We all saw it, but none of us were sure what to do about it. We could see the signs: pulling away, increasingly erratic behavior, paranoia. But we didn’t know how much was too much. After one particularly bad day, I spent some time on the phone with a mental health crisis line. I asked: at what point do I get worried about my friend? As it turns out, the answer was: I should have been worried a very, very long time ago. At the end of a frenzied day spent connecting with friends, spouses, and extended family, I was exhausted. I felt guilty and confused and shocked. But I knew one thing: my friend was safe.
Don’t be like me. Don’t wait until it all falls apart. Check on your friend. Do it before things go really wrong. Call her up. Yes, call her – I know you’re busy and you’re honestly not even sure if things are actually hard for her, but call. Don’t text. Call her. And keep calling her until you get the real her on the other end.
Once she’s on the line, tell her the truth. Tell her that you’re worried. Or that she doesn’t seem like herself. Or that you want her to level with you about how things are really going, and you’ll listen as long as it takes. Or that you want to check in, and you don’t want the easy answer. Talk to her. Don’t let her blow you off. Don’t make her call you back. Her life is hard enough, don’t make her take the first step.
As moms and women, we tend to be so good at projecting an image of strength, control, and fun. We curate an Instagram feed with smiling kids, clean countertops, and home-cooked meals. We laugh and say, “Oh, you know, we’re just so busy!” when people ask us how life is, because if we said the truth – that we’re overwhelmed and barely hanging on – we might cry. We want people to think we’re okay. We all want to believe that we’re all okay. If we don’t check in and ask for the truth, we can keep living the lie. It’s so much easier.
Except that it’s not. When you’re struggling, living the lie is exhausting. You’re buried under the weight of perceived expectations and you can’t find a way out. Not only are you fighting depression or anxiety, you’re also fighting to look like you’re not fighting. What you need is someone, anyone, to shine a light on your life and say: “Hey, this isn’t right, and it doesn’t have to be like that. Let me help you find yourself again.” Often times, having to reach out for help is unthinkable. Vulnerability is a terrifying thing to consider. But if someone were to reach out to you – well, that’s a different story.
A while back, a friend and I leveled with each other. For very different reasons, we were each going through very hard times. We even managed to meet face-to-face so we could look in each others’ eyes and admit it. Suddenly, it wasn’t so hard. Someone knew the messy truth. I didn’t have to pretend any more, and neither did she. From then on, we texted back and forth – sometimes even just motivational quotes and relentlessly cheesy gifs – just to remind each other that we knew, and it was okay. Things weren’t okay right then, but it wouldn’t always be like that. And until they got better, we had each other.
So check on your people. Check on your friend who hasn’t seemed quite right. Check on your friend who seems like she’s got perfection down to a science. Check on your friend who hasn’t checked in lately. Check on your friend who just had a baby. Check on your friend whose baby just started school. Check on your friend whose mom died three years ago. Check on your friend. She needs you.
And maybe, as you’re calling around and reminding everyone that you love them, you’ll remember just how loved you are. Because you are. If no one has told you today: “You’re doing a great job, mama. Life is so hard, and you’re doing the hard thing. You are loved.”
And if you don’t believe it, don’t worry – I’ll give you a call to remind you.