Day 6: Do you have a family history of mental illness or mental health issues?
One could say so… and again, I have been the groundbreaker in the family. I was the first grandchild, the first to go to college on my Dad’s side of the family (but not the first to finish), I was the first to get divorced (not my proudest moment, but it was necessary), and now I am the first diagnosed with mental illness that is talking about it.
When I was younger, my parents were concerned that my sister might be depressed because she had some trouble in school and was dyslexic (which was at one time listed as a mental disorder in the DSM manual, so technically she did have a mental health issue) but I don’t believe she was truly depressed. My sister is very laid back and nothing really ‘sticks’ to her long enough for her to feel any guilt, darkness or self hate. My mother felt that my sister was the fragile one when we were younger, but I think I had just begun to hide my weakness already by then. I firmly believe my depression began at puberty. I suppose I could blog more about my childhood some other time but my parents gave us all a very secure loving home life.
My mother was extremely nurturing and I haven’t noticed any kind of mental issues she could possibly have unless caring too much and not having an enemy on the planet is an issue. However, her Grandmother, my Great Grandmother did have a hoarding problem which is an OCD manifestation. I was only made aware that this was a condition in her later years. I am not sure if she had OCD or anything else when she was younger. My mother also had a cousin that had a severe eating disorder that killed her at a very young age.
I suspect my father may have OCD and anxiety, although my Dad is a very happy person so depression avoided both of my parents. My father has compulsive order ‘preferences’ 🙂 and he does offer discuss his thoughts in cartoons and he (like me) is not at all able to tolerate loud noises (especially children) and crowds (even more so than me) and he has to be in control of his environment. But again, I am not in any way qualified to make that guess and he has not been evaluated and does maintain a very happy, healthy, successful lifestyle in which he is able to work around these uncomfortable situations for him. On my Dad’s side of the family we have a few men (who I have not grown up around and only met maybe once or twice) who are alcoholics; I have a great aunt who was a musical genius, who had serious mental illnesses that eventually caused her to become outcast by her immediate family (children, grandchildren); I had a Great Grandmother who (come to find out just recently) suffered from Major Depression throughout her life.
I have a feeling there could be others that may also be dealing with difficulties in their life but as I have mentioned before, I come from a very tough Irish family who are accustomed to dealing with their issues on their own, physical or otherwise, and weakness is not something one shows. Excuses are not acceptable and although everyone is very supportive of each other (unlike when I went through my first divorce, I have not gotten any negative feedback from any of my family at all and have even gotten many words of support) you won’t necessarily find that there will be a team to rally behind you or rush forward to comfort you and want to talk about how you feel in this type of an illness because that is just not how we were all raised. I, myself, am uncomfortable with a lot of emotion and physical comfort but I do also believe this understanding of my family led me to hold my illness in out of shame and embarrassment. That no one mentioned it when I came out of the hospital but yet, still allowed me to be a part of family gatherings was an answer to my prayers. I had thought I would be disowned. But, if I felt this way, I imagine if any of my cousins also had any difficulties they felt might be an embarrassment or might reflect badly on the family they would also attempt to hide it. I pray that if I have a relative that has depression, or an eating disorder, or anxiety, or anything that causes their lives to be difficult that they are able to reach out for help. Even if I am seen as the “crazy one” in the family (and I am okay with this) that they know I am here and will not judge. I understand how difficult it is to live with that kind of pain and guilt every day.