Family dismissive of MH issues(8 Posts)
May be a long story here so I’ll try my best to be concise and put everything into small paragraphs!
I have Bipolar and am in recovery from Anorexia. I am also 7 months pregnant (first time mum).
I had my first depressive episode at 11, continuing throughout my teens with repeated and severe self harm. I had my first manic episode at 19, referred to CMHT at 20 and misdiagnosed and discarded on inappropriate medication. This went on for a few years before eventually being rediagnosed with Bipolar. Both manic and depressive episodes have often resulted in psychosis. I was sectioned for the first time at 25 having been found waist deep in a river in the middle of the night wishing to surrender myself to the moon.
Over the last five years I have lost count of how many times I have been sectioned, not including a few voluntary admissions. I have spent over a year (in total) in hospital since I met my partner five years ago and been under the care of the crisis team many times too. I have also been in an inpatient facility in an attempt to recover from my anorexia. I HATE psych wards. HATE them.
Anyway, I have been on various pretty complex combinations of medications over the years with varied but limited success. It is safe to say that I hate my illness, I hate how it has restricted my life and I hate having fairly limited options in life.
In terms of the pregnancy- my periods never really returned after my eating disorder relapse and a period of time on an antipsychotic known to stop menstruation. I never thought I’d be able to conceive but as it turns out, 1 cycle in the best part of a year worked for us.
In some ways pregnancy has been okish, minimal sickness and so forth. I have an anterior placenta and have only felt 5/6 movements in the last 4 weeks so am being monitored daily. I was under consultant care anyway due to MH health problems and effects of medication on the baby. It was decided by the perinatal team that I should stay on some of my medication as benefits (apparently) outweigh potential risks. I may have to have a scheduled caesarean and it looks increasingly unlikely that I’ll be able to breastfeed. I am very upset by this.
About 3 weeks ago my mood took a nosedive and I was admitted to the mother and baby MH unit where I am currently. Crucially I should mention, my family do not know I’m here.
Over the years the input from my family has been, at best, intermittent. In the early hospitalisations my family were supportive, both of me being safe and also finally being given medication that might help. As time has gone by they have all (mum, Dad, brother, sister) been dismissive and sometimes cruel with regards to my mental health. I have constant lectures about how I need to come off my medication as I’d do better without it. Dsis has labelled me ‘attention seeking’. DM has stormed out of hospital rooms, refused to speak and look at me, told me that I really don’t need medication and that she too would love ‘a nice break’ in hospital. I could go on.
Hopefully you’re still with me and you get the gist.
Yesterday I saw DB and DM. They spent 15 minutes telling me that I should come off Lithium and that it is the source of all my problems. Also, they tell me it will harm the baby. When asked, both admitted that they have never, ever researched my illness let alone my medication. I find this incredibly difficult as I long to be able to breastfeed and worry so much about hurting my baby but I am listening to the experts (psychiatrists and obstetricians).
Enough was enough tonight. Over the last 5 years I have been shut down and talked over whenever I have been well and assertive enough to question their views and stand up for myself. I sent a message on the family WhatsApp group explaining that while I understand they find it difficult I need, at least, validation and acknowledgment of my illness. That I hate living like this and I want to do my best so I am there for my baby and not absent for any milestones. I think the message was calm and didn’t point any fingers or place blame.
My brother replied instantly saying he was very sorry, he wants the best for me and will help and support me anyway he can going forward. My mum said ‘I do not know what to say’. Otherwise, silence. I sent another reply reiterating what I said initially, told them I loved them etc. This was followed by total silence.
I am hurt and sad. I feel rejected and frightened. I also understand that they may feel overwhelmed but that doesn’t stop the way I feel.
I guess what I’m asking is, AIBU to have a devastating and difficult aspect of my life validated by my family. If they find it too hard to offer physical support, AIBU to ask that they ask me questions about meds, various sections etc without firing questions and insulting and tough words at me.
This is a huge, huge post. I did not want to dripfeed. If you have made it this far, thank you.
I should add, I love my family to bits. I wAnt them to be proud of me.
I am sorry to hear that your family aren't giving you the support that they should. You are so brave to open up to them considering the response you have had before. Your brother sounds like someone you can count on, perhaps you can message him privately from now on, rather than on the family WhatsApp?
Whilst I can't offer any advice about what you're dealing with, I would just like to point you to the drugs in breast milk helpline & website. Unfortunately many health professionals don't know the full details on what can be taken when breastfeeding, however Wendy Jones is an absolute superstar and her newly awarded MBE is well deserved.
I hope you can get some information on there to help with taking medication and breastfeeding. It's such a shame that there can still be people that don't understand mental illnesses fully and that taking medication is a positive step.
Congratulations on your pregnancy too!
Sounds very difficult for you and also for your family. A weary and long road for everyone involved. MH is an unfair illness to you and the manifestation of that illness can punish those around you too. I wonder how much is self preservation mode on their part.
How are they feeling about your choice to have a baby? Have they expressed reservations about your ability to care long term and how that might impact your support network?
I wanted to add have you ever pursued family counselling? it might be helpful to have someone mediate some of these loaded emotional conversations.
The reason breastfeeding is not recommended is because lithium passes into the breastmilk. If you do breastfeed please please tell your Drs as they will monitor your babies kidney and thyroid functions.
Please don't listen to unregulated "experts" with no understanding of lithium.
I understand you want your family to validate what you are going through and that is perfectly reasonable to want that. But sadly none of us have control over other people. I suspect strongly given their history, that they will act the same again and hurt you even more.
I would focus on your brother. Good luck.
OP you write very well. If you feel brave enough to share your story more widely I think you will find other sources of validation. Hopefully one day your family will understand and I'm sorry they don't as yet but maybe in time they still might.
Thank you, all of you for your replies.
@fixitup - they are very excited about the baby. First baby in the family for a couple of decades! They seem to think that I will never get unwell again and that taking medication is more unfair on the baby I have tried to relay the information I have received from the consultants which is very much healthy mum, happy baby.
Counselling is something that has been suggested over the years. My mum absolutely won’t have it and unfortunately, as she is very dominant everyone tends to follow. Myself included.
I shall look up the info about Lithium in breastmilk. I would always inform my doctors though. I have had a lot of conflicting information about whether or not it is possible, including an NHS leaflet I was sent early pregnancy that said it was fine as long as I carried to term and baby was monitored. I am hesitant to risk it based on how little research there seems to be.
Thank you everyone
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