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diversion sign
An eleven page chapter from my upcoming book Psychiatric Tales, which will be out from Blank Slate in early 2010. Feel free to point out any errors or make any other comments.

1 schizophrenia

2 schizophrenia

3 schizophrenia 3

4 schizophenia

5 schizophrenia

6 schizophrenia

7 schizophrenia

8 schizophrenia

9 schizophrenia

schizophrenia 10

11 schizophrenia

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Re: As a family member of someone with schizophrenia...

However bad it was for you, I guarantee it was worse for them.

You're highlighting the exact attitude that the author's talking about. Someone with altered thinking is not deliberately targeting you or refusing help just to offend you. It's like saying that someone in a wheelchair is refusing to go hiking to spite you, not because their mobility is poor.

Re: As a family member of someone with schizophrenia...

Not in the slightest.

The attitude I am highlighting is the "The people who burn out and wander away are BAD PEOPLE" attitude on the part of the original creator.

Victims of schizophrenia include more than the people who actually have the disorder; the people who try to help are victimized as well, and pointing at them and going "Oh, it's all THEIR fault, and THEY'RE bad people for not being as supportive as *I* want." doesn't help matters.

Yes, people burn out. I've had to go through counseling. At times, I've had so much stress as a result of this that I was evaluated for PSTD. But, according to this work of art, I "just don't want to know", because I stop offering as much sympathy as once I did, just so I can survive the experience.

The creator, here, apparently wants understanding and sympathy as a result of schizophrenia: great. Fine.

The people around should ALSO get understanding and sympathy, because, frankly, it's a shit experience either way, and claiming otherwise is an insult to every time I had to get up in the middle of the night, drive fifty miles, and collect my sister from wherever she'd gotten to THAT time. Instead: "They just didn't want to know."

No. We knew. That's WHY we start getting colder, because you can't keep offering emotional support to someone who can't give it back; every time it's de facto rejected, YOU get hurt again.

In your terms: It's like we stop offering to take someone hiking because a) they're in a wheelchair, and b) every time we offer, we get punched in the groin. We get punched in the groin a lot *regardless*; is it so hard to understand that someone might not want to increase that amount?

Re: As a family member of someone with schizophrenia...

I note your concerns here and I do understand your point of view. I certainly didn't mean to imply that family members who suffer burnout are uncaring. However much friends or family may love someone with a severe mental illness, there are limits for everyone, and I've seen this many times in my work. Staff also get burned out with the emotional toll of working with very ill people. The stigma sufferers have to endure and the effect of burnout on families are two different things. I'll try and clarify that in the strip. Thanks for the input.

Re: As a family member of someone with schizophrenia...

Thank you. You explain the situation perfectly. I work on a mental health crisis line, and I've heard too many utterly heartbreaking stories of families trapped in completely impossible situations, to dismiss those who are unable to offer support as heartless or uncaring. Sometimes you have to create distance simply to survive. Unfortunately, the experience you describe is all too common, and is why one of the largest nationwide mental health organizations was created - NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org). This is a support group specifically for the families and caregivers, because as you've discovered, being in a supportive position is SO all consuming and downright traumatic.

And for all that sufferers of schizophrenia deal with misunderstanding and isolation from the normal forms of support that people enjoy...the same can be said for families. How do you respond to a coworker who is dead-tired because she was up dealing with an unmedicated schizophrenic child all night? It's not the kind of story you tell in polite company, and when you do, it's so foreign to most people that they don't know how to respond.

I've heard too many stories from family members pushed beyond the brink by how awful things have gotten at home with an unmedicated and noncompliant schizophrenic or bipolar family member, yet whose only option is to throw that person out and make them homeless under a bridge. What do you do if you are not allowed to sleep, ever, in your home by a mentally ill person, and you feel your very safety is jeopardized by that person, but your only option to save yourself and survive the experience is to throw that person out and doom them to being homeless under a bridge, when you know that their condition is not their fault and they are simply sick? On the one hand, you care about this person, they are your family, and you want to help them, but on the other hand, you aren't going to survive if you continue to keep them in your home. It's impossible.

