About Me · Family · Uncategorized

Two Nights in the Psych Ward

Last week I glanced in the mirror and saw a legitimate crazy person. My face was bizarre and twitchy, I was rubbing my hands together, and my hair was completely disheveled.

Erwann asked me repeatedly if I had taken drugs. He promised to help me, and I laughed. He couldn’t help me. I wouldn’t get better. I broke. I knew the guilt would prevent me from killing myself even though I wanted to die more than anything, and part of me hated Erwann for keeping me here. All I could do was surrender to the pain.

We ended up in the ER. I hadn’t slept in two days and desperately needed help to relax. The doctor asked me if I had had thoughts of hurting anyone. I said yes, I wanted to punch my husband earlier when he was trying to calm me down. He ordered me a Valium and left. A social worker named Jennifer then came in and conducted a brief evaluation, concluding that I needed to be admitted to the behavioral health unit at LDS hospital. At first, that didn’t sound so bad.

Jennifer left, the Valium finally kicked in, and I decided I wanted to go home and go to sleep. Jennifer came back and informed us that transfer to the psych ward was not optional; I had been “blue sheeted,” a federal law that allows social workers to forcefully admit anyone who is a danger to themselves or others. Erwann and I both protested, as I had no intention of hurting myself or anyone else. Jennifer said it was too late, that I was “clearly failing at home,” and that I was homicidal. Erwann became agitated, and I was clearly in distress, so Jennifer threatened to call child services if we didn’t calm down and cooperate.

Erwann was not allowed to take me to LDS hospital, so two men came to the emergency room, strapped me to a stretcher, took me away from my family, and handed me over to a nurse named Gina. Gina took all my possessions and strip-searched me, squat and cough included. Once clear, I got in bed while Gina asked me all the intake questions, although she had to wake me twice before finishing. She finally left me to sleep around 1:00 am.

I woke up at 7:00 with full, sore breasts. I wasn’t allowed my own breast pump and had to ask the nurses to borrow one. They brought me a medieval-looking contraption that had no speed setting. It didn’t work well, and I quickly got a clogged milk duct.

I called Erwann and told him that I had ruined everything. I called my mom and told her the same. I slept most of that day, but I was interrupted by the psychiatrist and the social worker. The doctor was patient and kind, but the social worker was annoyingly optimistic and took a phone call from her car insurance in the middle of our conversation.

Erwann was able to see me with the baby at 6:00 pm. Léon began to fuss toward the end of the visit, and my anxiety peaked as they left. At 7:00 pm I asked for an ibuprofen (I had also developed a cold in the middle of all this) and something for my anxiety. I waited and didn’t get anything. I asked again and didn’t get anything. At 9:00 pm I finally pushed the call button in my room and asked again. I was anxious and feverish in bed for two hours before my nurse brought me any medication.

I slept well and was getting bored, so I went to the cafeteria for breakfast. I ate cold French toast and listened to a patient talk about how badly he wanted to be the victim of a mass shooting. I got stuck in a conversation with him about an “Amish whore” he’d shared a cocaine straw with a few months ago.

After breakfast I went to the medication counter to ask for more ibuprofen. There were two nurses behind the counter. I knocked on the window. They looked at me as if I were an interesting animal at the zoo and returned to their conversation. I waited for them to finish and help me, but they didn’t. I waved to try and get their attention. Again, they looked at me and returned to their conversation. I gave up and went to the nurse’s station. There were several nurses chatting in the back. I stood patiently waiting for someone to ask me what I needed. No one did. I waved at the chatting nurses, and no one came. A passing tech finally asked what I needed and helped me get some ibuprofen.

Also waiting for medication at the nurse’s station was another blonde girl about my age. She began to tell me in all seriousness about a crazy jealous woman who had hired international hitmen to have her killed.

“I guess I spent all that time overseas for nothing,” she said.

“You were overseas?” I asked.

“Apparently!” she replied.

I mumbled something about having to call my dad and sneaked away, but I kept an eye on her the rest of the day. She became angry with another patient she thought was trying to kill her and spent a lot of time pacing and chanting in a strange language in her room. I felt sorry for her and the reality she lives in.

