Monthly Archives: July 2015

Does a Family History of Suicide Mean I Have Bad DNA?

My father and my uncle both committed suicide. Other members of my family have been diagnosed with depression. There are times when I wonder whether I’m simply living on borrowed time.

DNA strand

Photo by Svilen Milev

I do still have dark moments when I feel worthless, exhausted, and broken. Sometimes I feel too afraid to deal with life and wish I could let go of the obligation to go on.

I have a husband, two children young children, and we’ve recently adopted two rescue dogs. It’s as though to compensate for my temptations to prematurely exit my life, I’m gathering reinforcements or reasons for me to stay. It’s harder to justify continuing to fight depression for my own sake than for others’.

I am aware that one or both of my children may one day experience what I experience. I suspect the hormone surges of their teenage years may trigger depression in them although my depression didn’t really manifest itself until I was in college.

Will I let my children believe that suicide is written in their DNA? Hell, no! I will teach them coping skills like mindfulness. I will let them know that they will feel depressed sometimes, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. I will remind them that they are never truly alone. People near and far love them and are frequently thinking of them. I will tell them that they MATTER. They bring gifts to the world that no one else can.

I know that I can’t protect my children from everything, but I can keep them surrounded by people who love and cherish them: their cousins, aunts, and uncles, and close family friends.

If the time comes when counseling and/or medication would be helpful, I will get it for them.

I used to think taking an antidepressant was a copout, a way of ignoring your problems. Then I understood it was something I needed in order to clearly see and resolve problems, and especially to recognize when there isn’t a problem, just intense emotions that need to be expressed then let go.

I’m sad that my father and uncle never got treatment. I’m grateful to the many people who helped me find worth in myself and my life, find courage to be open about who I am, not just as someone with depression, but as the real, genuine person that I am, and find companionship, sharing their own struggles and doubts.

My DNA defines that I am right-handed, but I can still write with my left hand. My DNA made me short, but I can stand on a step stool. My DNA may make me experience depression, but I can use healthy coping skills, use my family and friends as a sounding board for my fears and doubts, and live happily, hopefully long enough to witness my children teaching their children that they are not alone and that they MATTER.

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