My Semi-Manic Memories of the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand

My Semi-Manic Memories of the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand

Mania Skews Perceptions of Tragedies

Seeing images of the Tsunami in Japan makes me recall the Tsunami of 2004; I was in Thailand at the time and had just been carted off the island I was on because of a minor manic episode. By the time the Tsunami hit, I was extremely subdued because of the tranquilizers I was on, didn’t have TV, and had little understanding of the enormity of what was happening.


No one died on the island I was on because it was protected by an island that was on higher ground in front, but I was in the Krabi region (3 hours from Phuket and less than 1 hour to Phi Phi Island of The Beach). Both Phuket and Phi Phi Island were hit hard by the Tsunami and thousands of tourists from foreign countries were killed in the Tsuanami or its aftermath.


Whenever I went to and from Krabi, I passed a nearby temple where the body bags were piled up. A monk visited the mountain resort where I was staying and showed us pictures of the dead; one memorable picture had a possible trick of the light—there was a ray of sunlight coming from the body to the sky. In my manic state, I took it as a spirit leaving to the sky.


My friends and family didn’t know I’d left the island and it took several hours to get word to them that I was ok. It was probably the only time that they they were happy to hear that I was manic.


I knew I was lucky to be alive, but I never thought that it was fate. If it was really fate, was it also fate for the 11,000 who died in the Tsunami in Thailand and the thousands more who died elsewhere throughout Asia? Was it really their time to go or were they just in the wrong place at the wrong time?


I think the latter is true. My life is no more or no less important than anyone else’s life.  I just happened to be one the very lucky and was in the right place at the right time.


Again, I was distanced from the Tsunami because of my manic episode, but those around me weren't. As one of my delusions, I felt like I could communicate with people in a way that let them cry about their experiences without shame. This may or may not have been true. The real heroes at  the bungalow resort on the island were several Canadian paramedics staying there whose calm natures and strength in times of crisis enabled them to repair the restaurant. (I was kept off the island so I wouldn't get in anyone's way.)


After things had settled down in Thailand after the Tsunami, the bungalow resort on the island had a small ceremony for the people on the island who had lost family members to the Tsunami. Some tourists stayed, but refused to go in the water because they were afraid of seeing a dead body in the water. Because Thais believe in ghosts, there were even stories in the Bangkok Post about Thais who suddenly started speaking in Swedish—one Thai woman reportedly woke up and asked for a hamburger in Swedish.