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When mental illness runs in your family.

When mental illness runs in your family.

For 24 years I thought that my many eating disorders and my crippling depression were a ‘my generation’ problem. Whenever I brought that up to my parents, I was met with dismissal, and the usual ‘just get over it’. The weekend before my 24th birthday, my mother told me that my grandfather (her father) had been admitted to a mental hospital. She told me he had started seeing things – hallucinations. It turns out this was nothing new to her as her grandmother also had had issues with her mental stability, and she had, and I quote, “gone insane”.

I had always thought that my mother had some symptoms that pointed towards a mental disorder (I wouldn’t want to ‘diagnose her’ so you’ll have to trust me on this). For years, I thought her erratic behaviours, hot and cold attitudes etc. were a sign of stress, being a single parent and having gone through domestic abuse.

Now I wonder if maybe that’s not the case. Scholars agree that some major mental illnesses such as autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia run in families suggesting genetic roots. I’ve been diagnosed with depression as far as I’m aware my mother has never seen a mental health professional. But the evidence is already there – at least two generations in my family before me have struggled with mental disorders.

Such thought is petrifying. I mean, how does one cope with such information? How do I go about your life, knowing that there is a clock ticking before I too am admitted to an institution?

My grandfather is scared too, but for a different reason. His fear comes from paranoia as he’s convinced the furniture in his flat can fly and there is someone out there to get him.

It’s funny to think that a couple of years back I wrote a post on how my biggest fear was time. If I only knew how true that was…

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