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!

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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.