Monday, 16 February 2009

How to explain the unexplainable...

How do you tell your child you have depression? How can you tell them that when you are wishing the whole world away - it’s nothing personal?
Yesterday morning I did my usual – I shouted at them both because I was tired and coming down with a cold and I wasn’t organised enough and I just wanted to delete the day before it had already started. And as soon as I uttered the words I immediately wanted to turn back time. Every day I wake up and I plead with God to help me be nice to my children.
“Give me strength not to shout at them, not to be mean. God help me get through the day and still let them love me.”
Once the shouting starts it is very difficult to stop although it rarely lasts very long before I put into action all the safety measures I use to protect them. I am furious with myself for doing it and then I strike out figuratively at those I love – but these ones are so vulnerable because they don’t understand. All they know is this is how Mummy behaves. The Boy at 5 I can tell not to talk to me, not to ask questions and to just get on with his breakfast in silence while I try to bring myself under control. The Littlest just watches, no smile playing at his lips. I ignore them both or else leave them to it. As soon as breakfast is over I will put them in front of the telly while I finish my breakfast in peace, calming myself down trying not to let the guilt overwhelm me.
It doesn’t happen everyday but certainly every week sometimes more especially if I am tired. I know everyone shouts at their children from time to time, but I feel I do it more than most and I find it terribly difficult to stop. I roar in my frustration, which must be terribly frightening.
Sometimes I have to escape before I explode but it never seems to go away not truly because all the while where it is safe to explode I can’t because they are there in the house on their own and I worry for their safety.
Well yesterday after I shouted and after I had calmed down. I apologised as I do every time. I explained Mummy was tired and that she found it difficult to be nice and that her behaviour was not good. I told them, as I hugged them both at the top of the stairs, how much I loved them and said that they must not ever behave like Mummy.
“Mummy is a bad person to do this and you should look to Daddy. Daddy doesn’t shout and rave like Mummy.”
I am terrified that my behaviour will colour theirs and so I warn that people don’t like people who shout and are nasty like Mummy and that nasty people don’t have many friends and are not loved.
In despair, I hang my head and aloud I wish that I were gone from here. What damage am I doing to them? Wouldn’t it be better if I left them? It sometimes feels the only way to protect them.
“I love you Mummy,” says the Boy “and The Littlest loves you and Daddy loves you. We all love you.” And he wraps his arms around me. And I feel so sad. He shouldn’t have to be doing this; he should never have to face this. I know he is worried that I will go away and never return, I’ve obviously said it far too much in fact once I just had to leave him in the house and hide as the enormity of everything descended upon me and for a time I could not cope.
It was terrifying enough for me. For him I cannot imagine. Luckily he was able to find J and J looked after him and stayed with him until I was able to return. I remember watching The Boy come out of the house looking for me and I stood silently by the moat hidden by the horse chestnuts. Thinking to myself that he was safe as long as I could see him. But I did not go to him even though he was crying hard. I could not trust myself. J heard and calmed him saying I had just gone out for a walk and would be back. I thought such faith! For I felt as if I could never go back. I stayed out for a couple of hours and I have a feeling that J knew where I was and he had enough belief in me that I would return. For I love my boys.
So back to how do you explain? Well I tell him that when the Black Dog is near Mummy gets sad, tired and then angry and that the Black Dog is difficult to see.
I tell him it’s the Black Dog that makes Mummy shout and that it’s not him or his brother. I tell them over and over again and I pray they believe me.
The Boy says he’ll kill the Black Dog. I say maybe when he’s grown up.
For any of you that read this - I hasten to say that when I feel it getting bad I call in the cavalry usually in the form of J, Dear Charlie and my Mum – mostly J deals with the immediate problems as he’s on the farm. I advise everyone with Black Dog to install a J. He is one very special person.
(This was first published in the Private Forums at Purplecoo - the folks there were incredibly supportive and continue to be so. I decided to put it up on the blog as it is part of my life - a big part and I wanted to come out as I hear too many stories of others who get in a mess with Black Dog. I did try to start a separate blog but it never really works. You can't pigeon hole your life! Today has been a good day as there has been no shouting and all is calm. I don't know what tomorrow will bring...)


