Living With Others With Mental Illness

My family has a long history of mental illness.

My dad has depression and may carry genes for other mental illnesses, but we cannot be certain because he was adopted as a toddler and we know nothing about his birth parents. My grandparents on his side, his adoptive parents, both had depression, diagnosed after all their grandchildren had already been born, and my grandfather was diagnosed as bipolar in his early 80s.

My mom’s side definitely carries the gene for depression. My aunt has been diagnosed with depression and my grandmother is often depressed, but I don’t know if she is on medication for it.

When we started telling my family about my diagnoses they always said that I was “too young to be depressed” and this cut me to the core because I was depressed, I had an official diagnosis, and they brushed it off for quite a while. I understand that they grew up in different times. My grandparents were all children during the great depression. People didn’t talk openly about things like that, even less than people do now. It was just something that was never mentioned. My dad and my both my aunts were born at the tail end of the baby boomer years and it is apparent in how they view the world, even to today.

Like me, my sister has mental illness, but she has not been formally diagnosed because she refuses to see a psychologist/psychiatrist and says that even if she went, she wouldn’t take any medications because “they numb who you really are”. For me, I didn’t have the option to fight taking medication when I was diagnosed because my depression and anxiety were really bad. I get so mad at her whenever she says she wouldn’t take medication because I didn’t have a choice.

My mom is my support system and she always has been, which is why I have decided to live at home while attending college. Living at home means that I can turn to my mom whenever my depression gets bad and she will let me talk to her about it and as I got older she let me play a bigger part in my treatment. She knows everything, from which medications I have been on to what seems to cause me to have more off days. She can tell when I am even just slightly depressed and does her best to help me get my mind off of the things that upset me, even if its just by letting me vent to her.

Because I live at home and my sister attends the same college I do, I see my sister, dad , and mom on a regular basis. The thing is, when one of us is down or depressed or just generally having an off day, it takes its toll on everyone. I know that my dad and sister take a toll on me on a nearly daily basis now that it is summer and I am home more. School is my getaway and that is part of the reason I would rather be on campus than at home some days.

My dad gets very passive aggressive when he is depressed and he tends to gripe about my sister. They have a very poor relationship because both of them are headstrong and have to get their way at all times. They have ruined so many events (birthday dinners, vacations, car rides on the way to visit family) because they are exactly the same and they do not know how to act civil around each other. My dad does many annoying things, he thinks he is funny when he is really just driving us crazy. I believe that it is part of his depression, but my sister doesn’t understand that. I have some tolerance for his antics when my depression isn’t that bad, but I also have zero tolerance for it when I am depressed. He doesn’t know when to stop, so we have had our fights too, but nothing near the fights he starts with my sister.

My sister says she understands what being depressed feels like, and I am sure that she would be diagnosed with minor depression if she ever saw a specialist, but she is very inconsiderate when me, my dad, or my mom are depressed. She is more often the cause of my depression than the solution and when I am slightly depressed it seems that she goes out of her way to make me miserable, making my depression worse.

Living with others with mental illness is extremely difficult. I often have the feeling that I need to escape or to get away from them. I have noticed that I write more passionately when I feel the need to escape, either from others or my own mind. Working on this blog had provided me with an escape, even if it is only temporary. I like knowing that what I have to say resonates with others, and I hope you find a way to share your own stories.

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