Have you ever questioned how depression affects your family and children? Because it does.
I don’t remember when my three youngest children began to crawl or walk; I missed out on so many of the most incredible milestones that I am consumed with guilt. I look at my kids and have felt sorry for them; they didn’t ask to have a mentally ill mother.
The negative intrusive voices will tell me that they deserve better than me, yet they are stuck with me, so we make the most of it. I am not a perfect mum, yet I am a good one. It has taken me almost four years to be able to say those few words and mean them.
I have thrown more tantrums and cried and scream more than them all of the six children put together, yet when they kiss me and say “Goodnight, love you mum” I know I am trying my best.
I love my kids, and they love me, that aspect of my parenting with mental health has never changed.
When those voices of doubt creep in or I am reminded of how useless I am, I look into their eyes and I know I have done something right, 6 things right.
How depression affects your family and children
It leaves vulnerable and frightened women feeling even more useless and worthless because they see the damage they are doing to their family and children.
I wish I could tell you that my mental health has had no effect upon my children and many times I would argue that I hide my mental illness well and my kids see and hear nothing. But I would be lying to you.
I was a liar and I was deceitful when it came to admitting how much I have screwed up their lives at times, but as any loving mother does, she makes mistakes and hopefully learns from them.
There were times I wanted them as far away as possible from me, not because I didn’t love or want them but because I believed they were better off without me.
On the verge of suicide I would push them all away, if I could make them stop loving and needing me then I wouldn’t have to feel guilty if I took my own life.
I reasoned it would be easier for them to cope without me if I distanced myself from their lives.
Our circumstances are far from perfect but we have had to learn to make the most out of a bad situation.
Don’t get me wrong my children are very stable, happy and thriving and that is mainly down to me. I accepted I needed help, that I struggled to get the correct help and I put in place safety measures for them, I did that, me.
The mental health team remind me always what a fantastic job I am doing and that I should be proud of all I have done to ensure my children are given the best start in life and a happy and stable childhood.
I wish I could have given them more, but I allow them all I can
It is me who protected them, ensured they were safe and loved and always had someone to talk too, I provided other people instead of me when I couldn’t do it.
On the days, I locked myself away or was so far out of this world that I was not functioning, I knew they were being taken care of because I made sure of that.
I love my children yet have resented them. When I have felt there was no way forward and I wanted to my end my life, they prevented me from doing that and I would resent them being here, they were forcing me to live when I wanted to die.
When I have felt there was no way forward and I wanted to my end my life, they prevented me from doing that and I would resent them being here, they were forcing me to live when I wanted to die.
I care for my children to the best of my abilities but I need regular help and I no longer feel ashamed asking for help.
If you were to ask my children who their primary carer was it would be me, in hindsight, it’s was their stepfather for many years. We are masters of covering my tracks and hiding the devastation I cause around them.
We are masters of covering my tracks and hiding the devastation I cause around them.
The same goes for many things when it comes down to my anxiety, it prevents me from doing so much with them.
I couldn’t do the basic things
It was a real treat for them to have mum up and about and functioning well first thing on a morning. I couldn’t cook for my children, of course, they would not starve, they had a stepfather and my own father living with us when I was at my worst.
I am more than capable of making a sandwich but the cooker and hobs were off limits to me, as I was self-harming by burning myself and this is the reality of how depression affects your family.
While most mothers would be concentrating on stirring the casserole bubbling away, I would be holding my forearm as close to the oven rack or ring hob as I could, before natural instinct would make me pull it away.
Thankfully after 6 years of trying a various amount of medications and therapies I seem to be stabilised. My marriage didn’t last, we separated 18 months ago but he is still a large part of my life and still, helps me.
While our lives are not like most others, as a family, we manage and this is our life, it’s all we have so we make the most of it. We have great support from the mental health team, friends and family members who are all aware of our situation and who go that extra mile to help us.
At the end of the day, we are an every day, normal family just trying to survive in a world that throws many twists and turns in our paths, like many families, nothing ever goes to plan.
This is how depression affects your family and children?
It screws you up, spits you out then it leaves you to pick up the many broken pieces and then it’s your job as a mother to put them back together again.
And it’s hard, so very hard but you can not hide your illness as well as you think you can.
It’s crucial that a child understands that he is not to blame. You might say, “I’ve been crying and yelling a lot, but it isn’t your fault. It’s because I have a sickness, but I’m getting treatment for it, and I’m going to get better.” There’s no need to use the word depression with a child younger than 7 or 8. With older children, you can compare depression to a medical illness they’re more familiar with. Whatever your child’s age, let him know he should feel free to ask questions. Dr. Beardslee