Tag Archives: psychiatric hospitalization

Guest Post from @SavageLaura: A tale of two sisters & the power of social media

Last summer. It was terrifying.

My heart skipped a thousand beats and my butt barely clung to the edge of my office chair when “I’m at the hospital. I’ll call you back” were the last words my mother said before the call ended. My eyes filled with tears. That lump in my throat, hard as a fist, reached down and wrenched my guts.

Rewind a few months, and I will tell you why.

It was the end of April, 2010 when a pretty yellow envelope peeked at me from inside the mailbox. It was addressed to me; my sister’s chicken-scratch handwriting a dead giveaway she was the sender. The cutest card adorned with white buttons and a pastel tree slipped out of the envelope. A cutesy font read “Your Family Tree is Growing More Beautiful Each Day”. Oh my God. I read it over and over, the blurb “See you in November” on the inside written in the same chicken-scratch handwriting.

Excitedly I fumbled with my cell phone to take a photo of myself, card next to a wide grin, and send it to my sister. Within minutes she was calling. An immediate barrage of questions ensued. “Yes, I really am pregnant. No, we don’t want to know what it is. Yes, I already told you I AM PREGNANT. Yes, mom knew. We wanted to wait until we were past the first trimester in case something happened.”

I was happy for her. For them. Really I was, but I couldn’t push aside some strange feeling that something wasn’t right. I could hear a smile in her voice, but it was entwined with a sort of sadness. Why didn’t she tell me? I’m her big sister… she could tell mom, but not me? My mind tried to recount the last month or two, searching my memory for something I may have said, or not said, or did or didn’t do. She had been quiet. Her calls had been infrequent.

A few weeks later I confronted my sister. She said she’d been a little down, and having morning sickness. And wanting to sleep a lot. She’d been real tired. Ding ding! I asked her about her meds. The antidepressants. I know my sister, and when the depression starts looming her recourse is to retreat to her bed and stay. For days.

At one point she broke down and cried. I encouraged her with whatever uplifting words I could muster. And then I asked her, “Have you talked to your doctor about this? Pregnancy blues are one thing, but you sound miserable. You really should talk to her.”

And that was the beginning of a long, horrible pregnancy.

I can’t even really recall what happened, or when, or why. But I do know that one summer morning I called my mom, her breath strained and that tone in her voice, “I’m at the hospital. I’ll call you back.” I was scared to death. I managed, somehow, to call my mother when she was walking into an emergency room at a hospital three hours away from where she was supposed to be.

My sister had been admitted by her OB. Delusional and suffering anxiety attack after anxiety attack, an orange band was secured around her wrist. Her shoelaces removed. Her purse and its contents taken. She had been placed on a suicide watch.

The psych ward became her world for a week. My sister had access to psychiatrists, therapists, and even a nutritionist due to a discovery of an eating disorder she had hidden for years. They tried all the pregnancy-safe drugs available, supplements, diets and exercise. But it didn’t help. My sister’s downward spiral was in full force and moving fast.

After she had been hospitalized for a third time, their last resort was electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT. Most patients receive benefits from this treatment, especially pregnant women since it doesn’t harm the baby. I was shocked (no pun intended) and buried myself with articles, anything I could read and get my hands on. My mom had quit her summer job and resorted to living with my sister and her husband, desperately trying to hold it together herself. I became my mother’s confidant. At times she would call, and I’d listen to hours of tears and sniffles.

I believe I didn’t sleep more than four hours straight for two months, my sister’s emotional rollercoaster weighing heavy on my mind.

By October, emotionally spent and drained, my sister had been through it all – gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, tremendous weight gain, nightmare after nightmare. Her doctor agreed it was time to induce. At 34 weeks she gave birth to my beautiful niece, weighing 4 lbs 14 oz and a headful of silky hair.

But the fight wasn’t over.

Due to the medications, my niece was unable to eat for 24 hours. Even more depressing news, my sister was unable to breastfeed. My mother still scared out of her mind. And then the news that my niece would have to stay in the NICU for four weeks blew my sister down like a violent midnight tornado.

