It’s been 3 weeks. Three weeks since I ran from my bathroom to the kids’ bedroom, praying that the house would stand and that we’d be protected. Three weeks since I clutched the kids in my arms under the bunk bed and prayed out loud over and over again, “Jesus, protect us. Keep the house up. Make the earth stop shaking.” For over a minute, just repeating those words. Over and over. Ninety seconds isn’t long. But when it’s an earthquake, it feels much longer. And in that ordeal, I’m learning that earthquake anxiety is a very real thing.
Before the Earthquake
Three weeks later, life is returning to normal. But realistically, life did change that day. When we moved to Alaska, I knew that Alaskan earthquakes were a thing. In the first 18 months we were here, we had felt several little shakes. If we are being honest, I thought they were kind of cool. In January of 2018, a 7.9 earthquake rattled the Gulf of Alaska and it woke us up in the middle of the night. It was a little worrisome, but it was far enough away that it was a gentle shake and it didn’t leave a lasting impression. The kids actually slept right through it. Between January and November of 2018, I felt several other small earthquakes. Sometimes I did not know if it was an earthquake or my children jumping in the other room – so clearly they were not a big deal.
Earthquake Anxiety Is Real
When the 7.0 earthquake struck Alaska a little over 30 miles from our house, I did not expect the lasting impression it left in my life. But it did. I’ve found that earthquake anxiety is in fact real. In the days following the quake, I got up with my husband each morning, which is 1-2 hours earlier than I usually get up. I would sit in the hallway next to my children’s bedroom door. I wanted desperately to get them up. It felt safer. But I knew I couldn’t. So I just sat there, in the hallway, trying to work and praying that no earthquake would hit again.
Now, three weeks later, it’s a little better. I still don’t feel safe sleeping after my husband leaves. I still get up with him. (In good news, this means I’m getting way more blogging done these days!) But I feel comfortable enough that I stay in my room and snuggle under the covers while working. I still feel tense until the sun comes up (which is late during Alaska winters!) but the sheer terror of the dark isn’t there like it had been the first few days.
But perhaps the worst part about earthquake anxiety is the noise sensitivity. One of the weird things I’ve learned about earthquakes in the last few weeks is that they make noise. And often you can hear the earthquakes coming a few seconds before they hit. It sounds like a vibration coming quickly towards your house – louder and louder. It’s intimidating. But the part that’s especially hard is those vibrations can sound like the snow plow or diesel truck coming down your street. It can sound like the child who jumped enthusiastically on the second floor. It can sound like the heater kicking on. And each time I can feel the adrenaline hit and my heart rate spike.
It’s getting a little better, especially as the aftershocks decrease. I’m no longer a complete ball of nerves…just a partial one. And thankfully the children are noticing them less and less. I’m learning to listen as an aftershock rolls in and just watch if they notice. And I’m finding that they often don’t notice the sounds anymore or the fact that the Christmas tree is swaying again. And I’m grateful for that.
But it’s a good reminder to take care of myself. Especially since I’m getting less sleep. I know that forcing myself to stay in bed when Ben leaves for work isn’t a good idea. It’s a great opening for me to sit and dwell in my thoughts because I won’t sleep. So getting up is a better concept. But that means I’m losing a lot of sleep. I am tired. And while the adrenaline rushes are diminishing, and I can feel that I’m carrying less tension in my body…it’s still there. In the background. On high alert. I’m learning to make times for a long hot shower when Ben is home, to help the tension fall off. I’m learning that it’s okay to lie down on the couch and take a 15 minute nap while the children play around me so that I can be more functional. And I’m learning that I need to eat good meals, even when I don’t feel hungry. (Stress takes my appetite away.)
I have been keeping the oils in my pocket (literally) – especially Valor, Peace and Calming 2, and Stress Away. I’m re-learning it’s okay to apply them liberally because it helps. I’ve been making sure that I get my daily NingXia Red to help keep my systems running instead of forgetting about supplements because I’m stressed. I’m reminding myself that it’s okay to be scared, but that it’s not okay to let the earthquake get the better of me and control my life.
It’s a process. Earthquake anxiety, and anxiety in general, is real. But it’s been a good reminder to take care of myself even when things aren’t at the greatest point. Three weeks later, I’m grateful. I know it could have been much worse. But it wasn’t. And now it’s time to pick up the pieces, reorganize life, and keep going. Our lives may have been shaken, but they weren’t broken. And that’s what matters…that we keep going. Even if the ground you stand on is rocking below your feet – be it figuratively or literally.