feel glimmers of hope only once I found medications that worked for me. I tried well over 25 medications and I had two different rounds of ECT, both unilateral and bilateral, before I was fortunate enough to find effective medications. 

“That’s all well and good, but how can I improve my life?” you might ask.

Here’s my list of suggestions – they might seem familiar to some of you as I’ve written about some of them before.

1) Medication – keep working with your psychiatrist to find something that helps you. Believe me when I say I know how hard it is to be on the med train.  It’s hell.  But please persevere.  (To those who are anti-meds, go away!  Just kidding. I’d like you to know I’ve been in your shoes. The truth of the matter is that a very small percentage of the bipolar population can live well without meds.  I’ve read it’s 10-15%.  I thought I could beat those odds, but I almost died.  I’ll take meds until there’s a cure for bipolar.)  

So yes….meds.

2) Consistent check-in appointments with preferably a psychiatrist, or your medication prescriber.  (I know how tough it is to find a doctor who’s skilled *and* kind, but don’t shortchange yourself.  Try to find someone who treats you with respect.)

3) 6-7  days a week of vigorous exercise for thirty minutes; whatever you choose, you must break a sweat and not be able to carry on a conversation!  I now regard exercise as important as taking medication – in fact, I look at exercise at my 4th “medication”.  (I take lithium, Parnate & Seroquel.) The brilliant psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan has studied the efficacy of this routine.  He attests that his patients are profoundly helped by working out this way, and he has told me it’s the “missing link” for those with bipolar depression.  I’ll be interviewing him later this spring about this topic for the latest, but this is plenty to go on for now.  In the meantime, please read his brief post for more details about why you need to work it:  

imgres-1Dr. Alsuwaidan – he practices what he preaches, and works out 6-7 days/week too, even after he’s exhausted from seeing bipolar patients all day long!

4) Therapy if at all possible

5) Social support – either in person through a support group, a friend, or online.  I consider our blogging community to be a key part of my social support. I love you guys!  

6) Relatively healthy diet and no or minimum alcohol.  I can’t drink alcohol due to my MAOI Parnate and my liver and brain are the better off for it. 

7) A pet.  I don’t care if it’s “just” a hermit crab or hamster.  A pet to give you unconditional love and for you to care about, who will keep you company.  

8) Bibliotherapy – reading takes me to my happy place and I bet it does for you too; it’s also supposed to be healing and superhealthy for our brains!  

9) Being out in nature, even for just a few minutes on your doorstep looking at plants, each day.  

10) Light.  I use an old Sunbox ( for 1/2 an hour in the morning and it really does help.  Sometimes you can get your insurance to reimburse for one if you have a doctor’s note.  You can also use sunscreen and sit out in the sun like a lizard! My puppy Lucy loves to sit out in the sun despite her thick, honey-colored coat – she’s so cute.



I’m sorry this became another novella.  I keep telling myself to write posts under 500 words.  I know that I usually prefer to read posts around that length, and I know most of you probably do as well.   Oh well.  Give me another chance.  Next Friday I’ll shoot for 500 words or less! Miracles can happen!

In the meantime, have a good weekend, everyone.  I hope you can all do something that brings you a real smile.  Want to make me smile, for real?  Go do an “Alsuwaidan-style workout” and tell me about it in the comments.  Sweat is the best makeup!




19 thoughts on “Earthquakes & Tsunamis of the Soul & How to Move On

  1. All that quake talk made me think of my mother, who was in the Solomon Islands (South Pacific) in 2007, when an 8.1 quake sent a tsunami. She was standing on a reef, bust her wrist and then everyone on that really small island (Vella La Vella) ran for higher ground. Brilliant ole bat, my mum.

    And don’t stop the novellas – loads of words from you is always a good thing.

  2. Whoa!!!!! Your Mom was in the 2007 monster???? A ginormous 8.1????
    I’m glad she made it through despite her messing up her wrist (OUCH!) –
    how scary!!!!!!

    You always make me happy with your comments – I’m such a spoiled beast! Novellas are welcome???? I KNOW you wouldn’t write that if you didn’t mean it – you’re not one to do such a thing. Therefore, I sit feeling quite pleased. 🙂 I keep seeing Blahpolar Posts flash by on Facebook and I’ll work out extra tonight if I have to in order to savor them and get caught up!

    • My grandfather was stationed on Vella during ww2 – seconded to the USAF. That’s why she went, a sort of homage, because he loved it so much. The old bat did some epic travels and sketched stuff all the way. She was cool.