I think it's a useless discussion to argue who has it worse - the mentally ill person or their supportive family members. All of the above are living in hell. And all of the above deserve understanding and support from the rest of us.

Re: As a family member of someone with schizophrenia...


You are absolutely correct, there are no winners in this situation. I am also a child of a schizophrenic parent - and this whole article made sad, helped me understand a little beter, AND made me ANGRY. Dealing with an unmedicated ill person is frustrating, heartbreaking and often horrifying. While I'm sure the schizophrenic is suffering, so too, are we. We get to enjoy the entire spectrum of love, anger, sometimes hate and a nice dose of guilt! All generated by our loved one. We feel helpless in the situation, as it's completely out of our control. And the person who mentioned distancing oneself for self-preservation, made me feel so understood. I have sacrificed much...I struggle financially to keep my unmedicated mother in her own house (that I bought for her!) while she tries her best to destroy my marriage and family. How horrible do you think it is to actually admit that you HATE your mother - knowing you will one day hate yourself for uttering those words? They are not the only tortured souls...we are all victims of this disease, even if it's our loved one that has it.

So again, thank you for putting into such eloquent words, the real truth of the matter, for all those involed.

Re: As a family member of someone with schizophrenia...

You speak so eloquently. The clarity of your analogy is exquisite. Thank you for your perspective.

As ANOTHER family member of someone with schizophrenia...

Frankly, paraxeni, you missed rsfurr's point entirely. I'm sure it's true that however bad it is for us it's worse for them, but it remains true that they work really hard to make it godawful for us, and that blaming us for not being supportive is really offensive when you consider what being supportive entails putting up with.

I too am a family member of someone with schizophrenia, and I've met several more, and while I'm all for educating the public about what it is and isn't, and I recognize that it's true that most mentally ill people aren't violent, I also recognize that when a schizophrenic person develops violent tendencies they can get severely out of control really really fast because they can't be reasoned with. Even if they have not actually become violent, I observe that they easily fly into rages which can be very scary to observe, particularly for those who don't actually know if the person is going to be physically violent or if they're just going to scream and yell and smash things without actually hurting anyone. It's deeply offensive to cast us as the bad guys for not being able to be supportive of a schizophrenic family member.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter if the schizophrenic person is refusing our help and being belligerent to us because their neurons are wired wrong or because they hate us or whatever. After a while either they can become so difficult to deal with that we give up, or just the sheer ongoing burden of coping with them wears us down to the point that we give up. When my mother's schizophrenia was getting particularly bad, after she had refused treatment for about 7 years, my father consulted a psychiatrist to ask for advice about what to do under the circumstances. The psychiatrist, after asking a lot of questions, told him to get a divorce, because we couldn't help her any longer, and he said if we didn't get away from her she was going to slowly and systematically destroy both of our lives as well as her own. Best advice I ever heard. Probably saved our lives. I can't tell you what an amazing revelation it was to have clean clothes in my dresser, to have edible food on my table, to be able to have friends over to visit without them being scared away permanently, to go to the mall and get a new pair of shoes without her turning it into a four day nightmare of being dragged from store to store without actually getting anything, and to be able to not have to be constantly afraid that at any moment she would run into the room in a burning rage to throw a two hour screaming fit at me about something incomprehensible. And yeah, after 25 years, I still have frequent nightmares about her, and I still wake up screaming from time to time.

I remember very clearly when my mother was showing increasingly frequent severe rage, and everyone wanted to lecture me about how schizophrenics aren't actually violent and tell me I was just imagining things and tell me what an awful person I was for "abandoning her" by going to live with my father during the divorce. After she made several unsuccessful attempts to murder me, several unsuccessful attempts to murder my father, and committed one spectacularly gruesome murder of my uncle (who was there for her and supportive to her), I found the courage to tell people who lecture me about how awful I am to have not been supportive to her to shut the hell up.

Re: As ANOTHER family member of someone with schizophrenia...

I've been there too, my mother is schizophrenic. She is destructive, but not physically. I daresay, you've had it much worse than I had. My mother did not commit murder nor make an attempt on my life. But I will never recover from the emotional scars.

