I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder over ten years ago. At the time, I wasn’t aware of any genetic component as I was an adopted child. Within my adopted family, there was a high incidence of alcoholism on my maternal mothers side, with most of her siblings having alcohol difficulties whilst her own mother and two of her siblings had suffered or would go on to suffer from depression. There was no one who had Bipolar Disorder.
The interesting thing about my adopted mother was her inability to accept that I was adopted, that is until I failed to live up to her expectations or meet her unmet needs. Therefore, when I was finally diagnosed, she immediately used this information to perpetuate the myth that I was her own biological child evidenced by the fact that I now too was showing signs of mental illness. When I later had problems with alcohol, no doubt this also fed into her distorted family romance.
Though wanting, even needing to convince herself that I was indeed her biological offspring was nothing more than denial placated by deep untruths that fed her fragile ego. Not having children of her own had always been tremendously painful for her. She felt inadequate as a woman, as a wife and mother, felt less than other women who routinely popped one out and struggled with the barbed judgements she believed others made of her.
In some ways, those judgements were made worse by the fact that she judged others mercifully herself. After all, when people bemoan about the judgements cast by society, groups, and individuals at large, it is usually with stifled awareness of the judgments taking place inside their own minds.
If you want to stop judgemental behaviour, start with yourself!
Eventually, after meeting my birth mother and discovering some facts about her and my birth father, I was to learn that my father had Bipolar disorder. He was also drug dependant (a consequence of mental illness and self-medicating?) dealt drugs himself (to afford his own?) and had an unhealthy interest in young girls. Hearing about the fact that he had suffered from mental illness and had drug problems was easier than discovering that he had sexual desires towards young girls and unfortunately acted upon them.
Nevertheless, at the same time, finally, I had my own genetic history; separate from the elaborate untruths my adopted mother told herself and others. That I had most probably inherited a predisposition to Bipolar Disorder from my father was a revelation; although as we now know, just because I had this predisposition, did not mean that I would naturally go on to suffer. Genetics load the gun, the environment pulls the trigger!
There are many who feel angry about having Bipolar Disorder. Maybe they are furious at a genetic equation that stacked up the odds before they were even born. Perhaps they are disappointed with their genetic lineage and the madness of those that preceded them, or just angry, passionately angry at family, friends, circumstances or events that combined to shoot the genetic load into their malleable grey matter and unequivocally turn on the selected genes.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about genetics. My genetics mean that physically I am 5’8, have green eyes, dark brown hair and size seven feet. When it comes to personality, it is hard to differentiate what is genetic, what is environmental, not to mention the mass of contradictions that we all uncover when we look at ourselves with a magnifying glass. Introverted but often fiery and opinionated, creative and expressive with language but dislikes talking. Incredibly sensitive, but as hard as steel when needs to be. Then finally, neurologically, I have Bipolar Disorder as well as some other eccentricities.
It makes me wonder if any of it really matters.
What I have discovered though is this. Genetically we are unique only due to the slight minute differences that exist between us. Individualism by any other name is a misnomer, as the very things that a person believes makes them different, political affiliations, moral outlook, IQ level, talents, fashion sense, hobbies, interests will always be duplicated in culture.
The overriding idea for instance that mental illness only affects a small minority is a false truth that mental health charities religiously try to combat. Similarly, the idea that individuals suffering from mental illness are alone, the feelings of insularity and isolation that make one believe that you’re the only person in the world experiencing this level of mental distress runs counter to the aforementioned stigma about minorities.
When feeling alone, bruised, battered mentally, it may feel justifiable to feel angry about ones unique genetic load. However, to be angry at something you have no control over and something you most definitely cannot change, it a fruitless endeavour in stock piling unwanted emotions. On the other hand, like many, you may feel angry with family, friends, events, or circumstances, whichever you feel is responsible for starting that one definitive fire that created the multi-coloured blaze of light in your synapses, and indeed, you may hold onto this anger for dear life.
We cannot change the past and by trying to, we are hoping to achieve something that is scientifically impossible, simply because our emotions besiege us to, that is if time exists anyway? We all suffer in this life, but we have the choice once we become aware, to continue and perpetuate that suffering or change and move forward.
Ultimately, genetically we are given a unique hand of cards and our environment then manipulates those cards further. It is up to each of us to play our own cards, to accept what we cannot change in life, to be proactive and insightful over those things that we can and to move forward with tenacity and determination.
After all, why are you and I here today?
Because evolution allowed us to be!
Never stop Adapting!