There is not a lot of information out there about mental health and the possibility of it being hereditary (that I have the concentration or patience to find). For the majority of my life, I was told it is not passed on through genetics that it was all in my mind – HA the irony! I could get over it with counselling. (*insert eye rolling emoji here…)
Thankfully, over the past few years I have seen that opinion change dramatically. Scientists are now looking into genetics and the possibility of it being passed down in our genes. It’s a complex area, as mental health isn’t just one single gene that can be identified but a collection of them. I’m no scientist so it doesn’t mean much to me but apparently there are 20 genes associated with bipolar disorder alone. I can’t find much on ‘A’s genetics (much to ‘A’s delight).
I have been born into a family plagued with ill mental health, my father’s side of the family particularly. I never saw it from my great grand-mother but I was only young when she was an old lady however my grand-mother (nanny), my grand-aunt and my grand-uncle all suffered with bipolar disorder (referred to back then as manic depression). I never met my grand-uncle he sadly killed himself before I was born. I met my grand-aunt many times and I would have never thought she suffered with bipolar disorder (not that I knew what that was when I was young) but she was always the life and soul of any room; so happy, so full of energy and so enchanting to be around. (I understand now because I do the same, I mask my hitch hiker in public). The day I found out she died sticks to me like a sour taste in my mouth.
I don’t know how old I was but it was between 5-6 years of age. I was over my nanny and gramps house with my younger sister and two cousins. We were playing hide and seek and I was hiding in the coffee table in the hallway below the telephone. (No one ever found me; I was such a scrawny ill child that i would fit into the most impossible places). The telephone was a big contraption back in the 80s not like our mobiles now. It was the design where you dialled by moving a dial in the middle of the phone round in a circle. (Dialling 0 or 9 was always such a mission, really took some finger strength).
Anyway…went off track there. My concentration lets me down but you get it right? ‘A’ loves to distract me easily. FOCUS.
My gramps answered the phone above me, I remember feeling excitement because to me he had no idea I was there, he was quiet on the phone then went into the living-room and the next thing I heard was an almighty scream from my nanny. I was immediately petrified and out from under the coffee table in seconds but as children we were rushed upstairs out the way. I remember it like it was only yesterday, I knew something horrible had happened because I always had a sense for tragedy. I sat on the top of the stairs listening because I had to know, scared out of my mind that there was something wrong with someone I loved. I remember hearing ‘jumped off a cliff’. As a 5-6 year old how do you process that kind of information?
I grew up spending a lot of time with my nanny and gramps, mainly due to the fact that I was one of four daughters and basically the runt of the litter. I had so many alignments that I was always off nursery/school sick and as my parents were working class they couldn’t afford to take time off. My grampy was a retired veteran and my nanny never worked so they had ample time to spend with me. I spent a lot of time growing up in this household with my nanny, who suffered quite badly with bipolar disorder.
When I say quite badly I am massively under exaggerating, it was life changing; by the age of 10 years old I would know from how my nanny was acting whether the next day would be a good or bad day.
Good day – A manic episode, we would bake cakes, go to the park, and generally have loads of energy to do whatever we wanted. As a child I obviously preferred these days thinking my nanny was well again, she smiled, she was full of energy and she laughed. I loved hearing her sing especially after the bad days.
Bad day – I’d either be woken up by my nanny frantically crying, squeezing me to death with hugs and checking me over to make sure I was ok or my nanny wouldn’t move from bed; The fear in her eyes would make my blood run cold as she stared at nothing for days.
I would ask my grampy what was wrong, why is nanny not responding to me? Why is she crying? He never explained it to me.
I started to think it might be something I could catch. A virus that would infect me until my body fought it off because that’s what my nanny did. She got infected, had a few days/weeks in bed then fought it off. I would worry that I was too much of a runt to survive and it would kill me. My nanny had such a loving nature, it use to break my heart daily; watching her battle with her very own hitch hiker, a nasty one, that was winning the battle time and time again.
I was a small ball of fear disguised as a carefree child and no-one had any idea.
- Is it simply a coincidence that out of four daughters the one exposed to it most days is the one that now suffers with ill mental health?
- If it wasn’t hereditary then surely I could get rid of it like the doctors would tell me?
Erase it, Conquer it. Forget it.
- It must be a frame of mind conditioned from a young age that I can re-condition. Right?
- Maybe my nanny’s mother was the same when she was younger and it conditioned her, my grand-aunt and uncle the same way it did me?
I don’t think I’ll ever get the answers to these questions, all I know is I have an unwanted hitch hiker that taunts me and threatens me with attacks on a daily basis.
Nobody can completely be in control of their lives, things happen that you can’t plan or prepare for and it knocks you to your knees. It’s because of my mental health (and the fact I’m a stubborn bitch) that I refuse to stay down for fear that I will never recover.
I am damaged goods and therefore at risk of being defeated and permanently controlled by ‘A’. So I will continue to rise up time and time again after every battle ‘A’ throws at me.
Learning, Adapting, Strengthening.
Is that me winning or ‘A’ controlling me with fear again? Time will tell but for now ill enjoy being in the driving seat.
Join me will you?