I think it’s totally normal to wonder why?
What causes mental illness? Could we have done something to prevent it? Or is it simply genetic predisposition and completely out of our hands?
Is it reversible? What role does diet, exercise, sleep, toxins and a multitude of other factors play?
Back in 2007 my son got sick. Not the stuck in bed kind of sick, but the no energy I just don’t feel well kind of sick. He would make complaints like “I used to be one of the fastest runners in P.E. but now I can’t run fast”. It went on for several weeks, maybe longer. There was nothing majorly wrong but he just seemed off. I took him to the doctor and they did a few test which all came back negative. I asked that they run some blood work to check for mono. The results came back that he had in fact had mono but it was in the past and what he currently had was an untreated strep infection. A shot of bicillin and we were told he would be better soon. It wasn’t over night but within a couple months he improved. Follow up visits showed no signs of problems with his heart and things seemed to have returned to normal.
But I’m left to wonder was strep the trigger that started us down the road to mental illness? It’s not something I’ll likely ever find out in this life but there are plenty of studies out there linking strep infections to OCD and the onset of mental illness. In my mind it is a strong possibility that it at least contributed to my son’s struggles.
What about genetic predisposition? What role does it play? One question we’ve been asked repeatedly is what kinds of mental health issues run in the family.
Mental illness is something new to me. Not having personally struggled with it I’ve felt baffled many times by what is going on around me. By nature I do have an obsessive personality. Nothing I consider to be abnormal but I am a very all or nothing kind of person. Through the years I’ve put my obsessive tendencies to good use by focusing on hobbies and interests ranging from scrapbooking to diet & exercise, volunteering, reading and blogging to various other things that hold my interest. I jump into things with both feet and give everything I have to the projects I am working on.
Here is one example. When I was a new mom I joined a family home evening group. There were about a dozen moms and every couple of month we each picked a topic and created 12 identical family home evening lessons. Then we got together and shared what we had created and we each went home with a dozen prepared lessons. I did this several times and then continued to create packets until I had over 100 of them. Awesome except for the fact that I didn’t use them very often. I had fun creating them but there were only a handful of them that I ever used. Obsessive – yes, but unhealthy – I don’t really think so. It was something I enjoyed doing in my free time as a stay at home mom. Ultimately all but a few of those packets made their way to the D.I. where I hope someone else was able to enjoy what I had created. Various other hobbies and interests have filled my time as the years have gone by.
My husband’s side of the family has some mild mental health issues, mainly anxiety, but nothing like what my son is dealing with. So if you take my obsessive nature and cross it with the anxiety issues my husband’s genes bring to the pool do you get what my son is suffering from?
There are a whole range of other factors that can play a role in developing mental illness… everything from diet, environmental toxins, immunizations, trauma, prenatal factors and who knows what else.
Reality is I will likely never know exactly what triggered or caused the mental illness and that’s ok. We’ve been given a challenge to deal with and we’ll deal with it the best we can. I’ve spent plenty of time researching treatments, medications and natural alternatives in the quest to help him. So far despite trying multiple medications, therapy and various natural treatments we haven’t found a solution that has worked long term. I know there is an answer out there and that someday we’ll find it. A solution that will one day help him be able to function and live a productive life, not one ruled by obsessions and compulsions.
In the mean time I’ve adopted the following motto “Come What May, and Love It!“