Your Depression and Your Kids

My mother always tells me, when I go back to the year my brother passed away, We acted like we were fine so we could have a life, so we could still have friends. We didn't want to lose them, too, our friends, being sad all the time, and we didn't want it to affect you. We still had other children.

And of course we, my younger brother and I didn't want to upset them, our parents, so confused and aggrieved, so we didn't talk about it, either. As a result there was very little family grieving or overt depression.

The silver lining, if there can be such a thing, is that we did make some family resolutions about how we needed to interact with one another in the future. We upgraded the family intimacy with these rules, and held by them, honor them to this day. They're mostly about showing affection.

I think a lot of families handle loss the way we did, don't talk about it. I would venture to say, most.

Whenever I share personal things on the blog, there's a reason, and it's not so you should think you should do things my way. Any ersatz personal solutions you read about here (usually involving dinner) might have been right for me, the right way at the time, but maybe could have been the wrong way, let's talk. A family coping strategy is only as good as what follows the enactment.

We suggest coping strategies in therapy all the time, knowing that sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Sometimes a therapist knows something will work (we just know), and sometimes we know that it's a long-shot and we'll tell you It's a long-shot. Or sometimes it's a sure thing, but something gets in the way, like life.

Let's move on, get away from grieving, move over to feeling sad, tired, teary, and withdrawn, typical symptoms of depression. What's a mother or a father to do, what's a a parent to do, when depression is crushing? Disabling? What do you do when active parenting becomes very, very hard?

Are you supposed to be honest with your kids about your feelings? Maybe. How honest? Answers are based upon the circumstances, and certainly upon the ages of the children. A five year old who sees his mother napping is likely to be good with
She's tired.
Spare the kid the details if you can get away with it.

But should we hide our tears indefinitely? Depression can go on and on and on and on. Even if we want to hide them, the problem, of course, is that hiding tears is rarely possible with children. Most of these creatures are empathic, can sniff the sadness of a turtle. This is why, frankly, the nap concept is a good one, and often does refresh, removes the tears, if soaks the pillow. If you can sleep, it's a gift, try to rest a little, if only to refresh the program if the refresh button still works. Even if it doesn't.

I'm not trying to minimize the pain, as if to say a nap cures depression. I know how debilitating it is. Sometimes there are no tears at all, you know what I'm talking about. Sometimes the cloud is hanging overhead all day long, all week-long, and the burst never happens. There are coping strategies, like CBT, where you try to stay rational, try not to sink into despair and self-pity, and surely the support of a significant other, if one of these is around, is invaluable, as is a good friend. Therapy. Crying on an available shoulder.

But not the child's. The child will think about this, worry about this, find homework meaningless, and carry a parent's depression to school the next day. Or maybe not. But why take the risk?

Spare the kids your tears. Nothing makes one sadder than Mommy or Daddy's tears. And when the tears can't be helped, a quick recovery is best, for sure, a performance is in order, if a performance is possible. If this is a major affective disorder with depression, a 296.23, or .33, recurrent, severe, or a bi-polar disorder, a 296.89, acting may not be possible, minimizing the negativity may be impossible until medication begins to lift the brick off your head.

But if it is possible, when caught by your kid in the act of depression, a nod to Sometimes people just feel like crying, nothing's really wrong is a good nod. You will not always be able to get away with this, but if you can, by all means.

Isn't such emotional dishonesty wrong, you want to know? Shouldn't we be honest with our kids?

Not in my book, not if it's going to make them sad. What do they need this for, our sadness? They'll have their fair share, don't worry, in life.

That said, adult children can handle a lot of sadness from their parents. They feel esteemed, even, depending upon what we tell them, that we trust them with our honesty, our raw emotion. It is a compliment when I share with you. You are trustworthy.

And yet there's such a thing as emotional incest, mostly when it comes to the little ones. When the child is anxious because a parent has disclosed things prematurely, things that are difficult to forget, this can be considered emotional incest, invasive and traumatizing.

It is our job as parents, some of us believe, to sanitize life, to make life feel okay for our children so that they can do their job, which is to play, without distraction, to learn how to make friends, to practice being a friend. (There is surely too much emphasis on academics these days, you know, it should be outlawed, this intensity to achieve, makes children want to kill themselves.) No childhood is worry-free, there will be upsets, but you control what you can.

