I just got off the phone with my maternal aunt, Virginia, who I call every year on December first to wish her a happy birthday. I adore Virginia. She and I have very similar attitudes about politics and culture, which means we get along well.

I was telling her about my observation that I appeared to be the 3rd generation of the Wright family of Knoxville, Tennessee, with severe mental illness problems. And she told me something new and astounding: Her grandfather, 'Buddy' (Thomas Jefferson Wright I, my great-grandfather) had a "nervous breakdown" when he was younger, though he eventually recovered. (They attributed the breakdown to "working too hard.")

I had NO idea, but that means there are now FOUR confirmed generations of this mental instability in the family. Buddy's daughter Evelyn was institutionalized for uncontrollable violent episodes. Everyone described her as "mean." She was probably an undiagnosed schizophrenic, and later died in the psychiatric institution of pneumonia. Until today, hers was the earliest mental illness problems in the family I knew about.

Her brother (Thomas Jefferson Wright II, my grandfather) possibly committed suicide, though no one knows for sure, because of the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance and death.

His daughter (Cecilia Wright Bell, my mother's sister) is schizophrenic, and has been institutionalized for years.

And now I am the 4th generation to have severe mental health problems -- I've dodged the schizophrenia bullet, but the major depression episodes have been grinding me down for a quarter of a century now. *sigh* At least I came by it honestly.

Wow. I wonder how much farther back this goes? No one knows much about Buddy Wright's family, so what madness might have come before him is lost in the mists of time.

I need to tell my brother Dale about this, because that means his children are 5th generation, and he needs to watch his kids carefully for signs of this "darkness of the soul," which seems to have come down the Wright line.

Neither I, nor my sister, nor three of my four cousins have ever had children, so right now, Dale's the only one where, if this is indeed genetic, it could possibly have been passed down.

I just wish I knew how to contact my cousin, Rose Bell (her birth name), who Cissy gave up for adoption at birth. I think she should know about this. But we don't know what her adoptive name is, or where she is, or if she has children. She's never attempted to contact her birth mother, as far as we can tell.


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