my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?

9.15.2005

Your Inheritance

A friend and I were shopping at Pacific Place in Seattle, which houses a theatre in its mega-consumerist confines.

A theatre line snaked all the way around the concourse and I asked one of the people what they were waiting for: "Proof," she replied.

A movie newly released and starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins (no, I don't want to talk about the stars or even much about the plot), the movie deals with madness, particularly madness transmitted from parent to child.

The genetic nature of mental illness is a topic I can't approach scientifically -- just emotionally.

I don't know whether it is typical to look at one's parents' behavior -- cooly dissected away from one's love for those parents -- and think, "That's crazy." And, "I wonder if I act like that."

I don't know whether other people have done that, but I have.

Both my parents have passed away and therefore are reading this from an elevated view ... I'm sure a painting will soon come crashing off the wall, symptom of displeasure from one or both after they read this ...

but in hindsight, I'm sure I am the product of a depressive and a mild bipolar. Should I be ashamed? Afraid?

I'm neither. At this point in my life, I see their lives as cautionary tales. But then, I'm fortunate. I've read extensively about maladies that may or may not have been passed to me genetically, I've worked with one of the best practitioners of "the talking cure," I live in a time when psychotropic drugs -- admittedly not the panacea one would hope for -- are available to mitigate the worst symptoms of what may or may not have been inherited.

But still.

In one blogpost I spoke of "being in the dark room," the quality of being oblivious to one's behavior and its effect on others.

If the foreknowledge and forewarning of genetically transmitted illness can at all be seen as a gift, it is that you have an opportunity to shed scales from your eyes in a way that our parents couldn't dream of.

If you choose, you can use this information to exit the dark room.

Intellectual knowledge of what may be components of your "self," your personality, isn't the gift. The gift is using what you think may have been given -- to gain insight about who you really are.

This is a labyrinthine topic ... with all sorts of implications. There are ways in which knowledge of genetic predisposition can be absolutely devastating. Genetic information can truly be seen as the Tree of Knowledge against which Adam and Eve were warned.

And please understand that I am commenting mildly and in a fairly superficial manner about this.

It's that "may or may not have been" that's the sticking point. Who knows, really, what is your very own -- what does "your very own" mean? -- and what is genetic? And what does it matter, except to ineffectually assign blame for what now seem to be inescapable outcomes?


This is all so ambiguous still, and we may come to see this ambiguity as a golden era. In most cases, knowledge certainly isn't yet at the stage of being "proof." And when the proof is painful, who wants to know for certain?

Today's fragrance: "Truffle accord," hm. Well, there is a rich fermented scent to the first sniff of Une Rose, Edouard Fl├ęchier's creation for Frederic Malle. But that could also be the "wine dregs" stated in the fragrance notes, which also include Turkish rose absolute and geranium. It's a complicated mix deserving the "heady" label. There's a fecundity to this perfume, a fertility. No girliness here. A serious rose scent that demands respect. It's beautiful but requires thought. That's ok. I'd like to be perceived that way.

10 Comments:

Blogger surly girl said...

a thought-provoking post. and onewhich scares the life out of me - i am the product of two alcoholic parents, one of whom is also depressive. i'm firmly in the "lalala i'm not listening" camp, which may yet prove to be my downfall.

i wish i sometimes blogged about proper things. *sighs and goes back to composing post about alarm clocks*

12:12 PM

 
Blogger Blush said...

how very existential. i have thought much the same things before. now i choose not to think of it at all...

1:56 PM

 
Anonymous janey said...

I actually think about this alot - more so lately as my mother ages. I look at their lives as cautionary tales - examples of how not to be. I know I think too much about things, about my childhood and family life. After a lifetime of this I realize part of my anger toward them is the knowledge that I seem them in me and don't like it one bit. I think the dark room you refer to is lack of self awareness, lack of empathy. Fortunately for me, being rather ignored as a child forced me to look elsewhere for connections and I found a way out of that dark room. You can't help being like your parents. But there are choices you make in life and self awareness helps you make them.