I saw a movie last night on a DVD AWAY WE GO, starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph.


Although it's a little too sad for someone like me, I loved the people in this film, the young couples, friends and siblings of the protagonists, especially one couple who adopted a bunch of children and wouldn't let them watch the Sound of Music beyond the Good Night Song. They can learn about the Nazis when they're a little older, is the thinking.

John and Maya look for friends and relatives in different cities. They want to move somewhere, to settle down where they have connections, support. It is lonely, even in a loving, good relationship, without people.

The story (thanks to Sam Mendes, director, and writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida) lends an answer to that question,
What do you do when parenting, active parenting, is very, very hard?
It really is about social support. Maybe Mommy ran away, or maybe she's just tired, but if she has this, social support, or if Daddy has it, if someone has it, then there could be an aunt or an uncle, someone who doesn't mind filling in that parenting role. Or a close friend, or a grandmother-- someone the family trusts, emphasis on trusts.

A very social work-y solution, indeed. I'm open to others.



Jack said…
One of the most interesting moments in my life was when my father asked me for advice about my grandfather.

I was 37 and more than happy to help my dad. But it was a sea change in our relationship. The man who had always protected me let down his guard for a moment.

It wasn't as if I was unaware of the challenge and struggle my father had been going through, but it was the first time that I had been given a front row seat.

Would have been overwhelming as a kid, but as an adult I was well prepared.
The Blue Morpho said…
This was an eye opener - "When the child is anxious because a parent has disclosed things prematurely, things that are difficult to forget, this can be considered emotional incest. It is, by definition, invasive and traumatizing." I didn't know it had a name; "emotional incest." I experienced this as a child, over and over, and it certainly cannot be forgotten. But it can be "healed" in a way. And, most certainly, we can vow "the buck stops here" and ensure it does not happen to our own kids, by being attentive to just this sort of information.
kg said…
Some years ago husband was very depressed. As much as possible, we kept the kids out of it, but it was noticable. (they were in middle school) During a car ride I told them that daddy was having trouble and feeling sad, but that he was getting help. That we needed to be patient and loving with him, but that they could come to me when they needed to. That this wasn't because of anything they did.
Medication finally turned the tide and things did get much better.

More recently, younger child has suffered her first depression (in college). I hope that it has been somewhat re-assuring to her to remember family love and support for times like these. Once again, the medicine has taken hold, and things are looking up. She's also found that there are others (students and professors that understand depression and that has helped)

While it helps to shield the kids, they do get ideas, so having a talk with them---gentle words on their level---I think is more helpful than pretending nothing is going on. They especially need to know that it is not their fault.
kg said…
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Cyndi said…
Emotional Incest...yes, I experienced it in the form of covert sexual abuse...too much info about mommy & daddy's sex life. Too bad all memories aren't repressed.

I agree that we need to keep the info to a minimum with our own kids whenever possible. Whenever I get caught crying, I just say I'm sad about something but not to worry, people get sad sometimes and it's normal. I usually even give a vague idea of what I'm sad in, "I'm just sad that my friend is sick.". I'm always afraid if I give no info, my kids will assume it has something to do with them or that it's bigger than it is.
cardiogirl said…
As usual, this post strikes a chord. I have three small children -- 9, 6 and 4 -- and I really struggle with depression.

Two years ago I spent a week in the Psych Ward, when my kids were 7, 4 and 2, obviously.

We told them I was in the hospital because I had a cough. Lame, but they all accepted it well enough.

My 9-year-old occasionally asks me today, "Remember when you were in the hospital? It was winter and I was glad you were home before Christmas."

She has asked me, because there are four or five really large issues that contributed to me going in, if I'll ever tell her what was going on.

I told her I would when she was an adult -- over 21. But for now, I was sick and I really needed help from the doctor.

She seems to accept that answer well enough.

Regarding emotional incest -- that's very interesting as well and I never knew there was a name for that.

I have said, repeatedly, to my therapist that my mother spoke to me (from 8 years old on) as if I were her trusted girlfriend and told me about all of her plans to leave my father, about her own physically abusive, alcoholic father and the fact that she had a nervous break down when I was born and spent a few weeks in the Psych Ward because of postpartum depression.

