Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Sharing a Birthday and More

Up until I reached drinking age (three years after I actually quit drinking), I hated sharing my birthday. I figured my twin sister and I got half the cash in our birthday cards as our two older sisters. But now I’m relieved to have someone with whom I can commiserate about getting older. So the first thing I do on my birthday (today), is call Trish and wish her a good one.

I also call her on the afternoons I doubt the biological basis of my depression–after chats with morons who insist my disease is make-believe. It only takes a few minutes of conversation before I’m nodding my head again. Yep! It’s genetic.

Now Trish has managed her moods much better than I have. She’s never ordered off a psych ward menu, or obsessed about all the different ways she could kill herself (at least I hope not). I don’t even think she has a head doctor. However, (and I mean this in the most complimentary way), she’s nuts too. In fact, our whole family is nuts. We’d make a great holiday basket, like every other American family.


Psychiatrists today know depression and bipolar disorder are genetic partly because of the consistent results of twin studies and adoption studies. In twin studies, researchers find one twin with major depression or bipolar disorder and then get permission to study the other twin. According to J. Raymond DePaulo, Jr., M.D., author of “Understanding Depression,” the studies have found that “genetically identical twins are more than twice as likely to share these diseases (unipolar or bipolar) than are genetically fraternal or nonidentical twins.” However, a sibling or child of a person with major depression or manic depression still has a higher chance of developing the disorder compared to the general population.


Especially interesting to me are the new genetic findings of obsessive-compulsive disorder, since my twin sister and I both have suffered from that. For example, close relatives of people who develop early-onset OCD (which I did–disguised in religious scrupulosity) are up to nine times more likely to develop it themselves.

Eight months ago, two papers that were published simultaneously in the medical journal “Archives of General Psychiatry” pinpointed a specific gene (SLC1A1) that appears to play a key role in the development of OCD.

So as I blow out a few dozen candles (and then blow them out again just to make sure), I wish my twin the same thing that I wish for myself: peace and serenity, and more twin studies leading to better treatment for all who are anxious and depressed.

  • http://HASH(0xcf19074) dan

    Do you know how strong the genetic links are? My mother-in-law probably suffered from either depression or schyzophrenia, and my wife has had bouts of depression (but won’t admint it), and I fear for one of my daughters who has some of my wife’s emotional sensitivity (and also artistic talent and intuition).

  • http://HASH(0xcf1a144) rlg

    Happy Birthday – was mine too. We ended up with snow – just confirms my suspicion that God has a sick sense of humour (especially because it started snowing as I was standing out in the rain waiting for my bus). I went skiing with my friends last year and remembered saying that if I got the job on the west coast, this would be the last birthday with snow. How wrong I was… My birthday was a bit of a revelation. I spent most of my life thinking that I would die before my next birthday -that I would never live to be a teenager, graduate from university, finish my PhD or do anything with it. It wasn’t until I got diagnosed with chronic major depression that I understood that this kind of thinking is a symptom – and it clears up once your head clears out. Now I actually see my birthday as a celebration and something to look forward to next year, because I actually believe I might indeed have one. Here’s to the next Feb 26 – but without snow, please God? :)

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