24 July 2010

The voice of a friend

A very dear friend read my blog and shared with me her point of view on my PPD, I thought it was very good and got her permission to post it here.

So I went to see my friend and her baby at the hospital. Both looked tired but happy, but birth is such a wonderful thing you focus on the positive.

Then a couple of days later, when my friend got home, I brought her food for a couple of days. Instead of being her over the top grateful self, she was a little more like, "yeah, fine, thanks." I felt like I was intruding.

So about a week after the birth I came by to see what I could do to help and to get my cooler and dishes. This is the first time I never saw my friend smile. Not even a tired one or a faked one. But I wrote it off to the fatigue of being a new mom. I don't have kids so I don't know how it is. I didn't want to be that childless friend who started telling a new mom "how it is".

After picking up my cooler, I went home and spoke to my husband. He looked at the situation very matter of factly. DH asked, "What would you do if someone said I am worried you have psych issues?" And honestly, as much as I hate to say it, I would be taken aback. I would like to think that I would know that the person was coming to me with my best interest at heart, but I don't know if I would.

Over the next couple of weeks, my phone calls were going unanswered. Even offers to come over and clean, do dishes, do laundry didn't get a reply. With my background in medicine, I knew about PPD, but reading it in a text book or seeing it in a patient with severe psych issues is different. My friend had no prior psych issues that I knew of, but I was too scared to ask. How do you ask someone "Hey, have you ever had a problem?"

So I started doubting myself. "Did I do something to step on her toes?", "Am I 'smothering' her?", "Maybe she and her husband really have everything under control and don't need help, but don't want to call me back because they feel like I am begging an invitation over."

By about the six week mark, I took it personally. My friend still wasn't returning calls, so I stopped really calling. Occassionally I would check in with her husband, but even those conversations were 'off'. He was short, terse with me. When I asked how things are, I got a lot of one word answers. Again, instead of seeing this as a sign I needed to step further into the situation, I saw this as my cue to exit.

A few months after the baby was born, I hear through the grapevine that my friend went to the ER and has been hospitalized. I have pretty extensive medical knowledge and this scared me. I felt shame. I should have seen this. I should have helped her stop things sooner. PPD shouldn't be that tough to "diagnose", I was failing her as a friend for not catching this. But once again, I figured if she was in the hospital the best I can do is support her amazing husband. He welcomed the support with open arms.

When she got out she was better, but things still weren't right. And I knew I wasn't seeing the worst of it. I knew she wasn't sleeping, but what could I do. I knew she was having anxiety issues, but again felt like my hands were tied. Then I began to wonder if there was more than I was being told about.

Unfortunately there was. She ended up being hospitalized a second time. This time I stepped up. I finally asked myself, "Would you rather be 'hated' for helping too much than for not being there when she needed you?" And my answer was clear.

Her husband and I went up to visit her. (And I had my first experience with a diaper change requiring a bath.) I had some worries about going to a psych hospital. What if someone I know sees me going in there? What if I say something to make her worse, are they going to kick me out and make a scene? What if something about me sets off a trigger and they think I need help?

After that I babysat (as much as I could). I would make it a point to talk to my friend at least once each week and actually talk. I would inquire how things are and if I felt she was giving me a "one word answer", I would push it. "No really, I want to know how you are." I would offer to come over and help clean. I would encourage her to come out with me.

This was a learning experience. This woman and mother is my closest friend where I live now. I fear I could have lost her because I was too scared to ask the questions. I was terrified to honestly tell her that I saw a problem.

To be blunt would you rather:
A) lose a friend who is wandering through a dark place, looking for help and not seeing it, and eventually comes to a choice that will alter her life forever
Or B) lose a friend for being too interested, too helpful, or too honest?

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