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The Mental Health Talk

As many of you already know, I began seeing a counselor recently to help me sort out my life and try to get my life back to some semblance of normalcy. During my last session the counselor asked me how the twins were dealing with the separation and I was ashamed to admit the only time we’d talked about it was last year right after our initial separation. I never brought it up again after that because I just assumed that if they needed to talk about it or if they had questions about it they would ask me.

The counselor then asked me what they thought about what I was going through. I told him that as far as I know they have no idea what I’m going through. I have certainly made no effort to tell them I’m suffering or why. I explained to him that I thought I should shield them from as much of this as possible as they’ve already had a rough time and I just wanted them to enjoy their childhood and not worry about the fact that their father is crazy. The counselor said he understood my intentions but then said he thought I was unintentionally teaching them some bad habits by not showing emotions and sharing my feelings.

I thought about it and realized that he was right. I don’t want the boys to be afraid to show emotions or think that it’s wrong to feel. I don’t want them to think that they shouldn’t share. I don’t want them to think they should be loners as I have been most of my life. More importantly, I want them to know that they can come to me when they need to and we can discuss anything they need to discuss whether it be feelings, problems, or just idle chit-chat.

The counselor encouraged me to have this discussion with them and to let them know that I have mental illness. He thought it would be good for them to know that I am suffering, but I’m also doing everything within my power to contain it, treat it,  and remain strong for them. And I, again, agreed with him. Also, the more I thought about it the more I realized that they are now the same age I was when I was initially diagnosed with depression. Their mother, I believe, is bipolar, though she’s never been officially diagnosed to my knowledge. My mother is bipolar. Mental illness runs in the family and I decided that they need to be made aware of it and know what to look for if/when they start to experience symptoms of it.

So we had our talk last night. I told them that I have depression, that I’m being treated for it, and that I don’t want them to worry or stress out about it. I just needed them to know. I also told them that I neglected to treat it for a long, long time and that I was wrong for doing so. I listed off the symptoms of depression and told them if they ever experience any of them I want them to tell someone. Me, their mother, a teacher, a school counselor…just anyone.

When I was done I asked if they had questions. They had a couple, but my favorite was, “Do they have to go inside your skull to see if you have depression?” I tried not to laugh, but a slight chuckle escaped my mouth before I could rein it in. Kids come up with some of the funniest shit and mine are no exception.

I then took the boys to see my mother and asked her if she’d be willing to talk about her experiences with mental illness and she did. She told them about her manic episode and that she’d been on antidepressants for over 23 years. She told them about the symptoms she still experiences and reaffirmed what I had told them. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, but somebody needs to know if either one of them start to experience those symptoms so that they can be treated.

I hope the boys took our words to heart. I have my suspicions that one of them is already suffering from depression and I’m going to keep my eye on it as school starts again just to be sure. I had to lose everything before I finally started treating my depression again and I don’t want them to repeat my idiotic mistakes if I can help it.

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Discussion

87 thoughts on “The Mental Health Talk

  1. We are all very lucky to live in a time when depression can be diagnosed and treated and people aren’t afraid to talk about it. Also, you don’t risk being burnt at the stake for not conforming to whatever the definition of “normal” is at the moment :-)

    Like

    Posted by Sofia Leo | July 18, 2013, 12:07 pm
  2. Well done. Very well done.

    Like

    Posted by Chatter Master | July 18, 2013, 12:08 pm
  3. This is another tough issue you bring up. I agree that it is good to share these things with the kids. Finding the right age to share which bits is the hard part. Too early and you can really mess with their feeling of security and plant seeds of paranoia. But you can’t afford to wait too long either. This is harder to do than the ‘sex’ talk. And each kid matures at a vastly different rate. I think you did the right thing. Honesty and openness is always the better choice. It also lets them know that even adults are not always in charge. We too are being blown by the winds of fate.
    People try to send their kids out into a world that they tell them is a beautiful garden. It never hurts to tell them about the thorns and wasp stings too.

