Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bipolar and Family Histories

Don't ask me to quote these sources, as my wife brought this home from one of my son Kyle's meetings. But I know this is right.

There is a 1 in a hundred chance of a person in the general population having bipolar disorder. I'm not surprised about a 1% rate. If you have a family history of bipolar, there is a 1 in 10 chance of having it. Looking at my family I'd say that's a little low. We seem to have at least one per generation.

My son was the first person in our family diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I am the second. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

I am absolutely convinced my grandfather (mother's side) had bipolar disorder. Iloved my grandfather like I love my own father. And growing up I couldn't see his personality clearly, and I wouldn't have thought anything wrong anyway. Granddad was a born salesman, but was a person everyone loved and trusted. He loved to have fun. He partied hard, drank like a fish, chased women, and caroused. But he was also a VERY loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend. I don't recall him ever being depressed, but I do remember his rage from time to time, and the way he would swear a bluestreak. Man, when he tore into you with that sharp tongue, it was something you didn't forget. But his anger didn't last long, and he could always let it go. He smoked like a chimney, but that didn't kill him. When I was younger I could ALWAYS count on Granddad to have some fun. I'd be in college, and would stop by his house frequently. Before long we'd be out hunting pheasants, or fishing, or in a smoky bar drinking and shooting pool. No matter what we did, it seemed to end in a smoky bar somewhere. Grandad was one of my favorite people that ever lived.

He had a large family, my mother was the oldest of 5 kids. 4 girls, then the youngest a boy. My mother has bipolar tendencies, but I don't think she has full-blown bipolar. But I am absolutely certain my uncle has it. He is very much like my grandfather, and is so much fun to be around. I have spent some of my most drunken times with my uncle. Everything we did ended up with us drowning in beer, and sometimes passing a joint or two. He's been married twice, he couldn't stop running around, and he was quite the ladies man. But he is very sentimental, loving, and sensitive. You can't help but love him. I have seen him depressed, and I've seen him hypomanic. I haven't seen him angry, however. He drinks very heavily, and also smokes. I suspect he still uses marijuana from time to time. He has held many jobs over the years.

In other words, we're all very much alike in our bipolar tendencies. I've avoided running around on my wife, thank goodness for that. But outside of that we're all from the exact same mold.

I need to figure out a way to let my kids know what to expect when they start raising their own families. I guarantee they'll run into this.

BTW: This is a story that needs it's own post to do it justice. Grandad is still wandering around out there, he hasn't yet made it into heaven, or whatever form of afterlife you believe in. This has been verified by 2 different and unrelated sources. It's a hell of a story, but one I won't begin tonight.