Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mental Illness

I watched House last night, and was impressed that they tackled the subject of mental illness. They even offered a promo at the end for an organization people could contact if they had questions about mental illness. As a child, I lived with my dad's bipolar disorder, and rode that roller coaster of meds/no meds for many, many years.

His death eight years ago freed me from the fear and stress of what he might do next, but left behind a crater of regret and sadness for how much better his life (and by extension, my life) could've been if he would have stayed consistently on medicine to control what was beyond his control.

As I move up into my late thirties, I experience moments of panic that his mental illness will rise up in me from some latent place where it has been hiding, waiting to strike. I am constantly monitoring my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, as my dad's were manageable for awhile, and then slowly began to take over his life, and I want to stay vigilant to ensure that doesn't happen to me.

I'm not afraid to talk to my doctor about these things, and to medicate what I have to in order to stay available and open to myself and to my family and friends. I have fought long and hard for my own identity, and don't ever want to lose it. So far mental illness hasn't been a concern for me, but watching a dramatization of it last night brought some of my deepest fears to the surface for a little while.

We can't predict what's coming. All we can do is enjoy what we have today, in this moment, and stop to notice the health that we generally take for granted. I am healthy today, physically and in my mind, and I am extremely grateful. I won't waste time worrying about something that may never happen, but I don't want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that these kinds of illnesses aren't hereditary, because they are.

Awareness is the key, and managing fear with a dose of faith that God will take care of me and of those I love. Any other option is too frightening to consider. For today I will appreciate that my mind is under my control, and that is a blessing so huge I must remember to notice it and do what I can with what I have been given.


  1. Mental illness is one of those hush-hush topics, even today. I'm always glad when I see that it is being talked about or portrayed accurately. Mental illness is pretty rampant on one side of my family and so I know exactly what you mean about the fear of it lurking dormant within you. I have that fear too. I also watch for any sign of it in my kids. But I do think that education and just talking openly about it are such powerful things. If more people talked about it, there wouldn't be a stigma about it or a stigma about taking medication to treat it.

    P.S. sorry to hear about your dad.

  2. Thanks, Sharla. I agree that talking openly about these things helps to reduce the panic, and I have some good memories of my dad when he was on his meds, but when he was off of them, things could go downhill in a hurry. Now that he's been gone for so many years, I have more perspective on what it must have been like for him, and more compassion.