I’m thinking about myself; which pieces of me come from where, at what stage of life, which piece of me was winning.
Some of this comes from having children. I watch mine growing and changing and I wonder which pieces of them are from me or their dad (none of them have proven to be left handers as he is, woops).
Then there is the ‘stuff’ that runs in families that I pre-occupy myself with considering. I’m talking about the stuff that isn’t perhaps so clear from childhood like eye colour or abilities, but that that unfolds with the years. In my families case; bipolar and twindom (this is how I refer to being part of a line of twins -not an actual word).
When I was a little girl I know that I felt attune with my dad more so than my mum. I don’t know if that’s because we were similar (dark eyes, socially gregarious, musicality) and so understood one another, whether it was natural as the girl to be a daddy’s one or, indeed, whether the fact that neither of us have a mental health illness means we were drawn closer even before we knew this.
Then as a teen I didn’t feel like either of my parents. In fact I felt often like I was an entirely separate entity to my family; as if I must have been placed with them at birth in a really bad adoption placement. As far as I’m aware I don’t believe my parents saw anything familiar in me either.
And now I’m a parent I find this odd. I see myself or their dad in my children; not just the physical attributes, but the personality traits and behaviours. But I wonder if the generation gap created this chasm between my parents and I. I believe that the difference between how my parents behaved & what they experienced and me was huge; far larger than that between my children and me. Neither of them rebelled/had an adolescence, and certainly not in their teens, so when I began to rebel at 12 they really couldn’t fathom it. As a result they didn’t understand my behaviour, let alone recognise it as being from either of them.
Once I was a young women I began to feel a closeness with my mother that I’d never had before and with this came an ability to recognise pieces of me that came from her; (determination, a creative flair, thick wavy hair). Maybe it was natural for us to come together as we were by then both women in the world. Perhaps my role in her life by then, not just as daughter but sometime carer created some common ground?
About this time I truly began to question the bipolar in our family. Whilst I had seen my twin brother struggle with the mental health issues that mum lives with, it was as an adult that I pieced together the pattern. I learnt and understood that both my mum and my granny had first struggled with depression at the births of their first babies (both also had twins first). Postpartum psychosis got them and it was the beginning of a journey through highs and lows forever more. I was pregnant with my first at 24 and it worried me. A lot. I had a great midwife who took my concerns seriously and explained that she, my husband and other professionals would keep a close eye on me; ‘postpartum family history’ was scrawled across my notes. I’m thankful every day that I have not inherited the trait of bipolar that runs in our family and it is not a piece of me.
But then, then I think about how pieces of me have come from such life influences. I do not have Bipolar but I have grown up with it around me.
I am a twin. I haven’t gone on to have twins but the experience has definitely made me who I am, become a piece of me.
As an adult I have always worked in supportive roles. Neither of my parents did; this is not a piece of my family history. Does this mean that that the pieces of me I have been given from them have melded together to form something new? Or is it my experience of the ‘stuff’ that passes through our family (bipolar and twindom) that provides me with a new piece of my self?
Whilst I don’t have answers to most of my questions and don’t really expect them, I do have some beliefs.
I believe that the ‘stuff’ that runs in families can become a bigger piece of us than the hereditary physicality’s or traits. I believe that my experience of bipolar and twindom created a piece of me that needed to support and help others, sometimes to the detriment of myself. And I think that this piece of me was also large enough to takeover other parts of me that perhaps could have been interesting or useful. Would I have achieved more academically if the carer piece of me were smaller.
This I believe, makes me responsible as my children’s parent to ensure that no one thing in our family takes over as a piece of them. I must ensure that they have experiences that stretch all the pieces they have gained from their dad and I; the creative, the academic, the physical and the caring so they can freely choose.
I think I believe now, at the ripe age of 35, that I can be more than the pieces of me and that’s rather refreshing.