Long, long ago
When my son was very, very young
I thought of killing myself
But what about my son?
I can’t leave him behind
Well then, I’ll take him with me
Oh, my God!
That’s where it comes from
That’s why mothers take their children’s lives
When depressed and suicidal
They do not want to abandon their children
They do not want to leave them behind
It’s not rational
It’s a depressed and suicidal thought process
That takes a leap
From killing oneself
To killing the one most cherished
I get it now
I get it
My brain went there
To that completely unacceptable place
I considered killing both myself and my son
The thought was momentary
It came
It left
The thought happened long, long ago
But it did happen
I did think it

Thank God I recognized my thoughts as irrational
Thank God I had done so much work in therapy
Thank God I was on antidepressants
Or, maybe, not
Maybe the antidepressants
Hormonal changes of birth and breastfeeding
Lack of uninterrupted sleep
Triggered these thoughts

During my son’s infancy, I was not diagnosed bipolar type II. Diagnostic criteria did not yet describe people like me. I would tell doctors that I was probably at the very least cyclothymic. To my family doctor, wife of a psychiatrist, I had depression and responded well to antidepressants. Researching antidepressants before I became pregnant, I chose Zoloft, an SSRI deemed safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. So I took Zoloft during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Antidepressants can trigger hypomania, mania, even psychosis in those of us with bipolar disorder. Treatment (even with lithium, mood stabilizers, and/or antipsychotics) does not guarantee an absence of symptoms, including depressed or suicidal thoughts, mania, hypomania, or mixed states. Living with a mental illness requires diligence, self-awareness, and knowledge.


30 responses to “Suicide Infanticide”

  1. […] Previously Published on kittomalley.com […]

  2. Berni, if you have struggled with these thoughts and impulses, or can relate to some of my other symptoms, I highly recommend you see a psychiatrist. Getting treatment has helped me tremendously.

    Post-partum is a difficult time for both mother and father due not just to hormonal changes, but to sleep deprivation.

  3. I wouldn’t go that far?!

  4. I also struggled with this suicide-infanticide kind of experience but I’ve not been able to fully understand it yet.

    This post has immense amount of knowledge and insight. Thank you for sharing it.

    Be brave.

  5. Yes, I totally agree with “Look for the male-factor”. It’s always our fault, even when we don’t realize it.

  6. […] the beginning of this week, Terezin – a woman who had been horrifically abused by a mother diagnosed with manic depressive […]

  7. Thank you, Laura. Well said. I, too, experienced both trauma and love growing up parented by alcoholic undiagnosed parents. Abuse and trauma exists on a spectrum. Terezin no doubt suffered quite severe abuse. I in no way dismiss the trauma of child abuse.

  8. I am so sorry that you were traumatized by your mother. My son is private and has asked that I not discuss him on my blog. This poem was of a passing thought, a thought that I did not act on. I have sought and received treatment for mental illness since I was 18. My behavior is very much like most other mothers. My struggle is primarily unseen, in my thoughts more than my actions.

    As a family, we first entered therapy for our son when he was 4. My son is welcome to discuss the effects of my illness on him. Both my husband and I are devoted to our son. I love him deeply, as does my husband. He is a very well loved child whose emotional, psychiatric, and physical needs are addressed.

  9. Terezin, I’m going to jump in here for a second. First I want you to know that I understand what a nightmare it can be, to be the surviving child of a seriously mentally ill parent. I am both daughter to a seriously mentally ill parent, and I am the seriously mentally ill parent to my adult child. My own child is a survivor of his childhood, which amazes is both. For reasons I don’t understand, he loves me, and makes sure that I know it. I know that he understands how difficult it is for me to keep on living. He is the reason I don’t act on my suicidal drives. Sometimes I resent that. But then I remember how much I cherish him, and even the chaos of trying to raise an autistic child while being an undiagnosed bipolar myself….all this is just to say that I totally understand the situation of suicide-parenticide, from my own perspective. I also know how blessed I am to have an adult child who loves me even though I am fatally flawed.

  10. I am the adult daughter of a mother who was diagnosed with “manic depressive psychosis” in the 1960s.
    My mother survived several suicide attempts and I survived the attempts she made on my life.

    I wonder, Kitt, if you will be able to understand when the day comes and your child will wish you had
    died. When the chronicity of your health illness will reach saturation point and you will be forced to
    face your contribution to the emerging symptoms of trauma in your off-spring?

    None of your sharing is courageous; it is all one-sided. Where are the voices of the adolescent and
    adult children with their authentic unvarnished lived experiences?