I spent a long while -- into my mid-30s -- believing I drove my mother crazy by being born.

As a 41-year-old woman I cannot believe that my mother would say things like that to me. That's really, really crazy. I cannot *imagine* talking to my own 9-year-old like that.
Nainja said…
Thanks for your blog again! The posts are often written in such a nice and understanding way, that it makes me feel better just reading them.
I agree that young children shouldn’t be mistaken with small adults and they shouldn’t and can’t be a support for the parents! They are the one’s that need the care not the other way round.
But I also think that it is a small path between saying too much and not saying enough. My father developed schizophrenia when I was 6 years old. What we learned from our mother was that he had gone crazy and that was all that was said about it (even the word schizophrenia I only learned as a young adult). We didn’t talk about it any further and weren’t allowed to talk about this apparently shameful subject outside of the family. However, I and my sisters still had to visit my father regularly and our mother didn’t accompany us to these visits. Thus we experienced this “madness” first hand (and learned about aliens and other things…). It would have been a good idea to talk about the situation and our experiences. And I am sure, that it would have improved all relationships in our family, the one with our “crazy” father and also with my mother in the past as well as now in the present.
Zan said…
Another post that hits close to home. My mother was very depressed as me and my sister grew up. We both remember this, remember how disconnected from us she was, how much she cried, how often her mood would just switch. I contemplated suicide when I was 7 to 'stop mommy being sad all the time' , thinking it was my fault.

My sister is now in the psych and has been for the past 10 weeks. She took a massive overdose, thinking that if she died her children (4 and 2) would not have to witness her depression the way her and me had to witness our mother's depression.
She's reasoning that if she died, she would give her children a fair chance and she told me she wishes our mother had died, saying that if she had we could have moved on, we would have had an shot at happiness.
I can understand how she reasons. I did the same 7 years ago when my own daughter was 3 months old. I thought 'she's too young to know anything about me, she'll be able to move on'. Terrified of inflicting my depression on her.
But I am so glad I didn't. And I've talked to my sister, telling her 'you know what you don't want for your children now focus on what you DO want for them and work to change this.'

It's so sad when children becomes involved too much.
lynette said…
i struggle with recurrent depressive episodes -- my mind's reaction to major life stressors. all my life. my mother does too as well, as did my grandmother. much of it as a predisposition to life events.

i try to manage it around my kids, especially since i found out recently how devastated and responsible they were feeling by my current problems with it. it used to be that when i was with my kids, it felt like the sun came out. whereas that is true sometimes now, as they get older, they are not always so sunny with me, as you can imagine. which is normal, and which makes me smile. but occasionally it makes me feel worse too.

my psychiatrist and i talk about the fact that one of the biggest challenges in treating my depression is making it so i can continue to be a good and effective parent.

i know i don't want my kids to feel responsible, because of course they shouldn't. my teenage daughter and i have talked about my depression and how it is my responsibility, and how it has nothing to do with her. but stuffing the feelings down actually interferes with my therapy and prolongs this state, i believe. what i really wish i could do is check myself into a hospital for a while, and just let it all be exposed. and deal with it.

but i am afraid that will label me for life. and that in itself will be a problem.
TechnoBabe said…
This post centers around parenting. It seems to me that no matter what the situation, depression, adultery, divorce, that when a adult takes on the monumental task of becoming a parent they take on the duty to do the best for the child. Becoming a parent is giving up the right to be number one. Unfortunately, as you describe here, some adults are not healthy enough to put the needs of their child first. My mother alternated between hiding in her room for days at a time and screaming in anger and hitting my brother and me. That is confusing to a child. In my case, other situations made it possible for me to be removed from the home. Your post reminds parents that it is not necessary to be totally honest with their children, that is more important to protect and nurture children while while they are still children.
onelongjourney said…
Timely post for me - I have been debating what to disclose to my 16 year old daughter about my history of childhood sexual abuse. She's a mature 16 year old, but I'm thinking it might be too much for her right now.

I'm not depressed, but I am a worrier and ruminator, particularly about things related to my kids. She recognizes that about me and jokes about it at times "Mom, don't freak out".

