Tribes of the Pacific Northwest: Makah & Chinook

While the Chinook and Makah are very different tribes, through potlatch ceremonies and sacred art, these tribes of the Pacific Northwest had much in common. These tribes expressed their status and whimsy through art, such as their carved wooden canoes, elegant boxes, woven baskets and blankets. These items were exchanged in elaborate potlatch ceremonies. Then, there was the mystical totem pole.

One of the most striking features of the Northwest Coast is the presence of totem poles. These totem poles are painstakingly crafted by skilled artisans using beaver-incisor tools. It is said that the poles are inhabited by spirits, and that these spirits may bless or curse you. As such, totem poles are always treated with respect. (Sutton, 131)

Both the Chinook and Makah inhabited a small coastal section of the Northwest Coast, which extends along the Pacific Coast of North America from southern Alaska over 1,500 miles south to far southern Oregon. The region is long and narrow, with little inland territory. (Sutton, 120) The Chinook tribe resided in the lower Columbia River region, around southwest Washington and northwest Oregon. (Wu, International Examiner) The Makah lived around Cape Flattery on the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula. (Pritzker, 254) Looking at a map of the area, the Makah are just slightly north of the Chinook, with some small number of other tribal territories in between along the coast.

The main staples of the Chinook were fish (particularly salmon), roots, and berries. (Columbia Encyclopedia, Hutchinson Encyclopedia) “Fish, especially salmon, was the most important food for most Northwest Coast tribes. Since transportation for most of these groups was by canoe, they were great builders of canoes as well as other finely constructed and carved wooden objects. Trees, especially the red cedar, were the raw materials for everything from canoes to clothing to plank houses.” (Pritzker, 223-24) Through their art and their crafts, the Makah and Chinook both were able to trade, cultivate wealth and status, and decorate their homes and sacred spaces.

The Makah hunted whales. As the numbers of whales began to decrease in the early 1900s, the Makah ceased the tradition. Approximately 70 years later, they returned to the practice. Makah are the only tribe to hunt whales in recent history, winning the right to hunt them once again in the 1990s. (Pritzker, 255) This return to whale-hunting caused a division within the tribe and in their public relations as whales have become creatures to protect in the eyes of most people. Piatote wrote in Fighting for Native Rites: Renewal of the Makah Whale Hunt that the repercussions of those hunters’ actions had repercussions for the tribe all around the globe.

The Chinook were known to be good traders, and like the Makah they were skilled with canoes. (Columbia Encyclopedia) Both tribes were known trade furs, oils, shells, and other items with the Russians and others who came through. The sea and land both provided sustenance to these groups. Salmon and shellfish could be dried and traded further inland, or stored for winter.

Most of the year, the tribes lived in permanent winter villages, however they would move to seasonal villages or campsites as the warmer months began. They lived in large rectangular plank houses along the Northwest Coast. Several families would live in a house together. Temporary seasonal shelters were built of mats, planks, or bark. (Pritzker, 228) Their rectangular homes, made of cedar planks, were dug halfway into the ground. (Hutchinson Encyclopedia) These communal housing structures allowed for close-knit family groups.

In general, there was a predictable rhythm to the year in the lives of the tribes of the Northwest Coast. Northwest Coast Indian people fished for eulachon in late winter; gathered seaweed, cedar bark, and herring spawn and fished for halibut in early spring (May); moved to their summer camps around June, where they gathered sea bird eggs and caught salmon; fished and gathered berries, roots, and shoots throughout the summer; preserved the fish and hunted in the fall; and gathered shellfish, hunted sporadically, observed their ceremonies, gambled, told stories, wove, and carved in winter. (Pritzker, 226) In some ways, it was an idyllic life.

The village was the main social unit, and a rich chief may control several villages. (Columbia Encyclopedia) Typically, four groups existed: nobility, upper class free, lower class free, and slaves. (Pritzker, 226) Warfare was common, but generally small in scale and usually for revenge or slaves. (Sutton, 126) Social status was very important to the Northwest Coast groups, as were the potlatches. Rank even followed members of the tribe into the afterlife, and Chinook slaves were sometimes killed to serve as a servant in the afterlife. (Pritzker, 236) It was pretty good to be a Chinook noble, not so much a slave.

The women of the Northwest Coast tribes were skilled as well, creating art, gathering roots and shoots and berries, and raising the children. Chinook custom was to flatten the heads of nonslave infants for aesthetic reasons. (Pritzker, 236) Having a flattened head made one more attractive and helped with rank. “Most Northwest Coast families were ranked according to social status. Status was inherited and carried rights and obligations. Chiefs tended to be wealthy and of high birth. Marriage was a function more of social organization than of life cycle.” (Pritzker, 226) With their matter-of-fact approach to marriage and rank, the Chinook and Makah both seem to be a forthright and common sense sort of people, although perhaps their social structure was somewhat oppressive. The children of slaves were also slaves, for instance, reinforcing their low rank and status within the tribe.

The Makah and Chinook tribes were greatly skilled artists and creators. They decorated everything, their clothes, canoes, homes. Clothing and jewelry were decorated with tusk-like dentalium shells, harvested off the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. (Native American Almanac, 332) Makah typically created baskets and wooden carvings, including canoes. (Pritzker. 256) Meanwhile, notable arts of the Chinook people include carved wooden boxes, house framework, totem poles, baskets, sheep horn bowls, and canoes. (Pritzker, 237)

Art bled into religion. The Makah used carved wooden masks in a four-day Wolf ritual, during which members were initiated into the secret klukwalle society. (Pritzker, 255) The region’s classic ceremonial activity, the potlatch, was both a reflection of and a means to perpetuate this system of social inequality. (Pritzker, 224) As stated previously, the social constructs of the region were oppressive, and the potlatch, while a beautiful ceremony, was often a way to raise your rank or make up for previous grievances, but it did nothing to help the slaves. Potlatch ceremonies sometimes lasted for days, accompanied by feasting, singing, and dancing. The Chinook also celebrated the first salmon run, and adolescent males and females had to undertake a spirit quest by which they believed they would acquire skills in hunting and curing. (Hutchinson Encyclopedia)

Northwest Coast religion centered around guardian spirits. These spirits were in animate and inanimate objects and could be acquired or inherited or even uninvited. Shamans received special spirits that enabled them to cure or harm people. (Pritzker, 228) Somewhat typical of other tribes in other regions, the vision quests and guardian spirits were very important to the Chinook and the Makah. However, despite the totem poles and guardian spirits, these tribes did not have a supremely organized or oppressive form of religion. Shamans were treated with respect and held a high rank, but overall the tribes operated without a severe focus on religion.

There were several language families represented on the Northwest Coast. Chinook were of the Penutian linguistic stock. (Columbia Encyclopedia) The name “Chinook” comes from a Chehalis word for the inhabitants of a particular village on Baker Bay. (Pritzker, 235) Most pervasive was the “Chinook Jargon” as it was spoken all along the West Coast. Chinook Jargon was a mix of several languages, including elements of Chinookan, Nootkan, French, and English languages. (Native American Almanac)

The Makah, who have lived on the Northwest tip of Washington along the Pacific Ocean for thousands of years, call themselves “Kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx,” translated as “People who Live by the Rocks and Seagulls” or “People of the Cape.” (Piatote, Native Americas)

Today, the Chinook and Makah tribes are treated very differently and live very differently. While the Makah are a federally recognized tribe that has retained their own language, identity, and to an extent, their lands, the Chinook were moved onto reservations with their enemies and are no longer recognized federally as a tribe. “The BIA removed federal recognition in 1954, probably for reasons of government efficiency and to reduce bureaucracy according to Beckman. The Chinook applied for federal re-recognition in 1981. It would take another 22 years for the Chinook to be in official existence again. Today there are 2,050 members that live along a portion of the Columbia River that stretches and winds up the Washington coast.” (Craig, News from Indian Country)

