When my son was in a psychiatric hospital, a friend suggested that I try meditation. Not knowing much about meditation, I decided to give it a try. She sent me a CD via snail-mail and told me to listen to the disk at least twice a day and follow instructions.
I disconnected all the telephones, took off my moccasins, slipped the CD into my disk player and listened to a soothing voice say; ‘Lie down, assume a comfortable posture. Close your eyes and relax. Focus your attention on your belly, feel it rise then expand gently as you inhale and watch it recede as you exhale. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to feeling of your breath going in and out.’
I felt pretty relaxed and was actually enjoying the feeling of calmness and peace, until I remembered that I hadn’t confirmed the appointment with my dentist for the following day. So, I jumped off the bed, ejected the CD, made the call, then padded back to the bedroom and started all over again. I lay down, closed my eyes and tried to keep my attention on the soothing voice telling me to relax and clear my head of all thoughts. I tried hard, really I did, but then I started giggling. I have no idea what triggered my memory of the jingle that my late son had chanted to me one day when he told me he’d found a jingle on the internet written by an anonymous author. Somehow, I heard it as if it were yesterday.
A flea and a fly in a flue
Were imprisoned so what could they do?
Said the fly; “let us flee.”
“Let us fly;” said the flea.
So, they flew through a flaw in the flue.
By the time I was done laughing, it was not possible to return to meditating again so I gave up and resolved to try it another day, but sadly, that did not happen.
I searched for other ways of handling stress and read up about it. The first step was to recognize my symptoms and then to act the way I always did when mastering a new skill which was to keep very busy. So, I agreed to give a talk at a psychiatric hospital about the stress in my family caused by my son’s mental illness and told my audience of psychiatric professionals that my husband and I had decided to master and survive what life had thrown at us and try to convert stress into a positive force. Each one of us started doing things that we liked and that made us think less about schizophrenia in the family and more about the positive things in our lives.
My biggest problem was anger. I was angry with the world and blamed my son’s doctors for not doing enough to make him better. After all, why do people go to the hospital if not to be cured? It took me a while to realize how destructive anger can be. When I felt bouts of anger coming on, I took a spade and worked hard in the garden; no – correction; I actually attacked the plants in the garden. At other times, I walked along the beach or sat watching the waves break on the shore.
One day, my husband brought a computer home and after learning to master ‘the monster’ as we called it, I began to put my thoughts down on paper. I wrote about what transpired in our house daily and after a while, my anger took a back seat and other thoughts replaced it.
I dwelled on the positive instead of on the negative and being busy with less time to think about mental illness, there was more balance to my life. What I wanted most of all was to have my happiness back. We’d been such a happy family before schizophrenia took us by surprise. Happiness? What is happiness? It’s finding one enjoyable thing to do every day. It’s about learning to appreciate spring flowers, a stunning sunset, a child’s laughter or a good book. It’s about smiling at those you love, and most of all, it’s about love.
Change did not occur instantly, but in time, not only did we benefit as a family, our son also found things to do instead of lying on his bed for so many hours a day. He might have walked our dog too much, or spent too much time at the beach, but at least he was doing something and following our example.