She knows my mom can be hard to deal with and she knows I see a therapist to "talk about issues with my childhood and mother".

Nice post.
lelia said…
When I was growing up, I remember my mom spending a lot of time in her bedroom. She said she had a right to one place in the house we didn't go into, and so we often talked through the closed door to get permission for this or that. Now, at 57 and upon reading your article, I wonder if she was depressed. We were just told she was sick.
She was a great mother, and I miss her very much. She was always interested in listening to us, even through a door.
linrob63 said…
Thank you for makes my heart hurt a little. But it also shows that we were not the only family whose strategy for dealing with it was not to.

When I was hurt by a stranger on my way home from school, we pretended it did not happen. It was a secret even from my brothers who were my idols and my world. Other than detectives every time another child was taken in the same community, there was not even an acknowledgment of it.

For my part, I excelled at school. I could not allow my parents to think it was ruining me. Maybe I also could not allow myself to think that.

Making eye contact with it 30 years later with the help of a patient and kind professional was hard. Telling my parents I was working on it was hard, too.

But you did so well, my mom said. You did better at school and you seemed as if it did not even bother you. I hid my own tears from you so you would not know it was killing me inside.

Wow. If only we could have said something then. Anything.

This one really hit me. I love it when you do that. Thanks.
Willow's Bridge said…
A few years ago, a friend called .. in literal hysterics (I could hear her screaming through the phone and I was around the corner and 20 feet away). My husband handed me the phone, and she half sobbed, half screamed that her ex husband, whom we thought was in jail, had been sighted in a town more than 90 minutes away.
Now, he'd made some threats to her, but he'd never actually hurt her, or her children. But, she was terrified, the more she learned about abuse, the more fearful she became ... even though no overt abuse had occured in their marriage. (definitely some emotional, but no physical, and no threats of physical abuse ...threats of him going to her boss so she'd loose her job ... manipulation type threats)

But here she was, with him more than 90 minutes away screaming that he was going to come and kill her.
Frustrated with the panic (this wasn't the first time, a few times while he was in jail as well ... and the marriage had been over for more than 5 years!) I asked her if she knew where he was headed. Was he just seeing family that lived there or had she heard from him and was he headed this way. An unintelligable scream was the response I got.
Concerned about her kids seeing this, I asked her where they were. "M is on my lap and A is clinging to my legs on the floor"
EXCUSE ME? You're screaming like this with your kids in the room?
"I need them, I need comforting"

M was 11, A was 8...
Ally said…
Sometimes I think about how to tell my kids (7 and 9) about my bipolar disorder. Thus far aside from a few more "naps" than usual, I have managed to keep it from them, I think. The absolute most important thing for me is to be a good parent, no matter what I am going through.

I imagine one day they will ask why I take 4 medications and I won't be able to keep saying "to stay healthy." My daughter has shown some mild signs of depression and anxiety - would it help, not now but when she gets a little older, to explain that I have experienced these things too?
Ms. Finch said…
I don't have kids, but each of my parents has informed me at different times that they were being treated for anxiety/depression. This was in the last few years--my early adulthood. It made me really uncomfortable to know that about my parents for some reason. I've never been comfortable with emotions, I guess.

But despite the easy opening, I've never told them I have the same problems and have been in therapy for 2+ years. I'm sure they'd really want to know, but I feel so uncomfortable telling anyone. Plus, I know it'll just worry them and make them want to pry into my life more. They both live on the opposite coast and see me 2 or 3 times a year, so telling them seems like I'd just be setting them up to feel powerless to help me. I'm a really private person, though. I can't imagine ever telling my parents or hypothetical kids about my mental health issues.
Dreamer Jean said…
when i was younger, there were occasions when i rode in my dad's car after he was done with work. He had a 'driver' / chaeuffer - i sat in front, next to the driver seat, and my father and his SECRETARY sat at the back. We took her to her house, my dad went in her house, and i waited, and waited, and waited in our car with the driver. And our driver was smiling to himself and had this dirty look. I believe I was 13 or 14 then. or much younger. That same secretary came to our house on my father's birthday - no one else from their office came. She swam in our pool in a transparent bathing suit. When she got out of the pool i covered her with a towel. My father, was watching with lust. My mother, just sat beside him, clinging, watching as well. He eventually ended the relationship i guess - the secretary went to another country (this one). I was born and raised in the Philippines.

