Hell in Paradise-Part 1/Sorry to Confuse!

Hope this brief video of me and Lucy makes sense! I’m sorry that yesterday’s 300th post was confusing. I created my WordPress blog in 2008. I only wrote three posts and then I became too depressed to write. I didn’t blog again until 2011. Once again, I wrote a couple posts and took yet another depression-related hiatus. 

I returned to blogging in December, 2013. Three time’s truly the charm…I was able to stick with it! Yesterday’s 300th post was a revised version of my very 1st blog post that I published in December, 2013. Today’s post is a revision of post #2. I’ll be publishing a couple more revised posts to complete the story. If you understand this, you get an A+! 😉 Thanks so much for reading and for your comments – I hope that you have a great day! Dyane

Hell in Paradise – Part One: Tsunamis of the Heart and Land

Our November, 2013 family trip to Kona, Hawaii was significant for several reasons.  The first reason was that we had to postpone the trip three times due to my summer hospitalizations for a bipolar depression relapse. The relapse occurred while I was tapering off lithium. I became manic and then went in the opposite direction, down to the very bottom of hopelessness.  

The second reason was that my mother-in-law had passed away a few months prior to our trip. We wanted to bring her ashes to Kona. She worked in the Kona area for over a decade, and it held a special place in her heart.

A week before we took off for Hawaii, my Parnate “miracle” had stopped working, and my bipolar depression returned. I couldn’t help but note the irony of the situation: here I was, about to visit one of the most magnificent places on Earth, and I was depressed yet again.

Once we settled in our rental in Holualoa, Kona I did some internet research. I found that some people took larger doses of Parnate than I was taking – up to twice as much.  I was able to get ahold of Dr. D. while we were there. 

(A sidenote: Holualoa means “long sled run” and is a fitting description of where we stayed.  We were located in the Kona coffee region and our rental was a stunning coffee farm high above the coast.)

Anyway, I asked Dr. D. if I could raise the Parnate up 10 mg for a total of 40 mg a day.  He gave me his go-ahead.  It turned out the dosage made me feel much worse.  I had terrible form of agitated insomnia.  

The eighteen wild turkeys who roamed the coffee plantation were noisy each night. While their gobbling sounds were cute during the day, they kept me awake and were anything but charming at night.  There were also plenty of tropical birds who loved to chirp the night away.

Meanwhile, my depression wasn’t going anywhere.  I returned to 30 mg of Parnate/day.

I knew I should’ve felt grateful for being in Hawaii. The fact that I felt so bad did nothing to assuage my guilt.   My brain synapses, which had been working so well at the beginning of the month, were stuck in a morass once again.  

I couldn’t think of anything to say to anyone during the long car trips we took around the island.  I couldn’t escape with a good book, which to me was pure torture.  

When I started taking Parnate I stopped drinking alcohol cold-turkey, as alcohol is a deadly mix with this MAOI medication, so I couldn’t turn to margaritas to relax.  (And that was a very good thing that I couldn’t drink my blues away!) 

Although I went for a thirty-minute walk amongst the coffee trees each morning, I ate tons of unhealthy treats such as chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and Kona coffee ice cream. During some fleeting moments, I was able to appreciate the grandeur of the island. I noticed my girls’ joyful laughter when they went boogie boarding, but still…I wanted a do-over!


This photo of our girls was taken on Hilo’s beach on the Big Island.  We visited Hilo twice during our trip. Due to its history of deadly tsunamis, Hilo was particularly significant to me.

Ever since I was a little girl growing up in Los Angeles, I was very aware of the existence of tsunamis.  I asked my father if a tsunami could ever reach our home that was perched on the edge of the deep Las Pulgas Canyon near the ocean. He told me repeatedly that we would be safe, but deep down I didn’t believe him.

