It’s A Family Affair

Sometimes I feel sorry for my kids, particularly the two who aren’t firmly attached to any one significant other right now. Actually, the one I REALLY feel sorry for is the new love interest they bring home to meet a family in which—as my younger daughter so delicately puts it—there are some ‘irregularities’. Actually, what she told her new boyfriend was that her dad’s got cancer, her mom is bipolar, one sibling’s doing well, one brother is doing God-knows-what, and the other brother is married to a fella. Nope, nothing to see here, move along please.

Which reminds me that this Friday marks the two-year anniversary of my diagnosis. During that initial evaluation, the consultant psychiatrist whom I’ve come to call Dr. Awesomesauce asked me a pointed question about whether there might have been any mental illness in my family of origin. Fiercely loyal to a fault even though almost all of them are long gone, I remember denying it, and rather vigorously at that: ours was a GOOD family. We were upstanding citizens who paid our bills and voted Republican. We had no skeletons rattling around in our closets, and if you didn’t believe it, all you had to do was ask us.

It never occurred to me then to think of my relatives with depression and anxiety as “mentally ill”. I didn’t see the family members who popped pills and drank like fish, the grandmother who spent time in what was politely called a sanitarium following a nervous breakdown, or the mother whose moods were every bit as mercurial as my own as “mentally ill”. I also didn’t understand that being MI has nothing to do with social status, or give myself credit for having the courage to become the first in my family to be labeled as such.

Now that I’ve had a couple of years to get used to all this and logged a whole lot of hours on Dr. A’s couch, I can see not only the crazy in the mirror, but the crazy that goes back generations. Better yet, I can forgive it because I know NONE of it is anyone’s fault. We were dealt some bad genes, and some of us didn’t do much to help ourselves when John Barleycorn called our names. But like Maya Angelou said, when we knew better, we did better…, both my sister and I are in therapy and on medication, and while the process slips from time to time, life has improved considerably overall.

I wish the one son who’s got mental health problems would extricate his cranium from his rectal cavity and do something about them, because I spent the better part of fifty years fucking things up so HE wouldn’t have to. But I suppose we all have to learn the hard way, and with the combination of his mule-headedness and his youthful stupidity, he’s got a looooooong hard road ahead. I can’t save him from it; hell, he hasn’t even spoken to me in five months. Even blocked me on Facebook. He knows what I have to say, and he doesn’t want to hear it. End of story.

For now.

In the meantime, this bag of mixed nuts will just have to keep doing the best we can to get through life without encountering too many disasters……or scaring the bejeebus out of the poor girl or guy the kids want to bring home to meet us!


Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

4 thoughts on “It’s A Family Affair

  1. Everyone has their issues. My hubby’s mom is a bladder cancer survivor, his dad reminds me of a CIA investigator and his brother is probably never getting married, despite living and having a house with the same girlfriend he’s had since I started dating DH 5 years ago. I used to be the same way though, about not thinking that anyone else in my family had mental illness. Now I admit that my mom has undiagnosed and untreated anxiety, my dad has anger issues and my brother likely has attachment issues, not to mention the abuse that I heard about that went on in my dad’s house growing up.

    I think everyone is a bit more open about issues and skeletons than before. It’s been that way in my time so I don’t know any different, but I’m sure you’ve seen a transition to being more able to talk about mental illness. 😉


  2. I don’t understand why everyone acts like life is perfect and they have never made a mistake. I think acknowledging our issues can help work through them. You seem to be very relate able and down to earth and I think that comes from your mental illness and your family being diverse in the situations they are in. I don’t really like “perfect” people because there is no depth to them as a person. Some of the most fascinating (and resourceful) people I have met have been through issues in life. So, keep on being you. 🙂

    Your friend,


  3. My parents were in such denial about mental illness that my mother uses it as an excuse to explain she never “noticed” anything was wrong until I was up for 5 nights straight writing bad poetry. “We didn’t know then what you know now.” HELLO! Bizarre behavior is bizarre behavior no matter what generation you’re from.


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