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to ask for advice re: depression/post-natal depression

(3 Posts)
KFP Mon 13-Jun-11 14:01:59

I am a regular poster but I have name changed for this (not very subtly) - not because I am bothered about anyone on MN knowing who I am, but just to put a little distance between my usual user name and my RL identity in case any family member suddenly takes it into their head to come on MN.

A close family member is suffering from depression - very recent diagnosis. It is believed to have been going on since the birth of her first child. We did suspect post-natal depression at the time but she was very resistant to any support or assistance and pushed family members away very aggressively.

Some of the behaviour that she has displayed over the last few years has been simply more extreme examples of some personality traits she has always had which has made it very difficult for anyone to be sure whether she was suffering from depression or not.

There were a lot of problems after the first child was born - I don't want to go into too many identifiable details and some of the problems are quite complicated to explain - but she caused a lot of upset in the family for no apparent reason. It was as though she was casting around for excuses to be angry and hostile.

Her partner has always dealt with some of the negative traits by backing her up publicly, and even seeming to encourage her, but then admitting to family members in private that he knew she was being completely unreasonable and that he didn't know how to resolve it. This obviously made it very difficult for her parents/siblings to talk to her about what was going on as she was able to say 'well DP agrees with me so I must be right'.

Things were never really resolved but after a few months her behaviour calmed down again and it looked like things were back to normal. In retrospect I think her behaviour was still not back to its pre-pregnancy state, but we had got used to making allowances for her and we fell into the habit of saying 'oh, that's just her way' and putting up with it.

They had another child and things seemed fine, but over the last few months she has clearly deteriorated. She makes extremely high demands on family in terms of assistance and childcare and shows no gratitude at all - her expectations are very, very high and any inability, particularly on the part of her parents, to meet those expectations leads to very unpleasant behaviour and comments. For example, both her parents work full-time and one parent has health issues. She regularly asks them to collect/look after the children when they are actually working and is angry when they won't leave work to do so.

She has also been doing some worrying, or at least sub-optimal, things in terms of parenting - leaving the children in their rooms for long periods of time, taking the baby out dressed completely inadequately for the weather, driving them around without car seats, that sort of thing. She is very open about what she is doing but refuses to change anything. One of the children has started displaying some behaviour that may or may not be a reason for concern - hysterical crying for no apparent reason, insisting that everyone is going to leave him and refusing to be comforted, head banging, appearing to "fake" accidents and needing a huge amount of comfort. She is very, very negative about the children, mainly to others, but sometimes in the presence of the children, and she appears to want to avoid being in charge of them at any time. She almost never has sole care of them - they go to nursery part-time, they spend every weekend with their grandparents and their father is responsible for all their morning/evening care. There have been a number of occasions where she has paid someone to come and babysit during the day rather than look after them herself. Her parents are very, very worried about the children - more so than I expected which makes me think they suspect that more is going on than meets the eye.

I am now wondering if she is almost trying to push someone into taking action and taking the children out of her care. I have no doubt that if her parents said they were taking the children to live with her, she would agree.

Thank you to anyone who has got this far. My question is this and is directed particularly to anyone with experience of supporting someone through depression or who has suffered depression themselves. How do we help? It would be very easy for the family to step in and take over caring for the children but if that happens I honestly don't see them ever going back. She has minimal motivation to seek help - she has always been very resistant to any sort of help or advice - she has started medication but there is a suspicion that she isn't taking it properly, and she is also doing things she isn't supposed to do while on the medication. If the children weren't there to force her to make some efforts I don't think she would bother at all.

Her partner isn't really much help - he has confided in two family members that he is thinking of leaving her because he can't cope. He won't challenge any of her behaviour concerning the children or the fact that she spends vast amounts of his money on whims. He is more than happy for her family to take over the bulk of the childcare. I think he likes it when they are alone together as she is happier and they can go out and do the things they did before they had children. Our real fear is that he will leave her, she will hand the children over to her parents and they won't see either parent regularly and she will sink further into depression and lose everything.

She won't talk to anyone about it. She won't accept advice. As far as I can see all she wants is not to be a mother, or responsible for anyone, anymore.

Does anyone have any advice at all on how we help her through this and how we make sure the children are safe? One of the problems is that we genuinely don't know how much of her behaviour is the depression and how much is just her normal personality. Everyone is struggling to know how best to go forward.

Any advice would be appreciated.

PinotGrigiosKittens Mon 13-Jun-11 14:51:57

There are some great advice threads on the Mental Health topic pages, also a very good thread on OTBT at the moment.

KFP Mon 13-Jun-11 15:07:21

Thanks for that. I didn't mean to post in AIBU. Not sure how it happened. Have reposted in Chat but will try your suggestions.

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