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.

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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.

 

Alsace · Belgium · Bruges · France · Uncategorized

Summer 2017 European Road Trip, Part 1

Immediately after my parents left France, Erwann and I started preparing our little car (graciously lent to us by the sweetest MIL ever) for a month long trek through Europe.

depart emieville

We popped back in at Erwann’s grandmother’s in Paris for the evening and took off to Lille. We stayed with a friend of Erwann’s who came to the wedding in Utah. He and his girlfriend bought an old bar and are remodeling the whole thing. They were very gracious to host us despite all the hard work they’re putting into their new home. Also, they have pet rabbits named Mary-Kate and Ashley. Brownie points.

From Lille we visited Bruges, Belgium. WOW. What a beautiful city. Most cities have one cute neighborhood, but Bruges is full of them. Every street was lovely with unique Flemish architecture and vibrant colors. Also, Belgian chocolate. On a Belgian waffle. Just saying.

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bruges2

Next, we went to the Alsace region in Eastern France. WOW. Mountains, fairy tale villages, wine, and BABY FOXES. I REPEAT. I SAW A REAL BABY FOX.

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11th century castle ruins overlooking Ribeauville
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Petite France, Strasbourg
colmar
Colmar

Bruges and Colmar both have “little Venice” neighborhoods. But here’s the thing. Having been to Venice, I think Venice should actually be called “little Bruges” or “little Colmar.” Venice is definitely worth a visit, but I certainly prefer Bruges or Colmar!

The highlight of Alsace was lunch at Saint-Hippolyte, one of the villages along the Route des Vins. It was quiet, calm, and looked like it belonged in a story book. We sat down at the only open restaurant, ordered some local white wine that was fruity yet dry, and thus delicious beyond description. Erwann ate some kind of Alsatian pizza with cream and ham. I got a salad with melted Munster cheese. For dessert we got more Munster cheese. YUM.

Alsace borders Germany, so from Colmar we drove across the border into foreign lands. See you again soon, France!

About Me · Uncategorized

I got off Facebook for 40 days and here’s what happened

My mom and I love Lent. If you don’t know, Lent is a Catholic tradition during which you’re supposed to give up something challenging as a symbol for Jesus’ 40 day fast. This happens every year during the 40 days before Easter. I know, I know, we’re not Catholic, we don’t get it, we are ignorant, blah blah blah, we don’t care, we do what we want because we’re rebels like that. A few years back, we gave up chocolate. Once I stopped buying vending machine food (an impressive feat for a starving college student). The craziest thing we did was give up sugar. I don’t recommend that. This year, my mom gave up all processed food. I wish her the best of luck in her endeavor. As for me, I decided to give up Facebook. I know, that’s like a million times easier than processed food, but whatever. It’s different, and I didn’t want it to be food related this year. It was an interesting experience. To be fair, I started writing this less than 20 days into my experiment. But, I quickly began to notice some stuff that I thought I should document before I forgot.

1. It’s not that bad. It’s more of a habit than an addiction. The only thing that made it really hard is when I was sitting around and pulled out my phone absentmindedly, I always had to make the effort to remind myself not to open Facebook. It’s just so automatic, which brings me to my next point.

2. During those moments when I was just sitting around, on my lunch break for example, I got kind of bored. Like, what am I supposed to do while I eat alone, just stare at the wall? It was weird. But it was kind of good too, because I started thinking about bringing a real book or something instead of staring at my newsfeed.

3. I thought my phone battery would last FOREVER. It didn’t.

4. That’s because although I gave up Facebook (and Instagram too, actually), I didn’t give up any other social media such as Snapchat or Pinterest. So in my boredom, or during those times when I just felt the need to *check* something, I usually opened up Pinterest or sent a string of pictures of Poppy and Hazel to everyone I know.

5. However, the Pinterest thing hasn’t been completely detrimental. I spend a lot of my time on there finding fun projects, which I think is worthwhile. We recently took a trip to the local nursery and bought a lemon tree, as well as some potted flowers for me to take care of. New hobbies! It’s been bothering me for a long time that I don’t have a real hobby. Erwann is always busy fiddling around on his guitar, rebuilding an old guitar, or playing basketball. I have always felt like I don’t have my own <i>thing</i>, but now my wheels are turning. I’m not sure if there was a correlation with my absence from Facebook, but I decided to get back into the piano. Again, this has yet to happen, but there is a *plan.*

6. I felt a little bit out of touch. Not because I lost contact with anyone, because I talk to my tribe very regularly outside of Facebook, but because (to my slight disgust) I get way too much of my news from Facebook. I found myself asking Erwann every night, “So, what did I miss today?” I should probably start reading the newspaper or something.

