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Telling a teen about MH problems

(5 Posts)
whitecloud Tue 30-Jun-09 17:23:28

Has anyone had any experience of telling their teen about the depression/anxiety they are suffering from? I have also been having panic attacks which worry me a lot. With the summer holidays coming up I feel that it will be more difficult to keep this hidden, as I have managed over the last 9 or 10 months.

I suppose I do not want to burden her and am worried she will see me as weak. Sometimes she has typical volatile teen moods and says cutting things - this is the hardest to cope with as we have always had a very close, loving relationship. I know she has to grow away form met etc but feel I need her support and understanding at the moment. Or is that too much to ask or expect? Any advice/experiences would be welcome.

Midge25 Tue 30-Jun-09 20:59:36

Hi - wanted to comment from 'the other side of things'. Am going to qualify this a bit - this is a subject in which I'm massively emotionally involved, so the following might sound a bit impassioned/dramatic...Apologies if it's a bit over the top but feel v strongly.

I'm now 30 - my mum has had bipolar and anxiety disorders since before I was born. She took the decision not to tell me about this during my childhood and adolescence (I eventually had to find out by writing down the names of her medications and looking them up in a BNF in the local library). I think she was probably trying to protect me, but it had totally the opposite effect. I spent much of my childhood anxious, nervous and consumed with worry about my mum - I would lie in bed at night wondering if my parents were divorcing, if she was dying of cancer, and things came to a head when I came across a half-written suicide note left in her bedroom. In the way that children do, I also struggled to explain mum's behaviour to my friends, worried that I would get teased if she spent the whole day in bed crying whilst they were round, and generally felt totally deskilled in dealing with what was going on at home. I ended up self-harming just to relieve the stress, and spent 6 weeks wondering how to explain to my friends she was an inpatient in a psych unit, when I didn't know why myself. The lack of knowledge coloured my whole childhood - I am a natural worrier/neurotic anyway (always have been!)- and I feel I was a bright child who could have coped much better with the truth than with being 'protected'.

There's probably an element of personality in this, and of course you know your dd best, and how she is likely to respond. But I think your dd will probably already know some of what's going on, and I strongly believe in being honest with her. Let's face it - if you'd broken your leg or had arthritis you wouldn't hide it from your dd, and mh issues are health problems like any other.

Hiding this from your daughter also suggests that mh probs are something to be ashamed of/taboo, and its a shame to give your dd that message, even if it's not deliberate.

On the subject of seeking support from your dd though, I think this can be dangerous ground. Weirdly, altho' my mum wouldn't tell me what was going on, she did seek a lot of support from me in ways I now feel was too much for someone of my ag, eg. 'you can't go out tonight because I can't cope'. I was sorta torn between being a child and a carer and ultimately felt v responsible for her. I think it's fine to ask for your daughter's understanding and support to an extent, but that you should ensure you have other avenues for this too...eg counsellor, partner etc.

Hope this helps a bit. Sorry to ramble and don't mean this as any kind of attack on you. Just a subject close to my heart...

It will be interesting to see how I fare. I am still in treatment for pnd, and have had 2 x episodes of clinical depression prior to that. My dd is 18m, so too young to ask questions or need to know at present. But think I will be confronted with the same dilemma v soon...

All the best

whitecloud Fri 03-Jul-09 09:25:42

Midge25 - thank you so much for your advice. I did talk to dd and she was v good - think I had hidden it well - she said I was a good actress! Was getting so tearful I felt she needed to know. I take your point about not seeking support in the wrong way. I wouldn't stop her from doing what she wanted, but feel she will be a bit more understanding when I find it difficult to do things.

When I was young mh was very much a taboo subject and something to be ashamed of. You are right - I wld just be adding to the taboo if I said nothing. She doesn't see it as shameful at all.

So sorry to hear of the problems with your Mum and hope you can get through the PND. I suffered from it too, but did come through in the end. Am convinced my problems are hormonally based - am older than you and am suffering the menopause as well. But don't know that the doctors are convinced of this.

Take care

DisturbinglySexuallyInactive Fri 03-Jul-09 11:32:28

I didn't tell my children (have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder) partly because I wasn't wholly convinced there was anything actually wrong (despite hospital admissions etc) but mostly because I'm the only parent they've got. I thought they were entitled to view me as a 'normal', competent person. I probably just wasn't well enough to have that conversation, don't think I had enough insight into my condition at the time.

At some point they just found out by themselves, maybe because of cpns and mental health social workers and so on visiting all the time? It wasn't until a few years later when everything had stabilised that it all came out during family therapy, how it had affected them. We can talk about it now, I have occasional blips and they are initially quite angry with me but that's ok. It's not easy for them, I'd rather they felt on safe enough ground to be like every other occasionally obnoxious teen than slip into 'caring' mode.

ErikaMaye Fri 03-Jul-09 13:10:34

I just wanted to share things from the other side -

I am a teen with BPD, and although my treatment (then for the original diagnosis of depression) started when I was 13, my parents never really thought that anything was wrong. I was, and am, mostly, very good at keeping it hidden. I didn't want them or anyone to know. I hid it from everyone else because I was ashamed and confused at what was going on in my head - I would even lie to my therapist saying I was fine. But my family - I lied to them because I wanted to protect them. I didn'tn want them to feel bad because of what I was going through, because the one thing I did understand was that it wasn't their fault, even if their attitudes added to how I was feeling at times. I didn't want them to hurt to any degree of how much I was hurting.

It was only when I was admitted to a physc. unit that they realised something was actually wrong, and I realised I had to start telling them. But then I slipped back into "I'm fine, everythings fine", after I was discharged. One day my parents came home, and found a note saying I'd gone to my friends. When they called that friend, she said I wasn;t there, and hadn't been there at all. Then my neighbour popped over to see how I was feeling after being taken off in the ambulence. I then got a call in the hospital asking what the hell was going on. So thens when I admitted to them about the serious aspect of my self harm, and the over doses - that had been my third, and I'd managed to hide the other two.

Although it wasn't easy for them to hear, or for me to say, how much was happening in my head and how desperate I felt, and still feel, at times, things are so much better between us now that they know. They don't understand everything that I'm going through, because they've never been there, and I wouldn't wish my thoughts and feelings on anyone. But they do understand at least why I act so irrationally sometimes, and this is a huge relief for all of us.

I'm glad you told your daughter, and I really hope that you will begin to feel the benifits of doing so soon. Well done for being so strong - admitting how "odd" you feel to the people the mean the most to you in the world is the hardest thing to do.

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