Writer’s Name: Debrayta Salley
Title: It Runs in the Family
How profound and life changing it would be if every generation began to pass down the wisdom gained from our mental, physical and emotional experiences with the same pride and dedication that we pass down family recipes.
Just imagine how phenomenal it would be if we knew in advance all of the illnesses (mental & physical) that we have been predisposed to through our family bloodlines. I believe that if we already knew about and took seriously the fact that our ancestors (great-grandma, great-grandpa, grandma, and grandpa) struggled with High-Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Depression, Anxiety, Arthritis, etc that we would be at an advantage to take proactive steps in preventing the full manifestation of them in our own lives. Do you remember the movie Soul Food? As the matriarch of the family, the mother made a tradition of hosting Sunday Dinner at her home each week. During each occasion, the family feasted on every soulful plate that you can imagine. I’m getting hungry just reflecting back on the spread on that table scene from the movie! At the end of these meals, bellies were full, and family bonding time was experienced, but I don’t recall any in-depth conversations being had about physical and mental challenges in their family line.
Unfortunately, at the end of the movie, the mother passed away after having to have her leg amputated due to damage caused by diabetes. All of this came to a shock to her children because she had kept the severity of her illness away from them. She had kept as much as she could about her illness away from them so that they wouldn’t worry, and in turn suffered through it alone instead of allowing them the opportunity to support her and become knowledgeable themselves. In addition, despite her challenges, she also cared for her brother who I believed suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He lived in a backroom in the house and the only thing that the other family members knew about him was that they shouldn’t bother him because he didn’t necessarily have all his marbles. I mention the movie only to drive the point home of the importance of us not only sitting down to eat and fellowship together, but to also to empower, support, and break mental, emotional, and physical curses together.
When I was pregnant with my son, I had to fill out a form of my family health background as well as my child’s father’s. Sadly, I could not answer most of the questions about the health issues in my family background. This was so embarrassing for me when I had to go over the form with the doctor, but there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it at that point in time. What I did do was vow to myself that I would begin to ask questions to get to know more about the history of my family. While some of us may think that we are invincible, the reality is that just like the strength of our genes shows up often in our appearances, it can certainly do the same in our mental and physical health. I experienced this first hand as I had watched members of my maternal and paternal family battle with high-blood pressure and arthritis for years, but never thought that either would affect me. Imagine my surprise when I was forced to learn how to manage both!
I’m am in no way suggesting that every person in the family line will be stricken with such illnesses, but I am suggesting that by knowing whether we are predisposed, we can incorporate better eating habits, specific exercises, and be more aware of the possible warning signs. Let’s begin to empower our families by being open and honest about the challenges we have and are currently experiencing as well as adding a little more health consciousness into those scrumptious soul food meals.