*I’ve not been blogging much in recent times – honestly, things are going very well, but I’ve been weathering some intense transitions. I’m not sure right now how regularly I’ll be blogging here at my personal blog (who knows, maybe I’ll get wordy all of a sudden) but my blog over at Additude Magazine, “Executive Dysfunction” will definitely be featuring new posts soon, so go check in over there, I’ve got some goodies going up soon.*
Now then, one interesting topic that’s had be captivated recently is my family tree. I’ve become slightly smitten with genealogy. I say slightly smitten, because I haven’t yet committed to an Ancestry.com membership or started multiple files for organizing various family branches, but I’ve been digging around online and digging around in a literal box full of family history.
It’s amazing to see faces and energy that resemble mine so closely, in that box of old photographs. The photos in the box are from between 1880 and about 1950. Four generations of family are represented.
One of the things that has my mind most captivated – is knowing that these are the genes that created my ADHD brain. Over the past several years, I’ve collected a lot of information about mental health issues including ADHD, and I’ve collected a lot of whisps and memories from family members that have told me a lot about the state of our collective and individual mental health over the years.
Once I started looking at these photos…and connecting them to the stories…I was moved to tears. I’ll share more details in future posts, and I have a project that I’ll be working on and possibly documenting a bit here…but for now, I’d like to point out some highlights of this family tree that I blossomed from, in terms of health and mental health issues:
- ADHD confirmed/diagnosed on both sides of my family, and of various subtypes.
- Tourette Syndrome nearly confirmed on both sides of my family.
- OCD confirmed on both sides of my family.
- Oppositional-defiant disorder on one side of my family. Both diagnosed and non-diagnosed but obvious.
- Bipolar disorder highly possible on one side of my family – though these could have also been mistaken diagnoses back in the 1960s and may, in fact, be additional people with ADHD (the older generation on that side has women who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder but the female offspring of those same women were diagnosed in more modern times with ADHD…and bipolar disorder is a common mistaken diagnosis in women with ADHD, both past and present).
- Alcoholism, rampant on both sides of my family.
- One suicide on one side of my family.
- Extremely common drug use and abuse on both sides of my family, including but not limited to marijuana and cocaine (in other words, lots of self-medication).
- Impaired self-care behaviors on both sides of my family.
Gee…I wonder where my ADHD, OCD-ish anxiety disorder, seeming mood disorder, and likely Tourette Syndrome came from? Insert sarcasm here.
I’m not particularly bothered by any of this information, in fact, to the contrary, I’m relieved by it. So many family stories make so much more sense now. So many experiences are so much more understandable and forgivable, in my mind, because there’s a context to explain them. I’m crushed by the fact that previous generations of my family lived through everything that they lived through, by winging it. But I feel empowered by the fact that those of us in current generations? We don’t HAVE to wing it. We have choices. We have options. We don’t have to be jailed by our genetic presdispositions. We can try harder and do better and go further, if we want to, by learning, and at least trying to make a difference in our potential outcomes.
So…yes, I have shed real tears over all of this. But my heart is hopeful and optimistic. We have a future. It is up to us to make it.