My best friend's mom was kind and supportive of me from the beginning.
During a depressive phase, she reached out to me when she heard we'd gone through similar things.
We were there for each other through healing and she's become one of my closest friends.
The first time I met my best friend Kesia's mom, Kate, she impressed me with her gentle disposition, as well as her amazing cooking. I had come to stay at her house for a New Year's party in 2012 with Kesia and a few others, and Kate welcomed us all with open arms.
She seemed like the perfect mom: friendly, open, soft-spoken, and fun. I liked her, but at 24, I was focused on my own burgeoning life. I hadn't really considered the possibility that I could become friends with my own parents, let alone the parents of my friends.
As the years went by, we crossed paths at weddings and other big events, as well as a few small trips I made through their hometown while traveling to visit my family, including one trip with my newborn daughter in 2014. When I moved to Berlin a few years later with my husband and kids, my connections in New Zealand faded somewhat, except for a treasured few.
When I was going through a hard time, Kate and I reconnected
Berlin was good, but challenging. I missed my friends and family and struggled to raise two kids away from home. When I told Kesia that I was struggling with bad depression, she suggested Kate and I connect, because we were going through the same thing. I agreed it was a good idea, but talking about mental health struggles on the phone felt somehow overwhelming, so I suggested we get in touch by email first.
Kate reached out to me and was compassionate to my concerns. In the beginning, I was mostly worried about how my mental health struggles could affect my role as a mother. I saw Kate as an excellent parent, and it was reassuring to hear how she had managed to navigate her own struggles and raise such wonderful children.
Initially, I thought that by reconnecting, Kate would be able to support me; I had no idea that I would also be able to support her. She and I began emailing each more and more, and discovered that our backgrounds were more similar than we had initially thought. Both of us had experienced difficult childhoods and were in the midst of processing long-ago traumas. It was not just me who was struggling; we both had our ups and downs.
I didn't feel judged by her
Our emails were the first time I had ever had contact with someone else who felt and expressed the same feelings of emptiness, inadequacy, shame, and confusion that I did. At times, she wrote to me that she had lost all hope of ever getting better. When I saw the depths of her sadness, and felt the depths of my own, that strange connection in the darkness helped us both to find a way out. We were both already working with therapists, but it was refreshing to have someone to talk to whose job was not to "help," but was simply there to empathize and connect.
Exploring our feelings and our histories in our emails, I began to feel significantly less alone. We spoke with each other about our therapeutic progress, as well as different modalities and approaches that we had tried, including cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, trauma-sensitive yoga, medications, and group therapy. Her experiences gave me new ideas that I experimented with in my own healing.
We were honest about what we were going through
We also discussed the challenges we experienced in relationships and our anxieties about how other people perceived us. One of the most valuable parts of our relationship was that we were honest with each other: even the darkest, murkiest feelings and experiences bubbled to the surface and came out in our emails.
Most importantly, neither of us ran away, rejected the other, or judged. We just listened. Communicating only through email made it easier: one step removed from the direct gaze of another, our deep secrets could be shared and processed with extra space, triggering neither of us into overwhelm.
Later, I suggested we connect on WhatsApp, and we transitioned into a different phase in our relationship. At first, I worried that changing even something so small as our medium of communication would mess up our connection. Beautifully, it didn't. We sent voice messages and began calling each other. When I went through hard times, she spoke to me about wishing she could protect me, and wanting to mother me through my pains. My relationship with her felt like a safe place, and became even more beautiful when she allowed me to care for her in her pain and vulnerability, too.
Through healing together, we became close friends
The task of healing and processing trauma is not easy. But when we talked openly about our feelings and approaches that had worked for us, I felt like I had a buddy along for the sometimes-difficult ride. As we both slowly got better, we started sharing more photos — me, of the wintery scenes of Berlin, and her, of the sunny vistas back in New Zealand. The depressive phases for both of us got shorter and faded into the background. These days, we recommend books and recipes to each other and catch up on normal life.
Kate and I rarely talk about our trauma histories or our depression anymore: though we haven't discussed it directly, to a certain extent the bulk of the work feels done, finished, in the past. Of course things still come up here and there, and we are both continual works in progress. While the darkest chapters seem to be behind us, I know if things go sideways again, that each of us is always there for the other. The accompaniment we offered to each other in a difficult and vulnerable process remains a treasured part of our friendship and has formed a solid foundation of trust and care that I think will last us for life.
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