The U.S. Department of the Interior again recognized the Chinook Tribe in 2001, then suddenly revoked that status in 2002. The Chinook became one of dozens of tribes which became “unrecognized” as a distinct people in the eyes of the U.S. government. That means that as far as the federal government is concerned, the Chinook people are not entitled to federal dollars to build a tribal center, health programs for seniors, and cultural programs for youngsters. These monies would be some compensation for the lands they lost. (Native American Almanac)

Many Chinookans live on the Chehalis Reservation in Washington or the Shoalwater Reservation, also in Washington. Chinook descendants also live on the Grand Ronde and Siletz Reservations. Chinookans have largely integrated into mainstream and the language is no longer spoken, although Chinook Jargon sometimes is. (Pritzker, 238)

There are an estimated 1,000 Makah citizens living today on the Makah Reservation, which is the most northwesterly point of the contiguous United States. (Harjo, Indian Country Today) The Makah Tribe ceded hundreds of thousands of acres of the Olympic Peninsula to the United States in the Treaty of 1855 in exchange for recognition of Makah whaling and ocean rights. It is the only treaty the United States made with an Indian nation that carries a whaling guarantee. (Harjo, Indian Country Today) The Makah live on the Makah Reservation in Clallam County, Washington, within their aboriginal lands. (Pritzker, 254)

The Chinook and Makah differ in current times in that the Makah have recognized sovereignty and the Chinook do not. Despite struggling for years to regain their rightful status, the Chinook have been officially “forgotten” by the US Government. Meanwhile, the Makah have faced challenges of their own. They regained the right to hunt whales, and faced a racist backlash when they proceeded to do so. Traditionally, both tribes existed in similar ways. They ate the same foods, they created art in parallel ways, they lived off the sea and land both. Both the Chinook and the Makah acquired guardian spirits and had shamans with powers.

In conclusion, while the Chinook and Makah are unique tribes in their own right, through potlatch ceremonies and sacred art, these Pacific Northwest tribes had many similarities. They excelled at carving and manning canoes using red cedar. Both the Chinook and Makah had potlatches and elaborate social and economic structures. Despite only living a few miles apart on the coast, the tribes also differed greatly. The Makah hunted whales and wove beautiful blankets were the Chinook traded and created totem poles. Overall, these tribes are far more alike than they are different, but it would be incorrect to assume that since they are both Northwest Coast tribes that they are the same, for they are distinctly unique and beautiful people.

Works Cited

Chinook, indigenous people of North America. (2018). In P. Lagasse, & Columbia University, The Columbia encyclopedia (8th ed.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Retrieved from

Chinook. (2018). In Helicon (Ed.), The Hutchinson unabridged encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide. Abington, UK: Helicon. Retrieved from

Chinook. (2017). In Encyclopaedia Britannica, Britannica concise encyclopedia. Chicago, IL: Britannica Digital Learning. Retrieved from

Craig, C. (2002, Jul 31). Feds flip-flop on decision: Chinook; extinct, recognized, sovereign? News from Indian Country Retrieved from

Dennis, Y. W., Hirschfelder, A., & Flynn, S. R. (2016). Native American almanac: more than 50,000 years of the cultures and histories of indigenous peoples. Canton, ME: Visible Ink Press.

Harjo, S. S. (2007, Sep 19). Whale-killing incident revives anti-Indian racism. Indian Country Today Retrieved from

Piatote, B. H. (1998). Fighting for native rites: Renewal of the Makah whale hunt. Native Americas, Xv(3), 39. Retrieved from

Pritzker, B. M. (1998). Native Americans: an encyclopedia of history, culture, and peoples (Vol. 1). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Sutton, M. Q. (2017). An introduction to native North America (5th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Wu, J. (2017, Jan). From standing rock to the pacific northwest: The national fight for indigenous rights. International Examiner Retrieved from



Persuasive Speech Outline (Pro-Mental Health Screenings)

Persuasive Speech – Pro-Mental Health Screenings


  1. [Attention Getter] In November 2013, I was reported missing. I had gotten into my truck and driven it until it broke down in San Leandro, in the Bay Area. There, I abandoned it and wandered the streets of San Francisco and the surrounding area for over a week. My daughter was 3 years old, and although I didn’t know it at the time, I was in the midst of a very severe episode of dysphoric mania. I almost died during that week. I was mugged, a man punched me and broke my nose. I was psychotic, hearing voices, and became extremely paranoid. I threw my cell phone away and had no way of contacting anyone that I knew. I had no idea what was happening, and it was terrifying.
  2. [Thesis Statement] We need more mental health screenings in the USA, and we need them today.
  3. [Relevance Statement] This topic is relevant to you because so many people go undiagnosed for so many years and suffer greatly from the symptoms of very treatable mental illnesses.
  4. [Credibility Statement] I am qualified to speak on this subject because I, too, am mentally ill. I received my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Type 1 in late 2013 and have been living with this illness my entire life. Since my diagnosis and subsequent treatment and medication, life has become so much better. I’ve become stronger and am filled with a great desire to share the information that I have gathered with you, so that you may consider seeking a mental health screening yourself.
  • [Preview of Main Points] Today I will discuss the problem, cause, and solution.

Connective:  I will begin by discussing the problem.


I  [Statement of the problem(s)] Not enough people in the United States are receiving the mental health care they need and are going undiagnosed and unmedicated.

  1. [Significance of the problem] This is a significant issue, because without proper therapy and medications, the mentally ill are suffering. Poverty, grades, holding down a job are all impacted by depression and other illnesses. Stigma plays a huge part in people being afraid to seek assistance. “A 2016 federal study found that nearly 45 million Americans had a mental illness of some sort” according to Edward D. Murphy’s article in the Portland Press Herald.
  2. [Harms] Suicide rates have been increasing, according to another Murphy article from the Sun Journal. “Mental health advocates say across the country suicide rates are up 24 percent since 1999.” Depression is a serious illness and should be treated as such. Suicidal ideation is something that I struggle with myself, and I have lost several friends personally to suicide. A woman named Amy Bleuel started a campaign called Project Semicolon. This project was simple, identify yourself as someone that has survived suicide or otherwise been impacted by suicide with a semicolon tattoo or jewelry. Amy died by suicide recently, at age 31. You know how they have those donation buttons on Facebook for your birthday to raise money for a charity? This year, I dedicated mine to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and raised over $500 for them. Not even the rich and famous are safe from the dangers of depression. We’ve lost Anthony Bourdain, Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, and Chris Cornell in recent history.
  3. [Who the problem impacts] This problem impacts everyone. It impacts the mentally ill that are suffering, as well as their family, their friends, their coworkers, and their classmates.


Connective:  Now that you understand the problem I will explain the causes of this problem.

II  [Statement on the cause or causes of the problem] Several factors have led to this mental health care crisis.

