exposing child to my mental illness - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 11-10-2007, 04:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello,

I've been lurking for a while and finally joined. I've been a little worried about something and I'm hoping some of you can help.

I'm expecting my first child in February. I have a long history of depression (11 years) and a shorter history of anxiety (6 years?). Right now I feel great. After much research, and in consultation with my psychiatrist, I decided to stay on medication (Wellbutrin & Effexor) through pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Clearly, I am at risk for PPD. Even PPP? However, I feel that my meds are protecting me well and I have heard some evidence that women who aren't prone to PMS aren't likely to get PPD. Something about how we react to the hormones? So I'm optimistic.

Anyway, to the point: Even though I feel great I still occasionally cry. (Don't most of us?) And I have important conversations with my partner that are intense and sometimes about me being insecure and telling him that I don't feel so great when he does x or y and these usually include crying. Sometimes I get angry and talk loud, but he never yells.

What I'm wondering is: how much do I protect my child from my emotional unrest? How much do I hold back on addressing issues with my partner in the interest of my child? I'm pretty sure I need to be honest with him (it's a boy) at some point to some extent (assuming my remission doesn't last). But when and how? Do I hide in my room when I'm crying? Only if its about me being insecure/hopeless? (And not b/c I'm sad that my friend is sad or healthy-person crying.)

I'm having a really hard time researching this topic, I don't think it has keywords conducive to searching.

I certainly want to know what to do in the short run. When my baby is barely conscious of his own existence, should I still protect him from my distress?

But I worry about long term too, and am always more comfortable with a long term plan.

Any help anyone can provide would be truly appreciate.

Peace to all of you.
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#2 of 17 Old 11-10-2007, 08:11 PM
 
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You may have more luck posting this in the PPD forum, even though you don't have PPD.

There is nothing that says you WILL get this. I did, with all three kids, and it sucked, but I eventually came out of it and can look back and know that I'm healed. I really like my fish oil and exercise for that. For me, the important thing is to try and have a support system built up in place, whether by joining the LLL or finding a local AP group of mothers ahead of time.

Congratulations on the upcoming birth of your son. Have you visited the case-against-circumcision forum yet?
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#3 of 17 Old 11-10-2007, 09:28 PM
 
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breastfeed. babies with depressed mothers who nurse them do almost as well as babies without depressed mothers because they still get the contact, touching, and attention that they need.

also, breastfeeding protects mothers from extra stress.

here is a link to a bunch of articles on this by kathleen kendall-tackett who does a lot of research in this area.

http://www.granitescientific.com/gra...s/page0009.htm

with my first dd, i was able to keep my depression separate from my interaction with her. i felt horrible, but i could 'fake it' as i had to. with my second, it was impossible. do what you need to do to take care of yourself *(meds, exercise, good eating, counseling). whether or not you have ppd, this is important (and i'm still learning it).

good luck

ETA: here's another link from la leche league
http://www.llli.org/NB/NBdepression.html
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#4 of 17 Old 11-11-2007, 06:48 PM
 
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I personally would make sure my partner was well informed of the illness and talk openly with the child about it.

I dont kow what the "right" thing to do is, but on some really bad bad bad days I had where I couldnt get off the couch, I had to tell my ds, 4, that mommy was feeling really sick and she was getting some help from the doctor for it...but that it might take a while for her to feel better again.

I did my best through that, and I felt like I needed to be honest with them. (I think because my mom is in such denial about her depression and I always got blamed for her outbursts...no one ever talked openly at all about it.)
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#5 of 17 Old 11-12-2007, 01:25 PM
 
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I had a similar experience to you. I have a long history of depression and anxiety, too, and I was fully prepared for PPD. But it didn't happen. Not at all. I'll neve really understand why. Maybe I was just so focused on being tired from lack of sleep adn all the new demands. I just focused on the baby and everyone marveled at how well I adjusted to motherhood.

I've actually had a harder time since dd turned about 2. I think that's when parenting became less about meeting physical and comfort needs and more about thinking--redirecting, setting boundaries and all that. I had a really rough time when she was about 2-2 1/2 and I am not proud of my parenting during that period. I yelled a lot, just generally got mad at my poor girl. Thankfully, I realized what I was doing and got help. Now I'm on Celexa and feeling SOO much better.

