Entering a psychiatric hospital for the first time, was pretty shocking. So many patients were walking up and down, chain smoking. Others watched television, but not for long, and then they too, joined the rest to walk up and down, up and down, up and down.
What we needed more than anything else was tender, loving care but the staff were too busy for that. We were struggling to come to terms with what had happened to our once happy son. A psychiatrist and a social worker spoke to us and they spoke over David’s head as though he was not present. Our David was sick, not stupid.
More than once, therapists working in that hospital told us; “We know how you must be feeling.” But they did not! Their knowledge came from text books and some experience in the hospital but it did not, could not prepare them for the reality of understanding how we were feeling. We had lost our future. Both my husband and I had been looking forward to our first-born getting his degree at the university; we would now miss out on seeing him get married; nor rock his babies in our arms. We mourned his happy smile, the times when he’d been so healthy that we could never have envisioned this scenario. It broke our hearts. And all he wanted was a decent job, someone to love, and peace of mind. The voices took all that away from him.
What we needed were coping tools, lots of them. We needed good advice on how to handle our other children, how to alleviate their suffering too. One mental health professional told us to act naturally. But, there was nothing natural about this situation. It changed everything in our lives. I’d lost the son I loved so dearly to an illness I’d never heard much about previously and the future was an unknown commodity.
One psychologist told us not to upset David when he came home for weekends. In order to do that, we’d have to stop breathing, avoid scratching, walking, talking out loud and moving. How I longed for a single psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker to offer me a word of comfort during the long years we struggled with schizophrenia.