Do You Ask If She's Feeling Depressed

A few days ago, I was visiting with a close friend who’s pregnant. We were talking about how things were going with her, how she was feeling; the usual pregnant talk.

I noticed that she kept mentioning that she felt a little off, moodier than usual, even for her pregnant self. I asked her if she needed anything, and she said no, of course. She’s one of those people who hates to ask for help, and I know that. Usually, if I want to do something for her, I just tell her I’m going to do it, so there’s no opportunity for her to say she’s “fine.”

I felt as though I should press her a little harder to make sure she really was all right, but I let it drop, and we changed the subject.

I felt really ashamed of myself when I was driving home from her house. This person is one of my dearest friends. She and I have been pregnant at the same time not once, but twice. Our kids have had almost weekly playdates for the last three years, and I know her entire family.

If I should be able to be honest with anyone, it should be this woman. And yet, I still couldn’t make myself ask her the important question: Do you feel depressed?

The chances are pretty good that she’d be able to answer honestly in the negative. I mean, the numbers indicate that a good majority of women don’t suffer from any type of depression related to pregnancy or childbirth. I think I probably used this fact as an excuse, a rationalization not to ask her. She’d never had postpartum depression with any of her other kids, so I felt safe in assuming that she wouldn’t have it this time, and that if she did, I’d notice.

After all, I know what to look for, right?

True as that may be, I still felt ashamed. I had an opportunity to make sure my friend was all right, to make sure that she really didn’t need my help, and I passed it up.

I couldn’t ask her if she was depressed because I was scared. I was scared that she’d say, “No, of course not,” and then go complain to her husband or one of our mutual friends that I just assume everyone is depressed because I’ve been depressed.

You know how when you buy a new car, and it’s a different model from any other car you’ve owned, you suddenly notice every time a car of the same make as yours passes you on the road? That’s similar to what’s happened to me since my first bout of PPD three years ago. I’m careful to keep track of my own moods and feelings, because I know how quickly things can turn for the worse; one day I’ll be walking on sunshine, and the next day I’ll be thinking that no one loves me.

Not only am I hyperaware of my own feelings, but I’m tuned in to other people’s emotions as well, especially those of my pregnant or postpartum friends. I don’t want anyone to suffer what I did, and so I keep my eyes and my ears open to watch for the signs they might not know to look for.

And yet here my friend was, saying she was feeling a little out of sorts, and I backed down. I chose my own comfort over her well-being. I realize now that I’m still not the Warrior Mom I want to be.

Yes, I’ve overcome PPD and I’m doing my best to speak out for women like me, but when the pain strikes close to home, I falter. I don’t want my friends to think of me as the PPD watchdog, always on the alert for the slightest change in their demeanor.

As I’ve been thinking over this situation, I’ve come to see that in order to be the woman I want to be, I need to sacrifice a little ego. Sure, it could potentially be embarrassing for me to ask a friend if she’s depressed and have her look at me like I’m a doomsday conspiracy theorist.

On the other hand, I think of all the damage that’s done every day by a simple lack of communication, and I know I can’t let myself give in to my own pride. If had someone asked me, point-blank, if I was depressed when I was eight months postpartum and struggling to find reasons to live, maybe a switch would have been flipped in my head.

Maybe that’s all I really needed to start me on a path to recovery: A concerned friend who cared more about me than herself.

Alexis Lesa