I saw the social worker and the doctor again and got cleared for discharge. The doctor asked me if I would come back if I needed help. I lied and said yes. I spent the rest of the day learning nothing in group therapy and watching “Say Yes to the Dress.” I shouted out my commentary for the other patients, although they didn’t seem to enjoy it.

Erwann picked me up that evening, and I’ve been home since. I have had several more crazy episodes and feel complete hopelessness.

I’m just surviving.

About Me · Family · Uncategorized

Don’t Reach Out

Writing has always been a healing process for me, but I have put off writing what I’ve been going through because I feel like I have to be finished with it before I’m allowed to write about it. But I need all the healing I can get right now, so allowed or not, here’s what I’ve been going through.

I felt more fear and anxiety than joy and excitement when I first found out I was pregnant. My pregnancy was not complicated or unusual, but I hated it. I always thought that I would love being pregnant, but I had a lot of morning sickness, back pain, swelling, trouble sleeping, and general discomfort.

Every second of my unmedicated labor and delivery felt impossible. The entire time I thought I couldn’t take anymore. But I did, and I was SO relieved after, both physically and mentally.  Once the initial high of “I DID IT!” wore off, I started feeling pain in my tailbone. The day after returning from the hospital I was back in the ER because I couldn’t sit or stand on my own. I was prescribed strong pain killers, but didn’t take anything more than ibuprofen for fear of it getting in my breast milk.

And then there was a baby. We named him Léon James. He looked exactly as I had imagined he would. He made the cutest whimpering noises right after he was born and he had the most adorable mouth ever. I loved watching Erwann fall in love with him and whisper “He’s so cute!” every time he looked at him. I loved him. I had loved him for a long time, but he was a stranger and a 24/7 job. He ate and pooped every hour or so night and day. I couldn’t sit or lie down comfortably. I couldn’t sleep even when Léon did because I was in too much pain and too anxious about his breathing and when he would wake up next. I was in constant dread of the next time he would wake up, eat, need a change, or cry.

About a week after Léon’s birth, I spent the night slumped and sobbing on the couch in a position that barely hurt less than the others. I cried from the pain, fatigue, and because I wasn’t good enough for him. “I can’t do this,” was the thought that repeated itself without end. I resented him for hurting me and ruining my perfect life. I hated myself for resenting a baby that I had created. How could I blame my innocent baby? Why didn’t I feel that unique, overwhelming, all-consuming motherly love? There were a lot of answers to those questions. I’m worthless. I’m not enough. I’m a terrible mother, and so on. Those answers drove me to squeeze the soft skin on the inside of my wrist again and again until I couldn’t take it anymore, which wasn’t long. I cried and hated myself more because I couldn’t even self-harm properly.

I reached out to my mom. I reached out to Erwann. I reached out to my friends. But nothing changed. I hated being a mom. I wanted my old life back and simultaneously avoided thinking about my old life because it was too painful. I wanted to run away. I wanted to kill myself. I felt like I was already dead. I was no longer the person I had been. I didn’t know who the new person was, and it didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. Léon mattered. He was the only thing that mattered, and he deserved so much better.

I cracked after we had to take Léon to the ER. I stopped responding to Erwann when he talked to me. I cried. I hyperventilated. I cried more, continued taking quick, shallow breaths, and tried to scratch my wrists again. Erwann told me he would take care of everything. He said he would make sure I got better. I didn’t believe him. I wasn’t getting better. Erwann had to arrange to work from home because I couldn’t promise not to hurt myself. I spent days without talking. I only ate when Erwann sat me up and put food in front of me. He would bring the baby to me when he was hungry, and I would feed him, but I didn’t look at him. I stared at the wall crying and waiting for Erwann to take him away.

I started thinking about escape again. Erwann was doing everything in his power to help me get better. I wanted to get better, continue our life together, and be a happy family. I decided to give him time to try to find a solution. But I also I decided to take all the pain killers I had gotten for my tailbone as soon as it became unbearable.

I went to an appointment with my midwife and took the Edinburgh postnatal depression survey. My midwife said the score was scary and suggested immediate hospitalization, but I wasn’t willing to be separated from Léon. She said she knew of an intensive outpatient program for women with postpartum depression and asked if she could call and get me registered right away. I agreed.