KittyB said...

Oh, Tattie, I don't know what I said last time, but here's the thing. Children are resilient. You are there, and they know you love them more than anything. And they love you back, in spades. They are happy, smiling, bright and intelligent children, they have a secure family - I have seen you all together and I can see this.
They're not expecting story book Mummy, they love you for being you.
Glad today's not a shouty day. Here's to many more smiley days. xx

elizabethm said...

I am not sure what I said last time either but I am pretty sure it would have been this: don't tell your children that mummy is a nasty person, please, please, please, promise me. You are not, you struggle with depression but you are not a bad person and it is not good for your children for you to tell them that you are.
Tell them that you get too cross when you are tired and that you are sorry if you shout and that you love them. That is enough.
Thinking of you and wishing you all the luck and strength in the world.
love xx

Pam said...

Yes, please say that mummy is a lovely person,but at the moment you shout because you are not feeling well/tired etc.Reinforce it to them and yourself.They need to know that bad behavious don't equal bad person,because even in their own lives things will come into play where they may make wrong choices, but it doesn't mean they are bad. It is part of teaching forgiveness and not judgement. Love and "I'm sorry" are the biggest healers of all.No parent, and I stress not one, is perfect.Neither is any child.All families have battles, but I think everyone understands if you say "I am trying to do my best under these particular circumstances"."Mummy will always try to do her best, but this is hard". They will understand. You are NOT a nasty person.You are in a position of authority, so do you really want them to believe your self-portrayal? One that is just not true.Treat yourself kindly and gently, what you are battling is a major

Anonymous said...

They know you and daddy and J love them very much. They are happy and secure and to them mummy's black dog is something that happens sometimes. With all that love and support around them they are more likely to grow up happy, supportive and empathetic than damaged in anyway. They are lucky children to have a family who loves them so much.

Pondside said...

Tattie, your children know you love them because you tell them so. They also know that this is bigger than you - for the same reason. Don't discount the power of your honesty - and please don't tell the children that you are a nasty person. They know you aren't, so will find the continued truth easier to understand.
I'm glad that today was a good day and I wish you lots and lots of those.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Tattie - what an incredibly moving article. I was touched with your raw honesty and moved so deeply by the emotion, anger, love, hatred of yourself when the black depression hits you. That's the nature of deep depression - to hate yourself, to rage at the world, to tell yourself that you are worthless, bad, nasty. Of course none of those things are true because the depression makes you think that. You don't behave like that out of malice but out of desperation and that is why you are not a bad person. I agree with the other comments that you should tell the boys you are ill, and that when you might behave in a horrid way that makes you feel bad, that doesn't mean you are a horrid person. The depth of your love for the people in your life is evident through your eloquent writing. I was gripped by this Tattie - you are a brilliant writer and so brave to document the depths of your despair.

Hugs X

Iota said...

Please don't say they'd be better off without you. Please don't tell them you're a nasty person. Tell them we all have our struggles in life, and you are in the middle of yours.

You're probably very fed up with advice and suggestions, but I'll just tell you that I read a book called "She's Gonna Blow" (you'll find it on Amazon with that title) a couple of years ago. I can't even remember what it said, but it really helped at the time. A lot of it was about dealing with the downward spiral of guilt, and that was very helpful. And just to know that LOADS of people have stories of shouting at their kids and feeling awful - it's so good not to be alone.

Have a look at it on Amazon, and then if you would like it, let me know and I'll post you my copy.

Exmoorjane said...

This just blew me away the first time I read it and it sent tingles down my spine all over again reading it now. It is one t hing to write this in a private forum, quite another to show it to the world but I think it's a really brave and right thing to do. Depression is such a foul illness and so many people struggle with it, feeling they are the only one, the weird one, the one who can't cope. It makes you feel so alone, trapped in your head, hating the world. But this kind of honest, from the gut writing will help other people, Tattie, I just know it will. Writing it out and having it witnessed also helps, I think.

