Tuesday, January 15, 2008


[I'm going to try and write this without proofreading and editing it to death. Here goes ...]

Life is kinda crazy right now. I have a friend who's falling apart and she has a husband and three kids and they are kinda cracking at the seams because she's falling apart. She doesn't really have much of a family to help her out -- a couple of sisters, a sister-in-law, and a mom -- but they all have lives. And they have been through this before. And so have I. This will be the third time, to be exact. First time, after second child was born -- bad postpartum depression. Second time, after third child was born -- worse postpartum depression. This time, well, she didn't like the anti-depression cocktail they'd concocted for her over the past three years and, figuratively, she decided to dump the whole mess down the drain. Now she's a manic, hasn't sleep in four weeks, mess while her immediate family and friends are left to watch her become a train wreck as a result.

I've been on the phone for hours: processing with her, letting her pour out and weep over what she's going through, setting up schedules for much-needed coverage of children, making a meal, tactfully processing with others who don't know her as well but want to understand and help. I've increased my driving time: driving her teenager home every evening after extra curricular activities, taking her middle son to his hockey practices and his hockey games so that dad can be home for her and their youngest.

For all of this, I wouldn't choose to do anything less. But I know myself, I won't last for long.

I'm tired, stressed and anxious. My husband and my kids are getting the worst version of me. My puppy is starting to react poorly to my unexpressed emotion. And I'm realizing I have to figure out some important things about all of this before it's too late. Such as, how long am I willing to plug in/coordinate/process this crisis before I turn indifferent, callous and cynical about some else's pain? How long am I willing to dedicate a hefty chunk of my mental energy to someone else's needs before I start to see some detrimental consequences within my own life?

I'm typically a very private person and I'm rather respectful of other people's private issues: I really don't like having to have this much input into another person's life. This whole scenario has thrown me into a very uncomfortable place and I'm not so sure I want to be here for much longer.


Dave said...

I don't know that editing would add much, it might remove the urgency you seem to be feeling.

My thought: give what you can give, enlist others for when you run out of steam.

molly gras said...

Thanks Dave, I really appreciate your advice. However, I'm just a tad bit worried (knowing myself the way I do!) that I won't know when I've run out of steam until it's too late.

Hedy said...

She needs professional help. Especially if she's been through this before - it's no mystery, what she's dealing with and there are ways of getting through it but she needs a professional. All this processing, is it going anywhere? Is she getting any better? If not, there's no amount of listening that will make a difference and you are sacrificing your own mental health and your family dynamic for her. It's blunt, I know but I can read between the lines and the fact that you've written what's here tells me you're closer to running out of steam than you realize. You are a great friend and a very loving person for taking all this on but the best thing you can do for her and her family is recommend someone who specializes in this particularly devastating brand of depression. I am sending warm thoughts your way, tonight, Molly. Bless you. Bless you and your kind soul.

Jeni said...

Ah - Hedy has nailed the answer -pure and simple!
It's wonderful that you are willing, trying, working every way you feel is best to help your friend,her husband,her family through some really difficult times. However - and that's a big key word here -however, you CAN NOT do all, be all, for everyone, and certainly not forever, not even for extended but seemingly relatively short periods of time. THere are some things in life that a totally beyond OUR CONTROL! First, understanding this is a mental health issue that most definitely requires the knowledge and care of a professional in that realm. This does not mean you are incapable of ever assisting your friend, but right now, she needs way more than you can possibly begin to provide. New meds probably would be a good starting point but that would require enlisting the aid of a a physician, or counselor with a doctorate type degree or a bonafide shrink - something along those lines. And no, you really can't take her kicking and screaming all the way either to see said person -that has to be a realization she comes to pretty much on her own. That doesn't mean you can't gently offer those suggestions, nudge a bit here and there but it still is a choice SHE will have to make - unless of course, she completely wigs out and then, the spouse can intercede.
Now, something I would recommend for you - even for her - even though there is (I am assuming here) no drug or alchol abuse problem (none you've mentioned anyway) but get a copy of two things - one is the Serenity Prayer, the other being the Twelve Steps - used by AA, Al-Anon, NA, many other self-help groups. Read them, take them to heart and learn to practice them as much as possible in your daily life. That aspect is to bring YOU relief, some calming, etc - not necessarily to aid and abet your friend, although they won't hurt there either, come to think of it. You have to learn to relinquish the desire to control and thus, thinking you -by your powers - can help then to cure. You can help but not exactly in the manner you're currently employing. You have to prioritize for yourself, your family, then all other things in order of importance too. Or else - you're going to end up as much of a basket case then -your family along with you - as is your friend. No, I'm not saying to dump, back away completely -nothing like that - but you have to establish boundaries and remember your own priorities and your own limitations in order to more effectively cope and contend -and then, yes help, in a round-about method your friend's problems as well as they ones you see on the front affecting you directly and your family.
This is not necessarily an easy creed to adapt to, to learn and to follow - but it is one that will bring a whole lot of peace of mind initially to you -possibly even eventually to your friend as well. Help as much as you can but know where you also have to draw that fine line in the sand too -where things are beyond your capabilities, etc. Has she been diagnosed with bi-polar or any other type of mental health issue other than the post-partum issues? Just wondering there. You can still be the good, caring, loving friend you are to her but you also have to be that to yourself first and to your family too. Feel free to "dump" thoughts, etc. or questions, etc., if you want via my e-mail. I'm just a "send" button away to at least listen - been there, done probably much of what your friend is/has been doing too. Peace, my friend.

Lil Sis said...

These are very kind people. I would like to share something about my dear, older (sorry had to include that to set the stage)sister: she is a type-A personality who wants to save the world. I know this b/c I've seen in action so many times. And, she has more than, oh I don't know, a million times or so helped me through my many "crises" (divorce, weight issues, abuse, post-partum depression, colic, child-rearing).

My sister's heart is gold. But, dear sister, as much as you want, you can't help someone who can't help themselves. And, if you keep trying, you will destroy yourself in the process (you already KNOW this - - why do you live in Yankee land and not down South?!).

Please seek more help with coordinating efforts. Please encourage her to get on the meds and counseling. Please take a break from her hurt before you take it all on yourself and hurt yourself.

Love YOU!

Posolxstvo said...

I want to add more to this, but it isn't my place to do so.

Let's just say that you are all correct in what you're saying - that she needs professional help and all, but, as the saying goes, there but for the grace of God go we.

And we know what it is to be supported by friends when we needed it most but felt the least worthy of it. And we know we can't do it all, or make it all better, but we do what we can until we can't anymore. Or until it is all better. Whichever comes first.