I can trace Bipolar disorder in my family in at least three generations on my family tree. It’s interesting looking at my own tree, it feels like walking through a forest. Every tree is a little bit different, but they share parts of the same family. I have no idea if that made sense.
I have and never will claim to be a professional in the realm of psychology and to treat mental illnesses on a professional level. My area of expertise comes in what I have experienced in my own life and what I have learned about myself over the years. So when I say, Bipolar disorder runs in my own family, at least one side of my family tree, I say this because it’s what I have come to realize over the years.
I want to start by talking about my biological father. I say “biological father” out of habit. He was never a real part of my life, and I was raised by my father (who is technically my stepfather.) The man who raised me might not be my father biologically, but he is the one person I have always called father (I honor this man by using his first name as the first name in my pen name, James Edgar Skye.) I note this because I don’t want confusion if the topic of my biological father comes up in later blog posts.
People always say that I look like my biological father and considering the resemblance it makes sense. What I know about my biological father is that he has had issues in his own life. I remember him mostly through the stories my mom told me, she married my biological father and loved him at one point, and stories about his own struggles with depression are similar to my own. Stories of being in the bathroom with a gun to his head wanting to end his life. The same issues that he dealt with in his life, and I would assume still does, mirror my own problems. We both at some point in our lives wanted to end it all.
It was only a few years after I started to get better where mom helped me make the parallel connections of my own struggles with that of my biological father. She would tell me stories of the time he locked himself in the bathroom with a gun to his head wanting to end his life. The same issues that he dealt with in his life, and I would assume still does, mirror my own problems. We both at some point in our lives wanted to end it all.
It goes deeper than that because unlike myself who has been treated for my issues over the years my father and other family members have not gotten help. My grandfather had issues with uncontrollable anger, and I can find parallels to when I turned to rage when I am in a manic episode. Hearing the stories about my father and my grandfather has helped me make connections to my own experiences and to my belief that Bipolar disorder is hereditary in my family.
I know it comes from one side of my family tree and not the other. I also have a select few of relatives from this family tree that have also sought treatment for the Bipolar disorder. It is a real issue that affects multiple people in my family, and it makes sense to believe that Bipolar One something that can follow similar patterns with a family tree.
I decided this would be a great subject to write about in blog post because it’s something that I often talk about with others I have met with a mental illness. Even the professionals, my psychiatrists, and my therapist have told me over the course my diagnosis this is possible. I think anyone with the disease Bipolar disorder should look at their own family tree, it might a great way to connect with other people you know within your family and better understand their own experiences.
On this subject, I know more about Bipolar disorder than other family connections to other mental illnesses. I am curious to see what people comment on this blog post.
I think the other side of it that no matter the reality that Bipolar disorder is something that can run in families is that, while we learn from the experiences of others, it is also true that our experience and expertise is in our own journey. It’s great to look at outside sources to better understand our journey because we can identify our own struggles in the struggles of others but never forget your own journey.
I have been reflecting so much over last few months on my own journey that a post like this makes sense to write about here where I am have been sharing my life. Knowing that Bipolar disorder might be something that can affect other people within my own blood makes me wary of the future. The big question becomes, could I pass this on to my own children?
It’s a scary thought and one that often comes to mind when I think about my future. If I found someone that I connected to at such a level that we would have children, I would always have this thought in mind. It haunts me because it is a scary thing passing what is wrong with me to another human being.
For so long I always figured having children is probably not in the cards for me, I still think this is true, but it comes from a specific place. It may be true that I could pass on the Bipolar trait so to speak, and that would be the safest path to follow not to procreate. These thoughts don’t pop up often since my diagnosis. It is why my relationships have never really lasted. I am terrified of the life I have lived and the possibility of passing on my history.
It’s funny though, the more open I have been over the last year, and especially the last few months I have seen what just opening up my again has brought me. Real connections. For so long I have been disconnected from the real world because it was easier to go into my introverted personality and hide there for the rest of my life. Writing about my journey has never been an easy task, and knowing that my life is more open will undoubtedly change my perspective on relationships in the future. But I can’t shake the real fear that someday I could pass being Bipolar to another.
I think change is good. Now that I have written about my own belief that Bipolar disorder is something that runs in my family I can have a better perspective on life.
Photo Credit: Matt Antonioli