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Originally I had been planning to hand in my journal because I hadnt thought Id dig too

deep into my family's history with mental illness, and the way it has shaped my family through
the generations. The more I wrote, though, the more I personal my journal became. Its not that
Im ashamed of my family, and what it has to deal with (just as someone who has heart disease
or cancer that runs in the family isnt ashamed) but there are some things (mostly personal, and
that I realized while writing the journal) that Im just not overly comfortable with sharing. But
there are a few things Im willing to share in my reflection.

One of the overriding topics in most of my journals seemed to be a frustration with my


parents. As Ive grown older, Ive come to realize that both sides of my family have dealt with
mental illness before (my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother both had/have severe
depression, to the point of suicidal thought) so it is not as if my parents didnt know the signs of
mental illness. My mother has also struggled with mental illness throughout her life (what, we
dont know for sure, as she has been diagnosed from PMDD, to depression, to bipolar disorder)
so I know that she would have been capable of spotting the signs. The problem is (and Ive
spoken to friends who also have mental illness in the family) is that parents dont know how to
talk to their children about mental illness. There is such a stigma around the word, that there
seems to be a fear or shame that comes with having a mental illness, and so parents (especially
my parents) never want to tell their kids about their family history of the disease.

Growing up, I had shown multiple signs of having an anxiety disorder. When I was very
little, I had severe separation anxiety that prevented my from ever traveling overnight without
my mother. When first grade started, I had an extreme fear of storms, to the point where I once
made myself puke at school so I could go home, and have the comfort of my mother during a
storm I saw brewing outside. As I became older, I showed mild signs of OCD in third grade,
where every action I did had to be done in evans (to the point that I became so fixated on doing
everything in evans, that I eventually trained myself to do everything in odds, and then became
fixated on that). In that entire eight year time frame, I only saw a therapist once for my behavior,
and that had been because of my severe reactions to storms. (And let me tell you, the man I went
to see was definitely not a child therapist, and so I had an aversion to therapy until the age of
twelve).

The frustration I have with my parents, is that a part of my wonders that if they had
warmed me from a young age that I may experience symptoms of these behavioral disorders (ie:
anxiety) there might have been preventative measures for later on in my life. By the age of ten, I
was already showing signs of having both depression (which was so severe in my early years,
that I was having suicidal thoughts) and social anxiety (because suddenly the girl who once had
too many friends now didnt know how to speak to other children, and the girl who once wanted
the lead in every play in class now couldnt even walk up to the front of class to do a math
problem). At the time, I didnt even know what was happening, I just felt completely
disconnected from reality. It wasnt until I was twelve (and my sister and I began to talk about
our shared experiences of having depression) that I eventually sought help from my parents
(which lead to my second, and last, therapy session to this date). So there is a part of my that
believes that all of this could have been prevented if I had just been sat down as a child, and told
what the signs of depression/anxiety were, and that I could come to my parents if I ever started
feeling that way.

But my project isnt just on me, and my own experiences with such illnesses, but also my
family. As I noted before, these diseases are genetic in my family. On my moms side, both she
and her sister suffer from the same disorder that their father did (I never met the man, and a part
of me is okay with that, from the way my father describes him). On my dads side, there is a dual
relationship between the alcoholism is father passed on (because addiction and mental illness
love to go hand-in-hand) and the depression that runs through his mothers side (which seems to
have skipped all my uncles on that side, and hit us kids the hardest). While looks up different
articles about the correlation of family and mental illness, I ran across the word caregiver all
the time. A lot of these articles then talked about the burden children faced, because they had to
become the caregivers in the family, and in turn, children who have parents with mental illness,
have a higher risk of developing said illness in life.

What I noticed in my family, is that there seems to be a quiet resentment towards parents
on both sides (and that too, seems to have been passed down to the current generation). I never
hear much about my grandfather on my mothers side, but I do remember a story my mom told
us, about how on her twenty-first birthday, my grandfather took her out ot the bar (because they
shared the same birthday) and then proceeded to tell her about his suicidal thoughts. My dad too,
seems to constantly be dealing with my grandmother, who liked to repeatedly tell all four of her
sons how much she wishes to end her life. And what Ive realized (and whats backed by the
article) is that being a caregiver of a parent with mental illness strains the relationship, and in
doing so, make it nearly impossible to have a tight knit family. All my life, I wondered why we
were never close to our extended family, and it has only been recently that Ive finally connected
the dots.

But there is some good that came out of this mess of genetics, and thats my sister and I.
Times have changed, and though the stigma still is strong to this date, there seems to me a mild
shift in the publics view on mental illness (or at least theres a shift in my family, from the older
generations to us kids). Both my sister and I now know how we will parents our children (though
both of us dont wanted children, my sister simply because she doesnt want kids, and me
because I dont want a child to go through what I did) but we will at least know that we need to
talk to our children about the signs of mental illness.
Overall, this is a heavy topic, and it was extremely hard to dig through decades of
repressed history to discover the root of the problem in my family, but Im happy I did it. I know
I only touched the tip of whatever web of history my family enjoys to keep hidden, but I now
have a greater appreciation toward the resilience my parents, and their parents, and (I assume)
their parents too. We have all survived through years and years of brains that decided to turn on
themselves, and seem to continue to thrive, no matter what the stigmas society has toward mental
illness.

Article:https://www.aacap.org/App_Themes/AACAP/docs/facts_for_families/39_children_of_pa
rents_with_mental_illness.pdf