I’ve been going to that program for two weeks now. I’m better than before, but I’m not “better.” I gave the pills to Erwann and am having glimpses at what it would be like to enjoy being Léon’s mom when he smiles and coos, but I still have panic attacks and think about escape. I’m learning ways to re-write some of my core beliefs that lead to negative emotions, but still feel criticized every time someone gives me advice because deep down I don’t think I’m a good enough mother. I still dread each feeding and diaper change, but find comfort in nursing and changing diapers alongside the other mom in the program. I am still overwhelmed by my new life and identity, but feel immense love and support from Erwann, my family and friends, and my therapists.

I don’t have much of a conclusion because this story is far from over, but I will leave you with this: Don’t reach out, because it’s not enough. KEEP reaching out. I reached out to my husband, and he saved my life. I reached out to my parents, my friends, a therapist, and my midwife. I have to reach out multiple times every day to get even a little relief from this burden. ALL of that continual reaching out is necessary for me to heal.

So don’t reach out. Keep reaching out until you find the help you need, and then keep reaching out some more.


Brittany · Family · France · Normandy · Paris

Metcalfs in France

Our adventure began in Paris and Normandy with my mom, dad, and little sister. What a joy it was for two of my worlds to finally collide! I loved watching Audrey taste all the delicious foods and my parents just rolling with the punches in a foreign country. We also had uncharacteristically hot and beautiful weather, which we weren’t counting on. Although I, Erwann, and anyone else we talked to would tell my family how lucky they were to have come during such a beautiful week, I still don’t think they realize how fortunate they really were!

In Paris, we did all the basics with all the crowds. It’s so beautiful, and there are so many things to see, so we were all happy to be there and also happy to get out of the city after a few days.

family eiffel tower

Our first stop in the countryside was Auvers-sur-Oise, which is where Van Gogh spent the last few months of his life and where he is buried with his brother, Theo. Mom and Audrey LOVED it. I especially loved this house and all the poppies.

auvers door.jpg

audrey alisa auvers

After Auvers, we got some lunch, and consequently, my parents got their first true “snobby French server” experience. Dad ordered a steak well done. It came out barely browned. We asked the server if we could cook it more. He replied, “That’s not how you’re supposed to eat it,” and huffed away. When it came out the second time, it was even worse. We asked a different server to have it cooked more for us. She demanded, “Well, how did you order it?” In short, the customer is NEVER right in France.

Next, we stopped in Rouen, which is where Joan of Arc was killed. It also has a pretty sick cathedral that Monet painted several times.


Finally, we arrived in Caen. I got to show my family around my old stomping grounds, and we all stayed with Valerie and Christian. They were the most amazing hosts, cooking everyday and making us all feel at home. That’s where my family was finally introduced to the “apero,” which is essentially cocktail hour, but to French people is literally the only thing they look forward to on weekends or vacation. They LIVE for the apero. It’s when they get to visit with family and friends, relax, drink, and snack. It’s what gets them through the tough days. Audrey loved the idea of just sitting around and chatting. I think my parents enjoyed it too, although I’m pretty sure they were starting to wonder if French people do anything other than eat and drink.

After recharging our batteries, we visited Mont Saint Michel, Saint Malo, Saint Suliac, Bayeux, the American Cemetery, Beuvron-en-Auge, Honfleur, and Etretat.

saint malo
Saint Malo, Brittany
galettes saint malo
Galettes in Saint Malo. Audrey’s face says it all.

I kept thinking how lucky my family was to get such an awesome first tour in France. Erwann made it so easy by planning everything and driving everywhere, even on his 30th birthday!

After my parents left, Erwann and I began our travels in Northern and Eastern France. You could call it a vacation, or you could say that we are doing research for the Metcalf’s next trip to France. Stay tuned!

About Me · California · Family · USA · Utah

We did a 12 hour road trip with our cats

“What are you doing about your cats?!” said about 100 people upon learning of our move.

