Best friends Sherrie and Bindi were inseparable as teenagers.
They saw each other every day. Bindi’s house was Sherrie’s second home, and when Bindi started a family, Sherrie took on the role of honorary auntie.
“She was at every birthday party, she helped do dioramas for school projects, she helped bake cakes… she was always there,” recalls Bindi, speaking on the phone from her home in Broome.
Everything changed when Sherrie, then 25, gave birth to her daughter, Paris. She had never planned to have children, and she struggled to adjust to parenthood.
“I don’t think I let anyone in on the fact that I was struggling."
She realises now that she suffered postnatal depression (PND), a condition that affects one in seven women who give birth in Australia.
“I found myself pretty withdrawn,” she says in Look Me In The Eye, a six-part documentary series screening on SBS that explores what happens when two estranged people come together to look each other in the eye.
She didn’t want to tell Bindi, a “super mum”, that becoming a mother wasn’t what she expected. “I don’t think I let anyone in on the fact that I was struggling,” she reflects.
“I always assumed that a best friend like Belinda would be someone that I would grow old with… but it fell apart.”
For her part, Bindi had no idea her friend was having a hard time. She says she was excited when Sherrie’s baby was born, and visited them every day.
A few weeks in, however, Sherrie stopped replying to Bindi’s messages and left her best friend’s calls unanswered. Bindi would go to Sherrie’s place and knock on the door but no one would respond.
It sent her head spinning. “We were best mates, we were like sisters. You didn’t get any closer than the friendship we had together, and then to wake up one day and that’s now finished, suddenly, with no explanation… it broke me for a very long time. I didn’t make friends for years after that. I was always too scared.”
“We were best mates, we were like sisters. You didn’t get any closer than the friendship we had together, and then to wake up one day and that’s now finished, suddenly, with no explanation…"
Bindi says it never crossed her mind that Sherrie might be suffering PND. “When she said that on the show, my heart stopped. I’d come up with a million scenarios about why she stopped talking to me but never had I ever thought that she was struggling. I never thought of it because I always figured if she had, she would have come to me,” she says. “We could have got through it together.”
Sherrie, now 38, is the mother of two teenage girls, Paris and her younger sister Willow. “Having teenage kids, seeing the friendships they have that are just the be all and end all, that you’d die for, made me think a lot about the friendships that I had, what I’d lost,” she says on the show.
It prompted her to contact her friend to seek a reconciliation. Sherrie hoped looking Bindi in the eye would turn back the clock. “Just having her back in my life I think would be enough.”
It was overwhelming to hear from Sherrie after 15 years’ silence, Bindi says. “You always hope that someone from your past will contact you.”
Not surprisingly, Bindi had misgivings about trying to patch up the friendship on national television. She tells SBS she sought counsel from her stepmother, who encouraged her to take part in the show. “She said, ‘you’ve got to do it. You can’t leave this unresolved.’”
Bindi says holding Sherrie’s gaze for five full minutes was intense, yet beautiful.
“It is true – the eyes do reveal so much more of the soul than words ever could. In that five minutes, both of us flashed back to the whole length of our friendship,” she recalls. “Everyone around you blacks out and it’s just you two again.”
The ground-breaking new six-part documentary series, Look Me In The Eye, continues on Wednesdays on SBS at 8.30pm. Each episode will be available to view on SBS On Demand after broadcast.