Mackenzie Phillips opened up to Oprah about her past with drug addiction. While Phillips definitely has horrific things in her past that would force many people into addiction, she said that the long history of undiagnosed mental illness also played a big part.
Phillips told Oprah, “I come from a long line of undiagnosed mental illness, rampant addiction and alcoholism. So there’s the genetic component. And then there’s the introduction to these types of behaviors at a very young age.”
She went on to say, “You have this idea that in order to be an adult, that this is a rite of passage. [In] that moment, that genetic monster inside wakes up and goes, ‘Oh, man, I’m hungry.’ I fed the beast, and the beast was shame, the beast was not understanding the neglect, not understanding the abuse.’”
Phillips then revealed the underlying feelings she has experienced since she was just a small child. She started to question, “Was it something that was inherently wrong with me, that I was being punished for? Because I remember thinking as a little child, ‘Something is severely wrong with me, but nobody’s telling me.’”
Hearing Phillips talk about her past is heartbreaking. When you think about the fact that she had to survive an incestuous relationship with her father for almost 10 years, you understand why she would turn to substances for self-medication.
But the interview opens up some bigger questions about the treatment of mental health. Hers is not the only family with a long history of undiagnosed mental health struggles. The stigma associated with diagnosis and treatment of mental illness hasn’t weakened with generations. Millions of people still try to tough it out or ignore what’s really going, which plays a significant part in the addiction problem around the world.
People like Phillips who are brave enough to open up about their struggles make us hopeful that we’re starting to move in the right direction.