Obviously we took them. We bought a little kitty tent on Amazon a few weeks ago and made a nice kitty fort in my back seat for them to snuggle up in during the drive from Orange County to Salt Lake City. While the tent was in our house, they loved it.


Obviously our plan didn’t work out in the car. Our cats DO NOT LIKE to be locked up. They cried and scratched incessantly. Hazel broke the zipper of the kitty tent and escaped in less than 20 minutes, although not unscathed. She was so desperate to get out that she tore up her nose on the zipper. Once out of her kitty prison, she howled and roamed all over the car, driving Erwann crazy, as he was trying to keep her from going under my brake and gas pedals.

Poppy was mostly chill from the start, but would also cry occasionally. Erwann had to pin Hazel on his lap the entire drive from Costa Mesa to Las Vegas. She would sometimes be calm, but every time she looked out the window she would start to howl again. She dozed off just in time for our first stop.

Along with the tent, we had also bought some kitty harnesses and leashes. I had tried to get them used to the harnesses to no great avail. However, crunch time had arrived. We stopped for gas just outside of Vegas in 108 F. I put the kitties in their harnesses and on their leashes to be able to give them some water and just get out of the car for a minute. They were not pleased.


Erwann and I were not pleased either, because we let Poppy out of the tent to discover that she had peed all over. We decided to ditch the tent all together and make them a little bed in the back. We blocked the seats so they couldn’t go underneath and gave them free roam. This worked much better. They settled in pretty quickly and spent most of the final hours sleeping on our laps.


We made one more stop in Fillmore with the leashes and harnesses. The girls still weren’t loving it, but it wasn’t as hot as Vegas, so it went more smoothly.


We rolled into Salt Lake around 7:30 pm, set up the kitties with their food, water, and litter box, and cleaned the cat pee out of the car as best we could. They are still on the traumatized spectrum almost a week later, but they’ll be fine. They have been drinking a lot of water because they refused to do so during the voyage and seem happy to have plenty of beds to hide under.

Poor kitties. We sure love them though, so I’d say they’re also very lucky.

California · Family · USA

First Anniversary: Yosemite National Park

Erwann and I have been married for one year. August 2015 was a whirlwind; we didn’t even have a honeymoon. In September I went back to school, and Erwann went back to work. In October we “celebrated” Halloween at home with the cats, then we returned to Utah to party turkey style, and for Christmas we returned to Europe. Then the new year came, and we watched fireworks on the beach in Portugal. I have no memory of February. During my spring break, I went to the East coast. When I came home, Erwann was at work but he had surprised me with flowers, cookies, and a love note (*heart eyes emoji*). In April I turned 25 and Erwann spoiled me even more. We also had a great visit from Valerie and went camping in Joshua Tree. In May we went camping again. I had a week off of work in June and went to Utah alone to hang with the Metcalfs. In July we planned our anniversary trip. We got back last week. Did all of that happen in a year, or in a week? The latter seems more plausible.

To celebrate these 12 months of matrimony, we took a long weekend trip up the California coast towards Yosemite National Park. We were disappointed in Big Sur because the weather was yucky. Disappointment made us both grumpy, and we spent most of the first day snapping at each other. It was just in time to make us start regretting the jewelry on our ring fingers. Ha! Just kidding. A darling little gopher cheered us up. A few other people stopped and said it was so cute, but Erwann and I were the only ones happy to sit there and watch the little guy pop in and out of his hole for thirty minutes. Love at first sight (of a cute animal) sums up our relationship pretty well.

We crashed in the glamorous metropolis of Merced that night and rose early to take off for Yosemite. We were ecstatic to see blue skies the whole way, and they continued for the rest of our trip. Luck smiled upon us again, and we found a spot to camp right away. We set up the tent and left to hike the famous mist trail. It was packed with European and Asian tourists, but gorgeous nonetheless. We made friends with another cute rodent and decided that only people who can sit and watch a squirrel for 30 minutes should be allowed in national parks. We also saw a rattlesnake, which was equally as exciting although not as fun.

