Mental illness runs in my family, and I don’t mean the kind that people perceive as unintelligence. It’s actually the opposite. They know we’re smart. They just think we’re crazy.
It’s the black cloud that’s been hovering over my head since before I was born. Great Uncle Richard died of schizophrenia in a mental hospital. He was in his forties, but looked seventy-five. Richard was angry at the world, dying alone with the impression that no one would ever be able to understand him. Sometimes I feel like my brain is tearing itself apart like his did.
Grandma died in her fifties from breathing two packs of artificial air a day, polluting and exciting the world with her eccentricity. She never wanted children but received them anyway, sometimes pretending otherwise so things would seem easier. When my mom was sick, Grandma would ditch her to play Bridge with country club buddies. But even despite that, in Grandma’s last days, my mother was the one holding her hand and massaging her cancerous head. In response to my confusion, Mom always said, “She didn’t mean it that way, Alex. Someone damaged her long before anyone hurt me.” It made less sense to me every time.
My neurotic mom currently grows gray hair with worry for my sociopathic sister, my short-tempered brother and my genius-complexed self. My manic-depressive dad lays alone in his cold apartment, texting me when he’s bored with World of Warcraft. Needless to say, excuses for bitterness litter my life, and I didn’t always realize there wasn’t necessarily such thing.
I let my family’s instability get to me initially. My dad’s depression caused him to be abusive, especially to my mom, who was already beaten badly by family history. Every time the yelling started, I scurried off to my room and uselessly slammed to door to her pain. My own hurting multiplied when I shut myself off from anyone else’s, so I learned to grow into the one shoulder my mother could cry on when everyone else’s was wet. Because of this, at nine, I set in stone that I’d become a psychiatrist: that I’d somehow remove the obstacles my family, including myself, continued to stumble over.
My decision proved to be bittersweet. Whether people were using rather than utilizing me wasn’t easy to understand, and still isn’t. My closest childhood friend had multiple personalities, and her instability dominated my life, but I eventually learned the difference between cleansing someone else and letting him or her poison me. Now I advise people every day so I know that anyone around me can have a legitimate friend to vent to, and I’m on the path to a good psychology college. Through all my family’s insanity and my own experiences, I have learned that everyone is ugly and beautiful all the same, regardless of how they became that way. No one in the entire world deserves to be alone: not my father, and not myself. This I believe with everything in me.
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