I do protect my daughter as much as possible, mostly because I know I didn't when she was a toddler. I don't let her see me taking my medication. I don't cry a lot, I more get irritated, anxious and really worried. And BOY, do I try to protect her from that. When I feel I can't, I go outside so she doesn't have to focus just on me. She's just too young to understand and I don't want to burden her with this in any way. I play with her a lot. And I'm still trying to heal her from that nasty time with me by doing TONS of attachment-type stuff. I have actually found Playful Parenting to be my most helpful resource. Healthy-person crying, or reactions, can be really difficult to sort out for those of us battling depression and anxiety. I do talk to her a lot about feelings and I don't sheild her from day-to-day frustrations. I let her cry for as long as she needs to (a la Playful Parenting) so I don't make her block things up inside. I have no idea when to start telling her about my condition. On my side of the family, every single member has a mental illness, ranging from OCD to depression and anxiety. The men seem to go for alcoholism and sexual abuse. She has to know this history...sometime.

Your child will thank you for getting treatment. That's what he will remember. That you cared enough about him to get help. Keep posting here. There seems to be a small group of us managing this and it helps to know all of the women here seem to be just great parents despite these extra challenges.
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#6 of 17 Old 11-12-2007, 01:39 PM
 
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The most frustrating thing for me living with depression (I actually dont know what mt mental illness is yet, I am still on the journey to find a psych that isnt an idiot)

Is the fact that being mindful of it, and being aware of it, doesnt make it go away! I thought if I just learned enough about psycology, and mental illness, I could heal myself. It hasnt worked that way so far.
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#7 of 17 Old 11-12-2007, 04:35 PM
 
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Unlike the PP, I try not to hide anything from DD1 (3.5yo). She likes to help me get vitamins together in the morning (I go downstairs and get medicines, etc and bring them to DH), so I talk to her about them.

For me I take lots of vitamins "for the baby" and fish oil is "brain medicine." It helps mommy and baby's brain work better. I also take allergy medicine, so I tell about that, "mommy sneezes and has a runny nose a lot. This medicine helps mommy feel better, so I can go to work and take care of you and your sister better." Calcium helps the baby's bones grow strong, etc.

For DH, he takes "brain medicine" as well (anti-D's and thyroid, and fish oil in the morning). He also takes "brain medicine" at night (mood stabilizer and anxiety meds).

Alex sees us taking vitamin and medicines all the time - literally every day. I want her to know why we are taking it. I think it helps her to take medicine when it is necessary. When I go to the pharmacy and she is with me, she asks about the medicine I'm getting and what it is for. I answer her as best I can and as age appropriately as I can.

When she is older, I'm sure she'll ask why daddy takes so much "brain medicine" everyday. I'm not sure how I'll answer, but I want to practice talking about it now so that when the time comes I will find words to explain bipolar, depression, and anxiety.

There have been several occasions when I'm crying and talking to DH and she's seen me crying. She asks "Are you sad, mommy?" I say yes. She usually wants to hug me and make me feel better. Sometimes she'll start crying too. It DOES make me feel better to have her hug me and hold me when I'm crying, so I let her. I want her to feel free to crawl up in my lap and hold me no matter what I feel.

It's hard to explain, but I really think she should be as involved as she can handle. She is not responsible for "making me feel better." I go to a DR and take "brain medicine" for that. But I want her to understand as best she can that mommy and daddy's "brains are 'sick' sometimes and we need medicine to help our brains work better."

Afterall, my daughters have mental illness in BOTH sides of the family! They NEED to understand this because it WILL effect them in some way -- either through us or perhaps it will effect them directly.

Good Luck making the decision that's right for you.
--LEE
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#8 of 17 Old 11-13-2007, 11:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks to all of you for your perspectives. you've given me some things to think about.
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#9 of 17 Old 11-16-2007, 12:45 PM
 
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I have had a similar journey except that I have been on St john wart through pre pregnancy, preganancy and post while nursing.

My ds is now 15mo and I have had the approach that to deny my emotions would be a terrible lesson to a dc. So if I have a bad day, am too cranky or what ever, emotional, I admit it to my son, give it a language and if I feel I was out of line, getting snappy with him for example I appologize for it and try to do better.

