Like Father, Unlike Son
(Originally published 21 Oct 2013)
Halloween will be upon us soon so I thought I'd wrote about my biggest fear. Not ghosts or goblins but something that reared its ugly head last week and is infinitely more scary. I saw this article (link here) last week and it chilled me to my aching, ageing bones. The article I've linked to isn't specifically the point of this piece, but just the general thought that mental illness could be hereditary. I don't know how conclusive these kind of claims are. The wonderful thing about the internet is that it will happily point you in the direction of anything that helps you confirm your deepest fears. If you look for it, it'll be there, somewhere. Of course, for every study you find that says 'this', there's another that says 'that' but my brain will always come down on the side of the negative, despite my best efforts to redirect it. So, are you sitting comfortably...then I'll begin.
I have a 5 year old son. He's my world, no question. I guess almost every father will tell you the same thing about their son (or daughter). The best thing about that statement is that we're all right. He's the one thing in my life that I can be truly proud of, something I haven't made a mess of. Naturally I want the best for him and I try every day to make that a reality. Lord knows he'll have enough on his plate trying to avoid inheriting his Dad's less attractive qualities, there's a boatload of those as it is. I've done many things in my life that I'm not proud of (who hasn't I guess) but if I thought I'd have saddled him with another one in the shape of mental illness, I'd be mortified.
I play with him, I help him with his homework and we laugh a lot. He's perfect to me. Still, I sit and think about how, and if, he'll be affected and I really struggle to quantify it. How can what I have be hereditary? It doesn't make sense to me but maybe I'm just not clever enough. The one saving grace I have is that, when I trace back to the source of my mental health issues, he was already here. Just. Maybe that fortuitous piece of timing might be the best gift I could have given him. I guess all we can do, as parents, is raise him to be a respectful, honest, well-balanced, open-minded, decent human being. If he suffers with some form of mental illness in the future like 1 in 4 people do, I'll help him through it naturally and I'll love him regardless.
I know I'm being hard on myself, I've become very good at that recently. I linger on the negative, which is something I never used to do. My wife commented today that I see the glass as 'half empty', when it used to be the exact opposite. I'm trying to get back to that positive attitude. Somedays it's easy, others...not so much. For my son's sake I try looking forward. His best days are ahead of him and I hope we can all say that. Less the 'good old days', more the 'better new days'. Let the son shine.