I recently had someone ask me about a woman in her life who is experiencing PPD, and she (also a mother) didn’t know how to help. She desperately wanted to ease her friend’s pain, but didn’t know where or how to begin. And when you’re the one who is experiencing the depression, it often times feels impossible to answer the question: how can I help?
Skip the pleasantries – ask her how many times she’s cried today. Or how the loneliness feels. Or if she’s wondered if she’s made the biggest mistake of her life. Or if she feels overwhelmed. Or if she hurts. Skip the “how are you?” and ask the questions she’s too afraid to form. When someone is experiencing PPD, she feels ashamed and scared and unfit. Even if you’ve never experienced postpartum depression yourself, I’m sure you can understand how one might. Let her know it’s okay for her to share the darkness with you. Validate her feelings of sadness, confusion, and exhaustion. Ask her if she needs help asking for help (from her doctor, from her spouse, etc.) And in words of Hootie: Let her cry. Let the tears fall down like rain.
Visit her. But know that she might be resistant. When Jack was a few weeks old, my two oldest and dearest friends were planning a trip to come meet him and see me. I told them not to come because of some bullshit reason, but deep down, I was so ashamed of how I was doing. The thought of having to pretend to be “okay” for more than a few minutes made me sob, and I didn’t want anyone to see me that way.
Looking back, I see that I needed my friends, and I know they would have been the biggest support. But I pushed them away in my time of need and that’s an unfortunate mistake I won’t make again!
Hook her up. One of the best things I did was talk to other moms who were experiencing, or had experienced, similar feelings. While I loved talking to anyone who would listen, there was something that happened on the soul level when I was able to talk to a woman who said “I felt the same way.” Those conversations saved my sanity.
So, if you’ve never experienced PPD, put her in touch with someone else who has. You’ll be shocked to find that it’s one of those things that even strangers can talk about with one another. Like motherhood, there’s a bond between women who’ve experienced it. Sending her blogs or articles can help too! It’s all about letting her know that she’s not alone.
Be a constant. For many women, postpartum depression is not a shot, linear process. It’s not something she can just “get over” and get on with. She will have good days and bad days (like any person with a pulse), but as long as you let her know that you’re someone she can consistently come to, then you’re helping her more than you could possibly know.