‘Don’t upset your son,’ they said.
‘But Doctor, he has false beliefs, hears voices, his thought processes are muddled, his behavior erratic. We don’t know what happened, what went wrong, when it started to go wrong. Where does it come from? We need to know. Why did this illness erupt in our family?’
No reply. They sat and stared at us.
There were even more questions tumbling about in my head. And the stigma! It was like nothing we’d come across before.We stood by helplessly while the doctor stared at us and were forced to try one therapist after another.
We believed that our son would recover. After all, people enter hospitals ill and exit well, don’t they? That’s what hospitals are for. We tried an army of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists. We tried psychotherapy, occupational therapy, dance therapy and group therapy, yet, our son continued to be out of focus, angry and frustrated. Having no preconceptions, but with faith in modern medicine, we believed that he would get well again. It was so hard to stand by and watch him suffer so much. He had no quality of life and the voices in his head clamored relentlessly for his attention.
I am not blaming the hospital professionals for the fact that Doron did not recover. I blame them for their lack of empathy, their failure to give our son a gleam of hope. Nobody can live without hope. And, I don’t think that the old school of therapists should be allowed to practice any longer – the ones who pointed the finger of blame at me, always at the patient’s mother. ‘Did you spend time with your son when he was a toddler?’ they asked. ‘Did you listen to him? Did you take an interest in his activities and his schooling? Is your relationship with him now a good one?’ they asked. Actually, they didn’t ask the questions. They fired those questions at me.
We started family therapy at the psychiatric hospital and we asked; ‘What can we do to help our son?’
The reply; ‘Well, what do you do?’
‘What do you think we should do?’ my husband ventured again.
No reply this time.
‘What should we do when our son becomes abusive?’ I asked.
‘How about yelling us what you do in those situations.’
Then I asked: ‘What should we do when our daughters bring friends home and their brother shouts, throws objects about and becomes abusive?’
Reply – ‘Act normally.’
‘And what is normal? I whispered.
End of session, someone announced. I wondered whether they stared at the wall clock all the time. That session ended unsatisfactorily.
Next session – back to ‘what is normal?’
I replied. You suggested that we act normally. Well, to do that, we would have to stop breathing, avoid scratching, walking, talking out loud or moving. We’d have to allow our son to sleep on unlaundered sheets in a dirty room and never utter a word when he spilled food onto the table and down his shirtfront – or when he flung a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice I’d prepared for him onto the floor in case I was going to poison him.
We were so busy with Doron and his schizophrenia that our daughters did without, without sufficient time and energy from us, without vacations and parties at home, without frills and extras as all the available cash we had was poured into another treatment, another therapist’s pocket. My husband and I did without. We minded less.