Something's Wrong With Mom - Paranoid Schizophrenia
I wanted to talk about my experience with Schizophrenia because I stayed quiet throughout the important years fighting this disease alone, when I should have voiced it more when I was in the middle of it. What has happened to my mother is the biggest tragedy of both our lives, her struggle with this disease has been fiercely crippling and I will love and miss her to no end. It is extremely difficult for a child to realize their parent is becoming a victim to psychosis. At 15 there are so many things I wish I could have done or changed, which now in hindsight with time and age seem so easy to spot, but were not at all then. I never want anyone to have to face this horrifying process of losing a parent the way I did. I am listing out some things I have learned from my experience below in case someone else that is dealing with Schiz in their family needs the help that I have desperately needed for the past eight years and counting.
EVERYONE'S EXPERIENCE IS DIFFERENT.
There are several factors through my mother’s situation during the time of her initial psychotic break that made it so difficult to spot and to understand. She has never been treated by medication, although several authorities within my community are very aware of her illness. Fighting against it and not getting help is a losing battle. For the longer Schizophrenia goes un-medicated, the worse it increasingly deteriorates the brain and the body because of the stress it is causing a person living with it. You can imagine for a woman that is about to lose half of her life in a big divorce including her marriage, her home, her children and family business, and so much more, the stress was inconceivable. The escalating events that drove her to her limit only forced her brain to try and save herself the only ways she felt plausible, no matter how “crazy” that may be. It has been 8 years and I have seen the downward spiral go from 0 to 100. The amount of damage and loss that it has brought to my mother’s world blows my mind because none of it is considered as rock bottom yet despite how horrible it has been. She still cannot fathom that this is a personal mental health challenge; therefore, she will not accept medication. It sucks. The only way I can get my mother even slightly closer to the woman she was before Schizophrenia took over, is if she severely hurts herself or someone else. Under those conditions the authorities can bring her in to a hospital to help admit her. Without that, she will live paranoid and tortured for the rest of her life. It’s scary to think that I should wait for that day. If that day never comes then I will live my whole life motherless, which breaks both of our hearts. That is my reality. I am lucky and proud that she is alive today, for not many people can handle the amount of trauma she has endured. My mom is the strongest person I know.
As a child, it’s a lot easier to blame your parent for the painful things they’ve put you through, but the truth is she never asked for this difficult time in her life to happen. While it has been very hard for me to grow up constricted by her disease - I would do it all over again if it meant that I could have saved her. Becoming so close with this illness has given me such a deep appreciation and positive outlook for having the ability to live a healthy life myself, where I am in control. I must take absolute advantage of it, consuming everything I can while I am here and living it to the fullest because as for her, I do not know what my future entails either. I know what an incredibly blessed woman I am for having lived such a great life already, and I now understand the immense importance of keeping my stressors low above all else to have a stable and healthy life.
From the outside looking in, I knew each day would be different from the last and I never could anticipate what was going to happen. I tried my best to hold on to the glimpses of the woman I knew, to help the amazing mother that raised me and gave me so much of her own life to see me grow, for as long as I could I wanted to be by her side. Doing so became very dangerous for my own health and sanity. High school was the most stressful and pressing time for me to also have a mental breakdown. When you are so consumed in your parent's delusions and beliefs they so strongly see to be real, it is hard to know the truth. And for my situation at the time (the mentality changes to different theories over the years) her truth was that my father was out to destroy her in every aspect, so I found that very hard to rationalize every single day. I would try to see it from her side because the last thing I wanted to do was deny her and make her feel even more alone and scared already. There were strange and confusing things happening to her, us and our property that is no doubt, but my struggle was figuring out how to stop them, who did them and why. I will never have all the answers. Dwelling on the erratic occurrences that have torn us apart and that no one can explain hurts me more than any pain I have ever felt. I coped with it how I could, which was a combination of repressing the scarring moments of each day for years, and numbing the pain while distracting myself from the sadness. There are better ways to deal with it then how I did. Do not numb your pain, use it as fuel to get help. Go see a therapist, a counselor, a professional. Fight hard for their health.
DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Read about the causes, symptoms, different types of schizophrenia, the treatments and effects until you know as much information that is available. Go online to the real professional and resourceful websites and read. Ask your family members about your genetic history with mental health. Reach out and call local mental health departments and speak to a professional about this disease and how someone can be helped. It is very hard if the affected person is not willing to get the help they need, I am at a huge disadvantage geographically to get help from professionals. Had I truly understood what was going on around me, my mom may be on a different path today and still the woman I remember before.
KEEP A JOURNAL.
Write everything down. Document the manic episodes. Not doing so is one of my biggest regrets. It would have helped me in proving detailed evidence to mental health providers and police for cause. It would have helped me realize how bad things were seeing it all written out. It would have salvaged my memories, which have repressed so much of the painful important events. The more you can feel and acknowledge your situation, the more you can accept what it happening and make you more comfortable to talk about it and seek help.
TALK TO SOMEONE.
