Nature vs Nurture?
Who is the culprit?
What do you think?
Of course there are books, articles, and those who study mental illness telling you what they believe, and why they’re correct. There have been studies. Psychiatrists and Psychologists will give you their opinions of what causes all the mental health crappy-crap-crappiness. And then there are those of us who have, and are, living with it.
I’m one of those super-lucky souls! So, I’m gonna share my thoughts, random as they might be, and disjointed. Perhaps some babbling. And you know what, I guess that describes me as a whole.
Nurture at Dad’s House –
This is how I remember it in addition to things told to me, but a lot of this, I confess, could be wrong. Bipolar episodes kill grey matter, and jmedication can cause you to lose tons of memories. Sometimes, I speak of the “Lost Years,” and I mean it. I haven’t one clue of what went on, good or bad, and not knowing anything of my son in those important years
My mom and dad divorced when I was two-years-old, and my dad immediately began his new life with my stepmother, twice over, and my stepsister, who was one year younger than me. I say twice over, because my dad and stepmother divorced, but then later decided to remarry. That had to be a nice punch to my mother’s stomach, now that I think of it. I’ve never even considered that. Not only left for another woman once, but then again later my dad choosing the same woman again over her and his original family. What a slap in the face!
Now, let me explain something. People tell me that my dad didn’t really leave me. They’re usually comparing my dad seeing me every other weekend and several weeks in the summer to a dad that leaves and never visits their child again.
Psssst, let me tell you the truth, or at least my truth. My dad left my mother and myself. Period.
Now, yeah, I saw him often, but every single time my stepmother and stepsister always pounded down my throat: “We are family. I am your sister.” Blah, blah. I sometimes wonder if they would have just let me sort it myself, instead of making me despise the situation just because the real truth being, my stepmother didn’t want to feel guilty. *She didn’t in any way help break up my home.* Standard line she used. No interference or pain caused. Nah.
I did have a good relationship with my dad despite all of that. In a way, I felt we were “made” the same way. Don’t know if that makes sense. There was definitely a strong bond, which in turn, made the whole thing even more complicated and confusing.
He died when I was 15 years old, my little sister having just turned 4. That’s when I last saw him, at her birthday party, with him sad that I was going home to my mom’s house and life and friends, only 1 1/2 hours away. I gave him a half hug and said I’d be back next weekend, probably. He died on a Tuesday, playing baseball. Heart attack. I’m glad he was playing ball, though. I know he loved it. He and I were always playing catch or football. He also taught me how to play Spades and helped build self-confidence and self-esteem. We sat on porch benches and swings. Once, my little sister was out there, toddling along but not totally steady. We just watched her. My step-people were in the house, and my dad looked at me and said, “I’m not gonna screw this one up,” motioning to the unsteady little toddler she was. I smiled and was genuinely happy for her. Little did he know a countdown had begun losing days, hours, and minutes. About a year after he spoke those words, he was dead. And I think she has very few memories left of him. She and I have drifted apart over the years and are just now trying to reconnect me, age 40, and she at 28.
Nuture at Mom’s House –
This story is easier to tell, though much more horrendous.
Step 1. My father leaves us, and my mother shuts down. You can see in my baby book, the first two years were filled with photos of me playing, notes about first tooth coming in, all that nice stuff. Then, everything shut down.
Step 2. Married badly two more times. First husband was okay towards me, but again, that is as I remember it. However, he cheated on my mom, and the whole town knew it. Tiny town back then. So, what happens? What is the most logical move? She accepts a job from my then (ex) stepmother, and we all four live together! As in (ex) stepmother, stepsister, my mother and myself. I know. It defies any and every thing logical. What fun! It was ever-so thrilling when my dad came round knocking, there to pick up my stepsister and myself for our regularly scheduled visits. Years later he would tell me that was awkward for him. Yeah, and it was a cake walk for my step sister and me. Really? I mean, seriously. Really?
Anyway, later down the road about a year, according to my mother, my stepmother betrayed her at work…I honestly haven’t a clue. So, that new friendship tanked once again. Oh, did I forget to say she and my mom were friends when Dad decided to take a different route in life. (Does that in any way make it sound better?) Then, somehow…swoosh we moved from the Dallas, TX area to the Austin, TX area, four or so hours from my dad. I wanted to live with my dad, keeping in mind he was currently still divorced from the stepmother. My dad wanted me to live with him. My mother said to him, and I know this for a fact because I heard it, “I couldn’t imagine moving and me not having her with me,” said the mother who would disappear to her room, while I took the abuse. Really? Not everything is about… oh well, never mind.
I could’ve had some time with my dad I’ll never be able to reclaim.
And the most infuriating part is that by this point, she had married stepfather #3.
Step 3. Marry another abusive man. In secret. Don’t tell me because I had told my mom, at the age of eight years old, that there was something bad about the man and that I didn’t want to be near him. Later, she told me they married in secret, waiting to tell me until he and I became closer. FFS.
Joe began with verbal abuse, leaked over to emotional abuse, and occasionally dipped in the physical abuse pool, complete with guns and Vodka. Lithium, here and there, to help level out his moods, help *him* feel better, help *him* heal.
You cannot medicate and eradicate evil, ladies and gentlemen. You just can’t.
Now, I’m allowed to use his name because he is dead. Bottom line here is my stepfather wouldn’t allow my mother and I to interact with one another. I’m dead serious. Once, I needed to go shopping for beginning of the year school supplies, and next thing I know, drinking glasses are being thrown, and he states he will take me. She was not allowed to take me shopping. I also remember once when I was grounded for something, and shutting my bedroom door, that a draft caught the door and made it sound like I slammed it. I remember Joe coming at me, fury in his eyes, unbuckling his belt to let it fly. I was grabbed up by the arm and whipped. I remember looking toward the living room area and seeing my mom, her eyes reflecting what mine must have looked like.
Except, she watched for a moment and turned and walked away, as he slammed the door shut. I don’t even remember the “spanking” after that. I just remember her eyes, and her utter and complete betrayal.
That sums up until age 17, when I had my own job and car, and I got the hell out of there. Oh, there are plenty more yucky stories that I’ll get into another time, including the abusive and toxic relationship with my ex-husband and father of my son. I’ve already run way too long in this entry, and I already have to edit a lot of stuff.
Nature – Simple enough.
Mother’s side, no blood-related mental health issues. Just a bunch of poorly made choices. Bad decisions.
Dad’s side, well, he’s deceased and I can’t very well ask him, “Hey, do you think you have a mental mess-up of any sort? Now, his sister tells me she believes that my dad and their mother were Bipolar. With my limited memory, I can see that. It wouldn’t shock me. But again, there are few memories. That same aunt, by the way, is Bipolar, and she’s had medical training, so maybe she could have been right about my dad and grandmother. Same aunt has frequented many behavioral health clinics, which I lovingly refer to as “nut-huts.” I can say that, you see, because I’ve been to a few myself.
So, you tell me. You think I’m a product of Nature? A product of Nurture? Or a Combo?
You wanna know what I think? I think dormant Bipolar genes and the “nurture” that was my ridiculous and abusive existence, conspired to kick my ass. And kick my ass, they did.
So, here I am, Bipolar. And now that I’m deep down in it, I find it doesn’t matter so much anymore.
I am what I am.