Book Title: Playing the Genetic Lottery
Lots of kids think their parents are crazy at one point or another. Caitlin's really are. Both her mother and father have schizophrenia, and Caitlin and her older brother grow up trying to navigate the chaos of living with two mentally ill parents. Now a young mother herself, Caitlin reflects back on her childhood, her efforts to create a peaceful and serene life for herself, her family, and the emotional scars and fears she still can't shake.
Every morning when I first wake up I wonder and I worry. Before getting out of bed, before registering my full, aching bladder, before remembering what day it is and what responsibilities await -- I assess myself for signs of the disease. I roll my eyes around the room, looking for phantoms that may have appeared while I was sleeping. For odd, moving sights, like my dresser transformed into a rolling automobile or roaring lion. To make sure that the clock radio on my nightstand or the framed photos on the bookshelves haven't cloned themselves overnight and morphed into twins or even triplets.
Then I listen carefully. I hear Jason snoring lightly beside me. I hear the ticking of the living room clock. I hear the jangle of Rosco's tags as he rolls over on his bed in the corner of our room. I hold my breath and listen for mysterious voices or alien noises. Then, once I'm sure I'm not hearing any unusual, strange sounds, I ask myself---silently so not to wake my sleeping husband----a series of questions.
Who am I? What's my address? Where do I work? How old are my children? What's my husband's name? Who's the president? Only after the correct responses to the first five pop into my mind, and I chuckle to myself after answering "Calvin Coolidge" to the sixth question because I know good and well that Barack Obama currently resides in the White House, do I know I'm safe for another day. If I still have my sense of humor, and apparently my faculties, I've still escaped it.
Escaped the mental illness that afflicted and consumed my mother, my father and my brother. Escaped the schizophrenia that robbed them of their minds and me of a childhood.
I know that at 32 my chances of developing schizophrenia are miniscule and keep shrinking with every passing month. Despite that, I'm still obsessively terrified of developing the devastating mental illness that was an ever-present part of my formative years. It's shaped who I’ve become, and I've worked for more than half my life to recover from its impact. My father, mother and brother all lost the genetic lottery, and their misfortune continues to ripple through my life even today.
My name, at least the name I go by now, is Caitlin. That's the name I chose for myself 18 years ago when I fled my childhood home of horrors. I cast off the name on my birth certificate for the new one in hopes of casting off the madness that was my family.
There are a lot of popular misconceptions swirling around about schizophrenia. Some people, especially those who are fortunate enough not to have had first-hand experience with this devastating, disabling mental illness, think schizophrenics suffer from a split, or two vastly different personalities. I imagine they picture someone like a benevolent, beloved school teacher who bakes cookies for the neighbors in her spare time turning into a vicious profanity-spewing crone who butchers small cuddly animals with her bare hands during episodes. Others, who are steeped in popular culture, believe all schizophrenics are geniuses, like the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash. These kinds of misconceptions are annoying, but not surprising, considering there are so many mysteries about schizophrenia that have yet to be solved. Despite billions of dollars worth of research, scientists have not yet pinpointed the causes of schizophrenia, although they believe a combination of genetics, brain chemistry and brain abnormality are involved. They do know that there is a hereditary basis for the susceptibility of the disease, meaning that schizophrenia often runs in families. Unfortunately, it runs in mine........
About the Author:
Terri Morgan is an avid reader, dog lover and ocean fanatic from California's Central Coast. She started writing to support her surfing habit, and is the author of numerous sports biographies for young adults. She has also co-authored two books about photography, including one for young readers. Playing the Genetic Lottery is her first novel.