Is this genetic? (an informal poll)

Yesterday I found myself explaining my mental health issues to yet another professor.  And for whatever reason Italians (I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing) always ask “why”.  I was taken aback at first and then replied “Thats just how I am”.

That got me thinking.  I’ve already explained the environmental issues I’ve had on here, but I haven’t discussed the hereditary factors.  While my mother and father are both incredibly strong, resilient people, I take after my maternal grandmother (whom I was always very close to).  But unfortunately I didn’t inherit her red hair or green eyes, but her anxiety and depression.

Back in her native country (which I’ll reveal in another post)  she was essentially diagnosed with “hysteria”.  She was terrified of the dark her whole life, a result of living in the country.  And often suffered from unexplainable pains and vomiting.  As a young girl she had migraines (like my mother and myself) and experienced “Alice in Wonderland syndrome” which left her cowering in fear as the furniture seemed to morph and loom large above her.

I also believe she may have suffered from Munchausen; she came from a family of 14 and the only way to get attention was to be ill.  She went on to have several miscarriages when she was trying to conceive.  I never realized how bad things were until my mother recently confessed that at 16 she went to visit (the equivalent of) a Voodoo practitioner.  My grandmother had been in bed for a month vomiting constantly and my mother went out of desperation when a relative suggested it.

It terrifies me how much we are alike.  She lived her whole life alternating between extreme worry and depression.  I’m wondering if any of you have a history of mental illness in your families?  I’m very curious.

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2 thoughts on “Is this genetic? (an informal poll)

  1. My family has a long history of mental illness, though it’s never discussed unless it’s about me and how I ruined the family.

    My maternal grandmother spent six months in a psychiatric hospital after my mother was born. I suspect it was post-partum depression, before they had a name for it. This is never discussed; I’m not even supposed to know about it.

    My maternal grandfather has undiagnosed and untreated combat PTSD from serving as a forward observer in Korea. He’s also clearly a narcissist who thinks almost everyone is less than him.

    On my father’s side, the information is sketchier. I know my maternal grandfather was an alcoholic wife-beater, and he died young because of his alcoholism.

    My father is, as far as I can tell, a sociopath. I don’t believe someone with a conscience could do to anyone the kinds of things he did to my sisters and me.

    My mother is harder to diagnose. On the surface, she looks like a narcissist, and docs and therapists I’ve worked with have confirmed that. However, I don’t think she has the level of self-esteem required to be a narcissist. She’s incredibly needy and reliant on others for emotional fulfillment–when I was a kid, she’d ask me dozens of times a day if I loved her, and after one of her abusive meltdowns, I always had to comfort her. Personally, I think she’s a borderline who behaves like a narcissist because she wants the respect her narcissistic father gets.

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