The Bipolar Gene


I’ve researched over the past decade various studies regarding genetics and mental health – bipolar disorder to be particular.  This week I found an interesting article on the National Institute for Mental Health’s website.  From the article:

“National Institutes of Health-funded researchers discovered that people with disorders traditionally thought to be distinct – autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia – were more likely to have suspect genetic variation at the same four chromosomal sites. These included risk versions of two genes that regulate the flow of calcium into cells.” 

Now this article in no way implies that scientists are any where close to isolating a “mental illness” gene, but it makes me think, what if? I’m not a fan of scientists messing around in genetics research.  I can’t deny the great things that can happen, but it also makes me nervous.  The use of the term “slippery slope” is grossly overused, however, it is exactly the term I would use in this case.   In the future will doctors be able to use genetics to give parents exactly what they want in a child? Blue eyes? Brown hair? Six feet tall?  Ensuring their child is not gay?   I think it’s a distinct possibility. In fact, I think it’s probably going to happen in my lifetime.  Even if it is made illegal in the U.S. there will be plenty of other countries who would be willing to do so.

I’m conflicted.  If doctors were able to ensure that my daughter will not inherit depression or bipolar disorder from me, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to have them do so.  But, as for me, I’m not so sure I want to be “cured.”  I am who I am and that’s who I want to be.

It sounds insane, I’m sure, but I’ve adapted.  My life has been a crazy mess.  I spent years working with doctors to find a mix of drugs to keep me balanced.  I’m not too manic and I’m not too depressed.  Most of the times these days I’m in the middle, but that could change.  Just last week my pdoc changed my meds a bit because of my behavior.  What works for me today may not work for me tomorrow.  Big changes or small changes I’ll have to have my medication tweaked from time to time for the rest of my life.

Genetic research will be able to prevent a lot of inherent diseases for those both young and old.  At this point all I can do is wait.  Until that day occurs I have no idea what I would do, but I don’t think I’d change it. 

Why wouldn’t I want to be cured?  Why the hell would I want to not have to take medications twice a day?  Why wouldn’t I want to be ensured that I no longer will have to deal with crazy mania?  Or depression?  The answer is I am who I am and I finally like who I am.  My bipolar, as crazy as it is, is a large part of who I am and I don’t think I’m ready to change that part of me because it’s been a part of who I am my entire life.

2 comments on The Bipolar Gene

  1. Thoughtful post. I’m with you on the children front. I have two daughters who will be inheriting my wife’s bipolar time bomb. If you don’t have it, why would you want it?

    However, as you point out, you are bipolar, and have adapted. I have also read that manic episodes bring about great creativity. So perhaps it’s not so bad?

    But as I said over at BC, I think you have to consider how bipolar affects those who care about you.

    I’m glad to have found your blog.

    Robert aka Mulled Vine

    1. I would want the gene immediately removed from my child without hesitation. I wouldn’t want her to go through the hell that I went through, and still am. But I’ve been there. I’ve fought the battle. It would just seem weird to suddenly stop having manic or depressive episodes.

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