I have much more to tell, which i have shared w/ my therapist. I have many issues that haven't been addressed.

And that, i guess, is one emotional incest? as you call it. Talk to me therapydoc!
Anonymous said…
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porcini66 said…
Wow. Scary stuff. And, please, dear GOD, don't let me do that to my kids. I am honest with them sure, but I don't think that they know more than they need to. And I am pretty careful to make sure that I remind them that my moods are not their fault, just as theirs are not MY fault. We all have moods, and they are just moods. Kinda cool, I think, because we can: change them, indulge them, wallow in them, tolerate them, enjoy them and even - GASP - share them, as long as sharing them doesn't hurt the other person. I've been taught that you can do anything that you want to in this world except hurt another person.

A good reminder that the KIDS come first. Always. Every time. No matter what.

As always, thanks for writing.
Anonymous said…
It strikes me as very sad that most of the responses to this post don't answer the question "What do you do when parenting, active parenting, is very, very hard?" What keeps coming through in many of the comments is that mothers have to be perfect -- put the kids needs first, stiff upper lip, etc etc. But the truth is that mothers are just people. Sometimes they need help too. And mostly they are afraid to ask for fear of being judged "bad mother". Bad things happen when people don't take care of each other, when a community is not willing to 1) recognize that mothers are people who need help sometimes, and 2) reach out and HELP -- even if it means taking the kids for an afternoon or making a meal or JUST LISTENING without judging.

A neighbor of mine has recently lost her mother, her father is very sick and requires constant supervision, and her husband moved out to leave her as a single parent with a young child. Another neighbor commented that she'd love to help out, but that she can't deal with "all of the drama". In fact, most people look the other way because they don't want to be burdened, or they are uncomfortable with someone else's discomfort.
Cheryl said…
"What do you do when parenting, active parenting, is very, very hard?"

Tomorrow evening a post will be up on my blog responding to just that. Wrote it this morning, scheduled it for tomorrow.
Anonymous said…
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GG said…
Thanks for 'emotional incest.' That helps explain (and forgive) a lot.

I like your idea of someone like friend or family stepping in to help a depressed person and the family. My mom was depressed often but was also ashamed of and tried to hide her 'weakness' and continued to attempt to do it all herself. I think that her needing so much help grew me up hard and too fast.

I've had my own depressions. I've learned to deal with the old and manage the new with therapy. My mom still has hers, still doesn't like to talk about it.
therapydoc said…
JACK, that’s a WHAT A FEELING, thing, no? Just great.

BLUE, right. The buck stops here.

KG, so right, a little information can go a long way. You can only protect kids so far. They know what’s going on and where their imaginations go can be worse than the reality of the situation.

CINDI, I’m so sorry. That’s a really tough one.

CARDIOGIRL, again, thanks for sharing. I love that you could buy time with your kid. By the time she’s old enough you’ll have enough distance (I hope) to be able to share some, not all. You’ll see. And yeah, you got incested bad from what you say. Alcoholic families are rife with this.

NAINJA, key point, thanks so much for sharing that. I thought the docs all did some psycho-education with the kids when a family member had schizophrenia. I guess we’re not in nearly as enlightened an age as I had hoped.

ZAN, isn’t it amazing that kids always blame themselves? Thanks so much for reminding people of that, another reason to put a lid on it.

LYNETTE, it’s really hard knowing how much to share, but obviously a teenager already knows when a parent is depressed. There’s no hiding it. That’s why I generally suggest that communication about everything with a kid be about the kid, what the kid is going through, not what we as parents are going through. ( a) that makes us less self-centered and focused on our negative feelings (very hard to do), and (b) it’s just good parenting. We might be depressed, but our kids are, too, quite often. They feel the contagion of depression. So basically they get to talk, we get to listen. Not the best deal, but what’s a mom to do? It’s what the shrink is for, and the significant other, if one is around.

OY, TECHNO, you so got it. Wasn’t easy being you, I’m guessing.