    The grandiose narcissism of so-called advocates and activists for ‘mental illness’, such as yourself,
    continues to slap a coat of white primer over the devastation that is visited upon the least calloused
    and most vulnerable family members.

    I really understand how an adult child develops a desire to kill their mentally ill parent and, in some
    circumstances, completes murder-suicide.

    You are not even touching the real taboos.

  11. That is HILARIOUS!

  12. When I was a pediatrician in practice, somebody asked me why babies are so cute. Without thinking, I responded “so we won’t kill them, is why.”

    The people who DO kill the babies are most often the mother’s boyfriend. We used to say, “Look for the male-factor.”

  13. Thank you. I agree that the thought process may be more common than we acknowledge. I simultaneously felt shock and compassion when the thought occurred to me. I was in my late 30’s and had first turned to therapy for suicidal ideation at 18, so I had done A LOT of work before I had my son. Very few of us have access to resources such as psychotherapy, quality medical care, and psychotropic medication before becoming parents. In addition to many years of psychotherapy, I had a masters in psychology and had worked as a licensed psychotherapist. Frankly, I’m amazed that more mothers don’t kill their infants and children. Thankfully, the taboo is quite strong.

  14. You are very brave to share this. Indeed, I think that many of us who struggle with young babies who by their nature demand everything, everything, everything from us….and are completely dependent upon us….so that we are not only triggered by lack of sleep and hypervigilance and overstimulation, but on top of everything we have to deal with our own illness……I think many of us have had, and silently live with, the guilt and horror of those feelings…..”I must leave, and I must take you with me, because what would happen to you?” It’s so complex. Thank you for your courage….it makes those of us who have lived similar challenges feel less alone.

  15. Bravo! I am so glad that your love for your children saved you. That you persevered for them.

    Obviously, I did not follow through with this thought. It was fleeting. My first thought was I could not leave him, then my mind jumped to taking him with me. Not a rational thought process. I was able to instantly recognize it as such and quelch it. By the time I became a mother, I had almost a couple of decades of therapy under my belt , so I had the cognitive and emotional tools I needed to stop and counter depressive thoughts.

    Here we are almost 14 years later. My son is a wonderful young man about to start high school. My diagnosis has changed from dysthymia (chronic depression) to bipolar type II, and I am receiving the treatment I need.

    Still, those of us living with mental illness must continually monitor our thoughts, moods, and behavior to maintain our stability and good mental health.

  16. I know in my case, the opposite is also true. I wanted the pain to stop so badly and was planning my suicide when I realized I couldn’t have that be the legacy I left for my children. So for their sakes, I kept living.

  17. I’ll go check it out! Catching up on blog reading right now.

  18. Yes, our minds can deceive and undermine us. The thought simply passed. There was never a chance I might act on it. But just thinking it… I had a newfound understanding of maternal infanticide. The thought process was not hateful, nor had it anything to do with morality. There was no emotion or desire behind the thought. It was a depressed and psychotic thought that came and then went.

  19. By the way the guest post I wanted you to read posted early today on history of a woman. I hope you like it.

  20. It is scary when our mind does this. I remember well thinking how much better off my daughter would be without me and then thinking much later…how awful and untrue it is. Our minds are traitors. I am so glad you came to your senses…so so glad

  21. Thank you so much.

    Years before I had these thoughts, before I married and became a mother, I was an MFCC (now MFT) and had counseled children, adolescents, and pregnant and parenting teens. Still, until your own mind goes there you do not truly understand what it is like.

  22. Wow… Thanks for sharing this. This was very brave to share but great and important insights about “insight and judgement.”

  23. […] Posted on June 21, 2014 on kittomalley.com […]

  24. You are so right about the “deceptive” mind.

  25. It was a sobering moment. As soon as I made that leap, from suicidality to “I’ll take him with me,” I realized what others experience. Depressive, suicidal, and psychotic thought processes are not rational or logical. The mind can turn against the self, extensions of the self, and others. The mind can be, like the disguised devil in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, deceptive.

  26. That moment of insight when you realize that something is very wrong is very profound. When I had my suicidal thoughts, that may have been triggered by antidepressants, and in the absence of antipsychotics, I also understood how others could make that decision to take their own life. I never thought about taking the life of others, such as children, but you have given me new insight. I see when you are coming from.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  27. It was a passing thought, but it was an “Aha” moment for me. I instantly understood how a woman could kill children she dearly loved.

  28. Kitt this is very difficult poetry to read, but somehow, somewhere, I know it has to be written. I don’t know what else to say.

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