Earthquakes and pandemics and bears, oh my

There’s so much time for thinking these days.

Too much.

It can spiral. In the wrong way.

I haven’t had problems with that for a long time, though. I was mentally strong. But the world today is upside down. So I’m going to keep track of it. I haven’t used this blog for a long time. I’m dusting it off for it to be my journal for the next while. Feel free to read along. Or not. I’m doing this for mental health.

First, some notes on what’s happened:

  • We shut down the schools in Utah in March. The governor ordered a “soft closure” where they’re now learning online.
  • We picked up an iPad for Dom (1st grade) and packets of lessons for Gabbi (preschool).
  • Nathan works almost entirely for home. Every now and then he goes to the building (North Star Elementary) to let in a teacher.
  • He records stories on video to post on the school’s Facebook page.
  • He records videos for his teachers to do a type of mental health challenge each week.
  • I work from home most afternoons writing technical content for OpenVPN. I appreciate the connection with my coworkers.
  • Dom and Gabbi watch a lot of screens. It’s okay.
  • They have Zoom gymnastics and dance.
  • Dom practices his piano most days and likes to play Scarborough Fair with me.

And there was an earthquake. March 18th, I was shaken awake. I instantly knew it was an earthquake. I looked around for a second to try to find my robe to put on, but then ran upstairs to my kids’ bedrooms. I could hear Gabbi crying. I ran into her room first and the shaking had stopped.

“It’s okay, Gabbi. It was an earthquake. It’s okay.” She laid down.

I opened Dom’s door.

“Mom what was that?” he asked. I heard the fear in his voice.

“An earthquake,” I said.

“You mean I lived through an earthquake?” he asked. He sounded incredulous.

“Yes,” I said and went back into Gabbi’s room.

She was curled under her covers.

“You can go back to sleep if you want,” I said. “Or you can come downstairs.”

I went downstairs and into my bathroom to use the toilet. Nathan was in the shower. I figured he’d comment when he heard me in the bathroom near him. When he didn’t, I said something.

“Did you feel that?” I asked.


“The earthquake.”

“There was an earthquake? I thought I just lost my balance in the shower.”

I went into my bedroom. Dom and Gabbi were on the bed. We turned on the news and watched. The first big aftershock shook us all on the bed. Nathan got dressed for work. They were handing out laptops to students at his school that day, the first official week of online school about to start. We were supposed to pick up Dom’s iPad that day as well. My heart raced a little with the second aftershock. My phone buzzed with notifications. I talked with my Dad on the phone. All well with them. The GroupMe messages went off one after another. I checked Twitter. I checked Facebook. Then I read a random woman’s post on Facebook. “This could actually be a foreshock for a bigger earthquake within the day. There’s a chance of a 7.0. If you live in an un-reinforced masonry home, you should get out to be safe.” I felt more aftershocks. Nathan had left. I don’t remember what Dom and Gabbi did that morning. My heart started racing. In the afternoon, we had a big aftershock. Nathan had finally come home because they closed down the schools and postponed handing out devices. We all sat together in Gabbi’s room. I was terrified. Dom, too.

That night, Dom slept on the couch in our bedroom. Gabbi was unphased and slept in her room. I tossed and turned the entire night. For five nights, I tried to sleep, but never got more than an hour at a time. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t slow my heart rate down. I hardly focused for work. I managed to host our team’s first retrospective meeting. It went well. We were all connected from home. It was a good distraction. For a while. I kept reading about earthquakes and aftershocks and scaring myself. It was all the wrapped up feelings of anxiety I dealt with through high school and college. But I was an adult now. I knew how to take care of myself. I needed to snap out of it. And I couldn’t. All my usual outlets were taken away with the gyms closed, church shut down, soccer season postponed, restaurants switched to take out. I tried to focus on deep breathing. My heart stayed in my throat. Pounding and pounding. Was that another earthquake? Or is it my heart shaking the bed?

The earthquake was a 5.7 magnitude with the epicenter in Magna. Since then, we’ve had over 1,200 aftershocks, five of them a magnitude 4+. Today, I am doing well, but that week after the earthquake, I lost ten pounds from not being able to eat. The Monday after the quake, I called my midwife and left a message. They said they’d try to contact her. She wasn’t in the office until Tuesday. By the afternoon, I tried another way to get help. I got on Intermountain Connect’s app. I “waited” for the doc for over four hours. When I finally connected, it was a familiar face on the phone screen, Robin. Robin and I had known each other for about 15 years. She was a PA at the employee health clinic at ARUP. We had been there together for a decade. She was both my doctor there for visits, and my friend. We shared the same birthday, though years apart. We had stayed connected over social media, but hadn’t seen each other in about 5 years. She spent nearly an hour talking with me for the appointment. It wasn’t a quick fix. It didn’t lower my heart rate. It didn’t bring back my appetite. But it was a start. I picked up a prescription she sent in to help me sleep.

The next day, while out on a social distancing walk with my friend, Beth, my midwife called. We talked and discussed starting an SSRI. I hadn’t been on one since college (unless you count taking something briefly for post-partum after Dom’s birth, but I can’t remember what I had then). I picked up the prescription that day.

And then I blacked out the next day. In the morning, Nathan was making breakfast. The kids sat at the table and he set a plate down for me. I was sitting in the living room. I stood up to walk over to the table, but started seeing black squares. I grabbed for the piano to hold on and let the light headedness pass. Instead, I woke up on the floor, only remembering the sound of my head cracking on the ground. Dom was crying right above me. Nathan knelt over me, holding my hand. I had a goose egg on the back of my head. “I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.” I kept saying. I slowly got up and explained that I was okay and only blacked out. It was fine. I got up too fast. I was fine. Dom, it’s okay. Yes, I’m fine.

Today, I am fine. And yet, last night, we had that big aftershock. They measured it a 4.17. It’s been weeks since the earthquake and almost that long since we had aftershocks big enough to feel them. It surprised and scared a lot of people, including my kids. I was out on a social distancing walk with my friend, Lynley. Nathan texted me.

“You doing okay?”

“Yep. Long walk.”

I figured he was just checking in because we’d been walking for almost two hours and it was just after 9:00 p.m. now.

“Did you feel the earthquake?”


“I guess not.”

“Is Dom okay?”

“Just a little one. It was short. It shook the house for a second. Dom and Gabbi both started crying. Gabbi is fine but Dom is of course a little freaked out.”

I jogged home to help calm Dom. It happened the same day our governor announced the soft closure of the schools would continue through the end of the school year. All the way to June. Earthquakes and pandemics and bears, oh my.


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