Of all the things gifted upon the birth of my second daughter, Kitty, this is the most special: A baby blanket handmade by my friend.
My friend who has nimble fingers, a love of the arts, and the patience of a saint to crochet rainbow squares hour after hour. My friend who is the champion of the underdogs. My friend who has an innocent, tinkering giggle that can suddenly change into a deviant’s chuckle. My friend who has a grin that lights her whole face up and in-turn, the faces of those around her. My friend who will always ask how I am before I get a chance to question how she is. My friend who has Bipolar II.
When I was five months pregnant, she wanted my opinion on wool colours. We sat down to discuss the blanket combinations on her back deck. There were laughs and chats. Then, eventually, she told me she hadn’t been doing too well. And by ‘too well’, she was battling the depression she’d been diagnosed with in her 20s, and whichcontinued to rear its head in her 30s.
Her husband left as we started discussing it. I thought he was leaving us to it. Girl talk, you know. But, a month or so later, she’d find out he’d reached his limit when he called it quits. I know he loved her, but I guess saying ‘for better or for worse’ is easier than living it. Who knows.
Two weeks after our wool discussion, it became too much and she admitted herself to a private hospital. A wonderful psychiatrist listened, and therapy helped. Crocheting my daughter’s baby blanket kept her hands busy and her mind doing the equivalent of lap swimming: just follow the line and zone out.
She was wearing maxi dresses all the time which wasn’t odd, because show me a girl who doesn’t love a long, flowing frock and I’ll show you a liar. Then she told me they were easier to hide the cut marks.
In hospital, being surrounded by other people who understood allowed her to let it out. There, in that safe place, she was diagnosed as NOT being depressed, but having Bipolar II. This meant she’d been trying to win an uphill battle due to an incorrect initial diagnosis of her mental health. Years of taking meds that weren’t actually delivering what was needed.
Perhaps I’m generalising, but people like me, we don’t ‘get it’. I don’t understand mental illness. I haven’t lived it – either myself or within my family. Even if I imagine what it would be like, I’m not fool enough to think it would come remotely close to the reality.
My friend is the closest I’ve come to seeing the constant fight against oneself, even though she does a DARN good job of hiding it. In fact, it’s like she’s a star in a movie called I’m Fine, Thank You and her acting ability would rival Cate Blanchett’s.