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How much do you tell the children?


goose
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Over the years my ideas on this has changed. In the past I have not told my children about my depression, I wonder what they thought was going on when I cried so much?.

When I was an in-patient at the day hospital the nurses there organised a meeting for the children of the patients, to inform and educate them of their parent's conditions. At the time I did not allow my children attend.

Since then I have spoken to my 2 eldest children (18 year and 16 years) about my depression - I have yet to have a talk with my 13 year old. Although I have told him about anxiety as he seems to suffer with this.

My eldest knows that I am having therapy - she asked me why I was so shy - I told her I was having help for my shyness.

Basically I don't want my children to think that I am a weak person, this is what is preventing me from letting them know about the social phobia.

What do others think?

Goose

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Good morning Goose,

This is a hard decision I know, but my suspicion, based on experience, is that the children already know. Mine knew at age 8-9 that "something 's wrong with mom, dad?" and although they didn't have a name for it, they could see her depressive and manic symptoms easily. Their knowing, once we told them, was empowering to all of us b/c it created a supportive and encouragement "team", it made them more sensitive and compassionate, and it freed her from unnecessary anxiety. The key is to discuss it in terms that are understandable and clear, based on their maturity level.

This is true strength, and it may increase the bond created by having a more inclusive sense of family. Now you're no longer like "Uncle Bob chained up in the attic", having to hide your humanity.

I also don't think our children see us as weak when we suffer... too many times, in family therapy, when the children have discovered or been told the truth, it has evoked great compassion (not pity, disdain or isolation), care and concern.

When my wife and I divorced, both children wanted to live with their mom, even tho I was the caretaker b/c she was sick so much. They voiced that they knew I would be able to handle myself, but wanted to stay with their mom to be supportive and there for her. Never did they voice that she was weak or subpar. They spoke in loving terms about her. To this day, they adore their mom.

Good luck Goose. I hope this helps.

Edited by David O
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Hi goose,

You know my thoughts on this: there's nothing weak about you. You're afraid; that's not a weakness, it's an emotion, and probably justified. On top of that, you're getting help; that took strength to start, and takes strength to continue. And then, at the top of the pile, you're considering exposing your vulnerabilities to your children, so that they can learn not to be ashamed, and to seek help for themselves if they get overwhelmed. Isn't that what your son did, just a week or so ago? Where do you think he got the idea?

Sounds to me like you'd be teaching them about your strengths, not your weaknesses.

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Hi goose,

I am very sorry you are struggling right now. I empathise with you in regards to what to say to our children about our personal issues. Tis is a difficult area to share. And I believe it is wise for you as well as any parent to use their own judgement in the manner of whay to say to thei kids . Your 2 kids are older , and as you had mentioned one is having struggles and can idenify with your feelings too.

My son has just turned 16 .I've had many issues arise in the last few years, and chosen to try and shield him from a lot of them .I am a single parent, my child is special needs . He would not fully comprehend my issues, and it would send him sprialing. Because I am his only parent the fear Of something happening to me, would be unbearable to him. I protect him from it. However, my brother, who does not cope well himself, does NOT help matters . My son's uncle makes it harder for my child and it is a shame . I have to discredit my brother who is an adult from his hurtful remarks towards my son, when I am is a crisis , just so my son can overcome being fearful and upset.

Even whenI am in the Hospital , and unable to be there for him. Or when there are bandages on my arms. My son is not stupid though .He knows about the burns, and will freely ask me, embarrasing enough , did u burn yourself AGAIN? Things like that are truely a heart stopper, and I will tell him , yes i have new burns . But , half truths are better then no truths at all? I am still working on it .

Having children and dealing with our own personal issues are far greater , and stressful, emotionally painful then I can even describe in writing . It is very difficult , and I understand what it is like. I have been trying to come to terms with this for a great while, and still have not. However, my son is wonderful, understanding, and has a huge heart . The one thing I never ever want to do is to hurt him. However, as I continue to not be able to get it under control , I feel like i am hurting him. Which only makes the cycle continue .

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The thoughts involve taking someone else out of the equation as well as myself.

I can cope with very violent intrusive thoughts because they have been explained to me as obsessional, and I am not likely to carry them out.

But this other one is something I had believed in the past was a definate solution for me and everyone. I don't like having this thought come back because I don't want to be overwhelmed by it. My thinking is not quite as distorted as it has been in the past where I could not rationalize.

My T did ask me on Saturday if I was having thoughts of death, but I could not/would not reveal this one because I was afraid he would be obliged to act on what I said.

Anyhow maybe by writing this down, it may give me some distance from it.

Goose

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Goosey,

I agree that it's important to speak to your children. Your children are no longer so very young, 13, 16, 18. Children have a "6th sense" about these things. Even if they do not know what is going on in the house, they always know Something is happening. And, they become alarmed. The things they imagine are usually far worse than the truth.

It's in the past now but I would have encouraged you to have your children attend the group when you were in the hospital. It was for them and they could have learned a lot and in a safe environment.

You need to have a talk with them. All of them. You do not need to go into details but, they need to understand that you have suffered from depression and that you are in treatment for that. You should ask them to ask you questions and you need to answer them honestly.

I can tell you from a professional and personal perspective that family secrets are always poison. Yes, families keep secrets for "protection" but, in fact, those very secrets cause huge amounts of damage. Everything should be out in the open, where the sun can drive away dark shadows.

Allan :)

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Whenever I've been asked about suicidal thoughts by a therapist, and admitted to having them at the time, the next question has always been, How likely do you think it is that you'll act on those thoughts?

I think a good therapist, who knows you already, is in a unique position when it comes to understanding the answer you might give to that question. You sound convinced that it's just a thought, that you trust yourself not to do what you're thinking. It doesn't sound like you trust your ability to convince someone else, though. You're the one who has to decide why you might not be convincing, why you might not want to trust your own judgment on something that important.

But even if you're never going to act on these thoughts, it would help your therapist to know you have them. They might be able to help you stop thinking that way, for instance. My personal feeling is similar to Allan's: you have to trust somebody enough to be open with them. I know it takes time and it's not easy ... but in the end, it helps you feel more wholesome.

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