Recently I wrote an article titled Postpartum Depression: 5 Things to Save a Life. Your responses were impactful:
“I’m embarrassed and so ashamed to talk about it, to tell people I have it.”
“I wanted to be able to just fix it myself but I couldn’t.”
“I loved your post. I am in the middle of it right now.”
“My husband would say he missed the old me.”
“I didn’t know where my old self-had gone.”
“I felt like something was wrong with me because none of my friends experienced this.”
My friends, this is something very real that is often overlooked or made light of because let’s face it, we tend to think if we have enough will power we can just “will” our way out of this. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there is no amount of positive thinking that can fix this disease. We aren’t talking about a bad day or bad week, this is a mental illness and women who suffer from postpartum anxiety or depression are, every day, waking up to fight a battle of the mind. My last piece was for you, the woman silently suffering through this disease. Today, this piece is for you, the friend of the woman suffering from postpartum anxiety or depression. Below are three ways you can be a good friend and love your friend well during this time of suffering she is experiencing. Don’t underestimate these three action steps because you just may help save her life.
Pick up on behaviors and subtle things she says: when your friend is suffering from postpartum anxiety or depression, you may notice behavior changes. These changes may be subtle so you really have to be intentional to pick up on them. One of the biggest giveaways with postpartum anxiety is a mind constantly filled with worry. Someone suffering through postpartum anxiety is constantly worried about everything and you will most likely hear about it, so make sure you notice. If they are like me, they will try and downplay the severity by making it into a joke or passively bringing it up. It may not seem like they have a serious illness but please take any worry they mention seriously. Someone suffering from postpartum depression most likely will want to isolate themselves from you, so don’t take it personal if your friend isn’t being a good friend right now. They may always have a reason they can’t come to something or you won’t hear from them as much, so be sure to take notice. One thing is for sure, anxiety and depression are like bullies that want to keep your friend isolated so they can’t get better, so they can’t heal. Help them heal by being around them, even if they don’t want you there. This is a part of the process they need and they most likely don’t know they need it, so be help them by being there.
Show up at their house and go on a walk: Full disclosure, telling your friend that going on a walk will be good for them right now will probably make them want to punch you in the face, but you’re the friend so they will smile and act like they agree with you. Go on a walk with you friend and don’t ask them if they want to instead ask them what day they can go and what time. They mostly likely won’t believe a walk is going to somehow help tame the beast inside of them, but that’s ok because they don’t need to believe but just do it. The best way to combat anxiety and depression is being around people and being outside and exercise. A walk is going to conquer all of that!
Remind her you are still here and are her friend: Right now she may feel like she is nothing but a burden to everyone around her. She may not vocalize this, she may not act on it initially, and she may even be really good at silencing this feeling for quite some time. The problem is, it’s a feeling most (if not all) women who suffer through postpartum anxiety and depression face. It’s often assumed women who silently suffer do so because they are embarrassed and while that is partially true, the more appropriate reason women silently suffer is because they feel like a burden. Your friend needs to know that you still love her and like her and that you can handle her just as she is because here’s the scary truth, women can only go on living for so long feeling like such a burden. I can’t imagine women who have taken their lives because of postpartum anxiety or depression did so because they wanted to die. Instead, they were women who loved their family deeply and wanted to live fully but couldn’t and even though postpartum anxiety and depression are just a for a season such as 1 month, 2 months, 5 months and on, this is a long time to daily suffer from this disease. Please, if you do one thing let it be continuing to remind your friend that she is not a burden to you because you may be the only one she is hearing that from, and she needs to hear it.
Friends of women who suffer from postpartum anxiety and depression, let’s be present in our friendships enough to know when subtle changes in behaviors are actually big changes and how to be there for our friends so no woman has to silently suffer through postpartum anxiety and depression. Gone are the days where this is not talked about. It is time to speak up, speak out, and save lives! No woman should feel so lost, so hopeless that their best option is to end their life. Enough is enough!