One thing I know for sure is I wouldn’t have stayed well, or made it through my tough times without my friends.
I know I’m my heart that they would support me no matter what, and I would do the same for them, yet I still hid my postnatal depression, anxiety and even my thoughts of suicide from them.
Why did I do this? Self stigma? Fear of seeming like I couldn’t cope, weak even? I’m not sure…I was often told how well I was doing and how good I was at being a Mum, so maybe I didn’t want to shatter anyone’s image and seem a fake, or admit that actually I wasn’t feeling well or coping.
I asked my circle of friends if they would share their thoughts, how they felt when they found out what I’d been through and how it’s affected our circle. Opening up to the women in my life has had a profoundly positive affect, we are more open, we now talk about our mental health, how we are doing and keep a check on each other. I wish I could go back a few years and open up when I really needed their support more than ever, but I was scared. I didn’t even know what was going on so I had no idea how to approach the subject with them.
I’ve gathered their thoughts, which they’ve kindly written for me so I can share with others and hopefully encourage others to reach out to their friends. I always say, if it was your friend struggling, you would hope they would reach out to you, and you would want to be there for them. You may not understand but you would want them to know they’re loved. And your friends want the same for you – so please reach out to those around you, you are not alone xx
Here’s what some of my circle of friends had to say :
“We’ve always been a close group of girls, so to hear that one of your closest friends is going through such a struggle is heartbreaking. It made me sad to think that she felt so alone and though I may never have experienced what she was going through, I was determined to do all I could to help her. I was happy to be one of the few people she could open up to about what she was feeling and I was so proud of her to finally have the strength and courage to speak out. I will be happy to support her whatever comes our way because we’re in this together.
My door is always open and I hope all my friends know that.”
“It is always hard to know what to say to a friend when they tell you they have depression or anxiety. I’m always worried I will say the wrong thing anyway, let alone when a friend is unwell and you don’t know how to approach it.
The best thing to do in my eyes? Be yourself, don’t change the way you act around them and if you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask it.
Your job as the friend is to be there for them to help them through it and to be there for them when they want to talk. If you are worried about them, don’t be afraid to check in with them or another friend to make sure they are okay. Sometimes they might be having a proper crap day and you can be the one that makes it better for them.
I think in today’s society we are always worried about how something might be taken and are worried that people might think we are being nosy, but often you can be doing something good by contacting your friend and checking they are okay.”
“My group of friends is unusual. I don’t know another group like us. There are a lot of us, and we are all incredibly close. We lean on each other for support and have one of the most random group chats known to man; I wouldn’t be without them. And yet we had no idea that one of us was suffering post natal depression. When I found out I was upset that I hadn’t noticed anything and every one of us said we wish we could have been there for her, but at that moment in time she wasn’t ready to share with us and that is completely understandable.
Since we found out, I think our group has shared a lot more with each other than we would of a few years ago and I am grateful that we feel like we can do that. It means that we can be there for each other and support each other through tough times. The friend who told us took an extremely huge step by telling us all and we are so proud of everything she had achieved since. By sharing her story, others are getting the help and support they need.
People definitely need to talk about their mental health more. We live in a society that is overwhelmed with their physical wellbeing (what we eat, how often we train etc.), but no one talks about how their mental wellbeing is. That needs to change.”
“When my friend told me she’d been suffering with PND it wasn’t until she was well on her way to recovery. I’d had no idea. In my eyes she always looked beautiful and was happy, outgoing and funny. I felt guilty that I hadn’t noticed and wondered if I was a bad friend. I hated knowing she’d been suffering while I’d been swanning around in my own bubble assuming she was ok.
When she opened up to our group of girlfriends we all wished she’d been able to speak out sooner so that we could’ve helped. We were not judgemental, there no was stigma, no awkwardness. And we understood how hard it was for her to tell us. I was glad that we could all be there now to offer support and understanding moving forward.
Through listening to my friends experiences and reading her blog I have learned so much about PND. The way she has overcome it and the way my girlfriends have supported her has made me feel that if I was ever in the same situation I know I’d get through it with the help of my friends.
I think that sharing her feelings with us has helped her to recover and provided a safety blanket for her to contact us whenever she needs.
I think that my friend sharing her PND experience with us has brought our group closer. We have grown from a group of girls who enjoyed nights on the town and fancy dress parties to a group of strong, open, honest young women who can get through anything with each other’s support.”