How I hate these black dogs of ours.....tell that boy of yours he is welcome to come over and dispatch mine if he wouldn't mind.
A ton of love,

Tattie Weasle said...

As usual I am at a loss for words when I read all this wonderful support. It's been a strange few weeks as I am in an episode of depression at present and things seem at once insupportable and peculiar.
There are plenty of entertaining things that go on and I am not down all the time but there is an undercurrent, a faint taint to all I do and I feel as if I am watching my life rather than partaking.
THank you all SO much your kindness is like sun breaking through teh clouds...

aScotinItaly said...

Oh tattie, (or potato if we want to sound posh).
I know exactly what and how you feel. I have done every one of the things you told us about..running out of the house at night and 'hiding' until I felt calm enough to come back home. My hubby was with the kids, he is patient and calm and I must admit sometimes I hate him for that..
My 3 kids are older than yours and every time I see any insecurities in them I blame myself.I feel everything is 'my fault' and many times I have thought they'd be much better off without me.
Get in touch if you want to compare notes, just knowing that there is someone out there who understands makes me feel a bit less alone.
Take care xx

Expat mum said...

I can't remember what I said at The Coo, but I agree that you're not to tell your kids you're a bad mum. You are their mum and they love you. It will probably help to try to explain things in a way they can understand, rather than leaving them wondering what they have done wrong. That's what kids do - assume that things (such as depression and divorces) are their fault.

Milla said...

thank goodness you explained at the bottom, i felt very mystic meg reading this. I get cross too, but think it's hormonal probably. The self-loathing after a shout, the feeling you've spoiled everything, that you are so untogether and selfish that you cannot control yourself is horrid. You;re allowed to feel all this raft of stuff though and children, particularly young boys (said with experience!) are exhausting. That you love them utterly just makes you feel a complete cow, I know, but you will get through it. xx said...

dear Tattie. all mothers roar at their children, black dogs at their shoulder or not. those, though, who are beset with the beast are closer to their reality than most, its why you feel your children are affected more keenly. that's what i have always believed about depression: that those who suffer live so close to the surface that the proximity throws everything into much starker relief than it might do for none sufferers. my experience of growing up with a mum who suffers from depression is positive on the whole. there were bad days, terrible weeks, but with her illness comes such extraordinary warmth, such brilliance of intellect, such broadness of mind that her outlook is never narrow or judgemental. those have been wonderful gifts. and they, i know, are the same that your own wee ones can enjoy. that's what they'll remember. they won't remember the shouting. x

Cathy said...

Everyone has bad days. Everyone shouts at their children. Depression is a disease. It is not always something we can control. Maybe avoid things that can get us down but it's there. I take meds for mine. it helps but there are still days that are just not good. I have two beautiful daughters and 4 great step children that have been told in simple terms why i get depressed and how it's not my fault or theirs but my body's fault. They know that inside me is something that my body is missing and that's the reason I get down or "unreasonable" as my 16 year old says. Just keep telling them you love them. Build them up and they will build you up. My kids are there for me - not afraid or worried but just help when they see a way to help. Kids are really alot smarter than we give them credit. hang in there....

Calico Kate said...

Oh Tattie I didn't see this in PC but knowing how everyone is rallying round and helping me just now I can imagine how the support from PC girls are helping you.
I too have my own Black Dog but as I don't have children (part of the reasn for the black dog) I end up shouting at the dogs. And there is just no explaining to them why somedays they can be beautiful and good and others when they do the exact same thing they are the hounds form hell.
I am having a bit of a time of it at the mo and am so cross at everything and everyone and nothing helps. Except that spending time on PC is fun!
Hope today is a smiley one for you today and don't beat yourself up it'll only make things worse.

Go on you know you want to...


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