When I was 19, my mother told me that she had been molester by her own brother. Before I even had time to process this, she told me that my grandfather was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and my grandmother with bipolar disorder. She also told me that my father was adopted, and did not know where he came from.
In a heartbeat my whole childhood was turned on its head, and memories were searched to see if I had known something was amiss. But no, children seldom think about what is normal or not, only when we start to compare ourselves to others, do we notice if something is different.
Although my mother did not go into great detail concerning her own upbringing, she did reveal some information. For example, my grandfather at one point thought he was Jesus waiting for his 12 deciples. To make them feel welcome he had lined up 12 pairs of shoes.
She also told me she had watched my grandmother wading into the sea, wanting to die. Another time, when she came and visited us where we lived, she had not slept for a week, and started wandering off to a night club. My parents had to go look for her, and found her before she could use her dance foot.
Both my grandpartens took a lot of pills, and I remember asking what they were for. The answer I got was rather vague, something about health issues. I did not probe further, just accepted that they had to take them every day.
My grandmother slept at all times, and that was not strange either. I just thought that old people needed to sleep more than us, and that was that.
I am glad that my mother protected us kids by not talking about their hospitalizations, psychosis and behavior, because I was never affected by what was going on behind the scenes. My mother always wanted a family of her own, and dreamt of giving her children a childhood she did not have herself.
When I look back, I only feel respect for how my mother tried to protect us and make us feel safe . Even if I came from a «crazy family» and some might have prejudiced when it comes to mental illness, I did well considering my genetic background and am grateful that I can help others with risk factors in their genes and environment to achieve their potential.