  3. I remember shortly after we moved to Maine from NY (upstate). We had an observatory from which (theoretically, but not actually) we could watch the ships come in (we were a 5 minute walk from the beach). In the dream my little brother and I watched a huge tsunami come and and slowwwwly approach the house as our terror built and built… Somehow in the dream my mother died in this tsunami even though it never actually reached us. I’ll tell you WHAT now that’s a terrifying nightmare!

    • Believe me, I get it! ;)))) I really, really do!!! I had a bizarre dream last night but luckily it wasn’t about tsunamis. It was about Michael Jackson of all people! (It was not a scary dream…) Thank you, Seroquel! 😉

  4. That’s so funny you had your husband explain the San Andreas Fault. I did the same thing when I went back to finish my undergrad. I took the “easiest” science class, or so I thought until I realized I didn’t have much interest in geology. My hubby is a builder and LOVES geology. Soil testing is his idea of a good time. Anyway I kept having to get him to re-explain the SAF to me because apparently my mind was drifting… I honestly can’t imagine how traumatic surviving an earthquake would be. I was in San Francisco years ago and a tremor quake jolted me out of a deep sleep after a picture fell off the wall in my hotel. That was creepy enough for me. Great post! And I know what you mean about trying to keep them under 500 words. I’m wordy!! 🙂

    • Your husband & my husband would have fun discussing geology & soil testing while we snooze! That’s scary that a tremor woke you up from a deep sleep – ahhhh!

      Thanks SO much for reading my 1000+ word ramble. I need to somehow get out of my blogging trance & chop away at my posts. Too bad I don’t have an in-house editor! 😉

  5. I’m from Humboldt county, so I developed a fear of earthquakes and tsunami also. Once we had three 6-point-something quakes in one weekend, and I slept in an old battered RV for a month afterward. I do miss Humboldt, and the Bay Area, but I don’t miss obsessing over when the next big one will happen … btw I know I can’t watch that movie!

    • Yeah, you probably shouldn’t see that film, at least not on the big screen! I’m so sorry you went through so many big earthquakes in such a short time. Yikes! That would completely traumatize me, and it would freak out most people. I’m glad you’re away from “Quake County” so you don’t have to worry about it! 🙂 As you and I know, life is hard enough without the $%*#@ earthquakes and tsunamis. (Thanks for stopping by and for taking time to comment – your blog is an excellent read!!)

  6. When the Loma Prieta quake hit us in San Francisco, I saw Guerrero Street move in waves, cars rose and fell, street lamps swayed. I turned to others on the sidewalk for confirmation. Our eyes met. Yes, it really WAS happening. It was not a hallucination (which quite frankly, it looked and felt like). This was a HUGE earthquake. That night, the tenants in our building got together to support those waiting to hear if their loved ones made it home safely from the East Bay. This I will say, the residents of San Francisco were incredibly loving and supportive of each other during that crisis.

    • Oh my God – the visual of that, Kitt is so vivid & scary! I’m incredibly glad you made it through the quake (for selfish reasons, of course, ha!). I like how you noticed how supportive the SF residents were as well.

  7. I have never experienced an earthquake, so I can only imagine. However living on the East Coast, I have had my share of hurricanes. Last year we even had a tornado touch down in my neighborhood, about 8 houses down from me. That was pretty intense.

    Good advice for positive mental health. I agree 100% with your wise words of wisdom!

    • I hope you never experience an earthquake, dear Vic!
      The thought of a tornado touching down so close to one’s home is completely terrifying, though – and I’m very thankful it spared you!!!!!!

      Thanks for agreeing with my points – great minds think alike, you know. 😉
      p.s. I’m stoked you’re returning to the gym – that’s awesome!

  8. Love this post, as usual! Not trusting my brain is something I really struggle with. I have been stable for two weeks now, but am constantly afraid of “falling over the cliff” as I like to call it. Really need a way to get over that fear.

    • Thanks, Cristy, for reading, & for the sweet compliment too!
      Yep, I relate to the “falling over the cliff” feeling – I call it “the other shoe is about to drop” syndrome. Either one SUCKS! On the bright side, I’m glad you’ve been stable for 2 weeks & I’m praying that it continues a loooooooooooooooog time for you! XO

  9. I’ve been missing my gym time this past 3 months. It’s JUST as good as drugs! I swear that is SO true. Exercise is key. I love your list!

    • Thank you, beautiful Adina! You’ll get back into a fitness routine. I know you’ve been BUSY BUSY BUSY! But yes, please return to your workout time so you can deal with all that you’re juggling in a healthier way – you know all the reasons why you should, so I won’t bore you, ha ha! 😉 (((hugs)))) Proud of of your for your studies & being a mom and all that you do! XO, Dy

      • Dyane! I went running today! Felt SO good. So hard, but so good for my brain. I loved it! It just helped me manage my stress and feel energized!

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