On Friday at our co-op one of the moms told us about a friend of hers who recently committed suicide. The woman had three week old twins at the time. Of everything that stands out about that conversation is that the family is LDS. Relief Society was bringing food and stopping by most days to ask if there was anything the family needed help with. My friend was shocked because the new mother never asked for help. She always said thing were fine. Then she begged her husband to stay home one day and while he was caring for the babies she went out to the garage and hung herself.
Their Bishop spoke to the ward the following Sunday and reminded people that if they were in need of help they should ask for help- regardless of sex or age.
Here is where my concern comes in. When I was depressed I didn't realize it. I truly believed that I was just a bad housekeeper, a bad mother, not a very nice person, and generally worthless. It was surprising to me that someone who started adulthood with as much potential as I did should turn out to be such a dud. It never once crossed my mind that I could or should ask anyone for help. When I asked my mom to help by watching the kids for a couple of hours she told me that I was the one who chose to have children. It was my responsibility to care for them. I believed her. I believed it was my burden to carry and it was not right of me to ask anyone for help with housework, childcare, groceries, or meals. Luckily I was not severely depressed. It did cross my mind once while driving alone that it might be better for everyone if I just crashed into a tree and never returned. The insurance money would provide for a house cleaner and meal preparation. It would also pay for childcare- I was not a good mother, the kids would probably do better in daycare.
Depressed women don't always realize they're not functioning correctly. They don't realize that there is no shame in asking for help. When they do ask for help, if they're rebuffed, they may never ask again. It is not as simple as picking up the phone and telling someone, "I need some help doing laundry, organizing the bills, and preparing meals." Symptoms of depression include confusion, inability to concentrate, and feelings of guilt and worthlessness. A depressed woman may not be able to organize her thoughts enough to delegate tasks. If you simply tell someone, "Let me know what I can do to help," a depressed person may be desperately in need, but unable to articulate what they need. If you show up and just start working, the depressed mother may feel more guilt- it's a very delicate balance between being polite and baldly stating, "I'm going to help whether you like it or not!"
So... if you are my friend... and I think you need help... please don't feel awkward, angry, embarrassed, or irritable if I come over and start doing your dishes, call you on the phone a couple times a day, send other friends over to visit, or tell you about my experience with depression and then ask if you are feeling at the same way. You are important. You are important to me. You are important to your parents and siblings. You are important to your community. You are important to your husband. No one is more important to your babies than you are.
No one wants to be in the group of people saying, "I offered to help, maybe I could have done more." In that spirit I encourage everyone who may read my blog to do more than offer to help. Come up with a concrete task you can accomplish and then just go do it. Don't take no for an answer- and find a humorous way to complete your work. Sometimes it's something as simple as calling on a regular basis. Sometimes something more concrete like babysitting or folding the laundry is most helpful. Rarely, calling a mental health professional or the paramedics may be required.
You may not be depressed and I may annoy the heck out of you when you perceive that I am being nosy. I don't care- because if you are depressed I don't want to hear one day that you are no longer with us. I don't even care if I lose your friendship- because it's most important that we don't lose YOU.