  1. In the 1960s, Ronald Reagan began a process called “deinstitutionalization” in an attempt to curb government spending on mental health care, and in response to the creation of psychiatric medications for illnesses. Society had come to the conclusion that the mentally ill could be treated, and therefore would not need to be in an institution for the rest of their lives anymore. This sounds positive, right? I don’t want to live in an institution for the rest of my life. But the long-term effects of this deinstitutionalization have proved disastrous. “As a result, 2.2 million of the severely mentally ill do not receive any psychiatric treatment at all. About 200,000 of those who suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are homeless. That’s one-third of the total homeless population. Ten percent are veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other war-related injuries.” Kimberly Amadeo writes in her article “Deinstitutionalization, Its Causes, Effects, Pros and Cons” published online in May 2018 by the Balance website. Basically, mental health treatment is underfunded, and often inaccessible or underutilized.
  2. In a study titled, “Psychiatric Disorders and Treatment in Low-Income Pregnant Women” published by the Journal of Women’s Health in 2010, Cook concluded, “With nearly one third of pregnant women meeting criteria for a 12-month psychiatric disorder and only one fourth receiving any type of mental health treatment, comprehensive psychiatric screening during pregnancy is needed along with appropriate treatment.” There is a distinct lack of screening that takes place in general, and one of the most critical populations is in pregnant women. When one goes through pregnancy, there are so many changes taking place in the body, the mind, one’s whole world changes. I know when I was pregnant, I was very moody. I didn’t have my diagnosis yet, so I was not yet taking medications that could affect fetal outcomes, but many can. If you are taking psychiatric medications and have plans to conceive, please talk to your doctor before proceeding. With a plan, it is possible to take good care of yourself and have a healthy pregnancy. It’s the period after my pregnancy that proved problematic for me. Many women experience postpartum depression, and I did, too. Mine spiraled out of control and wound up turning into a manic episode after many months of losing sleep. It turns out I am not alone in this. In her book, Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, published in 2017, Dyane Harwood details her experience with Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. I was lucky enough to meet Dyane on Twitter, and she emailed me a PDF of her book. It turns out we shared a lot of similar experiences, and she has proven to be a wonderful connection in the mental health world. We are both open about our diagnosis online, seeking to help fight stigma.
  3. A lot of people are scared to talk about their mental health diagnosis because they are afraid of being judged by people who do not understand. In a 2011 study, Abrams and Curran found “Stigma around recognizing mental health concerns and seeking mental health care continues to be a challenging barrier to formal mental health care in several populations.” This stigma is perpetuated when people choose words poorly. When we joke about someone being “crazy” or an experience being “totally insane” we are actually hurting people. It’s an ableist stance to take and should be avoided. This stigma that surrounds mental illness doesn’t need to be there, and together we can make sure that our peers feel safe confiding in us, and in seeking help.
  4. Another big reason people do not seek treatment is a lack of health insurance. I’ve been there myself. I went eight years without health insurance, going to the dentist, any of it because I work as an independent contractor and it wasn’t really available to me. Since my breakdown, I’ve made less money, which has allowed me to qualify for Medi-Cal. As I continue to add to my wealth, I will need to switch to Covered California. There really are options now, even for those of us who live in poverty.
  5. Poverty affects mental health, and impoverished areas often lack access to care. Here in San Diego, we are lucky to have a few different options that I will get to shortly. It’s a sad fact that there are simply not enough services available for low-income people and finding the information itself can be difficult.

Connective: Now that you understand the problem and its causes I will explain the solution.

III.  [State your solution(s)] The solution is to be proactive in getting yourself a mental health screening, especially if you are feeling off at all. The truth is, our country is in need of widespread healthcare reform, particularly mental health care reform. If you see a way to get involved and help out, please do so. In the meantime, it’s important to take care of yourself first!

  1. [Explain what can be done and how can it be done] There are many resources available here in San Diego that can help with mental health screening. When I got back from Northern California, I immediately sought treatment for the severe symptoms I was experiencing. I’d like to share some of those resources with you.
    1. The Palomar Student Clinic offers Behavioral Health Counseling Services:
      1. or search “BHCS”
    2. is a useful website with information and resources local to San Diego.
      1. They have a Crisis Line (888) 724-7240.
    3. The Suicide Hotline is available 24/7.
      1. Call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the Suicide Hotline.
    4. Not comfortable with calling? Text 741741!
      1. Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime, about any type of crisis.
    5. PERT – Psychiatric Emergency Response Team, pairs licensed mental health clinicians with uniformed law enforcement officers/deputies. DO NOT CALL 911 UNLESS THERE IS IMMEDIATE DANGER! Call the non-emergency line and request a PERT team. This is safer for the mentally ill person in crisis.
      1. (760) 839-4722 is the Escondido Police Department, or use your local police or sheriff line.
    6. Regional mental health clinics are a great resource. They are free and helped me apply for Medi-Cal.
      1. Central Region Mental Health on Morena Blvd. is where I went initially, and they can be reached at (619) 692-8750.
    7. Dial 211 to be connected to services in San Diego.
    8. Mood tracking apps like Daylio, Moodscope, eMood can help keep an eye on patterns in your mood and help alert you when you are heading towards a crisis.
  2. [Explain why the solution is practical] These resources make up a practical solution, which is getting direct help and taking personal responsibility for our mental well-being. Shop for a therapist. Don’t be afraid to reject the first people you see. It’s important to have a good fit, someone that makes you feel heard and who will challenge you to get better.
  3. [Explain why the solution is desirable] It is desirable to receive a diagnosis as early as you can in order to work out a proper treatment plan with your psychiatrist or therapist. [In 2015, Hanson O’Haver phoned Johanna Jarcho, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health for an interview for Vice Magazine online. She said the vast majority of mental health disorders do emerge during one’s adolescence or early 20s] Even without an official diagnosis, therapy is a wonderful thing that can teach us emotional tools for interacting with the world at large. It’s nice to talk to an impartial adult, to gain clarity on our current situations and get to know ourselves. It’s much more desirable to know what you are dealing with than to experience a life-changing mental breakdown and have to learn the hard way, as I did.


Connective: In Conclusion, there are many resources available to help you. If you are considering harming yourself, please consider using one of these avenues to seek assistance. There is no shame in asking for help, and in fact, I only feel more empowered by sharing some of my story with you all here today.


  1. [Re-statement of the thesis] We need more mental health screenings in the USA, and we need them today.
  2. [Review Main points] Today I discussed the problem, the cause, and the solution.
  3. [Closing Remarks / Call to Action] Make the call, send the text, go to the student clinic, but do something. Get yourself a mental health screening today. It could save your life.





Abrams, L.S., & Curran, L. (2011). Maternal identity negotiations
among low-income women with symptoms of postpartum depression. Qualitative Health Research, 21(3), 373–385.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Learn About Deinstitutionalization, the Causes and the Effects.” The Balance, The Balance, 2018,

Cook, C. L., Flick, L. H., Homan, S. M., Campbell, C., McSweeney, M., & Gallagher, M. E. (2010). Psychiatric disorders and treatment in low-income pregnant women. Journal Of Women’s Health (15409996), 19(7), 1251-1262. Doi: 10.1089/jwh.2009.1854

Harwood, D. (2017). Birth of a new brain: Healing from postpartum bipolar disorder (pp.1-212). New York, NY: Post Hill Press.

Murphy, Edward D. “Increasingly, Maine Police on Front Lines for Mental Illness Interventions.” Press Herald, 15 July 2018,

Murphy, Edward D. “Maine Police See Surge in Mental Health Calls.” Lewiston Sun Journal, 15 July 2018,

O’Haver, Hanson. “Why Mental Health Disorders Emerge in Your Early 20s.” Vice, Vice, 29 Apr. 2015,

10 Books to Surive Alone

I spent a lot of time alone as a child. Here are some books that helped me through that time and helped shape the person I am today. Read books, and visit your local library!

Love, Carly

Book 1/10 that influenced my life, in no particular order.


I read Clan of the Cave Bear in middle school, and quickly moved on to the other books in the series. The 2nd book, The Valley of Horses, has always been my favorite. It centers on the time that Ayla was separated from her tribe, and before Jondalar discovers her, for the most part, although it introduces him and their love.

My favorite part of this book is the detail that Auel put into everything. I loved envisioning her living in the cave with her horse, weaving her baskets, using her sling. Ayla was truly one of my childhood heroines.

Book 2/10


Neverwhere: I love this book, and it was the first novel of Neil Gaiman’s that I read after finishing the Sandman series in high school. Neverwhere is one of those books that I have read over and over again. I have a signed copy, just one of several signed Gaiman’s, but to me Neverwhere is special. It will always be my favorite. As a character, Door is someone I identified with very much and wanted to be more like. I loved the dark fantasy, the mix of mundane and magic, and the narrative itself. Following Neil Gaiman and his career has led me on so many wonderful quests in this life, from flying to Comic-Con at 16 and meeting Neil himself, Yoshitaka Amano’s panel, Amanda Palmer shows… I consider myself lucky to live at the same time as one of my heroes.


Book 3/10


The Island Keeper, by Harry Mazer

I read this book at least a dozen times in my youth. It’s about a girl that runs away from home and has to survive on an island all alone, honing her survival skills, for months. If you enjoyed Hatchet but haven’t read The Island Keeper, I highly recommend it. It got me through some very dark times when I was a kid, and I am now itching for a re-read.