My sister and her husband finally brought their daughter home, it was so foreign. Here was this baby that was in her belly, but had been taken and cared for by these other women. For four weeks. And now she was stuck, all alone, with this tiny person she didn’t know. Loved? Yes, with all her heart. Bonded? No. Once they brought her daughter home, it was as if she’d stepped in the path of a freight train; her world had been turned upside down as it went from being self-sufficient to OMG WTF I have this crying thing 24 hours a day.

As weeks went by, my sister called every couple of days to vent. Until one day she had called me twice a day, at work, for two weeks straight. I had had enough. And as much as I wanted to say “Get the f**k over it. Put your big girl panties on. Shit or get off the pot”, I knew I couldn’t. And until she decided she wanted to do those things, it was pointless to waste my breath.

Now. I’m going to tell you something about being a big sister. No matter how bad you get pissed off, or irritated, or want to haul off and slug your little sister(s), you still love them with all your heart. When they hurt, you hurt. When they’re happy, you’re happy. But when they’re miserable and can’t do anything about it, you do what ever it takes, come Hell or high water, to open their eyes. To fill their heart with golden love and make their soul sing. You roll up them sleeves and take charge. Why? Because you’re THE big sister. That’s why.

For me, taking charge meant scouring the Internet for hours, looking for postpartum resources until my tired eyes would send me into a migraine. I looked up mother’s groups, even though I knew my sister wouldn’t go. Short of myself driving 12 hours in order to MAKE her go, I knew it was impossible. I have a husband, and a daughter, too.

One day (and I’m still not sure quite how it happened) I was on twitter, when a tweet caught my eye. Someone I had been newly following, a friend of a friend sort of thing, tweeted something about motherhood and then put ‘#ppdchat’ at the end. My eyes got huge. I’m telling you, I’m pretty sure I pee’d my pants with excitement. And being the bossy move-out-of-the-way big sister that I am, I simply tweeted: Need #ppdchat info.

I still tear up about it, like right now, but this simple tweet changed my sister’s life. The power of social media came to my rescue. And somehow I am sure God had a hand in it. It all happened so fast that within ten minutes I had a message from Lauren Hale, of My Postpartum Voice, giving me her email. Within 24 hours I had been in contact with a therapist whose office is located five minutes from my sister’s house. FIVE MINUTES. TWITTER. WOW.

It has taken time, months, and will probably take years for my sister to heal. She is receiving help, guidance, and nurturing to become the mother she has always wanted to be. I know it’s not easy. I mean, I had a touch of depression after pregnancy. Nothing to the magnitude my sister has endured. And I hope I never will.

I do know this. Never be afraid to speak up for someone who can’t. Someone so down and distraught is neither sinking nor swimming, just stuck treading water. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. Do not be afraid to reach out and grab a hand for help. Do not be afraid to try. Do not be afraid.

Go. Do. Be.

Laura Savage finds at least four new gray hairs every morning. At thirty, she still wears a retainer (only when she sleeps).
She has battled migraines, college algebra, ugly prehistoric-looking centipedes, and an addiction to Dr. Pepper. And won. 
Laura currently lives in Southern Colorado with her husband, daughter, and three canine companions.

Graham Crackers & Peanut Butter served with a side of crazy: Part I

I had planned to post my full story here today. But as I typed, it got long. Really long. I’m at five full typed pages with a few more to go.

(You’ll have to wait until I’m hospitalized for the title to make sense. Just go with it for now!)

In Part I, we’ll work our way from waking up the morning of my hospitalization to later that afternoon when I finally called the doctor’s office.

Tomorrow will offer some background on what led up to the day of hospitalization.

This series is the most brutally honest I’ve ever been with anyone about my experience. Including myself. It feels good. It feels oh so good to get it all out in the open.

As I walked with my family this morning, I thought about this post. And for some reason the movie The Goonies popped into my head. You know the scene when they realize they’re in the wishing well?

Mouth gets pissy and says, “This wish was mine! And it didn’t come true. So I’m taking it back. I’m taking them all back.” Then he disappears under the water as he hunts for his other wishes.

Every mother wishes for a good postpartum experience. Many of us get that wish. Some of us don’t.

This is me. Taking back the power that Postpartum Depression had over me. Taking it ALL back. But I’m keeping my head above the water.