7. It was so nice not to have Jane Doe’s nonsense on my mind. The other day, Erwann asked me, “Did you see what Jane Doe posted about the election?” Then I realized that Jane Doe hadn’t even crossed my mind in a LONG time, and that was a nice realization. I try (but don’t really succeed) at keeping my Facebook as personal as possible, so it was nice to feel a little bit of clarity in only getting authentic updates from my closest friends and family.

8. I don’t know if it’s related or not, but I also called both my grandmas during my time off from Facebook.

9. There is A LOT of other stuff to be doing. I was definitely more productive. I know it sounds so simple, but seriously, if you want to get something done, you should really get off of Facebook. The other night, Erwann was sleeping, and I was bored. Normally I most likely would have wasted a good hour browsing on my phone. Without that option, I got up and pretty much cleaned the entire house at 9 pm. And if you know me at all, you know how absolutely out of character that is. Generally, Alisa shuts down for the day around 6 pm, after which nothing may be expected of her. Now my house is so clean and I have plants.

10. I miss funny animal videos. I know I could look them up on my computer without Facebook, but the fact is, I don’t. Luckily I have my own collection of funny cat videos on my phone.

I’ve still got a few more weeks to go, but I don’t think I’m going to have any sort of earth-shattering epiphanies about The Social Network between now and then. I’m not about to abandon Facebook forever, but it’s been a fun little experiment, and I will definitely be monitoring my time spent there in the future. I like my clean house and my plants.

About Me · California · Uncategorized · USA

Butter me up

I have a very important message for all 10 people who read my blog. Stop everything you are doing immediately and head straight to Trader Joe’s, because you really need to get your hands on their salted French butter.

Oh, P.S., hi, I’m having a love affair with butter. It started at my grandma-in-law’s (is that the right way to refer to her? “my husband’s grandma” sounds so distant) during Christmas when she put fresh baguette and butter on the table with dinner. I was so stoked on the baguette that I was gobbling it up “dry,” which was a big no no to my grandma-in-law. So at her prodding, I paired the delicious French baguette with some butter. Even fresh out of the fridge, it spread smoothly, and melted quickly in my mouth, with the perfect amount of saltiness, and I fell in love.

In Portugal, we also ate butter with toast every morning, and I was smitten again. My poor in-laws’ butter wasn’t lasting the week because of me. Eventually I fessed up about my obsession and told Erwann I was actually blown away by how much better the butter was in Europe. That’s when he said, “You know we can buy good butter in the U.S. too, right?”

WHAT?! There are options other than the rock hard cubes of tasteless lard? Yes, and it will change your life. It’s about $3 for a big block, which for us is kind of steep, especially considering that it doesn’t last us much more than five days, but it has turned my life upside down. Knowing that there is delicious butter to be spread on toast with fig jam (another side love affair) and dipped in tea (sounds disgusting, isn’t) is what has been getting me out of bed the past few weeks.

In order to continue slathering salted butter on every meal, I’ve also started easing back into the gym. I did ab stuff yesterday, and my shoulders are sore…? So yeah, that’s how that is going.

I’ve also gotten back to work and school, which have been surprisingly painless so far. Work is an absolute joy. ESL is the best thing that has ever happened to my self-esteem. At 5’10 with blonde hair, I really don’t look like a normal human to some of my students from Asia, but more like a cartoon character. Someone tells me I’m beautiful literally everyday. They are all so sweet. To reward them, I try to teach them as much English as I can. It’s hard to say for sure, but I feel like I’m doing a good job. As cliche as it sounds, I truly feel like I’ve found my calling.

They even sometimes give me snacks, and I got a bunch of Christmas presents too!

As for school, I’m in my last year!!! My classmates and I remarked how we are like seniors now. We know the ins and outs of the program and of its professors. This semester I have my favorite professor for two classes, and at the moment I’m feeling ready to knock another semester out of the park.