Book 4/10


Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is another one that I read when I was young. It’s about an orphan boy looking for a home, and how extraordinary he is. It was published in 1990, when I was 9 years old, and I think I must have gotten it at a Scholastic Book Fair that year. It’s another one I read over and over.


Book 5/10


Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.

I read this book in the early 1990s, and it pretty much started my gothness. I tore through all the Vampire Chronicles, and later on, the Mayfair Witch series. I also read the AN Roquelaure Sleeping Beauty trilogy. I was a huge fan. Over the years, I’ve waffled on being a huge Anne Rice fan, as she delved into Christianity and such, but her books had a major affect on my life. When I lived in New Orleans with Jase, we lived on St. Charles Avenue, right around the corner from Anne Rice’s mansion in the Garden District. She used to have a large stuffed dog on her balcony, and it was pretty creepy. I never saw her, though. Now I live in San Diego, and frequent a coffee shop named Lestat’s. Life is funny.


Book 6/10


Today’s book is the first book of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, The Gunslinger. I started reading Stephen King probably too young, with books like Skeleton Crew in the beginning, and pretty much everything else he wrote until the 2000s. After that, I only kept up with the Dark Tower series. It’s so great. I was pretty disappointed in the movie, but that is par for the course in trying to make King’s worlds come to life in film. Song of Susannah is probably my favorite of the whole series, but The Gunslinger will always hold a special place in my heart. I have made so many friends through a shared love of these books.


Book 7/10


Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I have such fond memories of the whole series ofbooks, and really identified with the time Anne tried to dye her beautiful red hair black and it didn’t turn out properly. There are so many whimsical elements and I always love a female protagonist.

These books, I got from my “other grandma” Pat, she was Marshall (my former stepdad)’s mom. Pat lived around the corner from my grandparents in Spring Branch. When I spent summers in Houston growing up, she would take me to the library every weekend and let me get all kinds of books, from Pecos Bill to biographies and histories. She volunteered at the police station and loved a good crime book, too. Her favorites were “The Cat Who…” books by Lilian Jackson Braun. Pat really inspired my love of libraries at an early age, and I lost her far too early in my life.


Book 8/10


A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a book I read over and over growing up. I identified with the loneliness of the protagonist, feeling like an outsider. There is a theme of most of my childhood favorites, one of isolation and neglect. These stories really spoke to me in my youth. I can’t remember who gave me this book, but it will always have a special place in my heart.

Book 9/10


I left church at 14. Almost immediately, I fell into pagan practices, found ritual to be of solace, practiced at a coven gathering here and there, but mostly was a solo practitioner. Most of that started from this book, Spiral Dance by Starhawk.

I picked it up at a crystal shop in Los Gatos, CA. I will never forget the day I brought it home and devoured it. From there, I moved on to Drawing Down the Moon, and all the magical sorts of books I could get my hands on. More recently, I added shamanism to the mix.

Somehow, in the midst of my mental breakdown in 2013, my desire to keep up these practices fled. I still use tools to ground, to tune in, to meditate, but barely. I consider myself a pretty hardline atheist these days, with a touch of mysticism. Mostly, because when I was reading tarot cards it became an obsessive thing. Nothing was helping me, and nothing would – because I needed medication. Now that I’ve been stable for 5 years, I mostly look on my flights into spirituality as an offshoot of what had me leave the church to begin with.

There’s a lot of bullshit out there, hypocrites, people who would be in power over other people, friends that abandon you – in all these communities. That’s just life. I had the honor of attending the PantheaCon with Shelly and Dawn a few years ago when I had to go up north for court. It was really energizing seeing so many rituals come together. So I wouldn’t say I’m completely out. But my bullshit detector has been honed. Anyway, I was really grateful for this book for a long time and if you have no experience with Goddess lore or Starhawk, it’s a good read.

Book 10/10
I loved Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Another story of an isolated youth, of survival, another book I read to tatters. This book always meant the world to me, and I was so happy to purchase a new copy recently for Molly. She is thoroughly enchanted by the story. I’ve always wanted to spend some time alone on an island, swim with manta rays, and just exist out in nature. The vacation I took to Abaco, Bahamas by myself in the early 2000s was very close to this. I had a boat, and a cottage, and a lot of beautiful water and beach to explore. There were chickens, and cats, and everyone was so friendly and welcoming. It was the best vacation of my life, and on that trip I read 10 books, which I think contributed to the bliss.
Read more about Juana Maria of San Nicolas here:
 A Footnote on Problematic Books:

One of the books I wanted to include in my list was the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I won’t, though, because she sexually abused children. It’s impossible for me to separate the art from the artist in times like these, with #MeToo rising up and naming abusers. Some people are too vile to include.

(More: )

In high school, I was lucky enough to take a Sci-Fi/Fantasy English class my Junior year. I didn’t jive with the regular English Honors instructor and managed to switch classes a few weeks in and take the Sci-Fi/Fantasy class. That’s where I read the Mists of Avalon, Ender’s Game, and many other inspiring books. At the time, MZB had not been accused. OSC had not been spouting strange homophobic and Mormon-related things on the internet. It seems like a simpler time, but it doesn’t change who these authors are.

Scholarship Award Night

Last night I accepted the Agnes Hammond Library Technology and Follett Education Group scholarships at Palomar College. It was overwhelming and wonderful and I’m so glad I attended! I am so grateful.
Going alone last night was really tough for me, but Carley met me after she got off work, so I was only there alone for about an hour. It went by really quickly! First, I found my Follett Education Group table and met the manager of the college bookstore. We chit-chatted and I got my certificate and picture taken with them.
Another recipient of that particular scholarship was at the table with her daughter, and I wish Molly had been with me. Her daughter showed me where my name came up in the program and adored my sun kachina necklace.
I got a plate of food and had set it down at the table, FULLY planning on stuffing my face since I hadn’t eaten all day. But, first, the picture. Schmoozing. Then, I was supposed to go greet the other table that had awarded me a scholarship – the librarians! So I LEFT my food at Table #1 and went over to say hi to the Agnes Hammond table.
My Intro to Library Svcs professor, Professor Forney, was there! And another librarian turned library science professor who will teach future classes I have yet to take was sitting next to me! I felt quite at home at the library table and totally didn’t get a chance to run back to Table #1 for my food before the ceremony started.
So, I never saw the bookstore people again because it started and I didn’t want to be rude and stand up and move seats when I’d only been at the library table for about 5 minutes. And I never got my food back.
The format of the evening was nice, they had several guest speakers and mostly, they read off the name of the scholarship donors and introduced each donor, then all the scholarship recipients would stand up and everyone would clap.
The best speaker, in my opinion, was my friend from Table #1, Lisa! She wracked up like 5 scholarships last night and when she told her story I understood why. She had a baby at 16, was asked to leave her high school because she was pregnant, joined the workforce, had another baby. Got married to a military man who came home without both his legs and part of his brain, then her father committed suicide. Through all this, she acted as caretaker to her husband and put both of her own children through college. Now she has a solid 4.0 GPA and wants to get a PhD in Psychology and spread suicide awareness. What a fucking rock star.
Carley showed up and joined me at Table #2. I got to stand up twice for my scholarships and get some pictures. The president of Palomar was there, who I met at the honor society induction. It made me so much more calm to know that I had someone coming to join me. Thank you, roomie!
I really hope this Speech class this summer helps me with some of my social anxiety. I want to be able to share my story in front of people without losing it or saying UMMM or just choking entirely. Gosh. We shall see.
I am super grateful, enjoying school, and excited for what the future holds.

Bipolar Disorder in Pregnant and Postpartum Women

Final Annotated Bibliography: Bipolar Disorder in Pregnant and Postpartum Women

Carly Janine

Questions: How does Bipolar Disorder affect women’s health through pregnancy and child-rearing? Should anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, and mood stabilizers be taken while pregnant? What options are there for pregnant women with bipolar disorder? Can bipolar disorder be properly treated while pregnant? In what ways can we support women with bipolar disorder who are going through pregnancy and child-rearing?