“I am very proud to be part of a group of girls who are very close. We have all known each other a long time, grown up together, been through ups and downs, and we are true friends. We aren’t in each other’s pockets and we all have our own lives going on, families, daily pressures, but we also talk a lot and see each other regularly. One of the girls who was the first really to settle down, she had it all. The beautiful wedding, lovely house, the most perfect babies you had ever seen. She had the social-media-perfect life and it was a joy to see. She had it all and was happy. We didn’t see as much of her as we once did but then she was busy being a yummy mummy. We saw her beautiful happy family at events and the smiling photos on Facebook and we knew she was fine, living the Disney dream life. Except she wasn’t. She was suffering with such severe post-natal depression and we didn’t have a clue. She didn’t have a touch of the baby blues or was overtired, she had an illness that was destroying her life. She was suffering with anxiety and depression so deep that she had considered taking her own life. And to everyone outside of her house she had kept it hidden, worn a mask and pretended through the darkness. When we finally found out what she had been through and what she was going through, we felt mixed emotions. I felt honoured that she had opened up to us, something so difficult. I felt overwhelming guilt and shame. How had I not seen this, spotted the signs?! I must be a terrible friend. Now I know that she didn’t want us to spot the signs. This was her secret. She felt ashamed, abnormal and alone, all the things no one should ever feel around their friends. I also felt a weird sense of relief and connection. I don’t have children, I have not experienced PND, but I have fought my own battles, sufferers with various levels of depression, planned my own suicide, and I too had never told my friends what I was going through. I had kept it secret too, the person in the photos was not the reality. And our friend sharing her PND with us brought that to the fore. It made us realise that although we are close, we were all experiencing emotions we were ashamed of and wanted to keep hidden, even those closest to us. I am still not brave enough to share my truth with all my friends or family but my friend telling her story has opened up a new level of dialogue between all of us. We talk more about what we are going through, we are closer, we know that we rally around and support each other through everything. Our friend kept so much hidden from us we later discovered, now she shared her innermost, private experiences with us, she finally trusts us to keep them and her safe in our little friend space and that is an honour. Recovery, we have all now learned, does not happen overnight, if truly at all, and although our friend is in a much better place, she still struggles. Without her probably even realising, we keep an eye on her, make sure we can see she is ok. Recently we all spent a weekend abroad together. We knew she was struggling, we knew she was fighting the desire to be safe at home but we also knew that she knew she was ok with us, and she wouldn’t have missed it for the world. She talked us through what she needed to do to make her feel safe and we understood and tried to help as much as we could. It would have been so easy for her to slip away from us all, lock herself away but she didn’t, she told us and she made it, and she enjoyed it. And we all knew that she couldn’t have done that 4 years ago, and probably wouldn’t have done it now if she hadn’t opened up to us. Having a friend with PND is honestly scary, heartbreaking, and incredible guilt-inducing. You feel useless, helpless and a failure as a friend, watching someone you care about fall apart when you want them to be soaking up every second of pure happiness from what should be the most joyous time of their lives. It’s horrible. But once you know you also feel closer, connected, you realise how many people close to you are hiding something similar. Everyone is going through something – once you know you can help and once you reveal yours you can be helped.”
“When I found out my best friend was suffering with PND, I couldn’t believe it, she was a first time mother and seemed like she had it all figured out, she was always happy, and smiley whenever I went round there, no signs that she was struggling, house was always immaculate and baby was always so happy. Little did I know this was all a front and that she had gotten so low. When she confided in me, I felt terrible how could I, as a best friend, not have noticed there was something wrong? How did I not notice that she was so unhappy? Maybe I didn’t speak to her as much as I should have, maybe instead of asking how baby was I should have asked how she was doing more? Regardless of what I felt now, she had been going through this and I knew that I needed to be there for her. Sending her messages every now and again, if we were out asking if she was ok, and just being there for her for when she was needed me or wanted to talk. Things that would seem so little and minimal to anyone else but I knew that she would be thankful for.
From what I know now about PND, I would urge anyone who is suffering to confide in your loved ones and close friends. Just knowing someone is there with an open ear, knowing they won’t pass judgement could really make a difference to you, they won’t push you into speaking when you don’t want to, but on low days knowing you have someone to turn to and not having to deal with that demon yourself can only be a positive.
There is such a stigma around PND and other mental health issues, but yet there are so many people who suffer with them. The more people speak out, confide or seek the medical help they need the more people can be saved from these horrible illnesses.
Sometimes asking for help is the bravest move you can make. You don’t have to be alone xxxx”
I hope this inspires you to reach out, I know it’s hard, I know it’s scary but friends can really provide some much needed support in times of need.