Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 5 & 6

Do you believe mental illness is due to nature (biology/physiology) or nurture (environment)? Do you have a history of mental illness in your family?

This is one of the questions I often fervently argue about with people. Many believe it is your environment you grew up in that made some major personality change in you and hence you have a distorted perception of the world. On the other end are those who believe that it is purely biological and physiological; genetic and chemical abnormalities along with structural abnormalities in your brain. Science has obviously already proved the latter. What has also been said according to the literature is that it’s 40% environmental and 60% physiological. I believe both have a role in it. In my early childhood I had constant major stressors and trauma at home. Since age 5 up until 18 none of it ended. What has been talked about is that genetically, you have a predisposition/risk of developing depression which you were born with and should environmental factors cause enough triggers and your threshold is crossed, certain genes “switch on,”to put it simply, and you start having manifestations of depression. I was in a constant state of anxiety due to the childhood traumas and I remember clearly how, right before I had my manifestation of depression start, I was in a period of severe stress 3 months priorly. I had always had the risk genetically as I have a strong family history of depression and so my risk of developing it was higher and the environmental factors contributed. There are people out there who suffer from mental illness but have never had any previous traumas or circumstances out of the ordinary suggesting it was the trigger to its development. So all things considered, it is quite clear that both have an effect. But what I think is absolutely certain is that it isn’t JUST environmental. Chronic illness is due to structural and physiological abnormalities. If those develop, there is therefore a genetic cause linked to it.

As I said, I do have a strong family history of depression although mine is the most severe. My grandpa had anxiety and depression. I knew him until age 12 and that is about all I really remembered about him. He always seemed to worry or appeared down. My dad also had a mild bout of depression when he was younger and for a while he took one antidepressant but then it got better and he never had any manifestations again. Which is I guess why he doesn’t fully understand the severity of my severe depression and extensive treatment. My mother passed away 6 years ago and when I think about her behavior throughout my life I recall she was constantly crying and had extremely heightened emotions. There was also one incident when I was 12 that she tried to commit suicide. I attributed that to the fact of all that she was going through in life but I now realise parts of it very much seems to fit the picture. Lastly, my brother has schizophrenia, but the cause was 10 years of constant substance abuse. 

What would you tell your younger self the first time these symptoms arose if you could say anything?

I’d tell her to be brave. Be the bravest you can muster yourself up to be and do it relentlessly no matter how scared you get or how much it hurts. Honestly, the amount of courage and crawling I have needed to get to where I am today feels like an unfathomable mountain. So being brave is all that got me through it. I would also tell her she’ll cry a lot, her chest will cave in what feels like a hundred times and there will be too many days where her greatest prayer is for God to take her and that even though all those things feel like it defines an end and that it’s too late now, it isn’t. It will never be. She’ll hit an absolute hard, cold rock bottom and she’ll become familiar with each and every corner of what that pit feels like because she can’t see, she can only feel, and then some day she’ll notice a tiny crack in the walls where sunlight just barely streaks through and that’s when she has to be unstoppable in slamming that wall down. Little by little the opening may grow and she’ll get so damn tired of trying to beat it down that she just stops beating it for a while, but she’ll get back up. It’ll take as long as it takes, but it’ll be there and it’ll be a chance and she has to take it. Lastly, I would tell her that life isn’t going to turn out how she hoped, but it’s still going to be beautiful in a way she never knew she could see. 


2 thoughts on “Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 5 & 6

  1. I agree fully with your discussion of causes, and the interaction of biology and environment being the key, not an either-or. It seems that the more we learn of the genetic factors of predisposition and gene expression, the more complicated and intricate the picture gets. I think your dad sound much like mine, although mine was never diagnosed as depressed, there was that flavor about him and I remember some very depression sounding statements he made, and a similar kind of emotional distance and a “just pull your socks up and get on with what needs doing” sort of attitude. And, perhaps also, my mom being in a way the “emotional voice” of them as a couple.

    Your advice to your younger self is wonderful and applicable to anyone, but especially anyone with any chronic illness.

    Liked by 1 person

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