He is bound to have inherited some of my traits since I see him picking up on my fastidiousness and frustration behaviors.... so this way he can know what he is feeling - that it is "normal" or normal and that we must do our best not to harm other with our emotions and that we have to learn to cope

Tea drinking Momma::: Grady 8/06 and : Coralynn 8/09
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#10 of 17 Old 12-02-2007, 07:02 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leewd View Post
Unlike the PP, I try not to hide anything from DD1 (3.5yo). [..] For DH, he takes "brain medicine" as well (anti-D's and thyroid, and fish oil in the morning). He also takes "brain medicine" at night (mood stabilizer and anxiety meds).

Alex sees us taking vitamin and medicines all the time - literally every day. I want her to know why we are taking it. I think it helps her to take medicine when it is necessary. When I go to the pharmacy and she is with me, she asks about the medicine I'm getting and what it is for. I answer her as best I can and as age appropriately as I can.

When she is older, I'm sure she'll ask why daddy takes so much "brain medicine" everyday. I'm not sure how I'll answer, but I want to practice talking about it now so that when the time comes I will find words to explain bipolar, depression, and anxiety.

[...] It's hard to explain, but I really think she should be as involved as she can handle. She is not responsible for "making me feel better." I go to a DR and take "brain medicine" for that. But I want her to understand as best she can that mommy and daddy's "brains are 'sick' sometimes and we need medicine to help our brains work better."

Afterall, my daughters have mental illness in BOTH sides of the family! They NEED to understand this because it WILL effect them in some way -- either through us or perhaps it will effect them directly.--LEE
LEE you've really struck me with this post. I have been wondering and thinking about the same things with dd (and baby#2 coming soon). Both my dh and I have mental health issues and it's all over up and down the family tree on both sides. We are EXPECTING to see it manifest itself in our children in some way over time.

I want to talk about it in an open, matter of fact way, but I just don't know what to say. The thing about saying that our brains are sick and the medicine helps our brains work better........I guess I'm not really totally comfortable or satisfied with that explanation to a child, though I know people use it, and it's recommended......perhaps over time I will be. I'm not really sure why it doesn't sit quite right with me. I guess I feel like something is missing from that explanation, but I'm not sure what. I think there are some good books out there to explain mental health probs to kids, and I'm going to get my hands on some.

Nothing else to say right now except that this thread is very interesting and this issue has been on my mind too. Thanks for sharing mamas.

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#11 of 17 Old 12-02-2007, 11:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Emese'sMom View Post
The thing about saying that our brains are sick and the medicine helps our brains work better........I guess I'm not really totally comfortable or satisfied with that explanation to a child, though I know people use it, and it's recommended......perhaps over time I will be. I'm not really sure why it doesn't sit quite right with me. I guess I feel like something is missing from that explanation, but I'm not sure what. I think there are some good books out there to explain mental health probs to kids, and I'm going to get my hands on some.
It is amazing to think our consciousness is just the stuff between our ears, so it makes sense that that explanation isn't enough for you. I like talking about my brain too though, because I doubt there is anything else.

I'd be interested to hear about any good books you find about explaining mental illness to kids.

Its relieving to realize I'm not the only one procreating despite the high likelihood of my li'luns developing emotional probs. I had a hard time justifying it for a long time. I asked myself: what if my child comes to me and says. "why did you have me if you knew this was gonna happen?" After years and years and finding good meds I found an answer. "Because I knew you'd get through it, sweets." Wow, that could be a whole 'nother thread.
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#12 of 17 Old 12-03-2007, 12:53 AM
 
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There's a bookstore called Parentbooks in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that has some excellent resources. I don't have much time right now, but quickly, here's a link that points to self-helpish resources for ourselves, for helping our kids with anxiety probs, for kids to read about and help themselves from ages 3 through adolescence:
http://www.parentbooks.ca/Anxiety.html

If you check out the site and browse the booklist, there are resources there about depression too, and many other issues.

Books on parenting with a mental illness:
http://www.parentbooks.ca/Parenting_...l_Illness.html

They ship to Canada, the U.S. and worldwide. This is an excellent bookstore.

