A long time ago, in a universe far away, I was born into intergenerational trauma. I lived in the dysfunction of this for almost two decades, and then it took me two more to bring myself out of what I like to refer to as “the aftermath.”
If you’re wondering what this aftermath looked like, it was exactly like several mental illness diagnoses: Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Bi Polar Disorder (BPD), Suicidal Depression (SD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
But lucky for me, I don’t believe in psychiatric disorders, unless they are coping mechanisms for those of us who weren’t taught how to navigate life by watching healthy role models. I’ll even take it one step further and say that every single one of my diagnoses represented an effort by me to create capacity in my life, capacity being defined as having the energy, or vitality, to create the stable life that I never got to experience as a child, and to use this stability as a stepping-stone to create the life of my dreams.
Let’s go back to my diagnoses, and use capacity as a guide to go through them one by one.
Major Depressive Disorder: Imagine having so much of your personal energy tied up in the pain of early childhood existence that you barely have any left to navigate your life in real time. This lack of energy manifests as not being able to get out of bed in the morning, to not caring if you feed yourself properly, brush your hair, or take baths. It feels like you have no choice in the matter, because you haven’t figured out how to come into the present moment and be free of this pain.
Bi Polar disorder: Then, when you do come out of any one of your major depressions (which can last anywhere from two weeks to six months), the pendulum swings the other way, and you go into manic phases that initially feel wonderful, then morph into dangerous risk-taking behaviour. Because when you don’t learn healthy boundaries as a child, you are scared of things that don’t exist, and attracted to activities and people that actually do pose a threat.
Suicidal Depression: If you think about it, suicidal depression is simply the opposite of feeling vitally alive. Once again, your energy is depleted by the pain of the past, and there is nothing left with which to live your actual life. Because you see no way out of the pain, the natural conclusion is that your only option is to end your life. Eventually you realize that what you really need to do is end the pain…
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: What could be more fitting for a child from a crazy, out-of-control situation than exerting control over all of the insignificant details of their life? While you couldn’t control the chaos of your early life, you could control what you ate, how you arranged the contents of your room, and how many times you washed your hands in the run of a day. A pretty good feeling for someone whose life is reeling on the edge of disaster at each and every turn.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: You’re anxious because you grew up with a mother who told you that you could catch cancer from touching a cat, or that you could go blind from touching your eyes with unwashed hands. The world is perceived as a scary place and mother’s control is the only thing that can keep you safe. In fairness to her, she got her list of disorders from growing up in the same type of household, which is how these things become inter-generational.
And we haven’t even touched on the drug addiction, criminal behaviour or violent relationships. There’s no need to, because these behaviours are all explained by the myriad diagnoses.
This book is the culmination of what I learned on my healing journey, a journey that brought me from the brink of believing I was insane and wanting to end my life, to the knowledge that my coping mechanisms were a brilliant response to the crazy circumstances I just happened to be born into.
From the forthcoming book, The Vitality Spectrum.