“I’ve Given My Child the Family Illness!” (2)
By: Beth McHugh
In "I've given my Child the Family Illness!" (1) we looked at the role both genes and the environment play in determining whether a mental illness will be expressed in any given individual. Today we will look at how to cope with the guilt that some parents feel when they learn that a son or daughter has inherited a “family illness.”
As previously discussed, it can be a natural reaction to blame yourself for the appearance of depression, anxiety, bipolar or any of the host of mental or physical disorders that have plagued humans for thousands of years. In dealing with grieving parents it is important to look at the situation logically, and to shed light on any false beliefs that the parents may be holding onto that result in false guilt. And believing that you have passed on a genetic illness is false guilt.
I always ask parents: “Did you deliberately pass on the tendency in your child to have depression/bipolar/schizophrenia?” The answer is always: “No”
No, you did not stir the genetic pool at the time of conception and decide “Let’s throw Asperger’s into the mix!” Just the same as you did not, and could not decide that your son would have his father’s blue eyes instead of the mother’s brown ones. You did not decide whether your child had olive skin, black skin, or pale skin prone to freckles and skin cancer. No, what came out at the finale of the birth process had nothing whatsoever to do with any conscious act of yours. So why suddenly take on guilt for doing such a willful act as giving them as illness?
Letting yourself off the hook for something you didn’t ever control in the first place frees you up to devote your time and energy to better things. Like helping your son or daughter get through the rough times ahead and work towards leading a happy and healthy life. Educating yourself and others as to help your sick child is the best gift to give them, since you certainly didn’t give them the illness they are currently suffering. You might as well blame your long dead ancestor, if you follow the same logic. No, best to concentrate on the present and making every day count.