And I've said this before but one of the many reasons I like (love) your blog is that your posts are so thought provoking. I write personal things here that I would never write on my own blog. Maybe it's more anonymous here, who knows. It just feels comfortable.

4:36 PM

 
Blogger Tan Lucy Pez said...

Food for thought for sure.

Whatever our parents may or may not have been, or whatever illnesses they may have had, at some point just doesn't matter.

If they had a genetic flaw which they passed to us, well, they couldn't help it, could they?

5:34 PM

 
Blogger AP3 said...

You certainly shouldn't be ashamed! And from what I've read, if you haven't exhibited signs of these mental illnesses yet, chances are you're in pretty good shape.

6:48 PM

 
Blogger still life said...

Yes I do agree that children are usually kept in the dark from their parents emotional and physical behaviors.
As we get older we are able to identify these traits and focus on ones that we can prevent from repeating in our adult lives, such as alcoholism, abusive behaviors.
But mental diseases do not seem like something that we can be proactive in treating. I would think that a person would have to somewhat wait and see whether they inherited those genes. And I feel that if too much focus is put on "what might be" we could subconsciously adapt the behaviors.

10:42 PM

 
Blogger Urban Chick said...

i've always hated the idea that we are slaves to our own biology and that change/breaking a cycle is not always or at least usually a possibility

i'm pretty poor when it comes to science, but i have it in my mind that the human genome project's findings revealed far fewer genes that might determine future illness/behaviour etc. than scientists might initially have supposed (i.e. more of a swing to the nurture side of the argument) - something i found very hopeful and reassuring

UC
x

5:01 AM

 
Anonymous Lulu said...

I am only just beginning to discover the traits in me that are like my parents. It began after my father died last year; before that, he was changing too, so there somehow wasn't a complete picture to look at. But I notice and compare all the bad things, not the good things. Why are the good traits somehow invisible to me? Even if I think really hard, I cannot list them.

I don't know quite where I stand on the nature/nurture spectrum. Like Urban Chick, I would definitely prefer to think we had more control and that biology is not inescapable. But with actual mental disorders, I think it's expecting a bit too much of us to think we can gain control over them by prior knowledge and sheer force of will. We can notice mild symptoms earlier, maybe, and we might recognise for example the devastating results of not getting appropriate treatment and so make a different decision. That's probably all we can do.

6:53 AM

 
Blogger Kyahgirl said...

Hmmm, yes, I wonder about this too.
When my Dad became more progressively more ill in his later years, his 'moods' which we had all learned to watch for, became more pronounced. After on particularly harrowing stint in hospital, he slippped fully into manic depressive behavior. Quite severe actually.
It made me wonder if he hadn't been a bit bipolar all along and we just hadn't noticed. The medical people say that the frontal lobes, where judgement and reason reside, are the first to start deterioriating in the elderly. How much of it was caused by his age, trauma, existing condition? I don't know. I just know I see a lot of that behaviour in a couple of my sibs. And, as you know, I frequently have a hormone induced trip to hell.
Its very complex M.
Its good to talk about it though. The lesson I learned when I suffered severe post partum depression was about the stigma of depression and had a hard time coming to terms with it. Even now, in my foolish openness, when I tell people that I suffer depression, and, in fact, would fall into the suicide zone with every menstrual cycle (if not for drugs), they look at me odd. It can't be true.
I know for a fact that I'm a rock solid, very mentally healthy person and I think on some level people realize that too but they can't bring the two together, a person who is mentally healthy yet suffers depression. We have so many preconcieved notions in our culture. They hurt those who are suffering very deeply.

But,humans really are amazingly resilient. The power of our will to be healthy is mind boggling.
Have you watched "Shine" yet M? Its a great example of this.

Well, sorry to blither on so. Must dash. See you tomorrow :-)

(Yay)

11:58 AM

 
Blogger Kyahgirl said...

please ignore my typos, I really must learn to proofread before posting!

12:00 PM

 

Post a Comment

<< Home