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If you have depression, do your children know?

(58 Posts)
ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Mon 25-Aug-08 16:44:58

A couple of times I have said Mummy is ill when I am talking to them but I assume they think I have a tummy ache. I feel they are way too young (7, 5 and three) but wonder when you do tell them.

amateurmum Mon 25-Aug-08 16:48:26

My ds's (10 and 7) know in simple terms.
My dd (3) doesn't.

Although my depression is mostly well-contolled by anti-depressants, I sometimes have times of panic/despair. I think it is more frightening for them not to know why this happens.

TrinityRhino Mon 25-Aug-08 16:52:50

dd1 (8) and dd2 (3) know that I take tablets every day

which I have dubbed 'crazy tablets'

but I'm not sure they really know why I take them

ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Mon 25-Aug-08 17:04:05

Actually I think they know I take tablets each day.

TR - did you see my messages for you?

TrinityRhino Mon 25-Aug-08 17:09:34

ooh oooh what messages?

ooh <swoon> soneone actually wants to talk to me grin

TrinityRhino Mon 25-Aug-08 17:17:14

were you teasing me?


ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Mon 25-Aug-08 17:40:09

No grin

On chat and on children's clothes.

oi Mon 25-Aug-08 17:50:50

hmm my mother had/has depression (via bipolar and various other things) and I wasn't told till I was much older, like in my early teens.

I had no idea of what mental health problems were up to that point (seems almost ridiculous that I didn't figure it out myself considering how bad she was but I just didn't know any better!).

I think it would have helped knowing earlier - what really gets you as a kid, dealing with a parent with depression, is the irrationality of their behaviour, the tears and the irritability. So there are days when you get snapped at for doing something, some days when they do nothing but cry and some days when they are ok and that is v v confusing when you are little!

Children know no better though, especially if you've always had it. If you suddenly develop it, then they would pick something up I guess.

cyteen Mon 25-Aug-08 17:53:46

I had no idea my mum had been struggling with depression for several years, which made her suicide all the more shocking and difficult to deal with. On that basis I would agree that it is less frightening if children know something about what is going on, age-appropriate of course. I was completely clueless and tortured myself for years after her death thinking of all the selfish teenage things I'd done and wishing I'd been a bit kinder to her.

ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Mon 25-Aug-08 17:54:04

I have had PND since the start really, how on earth would I tell them without scaring them?

limecrush Mon 25-Aug-08 17:55:13

my eldest is only 5 but I have told him that mummy gets sad and grumpy and tired and hope he can forgive me and know that I always love him no matter how horrible I get sad

Elk Mon 25-Aug-08 17:55:27

My dd1 (aged 5) knows I have an illness which can make me a bit 'sad and grumpy' but that the gp has given me medicine for it.

Littlefish Mon 25-Aug-08 17:58:34

I agree with oi. My mother was depressed/anorexic/bulimic from when I was about 6 or 7 years old until I was about 30. I think it would really have helped to have been given an explanation in really simple terms. The most important thing to have heard was that it was not my fault, and not becuase of anything that I had done.

I constantly blamed myself for her illness as she shouted at me for various things and would then not speak for several hours, or would go off to her room.

Please find a way to tell your older children I'mnotMamaG - they will be picking up on some things anyway. It would be better to hear a thoughtful explanation from you.

In the end, someone (a lovely family friend) told me that my mum just felt very sad, that there wasn't any reason why she felt sad and it certainly wasn't anything that we had done wrong and that she took tablets and saw the doctor to try and help her feel better again. This made sense to me when I was 6.

ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Mon 25-Aug-08 18:03:02

Oh sh*t. I wasn't expecting that.

I thought you would all say they were too young.

Don't know how I am going to do this.

oi Mon 25-Aug-08 18:08:03

I agree totally with cyteen and Littlefish. I too tortured myself with all the ways I had behaved badly and made my mum more sad and actually, even today, I find myself thinking 'if only someone had told me'.

(I found the suicide attempts very very confusing because they weren't explained to me and I even said to my mother 'if you loved us, you wouldn't behave this way'. I mean, HOW AWFUL to say that to someone who was ill! I just didn't know any better!).

But I agree, it needs to be in very simple terms. I really don't know the best way to do that. As littlefish and cyteen have said, what is v v important is to get across that it isn't their fault at all.

cyteen Mon 25-Aug-08 18:15:36

Yes, I'd make it clear that it is an illness, just like when people are physically sick, but, um, different (can you tell I haven't had to do this myself grin but ykwim). I think it's really important to try and break the stigma of mental illness, and perhaps allowing children to understand the situation to whatever level they're able will help them to see that it isn't something anyone should be ashamed of or feel the need to hide.

I understand that it must be a hard subject to broach though, so please don't feel that I'm trying to preach or anything

ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Mon 25-Aug-08 18:21:25

Oh God will someone just tell me what to say to them.

I haven't asked dh yet what he think. I am thinking he will say to say nothing tbh.

ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Mon 25-Aug-08 18:22:28

I just think they are so young.

One day I told them a bit about my childhood but it was when they were being particulary ungrateful and difficult and I handled it really really badly and it had no effect anyway.

cyteen Mon 25-Aug-08 18:25:34

No one can tell you what to say though, know them best and know what each one of them can handle.

They are young, but there are ways to explain health situations to wee ones at a level they can understand. I know, I've read about it wink

Seriously though, depression is an illness that can be serious and have serious effects on your life, just like any long-term physical ailment. Do you have any professionals supporting you, would you be able to seek advice from them? Or perhaps an organisation like Mind would have advice on how to tell the kids?

ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Mon 25-Aug-08 18:27:12

I don't have any help at all.

oi Mon 25-Aug-08 18:29:37

I have no idea. Honestly. I also think depression affects people in different ways so one person's experience may not mirror someone else's.

here's a webpage with some ideas about explaining depression to children

also on amazon, here's a book for young children 4-8 explaining about their mother having depression

(I have never read that book so can't review it for you but saw it recommended on a mental health website)

ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Mon 25-Aug-08 18:31:24

Thank you.

Will look later once monkeys are in bed.

oi Mon 25-Aug-08 18:32:06

(actually scrap that book idea because it's out of print I think...will be hard to get hold of)

the advice on that web page seems quite good though

ImnotMamaGbutsheLovesMe Mon 25-Aug-08 18:41:15

Is listed as costing between £24 and £117!!

oi Mon 25-Aug-08 18:42:08

ridiculous isn't it. Taking the pee. It can't be THAT good wink.

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