"Bill this is a pleasant surprise. I have not seen you for a while." Rose, my therapist, said while sucking on a straw sticking out of the top of a McDonanld's cup. "What what brings you in?"
"I think I need a tune up." I said. "I have been doing really well. Really well. Very happy. Life is good. But a few weeks ago my uncle committed suicide. He shot himself. It was kind of jarring to me so I wanted to just come in and get a tune up."
"Wow." She looked over her glasses at me as if to get a better sense of my mood. "Were you close to your uncle?"
"Not really. I mean I grew up with him being one of my younger, cooler uncles. I saw him at family functions where we would always laugh and joke around. He was always fun to be around but I would not say I was close."
Rose asked me a few more questions about family history and what I knew of my uncle. I answered all questions to the best of my knowledge.
"What concerns me Rose," I said. "Is that I don't think anyone saw it coming. And if people did see it I am shocked no one talked about it."
"What do you mean?"
"My dad died from Melanoma. For a few years everybody talked about going to a dermatologist to get checked out. Melanoma not only has genetic risk factors but also environmental risk factors. So family history is important indicator because families share genetics and most times they share environments."
I added, "One of my uncles, my dad's brother, found out he had Melanoma. They caught it early enough so he is ahead of it as far as treatment."
Rose nodded again.
"So if my uncle, one of my dad's other brothers, was suffering from some type of mental illness, I want to know if there is a genetic link and/or an environmental link. But no one in the family talks about getting checked for that. I don't get it."
Rose started talking about the stigma of mental illness. She said a few words about the difficulties people have with admitting they have a disease they cannot understand.
"But that is not right, it is not fair. If I am predisposed to an illness I should know about it. Even if it is just so I know that my kids may be predisposed I should know about it."
We discussed other diseases that people feel okay talking about like Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Hypertension. All of these have some genetic links.
She asked if I was suicidal.
"No. But I also do not have Melanoma right now. I go to the dermatologist once a year. That is why I am here right now. I need a tune up and a check up."
We talked for another 40 minutes. It was one of my best appointments.