Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Family History

I read a lecture by David McCullough about the importance of history to our society. He says, "History is filled with voices that reach out and lift the spirits, sometimes from the distance of centuries." I think that is one of the reasons why I find history so fascinating. I am looking forward to reading his books now that I, theoretically anyway, should have more time when I'm done with school. I know, famous last words, but one can always hope!

When I was going through my divorce, I came across the journal that my great-grandmother kept during the 1930s. She describes her day-to-day life on the plains of Canada, as well as some of her childhood memories. Her story helped me understand that life keeps going on, even when it feels like things will never get any better. Her story gave me courage to carry on during difficult times. In addition to her story, I have collected a number of other treasured family stories over the years that help me to understand myself better. My goal is to put them in a form that my children and grandchildren will want to read. It will probably take me years to finish, but if these stories lie unread in the bottom of a drawer, then what good are they? My hope is that they will help others along the way. I did finish Grandma Zerelda's story for a class project when I first started at the U.

David's grandma Zerelda and I hit it off immediately when we met. I love history, especially family history, and she was delighted to tell me about her childhood in person and through long letters filled with fascinating detail about life in the early 20th century. One of the reasons that I was interested in David's family history was to try to understand his background, hoping it would give me a clue to his moods. Sure enough, Grandma Zerelda described her father: "My first recollections of life were while living with Grandpa and Grandma Garner, Mother’s parents. My dad wouldn’t have me. Boys were all he wanted and was angry about each girl that joined the family. It seemed he was either angry or overly happy; no in-between. This was heard many times; relatives or visitors would discuss the story. Some way, no satisfactory answer was to be mine, although this has been pondered many, many times. I was with my grandparents until age 11, when my baby sister was expected while they were living at Caliente, Nevada."

It seems to me that there are more questions about the nature of mental illness than there are answers. Some believe it to be a genetic tendency; others do not. More research needs to be done before we really understand all there is to know on the subject, but in David's case anyway, I really believe it is a genetic tendency, and her history helps me understand him better.


  1. Good post! I wish more of our ancestors had left journals/diaries/letters. I think there is so very much we could learn from the trials they went through.
    Regarding bipolar D.O.; I think there could be a genetic tendency with environmental factors. SO much though is unknown about the must have been even more difficult at a time when even less was known and no meds to treat it.
    Blessings, Aimee

  2. Thanks for stopping my my blog. I really like yours. I hope you don't mind if I link you on my blog roll. I love history and family history is awesome. Mental illness and specifically bipolar illness brings about so many more questions I think than solutions. It is a tough one for both the sufferer and their families. I am always impressed with those who fight to get and stay well like Susan of Wellness Writer! She's awesome. Can't wait for more posts.

  3. Thank you!
    Aimee: I've thought about what his great-grandfather (and who knows how far this goes back in his line) went through during his life. Grandma Zerelda's parents ended up divorcing when she was young, which was rare in that time period. When I figure out how to post a pdf file, I thought I'd post her story. It's long, but interesting.

    KJ: Thank you! I'm flattered to be listed on your blog roll. Mental Illness really is hard on everyone involved. I'm hoping that my blog will help those who are in a similar situation. I'd like to see some of the stigma attached to it at least lessened.


Welcome! I'm so glad you dropped by. I'm always happy to hear what you have to say.