If you read the symptoms of depression: difficulty concentrating, fatigue, insomnia, loss of interest in activities, overeating or appetite loss, feeling of guilt, etc., you would think we were all depressed at some point. I’m a generally happy person but not everyone in my family is wired the same way.
I never knew my Dad. By the time, I was old enough to even think about wanting to meet him, all I was told was his name and that he had died and it was suicide. It turns out, I was the spitting image of him. I liked that I looked like him. It would never replace the sadness of the fact I would never meet him, but I had a piece of him no one else did.
However, with that realization, came with it another sobering thought: would I ever put a shotgun in my mouth and pull the trigger? That’s how he died. He was a police officer, so guns were not an issue for him to find or use. Many officers often have a higher suicide rate and I’m not in that profession. But what if it’s in my genes? He was 36 years old when he decided to end his life. Growing up, a thought would always be in the back of my head wondering if I would live to 36. Would some crazy switch turn on and I would have a hard time wanting to live? Nothing in my life was chaotic. I had two college degrees, great job, kids, marriage, picket fence, reasonably happy. However, could genetics play a role?
Therapists say when it comes to depression and genetics, research suggests patients who suffer from major depression are predisposed to symptoms up to 50%. The other 50% may be triggered by experiences and/or environment. So, to cut through the therapist speak, I have a greater chance of developing depression because of my DNA and the other 50% chance is by my life circumstances. The genes that are passed down from our parents give us our eye and hair color, and they predispose us to specific illnesses that may include cancer, heart disease, diabetes and mental illness. This is the reason medical doctors and mental health practitioners want to know as much about their patient’s medical history as possible. So, it’s not concrete but a history of mental illness in the family could play a role. However, I also believe that we do have choice whether to live or die. Bad things happen to us that we have absolutely no control over but you need to keep moving forward and believe that things will get better. I’ve been lucky to always have that attitude.
Hope is a powerful tool. Now don’t get me wrong, some people truly have a chemical imbalance and medication is the answer. But even that is a choice to recognize you do need help. Thankfully, now in my 40’s, I guess, so far, so good for me. I’ll always believe that life is a gift and I want to live it. Wish my Dad would have felt the same.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, seek medical help:
National Institute of Mental Health
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255