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When I look at my family I can see the cause of my bipolar. My maternal grandmother has more diagnoses than I have fingers, bipolar among them. She can’t work, refuses to take medication and lives in filth. Four of her five siblings are so incapacitated by mental illnesses that they shouldn’t be living alone. Her sister is currently in the state mental institution for violently assaulting another woman on the street while in a manic state exaggerated by a cocaine high.

Some people say that mental illness is less about genetic predisposition and more about environment. I call bullshit on that right now: You can’t tell me that genes have nothing to do with it when five of the six children born to my great-grandparents have severe mental illnesses, while one who lived in the exact same environment and family turned out well adjusted and happy. It turns out that my great-grandfather’s parents were first cousins and the generation-skipping manifestation of mental illness is too much of a steady pattern from that point to be a coincidence. Autoimmune diseases also run in my mom’s family, as seen by our tendency to have thyroid issues, rheumatoid arthritis, and female reproductive tumors and growths.

I refuse to pass these traits onto the next generation. I consider myself a personal eugenicist; I recognize how much genetics can affect the next generation of humans and I don’t think my genes are worthy of the privilege to be carried on. I don’t expect other people to feel the same way, but I wish that people would be more aware of their genetic profiles before they decide to have children. My mom knew that there was a high likelihood that my brother or I would end up with these physical or mental illnesses but she chose to have children anyway, damn the consequences on our lives. Although I understand that plenty of people live with these disorders and have relatively full and happy lives I cannot justify possibly burdening my child with bipolar or RA.

Then there’s the issue of actually raising a child. I would want to breastfeed and would only use formula if absolutely necessary for the child’s health, so I’d have to be off my meds from when I knew I was pregnant to possibly a year and a half after birth. Dealing with infants and children has always been a bipolar trigger for me,  and even when I’m on my medications it’s hard for me to stay calm with all the shrieking and crying and whining and disobeying. I lash out in irrational anger at them, sometimes violently. My mom stopped letting me babysit my younger brother after she kept coming home to find him up against a wall in a chokehold or begin held down by my knees while I punched him. I literally couldn’t stop myself. To this day I don’t know whether he was trying to provoke me. I think he was, but that could just be a bit of the bipolar paranoia trying to fool me.

I don’t think I’ll ever be stable enough to raise a child with consistency. I’m afraid that my mood swings will teach the child that mummy is a volatile, unpredictable force. I don’t think I could shove down my moods and reactions to lead by example with fairness and logic.  I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I warped my kid because of my bipolar.

It doesn’t hurt me to know that I will probably never be a mother; I can think of other things I’d like to be. But some weird part of me that apparently embodies the anti-women bullshit that I normally fight against says that I’m less of a woman because of it. It says that I’m less of a person because of my decision. I don’t know why that voice is in my head of why I have those doubts, but I know that being childless is a choice I can live with.

-Ashes

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