Updated: Dec 5, 2018
This is my recount of a very stressful couple of days after having been in a 7.0 earthquake in Anchorage, Alaska.
11/30/18 8:29 am
I started crying. It was like I was watching my brain work from afar. The earth was shaking violently and the power went out. I began to think about my kids and how they were doing and I started crying.
When the earth started to move, it was almost second period. At the high school I work at we play music between classes. I can’t remember, but I think the music had just stopped, signaling two more minutes left of passing time. The earth started shaking; it seemed small at first, then it became violent. The power went off. I told the kids to get under tables and I grabbed a girl and put her in the doorway with me.
We have a big generator at our school, so the power came back on soon after it went out. My students were asking me if I was okay because I was crying. I guess they don’t often see that stress response. I can be helpful and cry at the same time. Crying is just another way of coping.
When something like a big ass earthquake happens, my sense of time gets super warped, thirty-seconds seems like two minutes. It reminded me of the last thirty-seconds of a hockey game when you are barely beating the other team. So much can happen in thirty seconds.
I remember yelling “Holy Shit” right after the shaking stopped and right before the fire alarm went off telling us to GTF out of the building. A girl looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “The crazy thing is, I had a feeling we were going to have a big earthquake today.” When I see her again, I will have to ask her about it.
When we evacuated, I remembered to bring my laminated green sheet (it was worthless, but I am well trained) and I called my mom immediately. I started sobbing as I was telling her that I was fine but that we had just had a really, really big earthquake and that it was super duper scary. My phone was about to die because I didn’t charge it the night before, that was adding to my stress. It made me rethink my ability to navigate an emergency.
My body was so flooded with adrenaline that I did not feel the 5.7 aftershock. We moved to the other side of the building and I found my husband; he and I work at the same school. After getting the students into the commons, the most structurally safe part of the building (it was 20 degrees outside), we started to assess, call families, and get kids home.
My youngest son was at his babysitter's; she told me he was scared but safe.I am pretty sure this will be one of is first "seared in his brain" memories. My oldest was at school and he went home with a friend. All loved ones were accounted for, the biggest damage being structural and emotional.
When I got home, I made a video when I entered the house. The ground floor was okay a little breakage in the kitchen and living, but the upstairs book room was a wreck. The lid to my toilet tank fell off, WTF? I am not sure how that even happened.
My oldest dog was hiding under the bed. She was super scared. She had been hiding there for four hours. I thought she was hurt at first because she was shaking and couldn’t stand up. Then it became apparent that her back legs had fallen to sleep and she was actually fine.
When my whole family was home, it was interesting to see how we were dealing with the stress. My youngest was really scared and needed reassuring, my oldest was hyped up and couldn’t stop talking, my husband and I were trying to talk and getting frustrated that our oldest wouldn’t let us talk. We got a little yell-y with each other. I took it for what it was, our stress response. We were all dealing with our sympathetic nervous system on hyperdrive.
Being off the Subs
Since I quit taking suboxone over a year ago, I have been acutely aware of how my nervous system feels. I think part of it is that it is still repairing itself and I think the other part is that I had lived in a fog for so long. I think that in situations like this, most adults are aware that their nerves are shot, hence the long line at the liquor store, and the saying, “my nerves are shot.” I am so grateful that I am free of suboxone and I don't have to have that be a part of my emergency plan.
Today I have been on edge. I fell asleep around midnight and woke up at 4:30. I was at my mother-in-law's house, sleeping on the couch with my youngest. My husband stayed home with the doggens and I took the kids to my MILs house so she wouldn’t be alone. Belle, my MILs 16-year-old miniature dachshund, started barking around 6:30 and woke her up. I left my sleeping boys on the couch and went to hang out with her in her bedroom. There was another aftershock that rattled the glass. We were glued to the earthquake app. There have been over 600 aftershocks so far. When my youngest woke up, the first sentance he uttered, was “mom, yesterday there was a major earthquake.”
Today I have been tired and nervous. My TTM teacher texted me and I talked to her about how I felt like bursting into tears at any given moment. I let her know how I was feeling guilty to be so wound up when no one was hurt, especially since there are so many people suffering in the world. She shared with me her earthquake experience in Thailand and how nervous making earthquakes can be. Wind causing wind.
There are so many reasons to have gratitude.
-I hadn't realized my christmas cactus had bloomed (I take a more hands-off approach to raising plants).
-My family is safe.
-I am not dependent on a medication.
-My husband made us a delicious dinner last night. I was even better today.
-I have faith in adolescents.
-I have heat.
-I have power.
-I have books to read, even if they are on the floor!
What I did for My Nerves
-I reached out to friends and family.
-I seriously contemplated why I didn’t have a pint of emergency bourbon stashed away. Just kidding. Sort of.
-I drank some holy basil tea
-I took a little passionflower tincture
-I did some deep breathing.
-A colleague from my Thai medicine circle contacted me and reminded me of the herbal inhalers, nerve liniment, and golden milk.
-The herbal inhaler was great.
-I put on my jade necklace, not sure what this did other than comfort me.
-I pulled an angel card.
-I went to hang out with my mother-in-law
-I drank a couple of Jubelales
What do you do when you experience a high-high stress situation?
Have you been in a big ass earthquake before?