As various family members spoke, we discovered that they had been through similar experiences with professionals both in the hospital and out. At last I had found a place where I could talk to people who understood what I was feeling. We heard about people who had managed to come to terms with their loved ones’ illness as well as others who blundered along exhausted and afraid, waiting for miracles, always on the verge of tears or depression. My husband was one of the four men present.
“Where are your husbands?” he asked the single women.
“Mine is having trouble coping with schizophrenia,” a defeated-looking woman said. “He works late every night.”
“Mine goes to his parents’ house after work every day,” said another.
“My husband has found himself a girlfriend,” a sad woman said, crying softly.
We heard about husbands who had fled; blaming the termination of their marriages on the tension generated by mental illness in their families.
We all felt that husbands should share the burden. Each of us mourned a young person whose life had changed drastically. Shock, loss, grief, fear, confusion, ambivalence, guilt, helplessness, despair and sadness were common reactions. I learned from that group that my prolems in coping with my feelings came from doing so without the added comfort of extended family and close friends, but maybe I had not let them in when they’d tried tentatively. How could they grasp the enormity of the problem if it had taken us so long to understand it? Some never did.
“How can I avoid regretting all my hopes and dreams which have become so unrealistic?” I asked.
“Don’t wait for your child to fulfill your former expectations, alter them. Learn to forge new dreams,” someone told me. “Take one day at a time.”
Of all the advice received, take one day at a time, proved to be the most helpful. I learned one of life’s hardest lessons. It’s not what happens to one in life that counts but what one does about it.
The social worker running the group told us to get rid of any guilt we were feeling because nobody could cause schizophrenia.