As for having children when we are coping with mental illness and will likely pass on the genes..........I have asked myself the same questions. Should we be bringing a child into this world with the possibility of having this difficulty to live with (ours and theirs)? Like you, after successful treatment, I feel the answer to that question is, "You can handle it." I also think the answer is, "Even with mental illness, life is still worth living." I am still glad I am here. There are still things that I have enjoyed immensely throughout my life. I still believe there is a good reason to be alive and drink deeply from the cup of life! So there!

I'm just so glad I can take better care of my daughter and be a better mom/wife for my family because my meds are working. I hope they keep working for a long time. I don't want to hurt my children because of my mental illness.

Then too I think about other types of illness and children having to cope with ill parents with physical illness or disability. How is this different? (Well I could answer that but I'll just stop here for now. )

Great thread. Very thought provoking.

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#13 of 17 Old 12-03-2007, 01:16 PM
 
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Then too I think about other types of illness and children having to cope with ill parents with physical illness or disability. How is this different?
I thought of this too. While we didn't really know what was going on with DH when we had our first, would we have chosen NOT to have children if we had known? Would we have chosen NOT to have children if he (or I) had had some other ailment that could be passed on genetically? I doubt it!

In my view parenthood is all about equipping our children to fly out of the nest and find their own way. Some children will need to be equipped in one way and others need to be equipped in other ways. Our children need to understand mental illness.

I also get what you are saying about the "our brains are sick" thing. I see this as a temporary way of communicating what is going on. I believe that we are much more that what is between our ears, but 3yo's cannot really grasped any more than this.

As she gets older, I want to find new ways of talking to her, better vocabulary words, etc.

I've explained to her how the placenta works, and I can't wait for her to see it at the birth and explain it some more. My 2yo however, I do not talk to about the placenta. She sometimes forgets where the baby is -- she is not ready for anatomy lessons. Different explainations are appropriate and "true" for different ages.
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#14 of 17 Old 12-03-2007, 10:44 PM
 
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The most frustrating thing for me living with depression (I actually dont know what mt mental illness is yet, I am still on the journey to find a psych that isnt an idiot) Is the fact that being mindful of it, and being aware of it, doesnt make it go away! I thought if I just learned enough about psycology, and mental illness, I could heal myself. It hasnt worked that way so far.
Precisely!!! I studied psych in uni and work with people with disabilities. I have worked on a suicide prevention line (we have had lots of suicidal ideation in our family and the grown ups never quite seemed to know how to deal with it)........have done tons of counselling, self care stuff, cognitive behavioural worksheets, etc. I thought all these things would fortify and teach me. Even help "fix" me. They worked up to a certain point, some of the time. But really the clincher was finding the right meds. And a good psychiatrist who I like (trust me, I've had the doozy too who would nod off during our sessions ).

Quote:
Originally Posted by leewd View Post
In my view parenthood is all about equipping our children to fly out of the nest and find their own way. Some children will need to be equipped in one way and others need to be equipped in other ways. Our children need to understand mental illness.

I also get what you are saying about the "our brains are sick" thing. I see this as a temporary way of communicating what is going on. I believe that we are much more that what is between our ears, but 3yo's cannot really grasped any more than this.
ITA

There's so much great insight here on this thread.

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#15 of 17 Old 03-27-2008, 05:57 AM
 
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Just reviving this thread again. Tonight I feel down as dh and I struggle with our mental health issues. Now dd1 is grinding her teeth in her sleep. I worry that our stresses are getting to her. I feel so bad, and wonder if we should have had children, yk? Definitely no more kids after these two that we have. I know things will be looking up, it's just hard to see the sun right now. Tell me it'll pass. Thanks.

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#16 of 17 Old 03-29-2008, 10:14 PM
 
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I'm sorry you are having a hard time.

Last Wednesday, I had to have my dose of Zoloft upped from 75 to 100 mg. The girls just kept asking if I was "sad." "Yes" was the best answer I could give even though "sad" does not describe it.

I often wonder why God chose to give us a third child if He knew (and I thoroughly believe He knew) this is what would become of us.

It's hard to have faith when I just want to curl up under the covers with earplugs in my ears.

You're not alone.
--LEE
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#17 of 17 Old 03-30-2008, 12:37 AM
 
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Thanks. My meds were upped recently too. We're in the same club!

It is kind of scary when you feel overwhelmed with what you have and realize it's your mental illness talking.

But it will pass. It will not always be so hard. There is still much to enjoy from life.

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