I did not do this until it was too late. For several reasons, I dealt with this alone and my father and sister had no idea what was happening for years. I also thought leaving the farm was not an option out of fear. I was the only thing she had left and I was scared she would do something terrible to herself had I left. I would not have been able to live with myself if that happened. I should have announced the depths of her mental health challenges, behavior and delusions/theories sooner. No matter how scary the consequences may seem to you, telling adults and family members is the right thing to do to come close to getting better. My family was very broken and separated during this entire mental breakdown, I was the only person close to her that she did not fully believe was out to hurt her. For a paranoid schizophrenic, everyone is out to get you no matter how close you are, so having a very supportive and close family that has trust in their relationships can help make the chances of getting treatment a lot higher.
STAY CALM AND POSITIVE.
This is one of the toughest pieces of advice because it is so hard to pull yourself out of this negative thing that you have no control over. Dealing with a schizophrenic is extremely draining day in and day out. It can lead you to suffer in several ways due to the traumatizing events and parenting of an unstable person. This disease can take over your life if you do not do things that help soothe your soul and calm your mind. It would have destroyed me had I not seek distraction in other outlets of my life (school, rugby, friends, bring social). I kept reminding myself that it was the illness talking, not her and that she loves me so much. Don’t let this component of your life engulf you. It breaks you down emotionally and mentally, but you need to become adaptive and patient to survive. It is never easy to do, and it can take a toll on your own mental health. During this stressful period, you are also suffering and even though you are focusing on the loved one’s mental health you also have to look out for your own. Whether that’s going to the gym, listening to music, yoga, sports, painting, anything. You must remember the things they are telling you are not real and they do not mean them, no matter how convincing and real those feelings are to them. They may not remember the things they’ve done or said, but never go along with any of them, even if it is easier for you at the time, because that only adds fuel to the fire for Schizophrenia.
FIND AMAZING PEOPLE.
It is so incredibly important to surround yourself with people that support you and make your life better. Without my amazing friends, I do not know where I would be throughout this. You don’t have to face this alone, no matter how lonely and helpless you may feel. You need people that can take the bad parts of the day away, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Laughing is therapeutic and helps ease the tough times. It is also equally important to break away from anyone that makes you feel worse about yourself during this time. A bad friend or shitty partner can seriously play a role in breaking your mental capacity. Cut any ties to people that add any paranoia, stress or mistrust to your life. It is not worth your time and health.
ALWAYS STAND UP FOR YOURSELF.
No matter how scared you are, try not to let the thoughts and delusions manipulate you, your life, and the truth. Never give in to the stories and never agree with their theories no matter how bad they want you to. They are not real. It is okay to be confused, it is okay to feel guilty and hopeless, but you have to be the force of reason for them. Clarity is hard to find as a child because you parents are supposed to provide this knowledge and education. This is why it's important to constantly reach out for help to professionals, whether it is the police, mental health providers, hospitals, schizophrenic help lines, anyone with experience dealing with this. Make it known that you are in danger, explain your concerns for losing both you and your parents life. Teach yourself how to mend from the pain, and keep your mental health strong by challenging the stress by staying active, educated, and free.
You have to be aware of your surroundings, there were many times I would find myself having to follow my mom in places I wasn’t comfortable or sitting in the passenger seat as she’s behind the wheel acting frantic. She would say things that were very worrisome about ending my father and then weapons started to appear in my home. None of that was okay. Whenever I realized the danger I was in, I tried to stop it. It can be hard to figure out what’s going on when you’re so far down this road, my case was extreme so the horror became normalized. It is also important to notice if anyone is manipulating their situation or enabling them. There were adults involved with maintaining my farm daily that knew she was sick and continued to help her in proving her theories and accompanying her delusions. This extremely contributed to my mother’s illness because the people she trusted were too afraid to stop her. This was deepening her conspiracy theories because other adults she trusted were not telling her that those thoughts weren’t real out of fear. For me this was extremely frustrating because I knew what they were doing was wrong and none of them would help me out of fear. Still to this day nothing has progressed, things have only gotten further from care and harder for her. It is hard to make everyone involved on the same page, and my situation was different but if you notice that other adults are involved are not acting to help, talk to them and make them understand the difficulties they are furthering by not addressing it.
THINGS CAN GET BETTER.
I never thought I would get passed this part of my life. I thought I would be trapped and destroyed forever over this. The light at the end of the tunnel does not exist because for us this battle will never be over. But since I have grown up I have healed many of wounds and I have survived the worst of this battle. It changed me, it torments me in my sleep still, but it also made me stronger and better. I wish I could say the same for my mom, I know how badly we both wish things were different. Treatment is something that my mother may never receive, but that might not be the case for others. It is so incredibly important to get medication within the first few months of seeing symptoms. Since I’ve been open about mental health, others have shared their experiences with similar diseases. I’ve only met a few people with a parent Schizophrenia, and they have all had medication to help their loved one, hearing these stories showed me that recovery is possible for some people. It may not be a full transition back to their previous life, but it can improve. I hope to one day say that for my mom.
I have been very back and forth about sharing this part of my life on a recording. Mainly because it is her life, I do not want to hurt her. The only thing I am completely positive about throughout this entire mindfuck is that if I am still too afraid to discuss everything that I have endured, then it would be impossible for me to see any positive changes in this issue. All it takes is one person to spread the importance of speaking up. I am done letting schizophrenia instill fear in me. I hope my story can be helpful to any other person that is battling, stay strong.
Thank you for listening to my story,