I had recurring tsunami dreams despite my Dad’s reassurance.  When I was older, I pored over books about tsunami history and I watched documentaries about these terrifying “harbor waves” (Tsunami means harbor wave in Japanese). I was so fascinated and obsessed by this topic that sometimes I wondered whether I died in a tsunami in a past life!

When I moved to Santa Cruz and experienced the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, I was so terrified that I forgot about all my tsunami lore and  did the worst thing possible in a tsunami zone – I sprinted to West Cliff Drive which overlooked the ocean. This scenic road (which is shown during the opening credits of the film The Lost Boys) was two blocks away from my apartment. I ran out of the building as soon as the first tremor ended.  I felt drawn to the sea instead of safer, higher ground.

If there *had* been a tsunami, I would have been toast! 

While in Hilo the first time, we visited one of its main beaches.  Most of the Hilo beaches are nowhere as gorgeous as the beaches on the other side of the Big Island, but their warm water temperatures are awesome.

I felt so down that I didn’t even put on my brand-new, shimmery blue Speedo suit. I plopped down on the sand while my girls and husband frolicked in the water. It struck me that I was sitting in the very spot where the devastating 1946 and 1960 tsunamis had blasted in. I became morbid, thinking that maybe it would be okay to die in tsunami after all, since I had lost hope that my depression would lift.

I continued ruminating how people must have died in the very place where I was sitting.  I’ve known for years that Hilo was the home of the Pacific Tsunami Museum, but I never thought I would have the opportunity to visit it.  The first time we went to Hilo I was so apathetic and depressed that I told my husband we didn’t have to check out the museum.  He was surprised, to say the least, as he was well-acquainted with my tsunami obsession. He had plenty of times to hear about it during our fifteen-year-long relationship.

When we returned to Hilo a second time, it seemed ridiculous not to visit the Tsunami Museum, so off we went.  I didn’t think our girls would be interested in the subject. Moreover, I was concerned the Pacific Tsunami Museum might be too scary for them, but fortunately they were up for the visit.

A spirited retired docent who had been an elementary school principal spent time with the girls.  She showed them kid-friendly exhibits about the science of earthquakes and waves. I shuffled around the rest of the museum, scared to make eye contact with anyone, wishing a wave would swallow me up then and there.  

Update 9/23/15: Now that I’m doing well, I hope and pray that there won’t be any tsunamis in our area anytime soon! There was a tsunami in our harbor in 2011, but luckily I was high up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, safe and sound.

How did I get better? I promise to reveal more in the next installment.

To be continued…

Dyane Leshin-Harwood’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press next year.  

60 thoughts on “Hell in Paradise-Part 1/Sorry to Confuse!

  1. My mother experienced an survived a tsunami in the Solomon Islands and therefore by the law of some statistics and degrees of separation, it will not happen to you. Fact. Not even during the alien rapture.

    • Oh yes, I recall you mentioning that about your Mom. And as far as the alien rapture, I’ll be rapturous and won’t care what happens, right? Because I’m part alien, I’m sure.

      • For the record, my brother called me Cow Eyes instead of my rightful alien ascension name. As far as razor sharp cheekbones go, that’s seriously an illusion! I have chubby hamster cheeks and while I’d love to say how much I adore them & be all self-love, it’s quite the opposite! You made me guffaw (yep) with the treefroggy little hands part – OMG. Love it! Ribbit!

      • This dumbs hit TOTALLY missed that reference, as you know. I guess I’m not an alien because if I was I would have caught that….

      • Shit! I experienced the Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco which was 6.9. I felt like I was surfing on the sidewalk. I could see the waves travel in the pavement, cars rise and fall, streetlights sway. I wondered whether I was hallucinating. Other pedestrians and I made eye contact to verify that what we were experiencing was real. It was intense, and as a Californian, I’ve lived through many earthquakes.

      • I’ll be happy if I never feel one again; I don’t want my girls experiencing a biggie like you and I did, Kitt. Although with their engineering geologist father often schooling them in geology, at least they have a rational & often interesting perspective about earthquakes. Unlike their mom’s point of view, which is “EXPLETIVE!!!! earthquakes! I hate ’em!”