  1. Topic: I am trying to learn about bipolar disorder in pregnant women and postpartum outcomes and solutions
    • Question: because I want to find out whether current useful research is being done, what further research is needed
      • Significance: in order to help my reader understand how best to support women with bipolar disorder in pregnancy and to improve postpartum outcomes.

This subject is very near and dear to my heart. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1 in 2013, at age 32. My sweet daughter was three years old at the time. Personally, having a diagnosis made things a lot easier for me and with medication, things became manageable. As I reflect upon my pregnancy and my mood swings at the time, I wonder how I could not have known, and if I had known, what I would have done. It made me curious what others do, as it seems there is often a lot of debate on the online bipolar community forums about whether we should have children, and if so, whether we should come off of our medications in order to do so.  Common misconceptions about people suffering from Bipolar Disorder include stereotyping them as irresponsible, sexually promiscuous, unstable.  Researching this topic has been both personally satisfying and frustrating for me, as I realize there is still so much more research to be done and support to be offered. I have done my best to offer up the most useful sources I could find relating to the topic of bipolar disorder in women, particularly women going through pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum depression and mania.

The criteria I used to evaluate my sources was a blend of several evaluation styles we learned in Week 3. I used the questions from the Curious Ways of Knowing, the checklist from Excelsior College, and the Rhetorical sheet although I relied heavily on the questions from the Curious Ways of Knowing for evaluating all of my sources.


Bodén, R., Lundgren, M., Brandt, L., Reutfors, J., Andersen, M., & Kieler, H. (2012, November 8). Risks of adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes in women treated or not treated with mood stabilisers for bipolar disorder: population based cohort study. The BMJ, 345(e7085). Doi:10.1136/bmj.e7085


This article follows a study based in Sweden that determined women with Bipolar Disorder face increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. The primary findings of this study state that treatment of Bipolar Disorder involves risk management. This study in particular adds that infants of women with Bipolar Disorder had increased risks of “preterm birth, irrespective of whether the mother had received mood stabilising drugs” and that “infants of women with untreated bipolar disorder had also increased risks of microcephaly and neonatal hypoglycaemia.”

I evaluated this scholarly source by using the Way of Curious Knowing questions primarily. I determined this to be a “Source by Scholars” and the methodology used in the study seemed to make sense. A group of women diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder were studied throughout their pregnancies and the outcomes of those pregnancies was recorded. Missing from this study is a comparison including drug use and Bipolar Disorder and pregnancy all together, which would be helpful in future charting. The study was funded by grants, and the authors include researchers, a psychiatrist, pediatrician, gynecologist, and a biostatician. The professional expertise of the authors, combined with their efforts to get this research funded, convinced me that they were a reputable source to include. It was published in 2012 by BMJ.


Cook, C. L., Flick, L. H., Homan, S. M., Campbell, C., McSweeney, M., & Gallagher, M. E. (2010). Psychiatric disorders and treatment in low-income pregnant women. Journal Of Women’s Health (15409996), 19(7), 1251-1262. Doi: 10.1089/jwh.2009.1854

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This study, published in 2010, took place in the USA. 744 low-income women in Missouri were studied over the course of 12 months, of whom approximately 30% had mental illness. A shocking number of women were completely untreated for their mental illnesses during that year, and bipolar disorder was represented in about 5% of the women. This study found that there is a dire need for comprehensive mental health screening during pregnancy, as well as more treatment options and accessibility for low-income women.

All of the authors contributing to this study are PhDs. One of the limiting factors in this study is that they chose only to include applicants who can speak English. I would like to see a version of this study run again in which all eligible women could participate, perhaps with the aid of translators and really refine the research. However, overall, I was very impressed with the methodology displayed in this study and it is a primary research article based in the USA, which I appreciate. I would like to see more studies of this kind in more cities as this one is already eight years old. It was funded with research money from the National Institute of Mental Health.


Harwood, D. (2017). Birth of a new brain: Healing from postpartum bipolar disorder (pp.1-212). New York, NY: Post Hill Press.


This book, written by Dyane Harwood, details her experience firsthand with Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. It includes a wealth of information, including its own appendixes and recommended reading list. I was lucky enough to connect with this author on Twitter after posting about searching for sources on Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. Published in 2017, it is recent and all-encompassing as told by the patient’s point of view from postpartum onset and her diagnosis, to present day. Harwood was so excited to have someone studying what she had just written about that she sent me a copy of her book and I enjoyed it very much.

Dyane Harwood is a writer in Santa Cruz, CA. She has contributed to many mental health websites, magazines, and now has written a book detailing her experiences with Postpartum Bipolar Disorder. The strength of this source lies in it being firsthand experience, and it also included a foreword by Dr. Carol Henshaw, a psychiatrist familiar with Harwood’s case. Being a firsthand experience type of source, its weakness lies in that it is one person’s experience.


Miller, L. J., Ghadiali, N. Y., Larusso, E. M., Wahlen, K. J., Avni-Barron, O., Mittal, L., & Greene, J. A. (2015, April). Bipolar disorder in women. Health Care for Women International, 36(4), 475-498. Doi:10.1080/07399332.2014.962138


This lengthy article on Bipolar Disorder in Women acts as a summary of research relating to the clinical care of these women. It includes a multitude of facts and statistics and boasts its own extensive bibliography of research for further study. It was interesting to see a collection of USA-based researchers after finding so many articles published in other countries. Despite not having conducted their own study, I found this research to be valuable and worth sharing.

The authors of this piece are seven psychiatric researchers from reputable schools, and their methodology in conducting their research seems spot-on to me. I was hesitant at first to include this source, despite it being scholarly and peer-reviewed, because they did not conduct their own study. However, I would be curious to know more about the statistics they used and to use their bibliography as a jumping point for future research. It is important to have current information, and I appreciate the efforts to get this paper out there in 2015, updating and making accessible a lot of research that was scattered around in databases. It was published by Health Care for Women International.


Minick, G., & Atlas, M. (2007, August). What’s the best strategy for bipolar disorder during pregnancy? [Electronic version]. Journal of Family Practice, 56(8), 665-668.



This medical article appeared in the Journal of Family Practice in 2007 and covers strategies for coping with and treating Bipolar Disorder in pregnant women. While abbreviated, I found the medical information to be valuable and Dr. Minick goes into the advantages and disadvantages of using lithium and other medications. “Onset of bipolar illness often occurs in the teens and twenties, which puts women with bipolar disorder at risk for having episodes requiring treatment during their childbearing years.”

This article was, interestingly enough, written by an MD and a Librarian. I found this to be an intriguing combination. I found the contributions of both to be somewhat evident, although the medical findings generally dominated the article – they were well-organized. It also included a table with information pertaining to medications and side effects/contraindications. I would like to see an updated version of this article with a study attached covering a population of women with Bipolar Disorder. I would also like to see more doctors involved with this type of research. This article was published in 2007 by the Journal of Family Practice, which seems to be a medical journal.


National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, (2006). Bipolar disorder: The management of bipolar disorder in adults, children and adolescents, in primary and secondary care (pp. 1-596). England: British Psychological Society. Retrieved from PubMed Health (21796830)


This seriously dense book is available in its entirety as a PDF on PubMed Health, and I noticed you can also purchase it on Amazon for under $100. It is a book in a series on psychological issues, and it includes vast amounts of information, including the treatment of pregnant and postpartum women with Bipolar Disorder. Overall treatment plans are included, as are trees advising whether the tapering of lithium or switching to antipsychotics is advised while the patient is pregnant or trying to become pregnant. I was so happy to find this source available for download.

Published in 2006, it would be great to see an updated version of this book. However, in searching for sources I found this one to be vetted. It includes pages and pages of references itself, and goes into treatment for children, as well, which is hard to find and very relevant to mothers that suffer from Bipolar Disorder, as there is a risk of their children being diagnosed with it as well. It was difficult to decipher the author of this book, as it seems to come from a group of people, the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. Within the text, many authors are listed with varying credentials, all seeming to be professors, researchers, doctors, and similar.


