Three short letters by a bereaved father.
The first, he wrote to our son after he had done the worst thing a child could do and ended his life.
Of course we miss you terribly. But, we are relieved that you have found eternal peace. You bore your suffering bravely and you did all you could to continue living. But, when you realized that your suffering had to end, you took the only way out. I love you and want you to know that both your mother and I forgive you for taking our son away from us.״
“I thank you for all you tried to do for my son. Hopefully, in time, human knowledge will progress to a position where seriously ill psychiatric patients will be able to be helped. Unfortunately you failed to give me or my son the feeling that you were really trying. Such a feeling would have alleviated his suffering and may have helped the multiple medications you prescribed the possibility of doing what they were supposed to do.”
Doron’s bereaved father.
TO THE BURIAL SOCIETY.
“I fell that you could have fulfilled your duties with more compassion bearing in mind that you were dealing with a heartbroken, bereaved family. Sadly, we found that similar observations made by other bereaved families were justified.”
A bereaved parent.
D O R O N
I often think back to the first 18 years of my son’s life when he was perceived as being the same as everybody else. Then, when things started to change, there were many people called him schizo, crazy, mad in his head. BUT, our family always called him by his name – Doron.
Our son wanted to get well. He wanted to love and be loved but most of all he needed the peace of mind that the rest of us take for granted. That peace of mind eluded him even though he took his medication religiously. He tried every new tablet until there were no new meds to take. So, his doctors gave him what we referred to as a ‘salad of meds’ where they mixed a few together. Later, he returned to the psychiatric hospital once a month to get a long lasting shot.
If my son had been run down by a vehicle, I would probably have spoken openly about it, confident of obtaining sympathy as well as empathy. But, psychosis defies empathy. Only those who have experienced mental illness close up, buy the idea that it is a behavioral disease. My son was deeply affected by the medications he took, which made him walk stiffly. Although I hated the expression, the hospital staff called it ‘a Parkinsonian shuffle.’ Much later, we learned that it was a side effect of the haloperidol medications, inducing indifference and to stop sequential thoughts. My son experienced intellectual paralysis. When he once tried to explain how he was feeling, he once asked; ‘Do you see and hear the swarm of helicopters hovering overhead?’ ‘Yes,’ we answered. ‘Well, that’s the kind of noise I hear in my head sometimes and it stops me from listening, hearing, thinking!’ Our family loved playing scrabble but he told us that he could barely build a three-lettered word any longer. I looked at my son with his tangled mass of hair – lying sprawled on his bed, and I hugged him saying; ‘I love you’ tears streaming down my face.
PLEASE find it in your hearts to donate money toward research on mental illness. Relatives of people with mental illnesses are starting to lobby their governments for more money for treatments and research. Some are beseeching top scientists to push for higher stakes in their research. I know how often I prayed for a cure when my son was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia – when not one single medication helped relieve his symptoms. When some people hear the word schizophrenia or bipolar illness, they have been known to withdraw their support even though millions of people all over the world are living with mental illnesses as well as other brain diseases. Some are curable – but we have to work that much harder to cure those that are not.
It may seem odd to ask how we should behave toward someone with schizophrenia but we really didn’t know. We soon learned what it was that made it difficult for people with schizophrenia to communicate. We discovered that the general public are frightened as well as embarrassed to hold a conversation with a person who has a mental illness or an allied disorder.
We learned the importance of speaking slowly and clearly to individuals with schizophrenia.
We learned to make our sentences short and as simple as possible.
My son often said; ‘I don’t always hear a whole sentence because my concentration seems to float in and out. And if there is background noise or a crowd, it makes me very tense and nervous.My dad saw how I was feeling and took me to a quiet place and sat me down until I felt less threatened.’
We understood that our son needed routine and some kind of structure to his life so we did our best to help guide him there.
i have to admit that there were times when I felt as if I were walking on shattered glass and that was when I found it hard to maintain equilibrium in our home.j
- I had to force myself to keep a smile on my face.
- I found it difficult to remain accepting.
- It was hard for me to remain encouraging.
- I had to make time to listen to him as he could talk about his problems for hours.
- I tried at all times to treat him with the utmost respect.
- BUT, I did not always succeed.
- There were times when I was critical, gloomy, or argumentative.
- Yet my late husband on the other hand, showed the utmost patience, understanding and unconditional love at all times. He also used humor to deflect difficult situations which was extremely helpful.
Sooner or later when a person has schizophrenia, a crisis will occur. When this happens there are some things That can reduce the oncoming disaster but these were all learned along the way.
The most important lesson learned was that we could not reason with our son when he was psychotic.
