What we learned along the way


We learned that one cannot cure a mental disorder for a family member and despite our efforts, the symptoms became worse. Of course, they can go the other way. A social worker told me that if I felt resentment, I was giving too much and I think this applies to any caregiving position.

It was not easy to continue loving my son while hating his disorder so I had to learn to separate the two. When there were side effects from the medication, I had to separate those side effects from my son too.

I never did learn that I had needs too, so I neglected myself. I pulled on jeans, seldom worried about my clothes and did not take care of my hair or skin.

My husband always kept his sense of humor but I seldom found anything to smile about.

I did revise my expectations while acknowledging the remarkable courage my son showed while dealing with his paranoid schizophrenia. Using a survival-oriented response by shutting down my emotional life, was not a good idea but I could not help myself. My inability to talk about my feelings then left me stuck and frozen.

Our family relationships were in disarray in the confusion around our son’s brain disorder. Our daughters became emotionally enmeshed, while distant family became estranged.

We were all grieving for the brother and son we’d lost to schizophrenia. We went through stages of denial and anger but eventually managed to accept what had occurred. When we reached the stage of understanding what this cruel illness had done to him, compassion crept in. We realized that like other diseases, mental illness is a part of the varied fabric of life. The problem was that other people simply seemed unable to grasp that mental illness is a biological brain disease; an illness in the brain instead of in the body.

Every family member has the right to assure his/her personal safety and it was not necessary for us to shoulder the whole responsibility for our son. That was for professionals to handle. We tried to work with them where possible. What I needed to learn was to forgive myself and others for mistakes made and to learn that our son’s needs did not necessarily come first, but that took time. What is extremely important is to set boundaries and clear limits.
Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Reality was that we did encounter discrimination from an apprehensive public who received far too much incorrect information from the press and television announcers.

The most important thing I have to say is that no one is to blame:-

NO ONE IS TO BLAME.  NOBODY CAN CAUSE SCHIZOPHRENIA.

No, nobody can cause s c h i z o p h r e n i a – no matter how hard they might try.

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