      • You were near the epicenter of the Loma Prieta quake – scary. I don’t know how your community reacted to it. In SF, we helped each other out as we waited to see whose loved ones made it over the Bay Bridge. There was an outpouring of love in the midst of tragedy.

      • That’s hectic! Especially in a city, right? My mother was on a little island that isn’t always shown on maps, no buildings to fall on her. One of the people she was staying with shouted, “the sea is coming!” and they ran for higher ground. My mother said it looked nothing like a wave, that the sea level just rose and rose. She was standing on the reef when the quake hit and only sustained a wrist fracture, though I think she kissed that rock pretty hard. Then she didn’t think to let anyone know till two days later, when some American missionaries in a yacht full of bibles offered to let them use their satellite phone. Meantime we were bugging the foreign office and every connection and organisation we could think of. The only footage came from on of the bigger islands (none are very big), which showed their hospital falling down and cars being swept down the main road and so on. My grandfather said, “Well, she’s a very good swimmer, that lass,” and I said “tall too,” and that was that for understated English panic, though we were all busting our asses to find her. My family never bothered to keep in touch much while travelling anyway. My god was I ever glad to get her rather unconcerned email that day. Bloody woman, I miss her so much.

        Funny, I was thinking earlier today, that I wanted to talk about her, tell some stories – thanks Kitt.

      • Thank you for the story. It’s wonderful. She lives on as you tell her stories. Sounds like quite a woman. I can only imagine how you all felt. My boyfriend at the time of the Loma Prieta quake decided to investigate the damage done rather than come home or call home. His parents were in a panic. I was pissed – being a fiery Irish-German American, rather than British, he heard about it from me. I’ve never been one to mince words.

      • Lol good for you, I’d have done the same. Where my mother was concerned, it fast became a thing to laugh our asses off about. Not the tsunami though, of course. The people she stayed with lost a cousin, they were fishing people out of the sea with canoes. I have a big nautilus on my shelf here that she brought back and it’s a much loved thing.

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more deaths either, the Solomon Isles aren’t hugely populated. I saw that 70s earthquake movie about San Francisco when I was a little kid and was terrifies witless. I’ve only ever felt earth tremors. You guys are brave.

      • Not nearly as bad as Australia, I’ve only had to evacuate once, that was just outside Cape Town when some fuckwitted arsonists were all over. I quickly discovered the answer to the what would you save from a burning building question, even though it wasn’t burning (a backpack full of underwear and work clothes, a painting and a Persian rug, apparently).

      • My ex was supposed to be driving over the Nimitz Fwy at the very moment it collapsed…..I forgot why he couldn’t go that day, but I’m glad he lived because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have Lucy! (it’s complicated….)

      • The Marina district of San Francisco was built on former landfill and sustained massive damage due to liquefaction. I lived in the Cole Valley (at Cole and Carl) near the Haight (Haight-Ashbury). Our apartment was damaged, cabinets and refrigerator emptied of contents, industrial shelving I used for storage mangled, exits blocked. Luckily neither of us was home at the time – 5:04 pm.

  2. Dy, I love how Lucy growled when you said that she writes all your blog posts. It was as if she was making a point that she was unhappy with you taking credit for her hard work. I can only imagine your room later filled with those horrible static-y foam beans unleashed by Lucy.

    • She’s a feisty beast, that hound! She has a tough life – right now she’s sunbathing on the deck. I got a kick out of your noticing the timing of her growl! She stopped chewing on her bean bag, luckily – she has a fancy rawhide but she was having A Moment. On a mostly unrelated note, if I hold up a bottle of essential oil near her nose she grimaces – she can’t STAND the smells of lavender, orange, and oregano. (Yep, I have oregano) I wonder what the story is….must ask my friend when we connect about my burning question about Y.L.