Nguyen, T. N., Faulkner, D., Allen, S., Hauck, Y. L., Frayne, J., Rock, D., & Rampono, J. (2010). Managing pregnant women with serious mental illness: using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale as a marker of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Australian & New Zealand Journal Of Psychiatry, 44(11), 1036-1042. Doi: 10.3109/00048674.2010.503185


In this study conducted in Western Australia, 48 women with serious mental illness were treated by a team of caregivers. “The clinic has a multidisciplinary team, which comprises a midwife, a general practitioner/obstetrician, a psychiatrist and a social worker, all with sessional capacity, who come together during the running of the weekly outpatient clinic.” Many of the women in the study suffered from Bipolar Disorder, and all women who participated in the study gave birth between 2007 and 2009. Their methods seem solid, in that they attempted to keep track of the anxiety experienced using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and gestational outcomes using control groups and statistical analysis.

I was unable to find out much about the authors of this study, but the fact that it was published in a peer-reviewed journal gives me confidence in it as a source. I would have liked to have seen more information on medications and the use of mood stabilizers in a study like this, so I would enjoy seeing an updated version of this study for today with many more participants.


Rusner, M., Berg, M., & Begley, C. (2016). Bipolar disorder in pregnancy and childbirth: a systematic review of outcomes. BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, 161-18. Doi:10.1186/s12884-016-1127-1


This article focused on nine research articles on Bipolar Disorder and used a narrative style to convey the synthesis of research. It includes many tables and statistics. It shows that there is a clear negative impact of Bipolar Disorder on pregnancy outcomes, including increased risk of medical interventions during labor and increased rate of caesarean section. Due to the fact that only nine studies were deemed inclusion-worthy, there is a lack of research on the control group of women with Bipolar Disorder that are not on mood stabilizers. Another article out of Sweden, I found the material to be a little overwhelming but ultimately helpful.

I appreciated the systematic approach to the overload of information there is out there on Bipolar Disorder. Their initial searches yielded over 2,000 articles, narrowed down to nine. I found the authors’ methods to be engaging, as they used narration to convey information. This is a scholarly article, and although no study was conducted by the primary researchers, I found them to be credible. This article was published in 2016 by the BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth journal.

Scholarship Application



This morning I filled out a generic scholarship application so I could hopefully qualify for some general scholarships that are offered at Palomar. There were two short essay questions.

The first essay question was to be less than 300 words, and pertained to our choice of major/profession.

Response #1:

English is my passion. I have always been a writer, always wanted to write. When I initially graduated high school in Houston in 1999, I received a scholarship for Creative Writing at the University of Houston off of my college entrance essay. Sometimes it’s almost like the last 20 years never even happened. Writing is the only thing that I have always consistently loved. For a long time, I struggled with the idea of what I would do with an English degree. I don’t particularly want to teach, although I have a passion for knowledge and sharing information.

This love of information brought me to Library Science. Ultimately, what I would like to do is transfer to Cal State San Marcos and finish my undergraduate education in English. Once I have that, I would like to attend the San Jose State University online master’s program and receive a Master’s of Information and Library Science. I would love to become a librarian and work with the public.

I am impressed with Palomar’s Library Tech Program. Although I am focusing on the transfer credits I need for my English degree, I have concurrently been taking classes in Library Science to feel out the field and perhaps finish the certificate program in addition to my English degree. What I really lack so far is actual library experience, as I work and raise my daughter as well. To that end, I am seeking volunteer opportunities within local libraries and perhaps a part-time job at a bookstore, as entry-level library jobs are hard to come by. I do have hope!

My ideal life would be filled with books, paper, laptops, and words. I want to create worlds for people to read, comment on society, and ultimately serve society by becoming a librarian.

The second essay question involved outlining any struggles we face in our academic journey, 300-500 words.

Response #2:

In late 2013, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1. It is an illness that I have apparently struggled with my entire life. It was a very hard year for me. I lost my apartment when I could no longer afford the rent and had to move back in with my estranged husband. I had a nervous breakdown and lost my job and disappeared, fled town, for over a week. I was eventually found in San Francisco, and was arrested due to my conduct during my breakdown. It turns out the breakdown was a dysphoric mania episode with psychosis. I was hearing voices, terribly paranoid, I kept throwing away my cell phone and purchasing new burner phones, but I had nobody’s phone numbers, nobody to help me. My family had no choice but to leave me in jail for two weeks until I was sane enough to figure out how to bail myself out. They could not find a psych bed for me.

All’s well that ends well, but it took many psychiatric appointments and medication changes to find stability. I was on probation for two years, which I completed successfully. I returned to my career as a massage therapist and have been working steadily ever since.

In addition to my struggles with my mental health, which is thankfully well-managed these days, I also have a beautiful, perfect daughter named Molly. She is 7 years old now and in the second grade. Her father and I divorced after my breakdown, and while we have joint custody, she is primarily with me. I pick her up from school every day and we have grand adventures.

I figure if I work hard and continue my steady pace and getting good grades at school, I should finish my Master’s degree around the time she finishes high school. There is nothing I would enjoy more than being totally free to pursue a job as my daughter goes off to start her life.

I am poor. I am mentally ill. I am a single mom. I try not to tie my identity to these things, but they are a part of who I am. Being poor is something I can change, and while I know librarians are not rich, the idea of having a career that includes such things as pensions and benefits is amazingly appealing. I will work hard to make that future happen for myself, and for her.


It was difficult writing such short and important responses, but I hope I did alright, and maybe this year will be a little easier if I can snag some scholarship money. Wish me luck!

Home Front USA: San Diego, California (World War Z Fan-Fiction)

Carly Janine

Professor Craig Thompson

English 203


Home Front USA – San Diego, California

[Chandra Poole is a white woman in her mid-30s. She is wearing crisp scrubs, and we are sitting on a bench in San Diego, California.]

I had just finished seeing a client, I was a massage therapist back in those days, before the great panic set in. I worked on the coast in Bird Rock, which is part of San Diego between La Jolla and Pacific Beach, on the coast. It’s a sleepy little town, most of the time, although it does get overrun with tourists regularly, hoping to climb down the cliffs to surf, or sipping coffee at the Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. We were just across the street from them, at the Bird Rock Massage Studio. Our place was tiny, just three treatment rooms, and very serene. I was off early in the day, as usual. What was unusual is that it was a Tuesday, and normally there are three of us on, but that day I was the only one that showed up to work.

This had me slightly concerned, but I figured something was going around or it was just the way things had fallen that day, maybe a sick child or bad traffic had gotten to my coworkers. I certainly wasn’t scared. So, I wandered across the street to the La Shore Deli and got my usual Crazy Chicken sandwich. It was always a beautiful sandwich, with avocado and bacon and sliced chicken. My favorite. The things we used to take for granted, right?

[I nod. She continues.]

Now, you’ve got to understand that San Diego was a heavily militarized city. We all felt safe. We had the Marines at Camp Pendleton. We had Miramar, 32nd Street, fucking Navy Seals in Coronado! Who would ever take out San Diego? Nobody. We always figured if we were ever a strategic target, we would be okay. There was heavy surveillance everywhere. There was desalinization, disaster preparedness of the general population was pretty high due to the regular fires and earthquakes. Complacency is what took out San Diego. We were so goddamn smug. There was an answer for everything. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me backtrack.

The funny thing is, the deli was still open that day. As I was saying, we felt safe. San Diego always had some under-the-radar military tests going on. We would hear strange booms in the night, or see lights in the sky. It was so common that people didn’t really question anything anymore. We also had a thriving homeless population, despite the lack of organized services to properly care for, process, rehouse and retrain them. Mental health services were scarce, and that was the year of the Hepatitis A outbreak. They were literally washing shit off the streets in an attempt to clean up America’s Finest City. That was our slogan, what a joke, right?