I also have a lot to look forward to during the next little while to help get me through. My bestie Margaret just left last week, my mom is coming to visit for a long weekend starting on Wednesday, I’m going to Chicago, Kentucky, Virginia, and D.C. to see my besties in March, my mother-in-law is coming on my birthday in April, and my bestie Arin is planning a trip out here in May. So yep, 2016 and “Snowpocalypse” are off to a great start.

Uncategorized · Wedding

Grad School & Green Cards

Boy, is life crazy right now. Everything has been such a whirlwind. Some time in August of 2014, I received a text from my manager at Enterprise, telling me to be at work at 6:00am the next morning. My reply: “lolololololol.” Him: “No, seriously. The regional VP called tonight and said we have to get two 15 passenger vans cleaned up perfectly or I may be looking for a new job.” Shortly after receiving that text, I started looking up graduate schools. A few weeks later, I applied at California State University, Fullerton. In December, I quit Enterprise despite the fact that all my superiors were telling me I was making a huge mistake concerning my financial future, got a waitressing gig (BIG SIGH) and hit the books again. And it’s hard. I haven’t done anything too heavy yet, but I know what’s coming now, and I’m scared. Plus now I’m surrounded by all these academic types again (normal sigh).

It’s not a big deal, I know I’ll pull through. However, I applied for my financial aid in November, and I still don’t have anything. I thought financial aid was supposed to relieve my stress, not make it worse? On top of that, I actually NEED some of that aid so I can you know, BUY MY FIANCE A GREEN CARD. Guys, it ain’t cheap. And we’re just now finding out that while we’re waiting for everything to go through, Erwann may not be able to work for a few months (BIGGEST SIGH). Everything will work out, it always does. But I feel like I’m treading water, and I’m starting to run out of breath.

Back to the original big sigh- working in a restaurant again is just OH SO FUN. It’s in a somewhat swanky latin joint at the local “anti-mall” (seriously, that’s what it’s actually called). The food is ah-mazing and the money is great, but it’s a little more hipster-snob than I am. The training process was fun while trying the food, but the gigantic test afterwards made me think I should be paid more than minimum wage. And now I’m the new girl, again. In restaurants there are always these server types that have worked there for like eight years, they’re friends with everyone and they make you feel so stupid for not knowing every ingredient on the menu or where every spare napkin goes. There’s of course always a few nice types too, but it’s just hard when you don’t fit into the tight little restaurant family. It makes working Friday, Saturday and Sunday EVERY week even more difficult.

On a less sigh-filled note, I do have an exciting month coming up! In just over two weeks one of my dearest friends from study abroad/bridesmaid, Margaret, is coming to visit!!! We’ve been counting down for what feels like forever, and now it’s getting so close! We have the whole weekend already planned with wining, dining, baking, cats, yoga, beach and sunshine. We have three years to catch up on! Just a few weeks after, I’m making a quick trip to Vegas to see my oldest friend/bridesmaid, Janaea! Getting all the wedding details in order has been a little bittersweet so far, because it’s all been done long distance. Janaea is my closest bridesmaid, and she’s more than 500 miles away. I can’t wait for March to get here, I’m in need of some friendship!

France · Normandy · Uncategorized

Learning French Grammar, Coping with Pastries

9/22/2011

Me: Yeah I’m totally getting the hang of this French thing.
Teacher: frenchfrenchfrenchfrenchfrencvoixpassivefrenchfrenchfrench. Ok? Go.
Me: What the @#$%@#$ is the passive voice?

Here’s an active voice: The teacher taught the students.
And the passive: The students were taught by the teacher.

Okay; 1) It seems very simple. It’s not, I promise. If there’s anything you need to know about France it’s that nothing will EVER be as simple as it should be. 2) The passive voice is stupid. I’m pretty sure moving the subject of a sentence to the end goes against every writing class I’ve ever taken. There’s no point. 3) Everyone knows how to do this perfectly, except for my fellow Americans. Fantastic. If you are ever in France and someone assumes you’re stupid because you’re American, I’m sorry. It’s probably my fault.

However, we’re not stupid! None of us have ever learned it. That doesn’t matter though, certain members of our class think it’s hilarious. Certain members of our class like to laugh at the “stupid Americans.” Certain Americans have waged an academic war on certain other classmates. Watch out, certain classmates. The stupid Americans are gonna sneak up on you.

Enough rambling for now. Picture time!