Today, I sit and wonder how it all got to be this way, how did I end up with this long-lasting battle with depression? Often, it does us little good to think too hard on the how and why, rather it serves us better to focus on “what do I do now?” It feels impossible not to ponder the rest of the story at times. It can creep into our lives or it can launch a sneak attack; no matter how it strikes it can be really confusing and difficult to determine the cause of depression.
Understanding My Depression Roots: Genetics and Depression
At the beginning of my journey with depression and ever since, I have been repeatedly asked by doctors, therapists and clinicians, “Does depression or mental illness run in your family?” Now, as I learn more and more about mental health, I wonder how can it not run in a person’s family? If mental health issues affect 1 in 4 as research has shown, then we are all bound to have family members who have lived with, confronted or battled a mental health issue of some kind.
Admittedly, my family tree is pretty well covered with mental health maladies. The history goes back to a great great grandfather who I recall may have taken his own life and also to my maternal grandfather who did die by suicide when I was in college. I have aunts who have dealt with mental health issues, cousins and relatives of closer proximity as well. It’s apparent that it is real and quite possibly “in my blood”.
I suppose the genetic component helps me to release a good portion of the guilt that comes with living with depression. The feeling that can latch on, that I am somehow responsible for this, that if I only tried harder or worked harder at this or that I would be free from the depression and other related illnesses. Knowing that it truly could have a very large genetic component helps to know that some of this is out of my control.
The Role of Environment in My Depression
On the other hand, I have to look at the traumas and stresses that occurred in my childhood. My parents divorced when I was about 6 years old and from the age of 7 until the age of 14, my mom was married to a very abusive man. The domestic violence in our home that I was repeatedly exposed to left it’s impression on me. Later, in my teenage years, with poor coping skills in hand, I experienced additional trauma. It’s obvious that these environmental factors play a role in the causation of my personal battle with depression.
Depression’s Muddy Waters
This isn’t a new concept nor is this rocket science when discussing the role of environment and genetics in depression. Then again, maybe it is when I really start to try to filter out what the actual causes are of my mental health concerns. Perhaps it will always be muddy water. That’s where science has left it as of now, clear as mud. There is great evidence that the genetic factor in depression plays a big role. Studies confirm this and yet, there is no way to deny the impact of our environment.
I contemplate now if it makes a difference whether I know the etiology of my own personal dealings with depression or am I simply better off to accept it all and continue to move forward, regardless of the cause? How about you? Do you feel a strong urge to understand “why?” Or does it matter most to you how you go from here?