That night we returned to our temporary home, ate dinner and smores, and went to sleep in the coziest double sleeping bag you could ever imagine. We had planned to wake early and hike again, but at 6:00 am after a nine mile hike, I was not having it. We went back to sleep and woke up when the tent became too hot. We decided to take it a little easier and spent the day lounging by the river and swimming in the perfectly cool water. It was so dreamy. We enjoyed our final night with drinks in the wilderness behind our campsite and more dinner and smores. The next morning we sulkily packed up, saw a few more sites, and hit the road.

We were happy to see the kitties again, but man. The vacation blues hit us so hard. Spending time in a godly place like Yosemite makes you realize how dull and ugly suburbia is. This weekend we’re planning another return to the mountains for one last hurrah before my LAST SEMESTER of grad school. That’s right, folks. I’m almost a master! I wouldn’t have been able to get through any of the school, health, or work related challenges life threw at me this last year without my husband. He gives me strength. I am an extremely sensitive person, but in a way, that also makes Erwann stronger. The Hickels are a great team, and we’re ready for another year. Let’s do this!
Here’s our video from the trip:

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

My dad laughs suspiciously when I call him Daddy. I know it’s a little childish, but it is simply my name for him, because he always makes me feel like a kid in the best way. I know that he’s wiser than me. I know that he will help and protect me if he can. I know he loves me. I’ve known this my whole life.

Earlier today I was very annoyed. Even after talking my husband’s ear off for 30 minutes and texting up a storm with my friends, I still wasn’t sated. I couldn’t get the anger out of my system, so on the drive home I racked my brains for someone who could help. I thought of my dad, because the annoying thing had to do with school and work. I knew he would understand. “Call Dad,” I told Siri.

My dad picked up after one ring. “Hello, my daughter!” he answered cheerily. I filled the next 20 minutes with ranting and whining, and he listened patiently. He was very understanding and supportive. Venting to him was exactly what I needed. He thanked me genuinely for calling and told me that he loved and missed me. He also said that he’s proud of me, which he does often. In fact, he rarely passes up the opportunity. How neat is that? No matter how miserably I may fail, I always know that my dad still thinks I’m awesome. I’m not so naive to assume that every kid is as lucky, so I am thankful.

Thank you, Daddy. Happy Father’s Day.

Family · USA · Virginia · Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., Joshua Tree, & California Mountains

I made it home safe and sound to my poor husband whom I left behind for my spring break. There were a lot of people worried about him. It’s funny because no one seemed to be worried about me taking planes, trains, and buses all over the country by myself, but everyone asked me how Erwann was going to manage a week at home alone. Somehow he survived, and I enjoyed a couple days not only in Kentucky, but also in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. My pal Aaron even drove into D.C. to join us, and my parents and Will just happened to be there at the same time as well (I’m not kidding. It was actually a coincidence).

Here’s photographic proof.

Shortly after I got home, I celebrated my 25th birthday. I was so spoiled. I even got my mother-in-law. Most people gave me a hesitant look of pity when I told them that she was flying in the day of my birthday, after which I would reassure them that yes, it really was okay, my mother-in-law really is awesome.Here’s photographic proof.

We didn’t have huge plans for her visit because we were mostly just excited to see her, but we still managed to squeeze in a camping trip in Joshua Tree National park. It makes me so happy when Erwann and Valerie get to see each other. It’s also a plus that she’s so much fun, so easygoing, and so adventurous.

After a weekend in the desert, Erwann and I were bitten by the camping bug. We kissed Valerie goodbye and took off almost immediately into the mountains. We have a great new tent, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to protect us from 35 degrees, rain, wind, and hail. It was an interesting night to say the least, but we stuck it out until morning and woke up to a beautiful, sunny day.

The time between then and now are very blurry. I guess I finished another semester of grad school, but I’m not really sure how? It’s been crazy. It seems like a week ago I had a million things to do, and like they just disappeared all of the sudden. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Erwann and I celebrated me being one step closer to a master’s degree with another little trip into the mountains. This time we brought the guitar and sung together by the fire. Also, it was less cold than our previous adventure. I still froze, but that’s an occupational hazard. A fun time was had by all.

Next up on the agenda: a visit from Arin (my friends and I are SLAYING this long distance thing), summer school, a trip back to Utah, and if I’m lucky, some more cold nights with Erwann and our tent.