From: Milwaukee, WI
Life history with mental illness and genetic pre-dispositions
My whole life I’ve been impacted by the effects of mental illness, and have been faced with difficult decisions and memories that I don’t always wish to remember. Through my 21 years of life I’ve learned that alcoholism and addiction is genetic, and have been an active listener and participant in Al-anon meetings for the last 3 months to learn healthy ways to cope with my family members who struggle with this very disease. My family, and extended family deals with alcoholism and drug abuse. My grandmother on my mothers side experienced severe depression as a young girl who lost her father in World War 2, and went on to marry my grandfather, and have 5 children. While my mother was growing up, she experienced my grandmother heavily drinking and without her knowledge abusing prescription drugs. One thing I hold very close to my heart is that my grandmother told my mother at a young adult age, “The one thing we can do to stop it, is not take a sip of alcohol, we can’t control what we’ve been given, but there are ways to stop it.”
Fast forward 10 years, my mother married my dad, and had 3 children (including myself). Similarly to what my mother saw in my grandmother, she would drink when life got too stressful, and would drink to get away. Now as I’m experiencing stressful periods in my own life, I understand the idea of “escaping reality” for a few hours to feel more relaxed, but also continue to understand the danger in doing so. While growing up as a teenager, my mother and father didn’t have the strongest marriage, and witnessed some physical fights that led to the police being called when they were both actively drinking. I continue to deal with the trauma that resulted from the alcoholism that consumed both my mother and father. It took my mother being arrested 2 times to admit that she was an alcoholic, and is now an active member of AA, and shortly after my father followed my mother’s footsteps into AA. My mother and I relationship changed immensely after she was sober, and still continues to grow.
To the current day, both of my sisters have struggle with severe depression, and have had multiple suicide attempts. I’m actively going to Al-anon to help understand and deal with my younger sister who has a severe eating disorder and a history of prescription drug abuse. As you know now, I’ve seen my fair share of alcoholism and drug abuse, and sometimes feel that I’m stuck in this bubble of seeing all of these things happen, and wondering if it will ever happen to me. Which is when, what my grandmother said becomes relevant, I often find myself repeating “we can’t choose what we’ve been given, but there are ways to stop it.” This September I turned 21, and have lost friends due to my sobriety, and in some ways I feel alone and that no one understands or respects my decision, unless I tell them the reasons.
My own personal experience with alcohol was when I was in High School, and felt the pressure to fit in, even though my personality was modest and shy. I often felt that in order to fit in, I had to drink to bring out my personality. After two experiences drinking alcohol, I knew that the reasons why I was drinking weren’t healthy or safe. The last time I consumed alcohol was in 2017, and it was my last time consuming alcohol. Since then, I have experienced moderate depression, and have since been put on medication that improves my daily activities and choices. I’m actively aware that if I was still consuming alcohol, my decisions on how to help my depression could be altered, and maybe even worsened. As I’m going through life I’m slowly beginning to understand why my grandmother, mother, father, and sisters have abused alcohol or drugs, but know that I can stop or prevent a problem from arising by staying sober.
Through my history with these issues, I’m on my way to receive my bachelor’s in sociology, with plans to get my masters in psychotherapy. I have interest in working with women that struggle with society’s expectations of them, and/or adolescent trauma patients. I believe with my experience dealing with my own mental health issues, and seeing my loved ones deal with addiction and mental illnesses, I will be a better psychotherapist for my patients!