Reflexivity and Ethics
In need of vicarious protectors
I have accepted that she can’t be with me because I know my daughter is fine now, but it was hard in the beginning, that I wasn’t allowed to see her. Now I see her and talk to her and I can see that she’s fine. (John)
Protecting children from oneself
I knew that when I heard voices that told me that something horrible was going to happen to them or that they [the children] had been sexually abused, I knew that wasn’t true, so I protected them from it. I kept quiet or stayed away. (Kathy)
I have had compulsions that I want to kill him. I haven’t had those thoughts recently now, but I’m afraid they’ll come, so I think “I hope I do not think so now” and then it gets strange to be with him. (Fatima)
The child’s needs for comfort causes distress
It’s difficult when my son gets anxious, I think. It’s hard not to go in and mix it up with myself, to project my feelings on him. [It’s hard] to see him as an individual, because he is his own person. (Kathy)
I’m not even allowed to hug him; he hardly ever hugs me. He thinks I’m very tense, and then he doesn’t let me get near him; he feels that I’m tense. But I wish I was allowed to get closer to him.
The child as protector
I think he carries many hard things within himself that he doesn’t talk to me about. He talks to my care provider about it, and he doesn’t say it to me. He doesn’t want to hurt me, he wants to protect me and not make me sad. (Monica)
In a world of my own
Lack of energy
The child’s response to symptoms
He is more like this, “Can we paint a little?” So he adjusts, he becomes more responsive despite being so young. He understands that I’m tired and I want to play in calm way, like watching a film together. (Annica)
Lack of energy leads to lack of control
In periods when I feel good, it does not affect me, but during those periods when I’m extra weak and have more anxiety, it affects me because I do not have—I do not have the same energy. I do not have the same stamina. It’s hard to be with him, and it’s often then the big conflicts come and everything gets much more difficult. (Annica)
Fear of emotional reactions
I get reminded of when I was a little, and I don’t want him to experience the same, but he’s sad because of things other than [those] I might be sorry for. He gets sad when we play games and he loses, and that’s nothing I need to get anxious about, but I’ll get anxious anyway, so I let him get what he wants.
To teach about parental illness
I think the wife said that I had back pain, but the big one knew about it because I had written a suicide note /…/ We have not talked so much about it really, it has not been so, no, she never asked.
I wrote a letter to him in which I explained about my illness and I wrote “When you were little, I thought Dad was hitting you and that he sexually abused you,” and that I hear voices and see visions that no one else sees or hears, and he just said, “That’s what I thought.” (Fatima)
Guidance requires guiding
I think about what my therapist said to me, because I should not overdo and talk too much about my problems with my son, about all my concerns with my son. Sometimes it has been like that, that I talked too much to him and he has been invisible.
Ambivalence toward oneself as a role model
It’s not negative to be weak or to be a human in need, and I think [the child] values that. It may be something she gets from us, what’s important in life. We have a social image that can be tough, but a reality that is different because people are fragile and break, both in life and in marriage. Relationships can break in different ways, and I think that she gets an empathetic ability from us because we’re both ill.
I don’t do much so in that way I’m not a good role model. I have no psychotic symptoms, but after a psychosis you go down into depression and melancholy, and I’m afraid that affects her negatively. (Isac)
Financial problems as an obstacle for promoting the child’s group membership
I would like to buy things for my children, but I can’t buy anything for them. Other children laugh at their clothes; that’s the help I would like. Can you help me with that, with a new washing machine? (Grace)
I’d like her to see more of the world. It can get a bit smothering here in the coziness. But it’s the economy. To see the world and such things. But I have sickness benefits and some liabilities, so we live on subsistence, but it works. (Andy)
Parental illness sets the agenda for routines
It’s not easy when you have this illness that I have. When it comes, you really need to get all the help you can get. Eh, for the sake of the children. It may be important that you know that sometimes the structure around us fails. (Monica)
I go to bed and sleep and on an ordinary day I get up and do things that I have to do before the children come home. They don’t eat breakfast at home, they eat at school, and when I get up in the morning I’m tired because I’m ill, and sometimes I shower the little one. I’m a mum, I cook for them. (Sonia)
Group belonging through the parent’s illness
They have had support. This was a fun experience: we went on a free camp with [name of organization] when I was diagnosed as bipolar. You’ve heard about that? My daughter thinks it developed her personality /…/ but most children didn’t live with the ill parent so they felt a bit special. (Sophia)