The Boykett Family Curse
Every family dating from as long ago as the Boykett family (before the Domesday book) should have a coat of arms and a resident ghost.
There is a genuine Boykett coat of arms, granted by the College of Heralds in England, but only the grantee and his descendants are entitled to use it. Our branch of the family does not seem to have owned an ancestral seat with a ghost (see Bobbing Court.)
But just like some royal families, this family does have its own curse, an inherited disease. I know; I am one of the heirs to it, and unlike money, it doesn't decrease by being spread among the relatives.
The Boykett family disease is Depression,
known to the ancients as "melancholy." The mechanism of
depression is not
very well understood,
and there is a diversity of suggested "cures," all of which work —
some of the time, and for some people. Until fairly recently, it was
regarded as weakness of character - mere laziness or cowardice. As a
sufferer, I am
not about to tell others to "snap out of it." A
religious approach can help you live with it, but apart from a miracle,
it is not a cure.
For our purposes, the Wikipedia
definition of "major depression"
suffices: “a mental disorder characterized by an all-encompassing low
accompanied by low self-esteem, and loss of interest or pleasure in
normally enjoyable activities.”
Unlike an infection, there is no typical case. Cases vary in severity from mild, through those who cope fairly well, like me, to the suicidal. The mechanical cause of depression is a deficiency of two brain chemicals, serotonin and norepinephrine, called noradrenalin here in Oz. Standard antidepressant medications work by increasing the concentration of those two chemicals, but the pill that is one patient's savior can have no effect – or even bad side-effects – for another. Depression refuses to fit into the framework of a conventional illness. Attitude can affect its severity, and psychologists, who can't prescribe medication, have developed helpful mental exercises. Recent research suggests that those with inherited depression differ from other cases in the structure of their brains. So I don't offer any remedies here.
Since I first mentioned this, many Boykett family members have told me of cases of depression among their relatives. I don't want to mention any recent names here. Frank Boykett, Thomas' brother, who seems to have been quite successful in banking, later fell on hard times, and there is some evidence that he became depressed. All of the death certificates for Thomas' 3 sons who came to Australia point to alcohol abuse. Depression was not even recognised as a disease then, and no medication was available. Substance abuse is a common form of self-medication, and alcohol is a socially acceptable drug. There have been several suicides between the 1850's and now.
I have mostly survived. My working capacity has been affected; my marriage has been affected. For other sufferers, I can offer only support, and the reassurance that you are not alone with it. I have some very dated pages here, with links which may be of some help.