We learned to understand his terror by observing his own loss of control.
Of course it was not a great idea for any of us to shout at him or even show a teeny sign of anger irritation or impatience.
It was important for us to all work together toward the same purpose.
I learned that using sarcasm was useless.
My son hated noise so it was advisable to turn off radios, the T V – the dishwasher (if you have one) the washing machine and dryer when he was upset. The less noise, the better.
We learned not to touch him during an episode and to avoid continuous eye contact.
Sometimes, when I sat down and suggested that he do the same, he did, and then he calmed down slowly. But,sometimes things ended differently.
I am not a professional in the field of mental health, so all I can do is tell my story from my point of view and I want to tell it as it should be told.
- I tell my story to make it more difficult for people to close their eyes as well as their hearts to the mental illness around them. Most of us know someone who has some kind of brain illness.
- I tell my story in order to gain empathy for the people out there who are mentally challenged as well as to let them know that they are not alone.
- I tell my story as I need to try and convince people of the importance of early intervention.
- If more of us tell our stories, somehow, the professional people out there might listen and believe.
- No politician truly believes that he/she will gain more votes by devoting more time and money to the issue of mental illness. But, maybe that time is NOW.
- I tell my story, the story of one family, but it is actually the story of millions of families living with mentally ill relatives anywhere in the world from Alaska to Africa.
- So, in my blog, I aim to tell my story in the hope that one day, there will be less stigma toward mentally challenged people in the world. If we all Speak out, maybe some of the people out there will listen, believe, and even act on our behalf.
READ DAVID’S STORY by Jill Sadowsky.
ORDER from Amazon’s Kindle Store or on Smashwords.
Read: THE LAST CALL by Jill Sadowsky in the HIDDEN LIVES Anthology. Canada’s Brindle and Glass are now promoting this Anthology containing stories on mentally challenged people.
Have you ever walked along thinking about something pleasant when someone almost bumps into you? Do you whisper because you are afraid to excite that individual or cause him/her to become violent? Do you speak slowly as if he/she were unable to understand you? How about treating that person the way you would treat anyone else instead of as an illness? Snap judgments can be incorrect, you know. There is no way of knowing whether a co-worker, a car mechanic, a lawyer, a cashier, a neighbor or a teacher is dealing with a mental challenge or not and they all deserve to be treated with dignity.
If someone treats you like an ‘option,’ help them narrow their choices by removing yourself from the equation. It’s that simple you know! If we want to show basic human courtesy and respect for human dignity, we have to remain open-minded, curious and willing to get to know people without judging them. This goes a long way in respecting human dignity.
DO YOU KNOW THAT AN OUNCE OF PATIENCE IS WORTH 1,000 WORDS ?
When someone near and dear to you is ill, it’s a good idea not to discuss anything important in that person’s presence when you are angry or upset. This applies even more so if the person concerned is in a depression or has a brain illness. I had to find new ways of communicating with my son. I had to be careful what to communicate. And I had to find the right way of doing so.
i tried to express only positive feelings; made a point of stressing the positive things he’d done that day that pleased me. I learned how to stand opposite him when I wanted to ask him to do somethiig as well as let him know how it would make me feel if he complied. Even though it was not easy, I tried to use phrases like; ‘I would appreciate it if you would do the following, ‘ OR ”I would like you to …’
If I had the need to express a negative feeling, I needed to tell him what had upset me and why, and all this using a calm, quiet voice, There were times when I felt the need to tell him something like: ‘It makes me very nervous when you pace around the room most of the time’ – instead of saying,’You are a frightening person when you pace and pace and pace …’
I learned the importance of recognizing any improvement in his behavior and attitude. I tried to tell him how I appreciated any new accomplishment OR that he’d succeeded in his new venture OR that he’d shown a great deal of courage the previous day …’
- I knew that every sentence that accentuated his strengths made him feel able to continue. BUT, I knew that we had to set boundaries. Some of them were emotional while others were physical. I was told by the psychiatric team that if I identified completely with my son’s pain, it would become my own and that the reason behind setting boundaries was for my good.
“One day, my mother changed; suddenly, she seemed like somebody else, someone that I no longer knew,” Beth said.”There were no peaceful days at home any longer and I wished for one quiet day, at least. When I was a child, my mother showed me lots of love when Dad was at home, but as soon as he went to work, her whole manner changed. She was simply not the same person. When inheard my mother’s emotionless voice, It scared me because she did things she never did before. Her face had a different expression. She sounded worried, upset and … Different. Life became harder when I had to start doing things around the house and kitchen for my mom because I became more mom than her.”