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To ask for help explaining bipolar disorder to DD (9)?

(15 Posts)
memememe94 Mon 25-Apr-16 18:06:31

I'm posting here for traffic as I need help figuring something out before bedtime. I will try to keep this as short as possible.

I have 2 DDs (9 & 6). I've got bipolar, which was triggered by the birth of DD2. I've been really poorly recently and was admitted to hospital on Friday. I'm home tonight to see how things go, but I think I will need to build my time up at home before I'm ready to be discharged.

DD1 is asking why I'm in hospital. In the past, I've just told her that I have a poorly head, which she accepted so I left it at that. The DD's are relatively sheltered from my illness. Outside of 'big' episodes, I'm very well. I work and DH is a SAHD. The DDs have never witnessed me being distressed or anything. Once I'm unable to 'keep a face on,' I tend to be admitted so the biggest impact of the bipolar is my absence, rather than my behaviour (IYSWIM). As DH is a SAHD and I travel for work sometimes, they're fairly well adjusted to me not always being around. However, I accept that I can't shelter them completely from mental illness and it obviously has an impact.

DD1 now (quite reasonably) wants more information about why I'm in hospital. How have others explained mental illness to children?

She's a very sensitive little girl and has always been a bit of a worrier.

I want to find a way to explain what happens to me, but without confusing her or panicking her. She asked earlier when I was making tea so I promised I'd talk to her tonight. Help, anyone?!

MammaTJ Mon 25-Apr-16 18:10:35

I think for a 9 year old.....

Sometimes peoples brains work differently to most other peoples, like Mummy. You know how sometimes you get a bit sad, or other times you get happy? Well, mummy's brain makes her think that she is very very sad, or very very happy. The sad is a very sad sad and the happy can be a very happy happy but it can also be a silly happy. They can both make me do silly things.

Maybe use some example of things she has seen you do, even though you say she is sheltered.

MammaTJ Mon 25-Apr-16 18:11:26

Oh and add that when you are in hospital you are being looked after by people who really know how to look after people with brains that work like yours.

TheGhostOfBarryFairbrother Mon 25-Apr-16 18:13:11

I have schizo-affective disorder and it's hard enough to explain to adults.

Thinking of you xxxx

Princesspeach1980 Mon 25-Apr-16 18:14:55

Have you tried looking on Amazon to see if there are any books you could use to help? We found a brilliant kindle book to help explain autism to my DS (8), the book did a way better job than we could have done, and then we had a chat afterwards and answered any questions he had.

yorkshapudding Mon 25-Apr-16 18:17:17

There is some really great advice on this site about how to start the conversation, how to frame things in an age appropriate way etc. I have linked to the section most appropriate for your DD's age but, for anyone interested, there are also sections on how to discuss mental health issues with small children and with teens.

You are absolutely doing the right thing by not keeping your DD in the dark. I hope your home leave goes well and you're able to return to your family full time in the near future. Take care of yourself. flowers

originalmavis Mon 25-Apr-16 18:19:48

I remember explaining bipolar to DS (someone in the news mentioned it). I told him that it was a glitch in the wiring in the brain that got emotion messages muddled sometimes. Sometimes the 'happy' message got translated as 'sad'. I told him that the human body wasn't perfect and that doctors were still trying to work some things out. The brain is a very complicated thing too.

memememe94 Mon 25-Apr-16 18:28:38

Many thanks for the advice and links. I think I might have to try to delay this conversation until I've had time to look at everything and be better prepared.

I don't get high any more--'just' grinding depression & sometimes psychotic depression. (I've already been in hospital when psychosis has developed so they've not seen me like that. I choose for them to not visit me in hospital. It's terrifying enough to me. It's not a place for young children.) Probably the most potentially traumatic thing they've seen is DH driving me to the psych hospital for an assessment at 9pm, although I was very quiet in the car with them. I'm eternally grateful that, so far, they've never seen me 'lose it.' I feel that withdrawing is better for them in those circumstances.

yorkshapudding Mon 25-Apr-16 18:37:10

Parenting with mental health issues is hugely challenging and it sounds as though you do a fantastic job of minimising the impact on your DC's. I think it's a good idea to reassure your DD and then delay the conversation until you are feeling well prepared. Being put on the spot and getting flustered won't be helpful for your mood or in terms of her understanding.

TheGhostOfBarryFairbrother Mon 25-Apr-16 18:40:09

I know it's hard and that there is a lot of stigma around but would you consider telling the school about it? You don't even have to say that it's MH related, just that you're in hospital and the D.C. might be struggling?

For what it's worth, my DM had severe postnatal depression when I was 7 and I still remember my dad reassuring me by explaining what was going on. It worked and meant that I understood why my mum was behaving differently.

Sending you lots of unmumsnetty hugs xxxx

wonderingsoul Mon 25-Apr-16 18:44:51

Could you ask some one at thw hospital to help? I am sure they would have delt with it before.

flowers hope you have a speedy recovery,

memememe94 Mon 25-Apr-16 18:45:18

Thanks theghost. It doesn't seem to affect them too badly at school--both of their teachers already know. Probably the biggest problem is that homework doesn't always get done when I'm in hospital. DH is very good at maintaining normality at home, but it's hard work and sometimes standards slip a bit. They obvisously miss me though, which is tough in itself.

howcanikeepdoingthis Mon 25-Apr-16 19:51:13

Hi mememe, so sorry to read you are in hospital, hopefully your leave goes well tonight and you are on your way towards discharge. I too have a diagnosis of bipolar and periodically have inpatient admissions. This year is the first time we have had to talk to my eldest (7) about my struggles. I have spent some time volunteering in mental health and now work for a mh trust. Through this I now strongly reject the medical model of mental health, reject my diagnosis and have a greater appreciation of the social and psychological factors at play in my distress. I found this has been helpful in terms of being open with my son. He understands that sometimes he feels happy and sometimes he feels sad and that mummy is no different but that my feelings can be 'a bit more extreme' and this can cause me problems. I have found it important that my own family don't view me as sick or ill or diseased or different as this is how I have come to experience stigma. I hope my children can see that despite my difficulties I am not defined by an illness and can still be a good mum, hold down a rewarding job etc I recognize this approach isn't for everyone but I have found it life changing to no longer see my distress as a disease.

TheGhostOfBarryFairbrother Wed 27-Apr-16 20:48:00

How are you doing?

SiencynArsecandle Wed 27-Apr-16 21:07:07

My youngest has grown up knowing her Dad was ill but we struggled to know how to explain it to her. This may be too simplistic an explanation for your own DC but it helped mine.
I explained having Bipolar as being like the characters in Winnie the Pooh.
A bad day was like Eeyore.
A manic/hyper day was like Tigger.
And the rare 'normal' (ugh) days was like Winnie the Pooh.


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