This was a tough one for me to write. Mainly because it is an ongoing thing that is undeniable in nature. It is something that various other family members have been very much against discussing until recently, when a new development occurred with Three. In the interest of my own mental health in dealing with a still unknown situation, I won’t go into too much detail as of yet except to say here I will be outlining a few things about Mental Health, Addiction and Genetics.
All of these things have been somewhere in my peripheral vision since I started this family journey. For good reason. Three Four and Five all have the same biological mother. (I have referred to her as “Mommy Dearest” or “Baby Mama” previously. In the interest of efficiency, I will refer to her as “MD” here). MD has, at various court ordered psychological evaluations (as part of her sentences for various crimes) been diagnosed with various mental disorders. Including, but not limited to, bipolar disorder, depression, and various personality disorders. At least, so we were told by her family members that do speak to us. Anything is possible. The problem is, we don’t know for sure. And quite frankly, no one ever will. She has been an addict since age 15, she is now 38 years old. After more than 2 decades of abuse to her system, with nearly every possible kind of drug, and 2 overdoses later, there is just no way to tell what is mental illness and what is a result of the addiction.
The bottom line is, I have done my fair share of research into mental illness and addiction. I was voluntarily becoming a mother of 3 children without my DNA, I needed to know the risk, the level of the monumental responsibility I was willingly entering into. So here is what, after 5 years of hours and hours of the internet, I know.
Mental illness affects as many as one in five Americans over their lifetimes, irrespective of age, gender, or race. Four percent of the Nation’s population lives with severe mental illnesses. Children of people with mental illness would be as much as eight times more likely than the average person to develop mental illness.
I have to face the fact that no one can tell me whether one of my kids would be healthy or ill until it happens, or it doesn’t. Researchers may differ on their estimates of the amount that genes and the environment each contribute to the onset of mental disorders. Three, Four and Five, at least from my perspective, have a “leg up” as far as environment goes, so maybe that makes a big enough difference for them to escape, or maybe its just not enough.
Investigators have had trouble discriminating specific forms of mental disorders, such as distinguishing someone experiencing depression as part of a depressive disorder from someone experiencing depression as part of bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive disorder).
To complicate matters, as I mentioned above, MD is what I refer to as a “lifer” addict. She has been known to “doctor shop”, getting multiple prescriptions for various narcotic painkillers, commonly known as “benzos, or oxys” etc. According to researchers, by far the most common issue connecting mental illness and substance abuse is the intention of patients to medicate the mental health symptoms that they find disruptive or uncomfortable by using alcohol and drugs.
So lets just say, IF she had never began using drugs, if she had gotten diagnosed or gotten some help earlier in life, would she still be mentally ill? Would her mental illness be manageable, or even mildly noticeable? Who’s to say. But this is where we are. So now, we have a biological child of MD who is currently the age she was when she started using drugs.
At the end of the day, this is what I know as far as nature or nurture is concerned – nurture can win, but there is no denying nature. Make no mistake, you cannot fight DNA. The sooner you accept that, the better off everyone will be. If you don’t do the best you can to be prepared, the fight is lost before it begins, and the outcome will be bad. For everyone.