ONELONGJOURNEY, there’s a post on this blog somewhere that addresses this, basically suggests that teenagers who won’t hurt us with the information are much better knowing what’s happened to us in life. They see us as people and we’re a lot less of a parental caricature.

LELIA, something tells me you’re right.

LIN, and I love how you get the message across in that personal and poignant way you have. Everyone gets it.

WILLOW, how I wish I could say, You have to be making that up. But I totally believe it.

ALLY, I think in general that talking about our feelings as normal is a good thing to do with kids. Everyone cycles in some way or another, some people are more in touch with their ups and downs. This type of psycho-education normalizes emotions, and kids need to know that everyone feels up and down. When a kid’s emotions pass normal and rise to a diagnosable syndrome, then there’s time enough to talk about that.

MS FINCH, you got the point of the post, which is that it’s better left unsaid. But you’re all adults now, and not to give advice, but it’s worth tiptoeing around with the intimacy thing. It can feel good. Just saying, in general. Can’t really advise here.

DREAMER JEAN, Wow, what a story. That would be poster child emotional incest. And the big joke, of course, is that guys like this rarely get any therapy. What do they need it for, right?

PORCINI, great in theory, for sure.
ANON, you’re right, people avoid drama. They need it on tv, don’t want it for real.

CHERYL, active parenting is the opposite of “benign neglect,” letting kids make their own decisions when they truly might want and need guidance.

GG, the shame bites us every time. Big problem. I try to address it with family members as the thing that really holds people back, just like in your mother’s case.
Cheryl said…
here's the link to my post
Anonymous said…
I had serious depression for years. The day that I finally decided to get help was when I saw something on a documentary about the children of depressed parents and the kinds of problems that they were pre-disposed to have. I realized at that point that my depression wasn't just something that was about me, but that getting help was something I could do for my kids.

I got myself out the door to the doctor and started getting help for my condition. I guess what I am saying is that even if you think your kids "don't know", they are affected

I never told my kids, and still don't tell them, about my mental health issues. But I do wonder if there is a point at which they should know something?? I had my first severe depressive episode in childhood (unrecognized) and later found out that depression was epidemic on both sides of the family. My paternal grandfather even had shock therapy.

So, my question is, at what point do you tell your kids about this issue as a health issue, much as you would share with them information about diabetes or heart disease? And, if mental illness is just another health issue as we are being told, then why all the shame in children knowing?

Just random questions on a sunday night.
Sarah said…
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Sarah said…
Thanks for a fascinating post. I was struck by when you mentioned the benefits of crying on an available shoulder--but not the child's. It made me think of the kid in this situation: very available to the parent, very invested in Mommy or Daddy's emotional state, probably pretty empathetic, and not capable of knowing or asserting that they shouldn't be their parent's outlet. Maybe reasons why the mistake of using children in this way is made, certainly reasons why it's a bad idea.
therapydoc said…
ANON, it' not about shame at all, in fact, the purpose of telling them that someone suffers from depression in the family is to de-shame and to normalize, to say that we're way smarter about this illness (and all of them) and we can lick it, but a certain parent probably needs to take a lie-down, so don't worry.

You tell the kids when they're old enough to understand, and that can be very young. It's not telling them, I apologize for the confusion here, it's not USING them to get better.

SARAH, ditto to the above. Kids need not be left completely out of it at all. The point is that we control what we can with kids, protect them to the degree that it makes sense, and when we do tell them, it's in a positive way, a way that conveys hope. But yes, we have to answer questions, and these can be hard ones like, is depression genetic and will I get it?

The fun never stops.
Cheryl said…
That's 1 thing I was wondering. If mom's bipolar, and grandpa's bipolar, and a whole slew of other people down the line are bipolar, and kid asks am I/will I be... You don't want to say yes and worry the kid (not talking about teens) but you don't want to say no because what if you do and the kid becomes symptomatic and then tries to hide it cause you said no? SO HARD. And here's another hard one. How does a parent (either the diagnosed one or the other one) not constantly obsess over the kid, who might never end up symptomatic, and keep interpreting normal developmental behavior as symptoms all the time? Especially a parent who might have spent years suffering from misdiagnosis and wants to save their kid by catching it early...
Melissa said…
I can't believe how many people have told me I'm crazy for not telling my children why I left their father. Your paragraph about "emotional incest" just gave me all the confirmation I need that I did the right thing.

