While our son was ill, my husband and I were around the clock caregivers. Before schizophrenia entered their lives, our three children had spent years of closeness, laughter and sibling secrets. During the years we lived with David’s illness, his sisters had shared fears and tears, wishing that they could escape the shadow of the illness, but always drawn back to listen to and try to help their older brother who, in his healthy years, had done the same for them.
Our daughters realized what a toll full-time caregiving was doing to us and even though they were still teenagers, they offered to take care of their brother so that we could take a short break away from it all. The first time we went away was to a Greek Island while David was in a psychiatric hospital which made it easier for them. They visited and took his many urgent calls although they found it difficult to listen to his accounts of the voices he heard and all the frightening things he believed people were doing to him.
The few short breaks that our daughters offered us were of the utmost importance because, for those precious hours, my husband and I were able to focus on one another as well as on subjects not associated with mental illness. We learned how good it was to spend time together again, to laugh and to love and enjoy a swim or a meal together, uninterrupted.
I made sure that our daughters would call in the case of an emergency. They knew what to do as they had been a large part of the mental illness process and undergone many traumas in our house due to the situation. To this day I wonder where they derived the strength to even offer to do something as awesome as taking care of a very sick brother with the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.