Are People Born With Mental Illness?

Sometimes, I wonder about how I was as an infant.  I know that I cried and threw tantrums constantly… I was not an easy child.  Even when I was born, I kicked the doctor in the groin.  He remarked to my mother,

“She’s a very strong baby.”

On the changing table, I kicked a lot.  My mother thought I would be a soccer player.

I certainly had a lot of physical energy, but my first memories really are of me being… afraid to move?  Simply trauma in my home, and fear of my father and his tirades.  Safety was found by running into a corner and curling into a ball until the storm passed.

But then I threw tantrums.  And I cried.  Even as a toddler.  I’d get on the floor and cry for a half-hour straight.  I’d do it at the park.  Or at the toy store.  Always, I was addicted to the fun, and I couldn’t be torn away.

I look back at my childhood, from this time and also later on, and I am frustrated with myself.  I scraped by with doing my homework as late as possible, and with larger projects my mother usually helped me a bit too much.  I rather wanted to watch tons of TV shows, and play video games.  Again, the addiction to fun.

Why did I want so much fun in my life?  I suppose… it was a way for me to escape my home life.  My dad was mean, and my mother was frazzled.  To interact with them, meant that I became burdened with problems far beyond my ability to comprehend.  So I avoided them by distracting myself with fun.

Although… I couldn’t do this forever.  As I got older, I got smarter.  As children do.

I wish I had been a better behaved child.  I wish I could have learned how to do my homework by myself.  I wish I would have been able to be more mature and self-sufficient at an earlier age.  Truly, I could only start working full-time last winter.  I’m thirty now.

But as I look back, I also realize something quite stark: This evidence of non-compliant behavior in toddlerhood, can indicate that I had mental grief even at this tender age.  Certainly, I remember the cloud of sadness in my heart back then too.  But for a long time, I didn’t even realize that this sadness was depression.  I thought it was just me, because I had always had it.

I think this is more common than we think.  The notion that one develops mental illness, or a behavioral abnormality in later life is prevalent… but then, what do we make of Grandma here or Uncle there who has a chronically dysfunctional personality?  Maybe Grandma has always complained of a weak disposition ever since she had a fainting spell as a child.  Or maybe Uncle has always defiantly accused everyone of bossing him around, telling him what to do.  Were these people ever “happy?”  Or “normal?”

I am not trying to paint people as paragons of mental sickness.  I do want to challenge the idea though, that mental illness is always something that develops in later years.  I think some people are born with a disadvantage.  Some people are born with rose-colored lenses plastered on their eyes, as I was.


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