Four years ago this weekend, I visited a mental hospital. Involuntarily. This is how I landed there:

As I stumbled out of our bedroom, I remember looking out the living room window. Blue sky, sunshine, green forest stared back at me. Birds chirped, the dogs glanced at me, I heard our two-year old awake and prayed our almost three-month old was still asleep.

One question repeated over and over in my head.

“What would happen if I let go?” Just let go, they whispered. “You deserve to let go. Let go. Reality is a joke. Just.LET.GO. Let go. Let go. Let.go. let go….let go…..” the soft whispers echoed in my head all day long.

I fed our two-year old breakfast as I pumped. Set up our infant daughter’s tube feeding. Took our two-year old to her room to play. Laid down on her couch. Closed my eyes. Slept through her lifting my arms, dropping them down, begging me to wake up and play.

I did not want to play. I could not play. If I was unconscious, I couldn’t hurt her. If I was unconscious, the voices would shut up. If I was unconscious, visions of smothering them both with pillows would go away. If I was unconscious – no wait, if I was not here……maybe…. maybe…..but how… just.. if I wasn’t here, I couldn’t hurt them.

I dozed as she played. I heard her as she begged me to play with her. Yet there I lay, paralyzed, my mind miles and miles away, locked in a deep dark closet somewhere, refusing to come out just like obstinate toddler.

Our infant daughter’s Kangaroo pump alarm sounded. After a few minutes, I finally stumbled into her room to turn it off and disconnect her. Back to the kitchen to make lunch for our two-year old. I think it was a PB&J.

Let go. Jump. Take a deep breath and fall. The hardest part is just letting go. Let go, they whispered. Over and over and over and over and over……

I clearly saw myself with a pillow, hands tightly gripping either side. If I just made them go away, the voices would go away. The pillow would solve everything. I could just make them go away. Then I’d let go and everything would be okay. Everything would be okay. Everything. Would. Be. Okay. It’d be okay.

I put our two year old down for a nap and started another tube feeding for our infant daughter. I hadn’t pumped since 10:45 a.m. It was pushing 1:00 p.m. I didn’t want to pump. Why should I?

She’s asleep now, they both are. It’d be so easy. So easy.

My thin strand of reality shredding, I turned to the voices. They started to push me toward the brink of the canyon. I didn’t have much fight left inside. Home alone, it would be so easy. The monsters were gaining ground. Their battering ram tediously close to knocking down the last door I had shored up against them, I went to our bedroom and closed the door, disgusted with myself.

Our bed saved my children.

I lay down, curled up in the middle with the phone. I clutched it as a stranded sailor clutches a life ring. Tightly, refusing to give it up even as I rocked back and forth, staring past the squirrels scrambling up and down 200-year-old oak tree swaying softly outside our bedroom window.

As the tears began to slide down my face, my breath shallow and my chest felt tight, I dialed my husband at work.

“You have to come home.” I choked the words out.


“You have to come home.”

“I can’t just leave work for no reason. Why?”

“I’m not doing well. You have to come home. I need you to call the doctor for me.”

“I can’t leave work. Why can’t you call the doctor?”

I gasped for air. The one person I felt safe in reaching out to was shooting me down. I needed help. I needed… I needed…

“Because I just can’t. I can’t… I…. “ burst into tears.

“Call them and let me know what they say, okay?” his voice was slightly softer.

“But I… “ argh. I hung up on him. I had tried to call the doctor’s office for the past four days, dammit. Yet somehow today had to be the day I made it happen. The day I had no strength left in any corner of my mind. Yeh.

I dialed the doctor’s office. And hung up.

I dialed again. Hung up.

I dialed again. Hung up.

Dialed. Ring. Ring…..ring… automation. Press 0.

Hang up. Dammit.

And now my husband was calling me back as I tried again. Ring…ring. Automation.

PRESS 0, dammit, said the only sane part of me. Press it! Say something when they answer. SAY something.

“Hello, this is Dr. X’s office. How can we help you?”

“I… I… I need help. My name is Lauren Hale and I’m not okay. I need help.”

It felt good and so horribly wrong all at the same time.

(Click here to read Part II.)