    Like

    Posted by pouringmyartout | July 18, 2013, 12:12 pm
  4. Kudos to you for seeking help and having open discussions with the boys. They may not have had the words to say what they’ve been feeling or what they’ve observed. Giving them the language to express their thoughts/emotions is awesome. Good for you and best of luck with your therapy….

    Like

    Posted by Kayjai | July 18, 2013, 12:13 pm
  5. Good show, chap! Being a kid is hard and I think it’s important for kids to recognize their feelings and embrace them as part of who they are. There’s nothing weird about being depressed or anxious some of the time, but “normal” kids shouldn’t be overly so. Knowing that their awesome dad has depression will help them to not be ashamed should one or both of them suffer from it. Hopefully, they won’t though.

    Like

    Posted by donofalltrades | July 18, 2013, 12:30 pm
  6. Good for you all around, TD. And I love the question! And the fact that he was comfortable enough to ask. Was laughing inappropriate? Hell no. It shows that like a lot of other people, your son has some misperceptions that once they are spoken, often become obviously just that. A misperception.

    Like

    Posted by Elyse | July 18, 2013, 12:40 pm
  7. I will always wonder if I had been more forthright with my struggles if my kid would have been more open about his. I am very glad and proud that you took this step with them. Good job, TD.

    Like

    Posted by sortaginger | July 18, 2013, 12:41 pm
  8. What a fantastic post….Yes I’m a Newbie follower! Thanks for speaking out about Mental/Emotional illness’s. I went undiagnosed for years until 2002, when my compulsive gambling addiction landed me in a Crisis mental /addictions center for 3 weeks! Been in recovery 6+yrs from the BET, on Meds for Bi-polar2 disorder, but still suffer from Agoraphobia-Panic…..
    I blog about addiction, recovery, mental illness and more, it is the ONLY way to *Shatter* the *Stigma* around all of it!! I shall be Back often to your awesome Blog! :-)

    Author, Catherine Lyon :-) *Congrats on being *Freshly Pressed*

    Like

    Posted by Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon | July 18, 2013, 12:42 pm
  9. I’m glad you have a counselor and I think he gave you the right advice. We shouldn’t keep all this stuff inside.

    Like

    Posted by goldfish | July 18, 2013, 12:50 pm
  10. Best wishes as regards your son; i hope everything turns out alright.

    Like

    Posted by windandlaughter | July 18, 2013, 1:07 pm
  11. It’s so good you can go to your mother to help you out and give her take on it. Ha! If I did that, my mother would say I’m the crazy one.
    I completely agree with sometimes, letting the kids see your emotions and feelings. My mother never showed any signs of emotion ever. She didn’t believe in crying, hugging or anything physical. Except yelling. I do not believe that is good at all. I have cried a few times in front of my son, once because he did something bad and I wanted him to see how it hurt me, he never did it again. I was scolded by my mother that he should never see me cry, I disagreed with her and said that if she showed me some sort of sign that she had some sort of emotion or even a heart, we might have a better relationship.
    I think that is the step in the right direction with your kids.

    Like

    Posted by Claudia Bette | July 18, 2013, 1:17 pm
    • Well, they’ve seen me cry before and I hug them and tell them regularly that I love them, but they’ve never seen me hurt but once. We were watching a story about a man who lost every one of his kids to drug addiction. Some OD’d, other’s committed suicide, and as the three of us sat there watching this I just started crying and told them THAT’S why you never do drugs. That was years ago, though.

      Like

      Posted by twindaddy | July 18, 2013, 1:21 pm
  12. You’re a great father, TD. They’re lucky to have you.

    Like

    Posted by DaydreamsinWonderland | July 18, 2013, 1:45 pm
  13. That was probably a scary thing for you to do, but it was the right thing. I think some people believe it is easier to ignore situations and emotions. You’re an awesome dad!

    Like

    Posted by La La | July 18, 2013, 1:50 pm
  14. I’m not sure I’d have done the same, but I prefer stoic suffering in complete isolation and silence. Sarcasm aside, good for you.