We had already heard some weird stories coming out of the Naval Hospital, stories of people flatlining then coming back to life, aggressive. Who would believe that crap? Not me, not any of us. It was outlandish and inconceivable. So, we kept going to work. People kept getting massages. Life was still rolling along. But the day I got my last Crazy Chicken sandwich, everything changed. I sat in my car, munching on my sandwich, sipping on an iced white mocha with soy. Another ridiculous luxury that I couldn’t afford even then, but I had them anyway. I turned on the radio, and was surprised that most of the stations I listened to were not playing music. 91x was only static. 94.9 and 105.3 still had people in the booth, and they sounded terrified. “Arm yourselves! Hunker down! You have to destroy the brain!” one was saying. Another was still trying to stay calm, telling people to get inside. I turned to NPR, who was already hosting calls from people encountering strange, undead creatures. What the FUCK?!

Where was your son?

He was with his dad. They were all together, my son, his father, his girlfriend, and her two-year-old daughter. They were in Normal Heights, and I was in La Jolla. All of my stuff was up at my place in Escondido, in a room I rented from a friend of mine. Everything was far. I tried to call, to text, but the cell lines were jammed from everyone simultaneously trying to do the same thing. I couldn’t get ahold of them.

[She looks off into the distance.]

I was really lucky. I had just gotten paid a few days before and had a full tank of gas. The panic was setting in, and the lines at all the gas stations were very long. It wasn’t long before the government took over all the radio stations, except NPR. I decided to try and get to my daughter first, before figuring out where to go. My GPS was still working, and the freeways were a nightmare. San Diego always had bad traffic, and now everyone was confused, and scared. I was trying to get away from the beach, while it seemed like everyone with any viable watercraft was trying to get to the shore. At first it wasn’t so bad, I took a circuitous route through Pacific Beach and although it was crowded, people were still being generally decent. When I got to the 8 outside of Ocean Beach, I decided to risk taking it. I was so close to Normal Heights at that point, just a few short miles East and up the hill out of Mission Valley, and I would be there.

Getting on the freeway was a mistake. Although it was still early in the outbreak, I heard reports of the hospitals being overrun. It was strange, losing the hospitals first. We couldn’t figure it out. It wasn’t until much later, of course, that we learned that people receiving organs from China and Mexico on the black market were becoming infected. Tijuana fell almost immediately into chaos, and our border was soon overrun with the living dead. Normal Heights was less than 20 minutes from the border, and I needed to get to my child and get out of there quickly. But the freeway wasn’t moving. Everyone was scrambling to get gas, to get home, to get supplies. It was a nightmare. I decided to exit and loop up to Presidio Park to see if I could see a clear path to get through. I thought perhaps the mission building would be both a great place to scout from, and easily defensible. Ha! As if I had a weapon. I didn’t even carry a taser or mace for self-defense in my car. It took me about an hour to go the meager distance on the freeway to get to the park. I tried not to look at other people in their cars. Whole families, tents, pets were crying, yelling at each other, driving like assholes. It was lucky that I was going East, because the traffic going West, to the ocean, was intense and snarled. People were getting out of their cars and starting to hike, or just sitting in their boats trying to wait it out. They were sitting ducks. People poured in from Arizona, Nevada, Central California, coming to our famous port to try and get on cruise ships, anything that would float.

Presidio Park sits on 40 acres and is on a high hill. The mission itself was built in 1769 to serve as protection from attacking Indians and was the first permanent European settlement on the Pacific Coast of the USA. It had been restored, and was therefore defensible. I had taken my son there for pictures and picnics when he was smaller, before he started school. It was a good memory, but as I crested the hill and really began to look around, I pushed it from my mind. There were other people in the park, that had had the same idea I did. It wasn’t surprising, given that the mission overlooked the 8 freeway and was very visible to all those below, stuck in traffic. Many had hiked up with their gear, hoping to camp in the park, with the fort as a back-up retreat position. Some of them had ham radios, and I listened in, desperate for any details coming out of San Diego.

From atop the hill, I could see great military ships pulling away. I could see our famous Coronado Bridge off in the distance, and wondered if the “suicide bridge” wasn’t perhaps a better option. I shook the suicidal thoughts and focused on getting to my son. I looked more closely and listened to the panicked voices on the radios. A small aircraft had crashed on the 163, snarling traffic in both directions. Always a pervasive threat, fires had broken out in both North and East County, while the dry Santa Ana winds teased and spread the flames. Fire season was always bad in San Diego, and this couldn’t have happened at a worse time. North of us, towards Del Mar, I saw a whole fleet of hot air balloons. They were flying low, heavy, and I was thankful I couldn’t see too closely the horrors of what was happening in that direction, that people were taking off in hot air balloons to escape.

I had just decided that the best way to get to where I needed to go was on foot, following the trails that the homeless had made up the steep incline of Mission Valley to the South, up into University Heights and from there, to Normal Heights, when I heard the explosions. We all looked, stunned, as a series of detonations blew the supports from beneath the Coronado Bridge. It swayed, cracked, and imploded, dumping hundreds of cars into the water below as it came down. “THEY BLEW THE CORONADO BRIDGE! WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT!” sobbed one hysterical man. “There were still people on it…” gasped another. And then echoing silence, before all the radios started squawking at once. None of us in my immediate area had even seen a zombie, but we had all seen them blow the bridge. Now reports were coming in that the Navy had quarantined Coronado. Did that mean that they were staying there? Were they helping us? What was going on? Nobody seemed to have a real answer. More news came in, and it wasn’t good. The North County fires had spread all the way from Bonsall to Oceanside, and begun to move both North AND South along the coast. The botanical gardens in Encinitas were ablaze, as was Legoland. All hospitals had issued orders to stay away, shuttering themselves with the horrors they had within. But of course, the undead were getting out, and some already WERE out, you know? But now we had fires burning uncontained, while a few brave firefighters stayed to try and stave off the worst of the spread. Inmates fought alongside them, battling both the blazes and the undead that were beginning to pop up.

I realized quickly that despite being in a good position, I had nothing. I had no supplies, no food, no idea what was going on with my son and my ex-husband and his family. People told me not to leave. We will share, they said. But I couldn’t stay, I needed to get out of there, for my own peace of mind.

So, you left? You were in arguably one of the best positions in San Diego at the time.

Yeah, since I was one of the few that managed to get my car to the park itself with a lot of gas in it, I decided to straight up trade it. It was a good trade, for me, I think. I got a backpack with some food, water, sunscreen, a hat, a handheld radio, and most importantly – I finally obtained a weapon of my own. It was one of those old school sturdy wooden shovels with a wicked end, you know, it wasn’t far off from being a rudimentary Lobo like those Marines created. It worked, anyway. I left the park on foot and made my way East and up the little jagged trails. I had to double back a lot since some of them ended in little encampments and the like. It was in one of these that I encountered my first zombie. It was getting close to dark, and although I was following the instructions others had given me (take a few steps, stop, listen, look, continue) I was still surprised. I stumbled into a little clearing and it lunged for me before I could even bring my shovel up. I had been using it as a walking stick. The zombie had obviously been one of our many homeless, wearing tattered clothing and it reeked of alcohol and piss more than decay. He had a long beard and was generally unkempt, and I could see the wound on his wrist – hell, his whole hand was hanging by a few ligaments and waggled at me as he lunged forward. He was bigger than me, and my stumble was lucky because I was off-balance, and I fell to the side. If I hadn’t stumbled, I’m sure he would’ve gotten me. While he was turning around, I brought the shovel up and jabbed it forward with everything I had towards his occiput, sending his head flying down the hill as his body crumpled next to me. I was panting, out of shape, scared, but victorious. That’s the closest a zombie’s ever come to taking me out.

