Posts Tagged ‘children and depressed parents’

This is my husband’s account of being with a depressed and anxious person. The following really gave me an insight to the impact depression and anxiety have on the partner – the challenges they face every day. I was lucky that my husband wanted to battle with me, and not as I too often have experienced with others, against me.

Søren’s Story

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I was nervous about how you would be feeling when I got home from work. How was your mood today? I wonder if you are angry, sad, or just tired?
It wasn’t because I didn’t know how to be around you. It was more a concern about whether I was doing the right thing?

For example, if you were tired and I suggested that you go to bed, how would you react? I lived with the feeling that no matter what I did it would never be good enough. The uncertainty was the worst. Were you going to call me and say something had happened? Could something happen? Would something happen? The questions lay like constant worry at the back of my mind.

Constant worrying

It was hard to walk out the door, because you are leaving someone that you love, who’s not feeling well. If I tried to call you up and you didn’t answer, I’d get scared. Either there has been an accident, or you have tried to take your life. Then there was the helplessness: I couldn’t always cheer you up and help you feel better. It helped to go to the psychiatrist. She helped me get through, and be heard. For example, at one point, you were scared that I was going to leave you. Here she could help me to get you to understand that I was not on my way out the door.

Stupid thoughts

Your stupid thoughts first sounded like something you would not believe: something made up, imaginary. Like a child’s make-believe.

As a relative, I could tell that your thoughts weren’t true, but you would not listen to me or believe me. To me it was completely unbelievable that you would believe the things you were thinking and saying. And frustrating when you wouldn’t believe me when I was telling you “the truth.”‘I can’t go out. I can’t go shopping,’ you would say. And I couldn’t help but think, “Pull yourself together. Of course you can!”

Nevertheless, at the same time I understood that it was your illness speaking. It is a hard balance, to be both understanding and listening, but at the same time help to push you into looking your anxiety straight in the eye. Because will it be a good experience that you have in that situation? Or yet another set back?

On high alert

You are on constant alert. It’s not fun dropping your girlfriend off at the psychiatric emergency unit and not knowing what is going to happen. Will she come home again? Why does she want to die? Why would you want to die when you could want to feel good? I can’t relate to suicidal thoughts at all.

Energy is in short supply during this time. You feel like you are running behind with everything, and just surviving. It has gone the way it has because I have been able to understand you on some points.

Speak up!

Are you husband, wife, partner to a depressed person – do speak up! Your voice counts and is vital for the whole family to heal!

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The way that my family and I have experienced depression and anxiety, that it all happens all at once. The depressed person is one big chaos that the partner, workplace, children, parents and siblings all get drawn into. The chaos takes up a lot of space, and there isn’t room for anything else. The partner and children are constantly walking a fine line between hell breaking loose, or nothing happening whatsoever. They live with constant emotional stress, and don’t understand what is going on. Children especially are taken as emotional hostages.

The elder children’s experience

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For Isabella – who at that time was 10 years old – the unknowingness has been frightening. I sense that she knew something was wrong with me. That I am ill. I have often wished for spots to appear so that she could see the disease, so it was apparent. Because children only know what we tell them. Seen through their eyes, you’re completely normal, but at the same time, they sense clearly that you’re acting strange and out of sorts.

You’ve probably heard children say that the worst an adult can do is shout at them; it feels like being hit. For Isabella, my aggressive behaviour has been the most frightening aspect of the depression. Because she experienced my shouting and unfair, aggressive behaviour as something that would come out of the blue. It made her incredibly sad. She lived in constant fear of setting even one foot wrong, because then maybe mum would get really mad.

The consequence for the child

For Isabella my disease has meant, among other things, that she has become toilet-trained late, and that she has lived in a fantasy world. She has had a hard time concentrating in school and hasn’t been able to share her problems with us. The disease has also meant that Isabella is incredibly good at reading others, such as the unsaid things that pass between people. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the experience or age to handle what she observes.

In Isabella’s own words

“My mum’s illness is frightening in a strange way. It was scary when she shouted at me. I would get scared because it was like mum turning into a bear. It was strange that she would get angry so quickly. I was sad. I was always thinking about mum and about why she might be getting cross with me. I was scared that she would get angry. I would be more careful, because I was always worried that I’d do something wrong. I also felt bad that mum was feeling bad. I really liked the drawings in the book. Because they showed in a good way how I myself felt, how mum felt and how it was between mum, the Snake and me. Only then did I really understand wat was going on. Before then I didn’t understand anything.”

What have you experienced?

Do you recognize your child/children in above? Please share…