    Like

    Posted by BrainRants | July 18, 2013, 1:55 pm
    • Well, I watched my mother go through a horrible manic episode and after it was all over we were much closer. After I though about that and everything the counselor said it just seemed like the right thing to do.

      Also, I’m tired of isolation. I really am.

      Like

      Posted by twindaddy | July 18, 2013, 2:02 pm
  15. I do the same thing with my daughter, keep an eye on her. She does have some anxiety problems and OCD.

    Like

    Posted by merbear74 | July 18, 2013, 3:59 pm
  16. Great post, kudos to you. I’ve had the want to write about my own dealings with depression lately, but haven’t quite found the courage to let it all out… maybe sometime soon, the more I see those ‘around me’ doing it, the more comfortable I feel when I attempt to work on that draft… Thanks for sharing, I know it isn’t easy!

    Like

    Posted by Dad, It's OK! | July 18, 2013, 4:11 pm
  17. While there is a genetic component, recent research shows that component is our immune system and not some “bad brain gene”. They may coast through life without anything more than situational depression (basically life sucks and you mope and then get up and tackle that SOB…no medicine req’d).
    http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jun/03-the-insanity-virus#.UehlGW3t7Qw
    That gives an explanation and it gives me great hope that we may be able to better treat the whole kaleidoscope of mental illness more efficiently in the future. Mental health problems run in my family too, but seem a bit more hit and miss. I’m hoping the fact that I, so far, have lucked out, and that despite him being a sociopath (lol…. does that count????) the kiddo’s father is fairly stable, so maybe they’ll be at low risk. As a parent, we can’t help but hope, you know?
    Still, my Soup King has battle issues since he was 23 and I had a brief talk w/my kiddos about it. I’ll likely have to go more in depth when they are older.

    Like

    Posted by southerndreamer | July 18, 2013, 6:03 pm
  18. You’ did good! Great that they had a couple of questions too, that means they are interested and curious.

    Like

    Posted by behindthemaskofabuse | July 18, 2013, 8:29 pm
  19. You’re also breaking the “sweep it under the rug” mindset of the past! Bring it TD!

    Like

    Posted by behindthemaskofabuse | July 18, 2013, 8:31 pm
  20. I sound like a broken record when I say that you are a wonderful dad, person and friend…and don’t you forget it….I won’t let you.

    Like

    Posted by 1jaded1 | July 18, 2013, 10:01 pm
  21. Onya Buddy, top shit! Respect REDdog

    Like

    Posted by REDdog | July 18, 2013, 11:42 pm
  22. Well done indeed! I laughed at the question too. Kids think so differently and you never know how they might interpret something we may tell them. It’s funny to us, but it would be scary if someone actually did have to literally “go inside our heads” for help.I’m so happy you opened this door for them…it’s so productive.

    Like

    Posted by Life With The Top Down | July 19, 2013, 12:09 pm
  23. Wow. I think it’s great you spoke with them. I never thought about how much impact adults have on kids without even speaking a word. They learn just from our behaviour (body language, actions) and through modeling. I think it’s great to open the mental health discussion; maybe then in the future people with depression and other disorders will not be afraid to speak for fear of stigma.

    Like

    Posted by Jann Lee | July 19, 2013, 5:23 pm
  24. Good for you, TD. And doubly good for bringing your mother into this.

    And triple for listening to the counselor, and taking the stuff that feels right to heart.

    Like

    Posted by El Guapo | July 22, 2013, 1:23 pm
  25. Having been a teenager with a depressed mother myself, you’ve done the right thing. My parents never really explicitly sat me & my sister down to tell us what was going on. We were left to figure it out for ourselves. Not much fun when you’ve got your own hormones buggering about with everything right, left, centre, up and down. If they know what’s going on, and that you’re doing things about it, then it makes it a bit easier on them. If they know that Dad is just having a bad day, they can let it slide. It’s like living in a perpetual thunderstorm, the not knowing. I never knew when the lightening was going to strike as a teen.

    Like

    Posted by faithhopechocolate | July 23, 2013, 7:49 am

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