I finally crested the hill into Old Trolley Barn Park in University Heights in full darkness. Many homeless lived in the canyons, but I had encountered few living things in the early evening. I took out two more zombies with my shovel as I entered the park, as quietly and quickly as possible. Everyone was saying it was safer to traverse the streets, especially if you were alone, despite the Armageddon that was unfolding all around me. I decided to avoid Adams Avenue, and took the alleys and side streets East until I reached Normal Heights. I could hear regular gunfire, and smell smoke. The radio told me that the trainers at Sea World had released all the creatures back into the wild, as had Scripps’ Birch Aquarium. I wondered what it was like to be in one of our sprawling amusement parks, or the mall, and shuddered. Balboa Park was a death zone, with the infected trapping people inside museums and the zoo, and I could hear their desperate pleas as I switched between different frequencies on the radio.

I could see our old apartment building up ahead, with its locked gate, and I thought of our tweaker neighbor with all of his weapons, and hoped. I had so much hope. It was stupid. They were dead, they had to be, but tears started streaming down my face and I ran the last few blocks, recklessly, loudly, with no thought to what I was doing. I had a train of zombies behind me when I finally stopped short outside the apartment. The windows on the ground floor were broken and had been boarded up, and there was a deep quiet coming from inside. I stopped and turned and started fighting them off. Ten, a dozen, I lost track. I recognized some of the zombies from runs to the corner store and Mariposa Ice Cream. I whirled and sliced, and felt nimble as they were so slow and clumsy. But hungry. Being overconfident was dangerous. I couldn’t make this kind of rookie mistake again. It was finally clear, and I used my key to get into the courtyard. All the apartments on the ground floor, including my exhusband’s, were abandoned. It was dark, and quiet, although in the distance I could hear screams. More gunfire.

The tweaker neighbor, Dennis, suddenly poked his head out of a window from one of the upstairs units. “Chandra, get up here!” he hissed. I bolted up the stairs and there were my old neighbors, huddled in a circle with a pile of weapons and some candles burning. They were mostly elderly and disabled. “Where are they?” I asked. “They waited for you, Chandra, as long as they could, but we heard the military is evacuating people out of Qualcomm Stadium. I haven’t heard anything official, but they waited for hours then hoped you would get the word, so they left. They took your son, all of them together in the Camry. They’re gone.”

Despair washed over me like a wave, threatening to tow me under, to take me back to the suicidal place. I sank to my knees and started sobbing. Why had I left the mission? This was a hopeless scenario, and now these people had nobody to protect them. Where was my son?

Did you ever see them? Did you find your family?

[Chandra ignores the question and continues.]

I felt so defeated right then. I had come all this way only to be denied my son, and now resented these people that suddenly needed protecting. What had they ever done for me? But that, too, was useless thinking. I was exhausted, and I slept then. I slept with my hands gripped around the handle of that shovel, and I let Dennis watch over the others for four hours. I woke up feeling much better, though somewhat unrested. Dennis filled me in on what I missed during my nap, which was the fall of Balboa Park and downtown. Everyone that had evacuated to Petco Park was gone, fallen to the homeless and hoard of zombies pressing northward and westward from Mexico and Arizona. Everyone was to stay clear of downtown, the freeways were now certain death, and the coast was choked with people trying to evacuate via boat. I briefly considered traveling back to Presidio Park, but just as quickly rejected that idea as going backwards. I don’t go backwards, I go forwards, always. I decided to press on to Qualcomm Stadium. I figured since the trolleys were no longer running, I could cut down Texas Street BACK into Mission Valley, and grab the trolley tracks near the Rio Vista station and walk along them to get to the stadium. Rumors were flying on the radio that they had everything there that we could need, food, supplies, helicopters and other people-moving aircraft sent down from Miramar. I would get to my son, or I would die trying. My neighbors begged me to stay, and I thought of how we could all go together, but I knew they would slow me down. I promised to return for them, and left Dennis in charge. We waited through most of the day without much incident, though we saw occasional packs of undead shamble through the streets. I failed at sleeping some more, and as the sun set, I left. I never saw them again.

What happened to them, did you ever find out?

No. All of North Park and Normal Heights was suffering. It looked like a war had already occurred. I got out of there. It took me a full night to reach the Rio Vista station, and when I got there, a trolley was sitting at the station, on fire, and full of zombies. They groaned and shuffled and stank as they burned. None of them pushed the buttons to open the doors, thankfully. I set out and walked through the dawn towards the stadium, on the tracks. Have I mentioned that I’m scared of heights? Do you know how high the tracks run to drop you off at the stadium? Well, it’s fucking high. It was hot, windy, and I was terrified. I was more scared of walking that distance on the tracks up above the city than I was of the zombies, at least in that moment I was. But arrive I did, and Qualcomm was a mess. I saw no helicopters. No people-movers. Only chaos. There were thousands of people there, and some infected, but there were a lot of guns. They kept going off, and bullets would rip through the soft flesh of the infected and tear through other people. There were doctors, nurses, medics from the military. One whole section was devoted to caring for those who had bullet wounds and other injuries from the quick downfall of society. I looked everywhere for my son, for his father. I checked the field, the bathrooms, walked every surface. When I didn’t find them I broke down, sobbing. People were arguing all around me some hopeful of imminent rescue while others sought to fortify, or venture out. It was overwhelming, and loud, and smelly. I hated it there.

Eventually, I pulled myself together and went over to the medical area to offer my services as a massage therapist. With my knowledge of anatomy, I was quickly assigned the task of helping to bandage the wounded, doing everything the stressed-out nurses and doctors could instruct me to do, often with their hands deep inside someone else, looking back over their shoulders with approval or corrections as I fumbled with the unfamiliar tasks. I was so slow, and so clumsy, but it was good to have something constructive to do and keep me occupied. Days passed in this manner, with us taking turns minding the wounded, taking out the occasional flatliner that turned, and sleeping in shifts. The rest of the stadium melted away for me, the rest of the world. I was completely absorbed in my tasks.

Is this how you became a doctor?

Yes, in a way that was the start of my apprenticeship. When we lost most of the doctors in the initial outbreaks within the hospitals, people were desperate. Even before they started the retraining and resettlement programs, there were these unofficial apprenticeships taking place. People banded together, became close, and naturally started sharing information. I basically started my medical training on day three of the great panic in San Diego. Things went to hell so quickly. The military was called off mostly to other locations, and those that refused to leave, those that didn’t defect for home, or Canada, stayed to help and protect us. There were bunkers, and the often-rumored FEMA camps, not to mention border patrol detention facilities and jails and prisons. But it seemed anywhere people were gathered together, someone would either smuggle in the infected, or a few people would get bit and start turning. These cases were easy enough to take out, at first, but later on, when we had writhing masses of zombies pouring in like ravenous snakes, it was not.

That was after we had established fire-watchers on Mt. Laguna and Palomar Mountain. It was dangerous up in the hills, but with the fires racing back and forth at the mercy of the wind, the best we could do was keep track of where they were and try to warn people. So many died in the fires, with the freeways blocked and the coast a mass of zombies and those fleeing them, or fighting, or the quislings that we didn’t have a name for at first, you know, the people that imitated zombies? They seemed to be a global phenomenon. We would see zombies suddenly set upon one of their own, then hear screams. It was terrible.

How long were you at Qualcomm Stadium?

A few weeks. Can you believe we managed to hold the stadium? Some evacuees and East County-born militia men with their seemingly endless supply of ammo. I mentioned though, that guns were not my favorite weapon due to the number of regular humans that were shot. I still use my shovel. It saved my life many times.

[It lay next to her, a gardening implement with a sharpened shovel-end, smooth of splinters and cracks, decorated with random bits of paint and marker.]

But what about your son?

I never found out what happened to them after they left in the Camry. I looked forever. I will never stop looking for my son. Some nights I lay awake and try to picture him out there. Has he become a feral child? Are the four of them still alive, hunkered down, waiting out the inevitable? Or did they die. I hope they died. I hope it was quick and painless and free from fear. I hope we can continue, all of us, but I don’t see it. Even now, with the farming and resettlement in progress in the western states, it feels hopeless. Everything does.

[Chandra grasps her shovel and stands up. The interview is over.]