  3. I have had a fear of tsunamis since childhood, too. Maybe it’s living on the west coast, but I find it funny we have the same fear.

    • I think it shows we both have great minds! 😉 Seriously, that does interest me because I don’t come across a lot of people who have this fear. I haven’t been having my tsunami nightmares for a while. Last night I had one about doing yet another load of laundry! :0

      It’s good to hear from you! I want to get caught up over @ your blog. I thought of you when I was stung by a bee last week. I was petting Lucy’s fur in the sun, and I didn’t know a bee was cozied up in it. It *hurt*. I love bees from afar….

      thanks for stopping by!

  4. My ex wife lives in Holualoa. In sight of breaching humpbacks. I spent a month there last summer failing to save our relationship. A very nice place, but on the whole the island was just too claustrophobic for me. Which made it easier to leave:) I’m pretty certain I wasn’t anywhere near as depressed as you, but toward the end it did become rather ghastly, the dissonance in being depressed in a place like that. As much as I can dislike Midwestern winters and being land-locked, I think the pressure in Hawaii to be cheerful would be too much! And don’t listen to Blah, the alien rapture is obviously happening.

    • Thanks so much, Andrew, for your insightful comment. I’m sorry things didn’t work out with your wife, but it sounds like you definitely gave it your best shot in Holualoa of all places. Yes, Holualoa wasn’t the ideal place for a depressed haole! :0 I also felt that claustrophobia, and I think I would’ve been affected by it even if I wasn’t in the depths of despair.

      My husband visited his Mom there many times. When I would say, “Oh, I’d love to move to Hawaii” he’d explain how much we mainlanders totally romanticize Hawaii. The poverty there is overlooked, for one thing. There are other drawbacks: crime, racism – all the yuckies found up here where I live!

      Speaking of alien raptures, you might find this postcard illustration intriguing – I hope it doesn’t offend you. Blahpolar and I found it rather breathtaking! 😉 I might get the image on a coffee mug or apron, as the website offers it on all kinds of things. Even a baby onesie. Let me know what you think!


      • Okay, now I get it! Sorry, I’m still figuring out WordPress and how to know when someone replies to a comment. I hear you on the haole romanticizing — the ex is a home hospice nurse so I heard all about the suffering in paradise.

  5. Ahhh 💡 your explanation at the beginning now makes everything make more sense. Crossing my fingers, but on my side of the country no hurricanes so far!

    • Oh good! I’m glad that my explanation, as convoluted as it is, helped shed some light. Yes, let’s hope for no hurricanes anytime soon!!!! :00000

  6. all me wann 2 do is go to hawaiiiiiiiiiii bees, tsunamis, aliens, rapts or what/whoever. Ok, I know by Lucy’s growl, I’ll make it soonee than later in this very life. My fair lady I widh you loads loads loads. Em maybe an African Jungle will be better for the next Family grand slam? I bet that can’t be postponed 3 times 🙂

    • You are TOO funny! If I was rich I’d take you to Hawaii! And Lucy too, although they have a LONG dog quarantine there unless you’re President Obama!

  7. Oh my, I’ve been away too long!!! As always, love reading your blog posts. And definitely cant wait for the book!
    I live in the Tornado Valley spread of TN. Been through many biggies. They never really bother me, but tsunamis…the thought of drowning really gets me.

    • I’m very happy you’re back and thanks for stopping by the blog & commenting!

      Tornados are super-scary too – I want to be far, far away from tornados & tsunamis!!!
      Earthquakes are inevitable where I live and I just pray that the next one won’t hurt me, or my family. :0000
      (The anniversary of the biggest quake I’ve been in is coming up in October :The Loma Prieta) – yikes!)
      take care & I wish you a wonderful weekend.

    • All natural disasters scare me! :0 Thanks for the comment & follow, by the way. Wishing you a great weekend with perfectly calm skies.. (!!)

  8. Pingback: Hell in Paradise – Part Two – Seeking the real Aloha | Birth of a New Brain

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