Not to mention all the other great stuff about depression and your kids--I just wish I had known I was ill back when they were so little and I was spending the afternoon in a chair with a blanket over my head. Literally. (Why it didn't occur to me I was ill, I'll never know.)
Syd said…
Thanks for writing this post. My mother suffered from debilitating depression for 20 years. I was already grown though when she had her first episode. She had many ECT treatments. I felt a lot of panic until I began to read and understand the disorder. It helped me to know that I had no control nor did she over what was happening.
Lisa Marie said…
Definitely makes me think about how/when I will disclose to my children the issue of my own abuse. It will definitely keep me aware of how I display my emotions around my children (as my parents displayed nothing but "happy" emotions, ever) but disclosure will not happen until they are old enough to understand. The longer the better, IMO.
Ella said…
I melted down in a fit of hysterics in front of my kids and the world when our car was towed away while we were getting haircuts. I know I scared the crap out of my son, then 5 yr old. I'd spent the summer having anxiety attacks and taking out my work stress in anger at my family. I was taking out my hurts on them.

I wasn't ready for therapy then, but I did see my doctor, then a therapist, then a psychiatrist and I got some Prozac. This helped me be less anxious in the face of stresses. I also made a purposeful change in how I interacted with my kids, taking time to cool off before I lashed out. I still have to actively do these things even now: give my kid a minute to process the instructions and start in that direction before I yell at him with the same instructions.

My own mom was not emotionally connected to me because of her own trauma. I am committed to having a good relationship with my own kids. I don't want the pattern to continue.
JJ said…
What do you do when you have messed up in front of your kids? Thankfully my kiddo was too young to remember my last depressive episode, but when you do blow something, what do you say?

The other day, my toddler was having a day where all he wanted to do was the opposite of what I wanted to do. The last straw got broken as we were leaving the house (as it usually does) and I ended up just throwing an armful of stuff on the ground in frustration. Not a reaction to be proud of. He saw it and was scared. I cooled off, apologized and said that is not how Mama wants to act, that I am very sorry. Still, makes me think about when you do scare your kids silly and there's not really a way to take it back.

The other thing these comments makes me think about is a recent discussion I had with a psychiatrist about going off an anti-depressant. It made me think about whether my goal in life is to be off a medicine and risk a nasty recurrence or whether my goal in life is to be depression-free even if I would rather not do what it takes to stay that way. When I think of that question in relation to my kids growing up, it really clarifies things.
therapydoc said…
JJ, I'm with you. If it's working and you're putting children in jeopardy without it, and your doctors are totally in favor, what's the point of risking an "event"? I know a lot of people disagree.

As far as kids go, unless you're systematically abusing them (with regularity) they do understand that we're not perfect and they appreciate it, I think. They would like us to be perfect but they'll settle for honest and contrite.
Che said…
As a barely-adult child (24) and considering having kids in a few years, I think some about how to handle depression as a mother.

My policy in life is to talk about depression as much as I talk about any other medical problem I have. (Which is generally too much, but, then, my friends are medical students and overshare always about these things :P ) So much stigma... I want to teach my children that if they have depression someday, they don't have to be ashamed of it.

Neither of my parents acknowledge their MIs even to themselves, and it has been disastrously harmful to me. My mother also refuses to acknowledge mine, which is unacceptable. So I wish that not only they could accept their MIs and mine, but also that they could have taught me not to be ashamed of seeking treatment for my anxiety and depression. On the other hand, "emotional incest" defines my relationship with my mother really well - she has borderline PD (well, undiagnosed, but...) and pretty much no boundaries. I was taking care of her when I was a kid.

I don't know how to walk that line. I think I will figure out how much to tell my kids at each age about any of my illnesses, and use the same policy for depression. I want them to know, when they are old enough, that I have depression so that when they encounter things like that in their lives they know that it's OK to talk about them in our family. But of course I don't want my children to know everything or see my worst depression, the same as I wouldn't tell them all about the pain I have from the connective tissue disorder I have or things like that.
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Never let your kids be a part of your sentiments! It can affect them deeply and can result into depression. Control your mood and let your kids to live happily.