I just wanted to say I'm glad you have more peace in your life now - but I do know at least somewhat, what will haunt you for the rest of your life. I too felt immediate anger at the overtones of blame in these messages - some people can never have a clue what the hell they are spouting off about, unless they have lived it...obvously they haven't. I had a judgemental friend once tell me I should always love and honour my mother...I could have throttled her. In time, she had a releative who became mentally ill...she apologized to me years later. Until they wear our shoes, you are right, they should shut the hell up!

Re: As ANOTHER family member of someone with schizophrenia...

I had a judgmental *aunt* who actually had the gall to tell me that I was a bad son for "abandoning" my mother. I told her very plainly that after the time my mother chased me out of the house in the middle of the night with a rifle in her hands and a maniacal look on her face, I had little choice. I moved hundreds of miles away and changed my appearance to try to escape my mother, and that aunt then sent her pictures of me. I no longer tell that aunt where I live, or, for that matter, anything else about me.

And my grandparents - my father's parents - apparently told my father when I wasn't around that they disapproved of him for divorcing her, and after she later murdered my uncle (her sister's husband), they told me that they flatly did not believe she did it. Never mind that she was found trying to escape with a bag of her blood soaked clothes, or that she'd told me she was going to do it. Oh no, I was a bad person for believing that after all her attempts to murder me and various members of my family, she had finally succeeded. How dare I. Relations with my grandparents were distinctly frosty after that.

Unfortunately, my mother gives me no peace. She still lives - or at least, the insane person inhabiting her body does - and the state is talking about releasing her. I know she will immediately attempt to track me down and, if possible, show up on my doorstep. I had to get someone to take a picture of her for me so I'd know what she looks like, and show it to key people in my life to tell them that if they see her, they are to try to avoid her, do not admit to knowing me, notify me immediately, and call the police immediately if she attempts to touch them. If she finds me, I will have to move and go into hiding again. I shouldn't have to be living like this in my late 30's.

Re: As ANOTHER family member of someone with schizophrenia...

I feel so bad for all the suffering you have gone through. As you show, schizophrenia is a devastating illness for all. It destroys the peace that its victims once had and makes it impossible to have a "normal" life with anyone else. Your mother has the worst case that a person could possibly have. You don't say whether or not if medication was ever able to provide any peace for her or if she just refused any treatment. In my wife's case treatment provides only minimal relief. Many of these severe cases victimize everyone, as this has for you and your family. There isn't anything more you can do. And it's neither your fault nor your mothers fault. She is the most victimized of all as this illness has destroyed herself and any hope of a "normal" life with anyone. You have to do what you have to do and don't beat yourself up about it. There ISN'T anything you can do about it. Just go on and live your life the best you can.

Re: As ANOTHER family member of someone with schizophrenia...

I am so sad and sorry reading about what you've been through! I just want to say thank you for sharing your experiences. I am holing up in my flat feeling depressed and guilty because I have left my boyfriend alone at his flat with his crazy thoughts and our dog. He calls me every half hour, sometimes to tell me he has joined the Freemasons, sometimes to accuse me of unpleasant sexual acts which are, quite frankly, beyond the scope of my imagination! He has been well are pretty sane for a few moneths, so I was really happily and probably foolishly planning our future and hoping to have children together, but now I am crashing back to reality. It is so hard because I love him and want to be there for him, but, as others have implied here, there is no point in being there for someone if it wears you down so much that you can no longer function. I find that however much I try to remember that he is not well and try to ignore his hurtful comments and anger and muttering and accusations, I just can't help feeling hurt and rejected and ending up in tears or arguing.
As for the violence issue - your mother's case is tragic and extreme, but I do think it likely that people suffering from schizophrenia are more prone to violence, simply because they feel threatened a lot of the time and so quite naturally react with violence to what they perceive as a threat. My boyfriend is a sweet, gentle person, but he occasionally smashed televisions and furniture, and has a few times shouted at his neighbours accusing them of stealing things, so it is understandable that they keep their children away from him, although he is very hurt by it and can't understand why.
Having said that, I have experienced similar emotional abuse and physical abuse from parents and people considered completely "sane," so I don't know if people with mental illnesses are any worse really. I feel much safer with my boyfriend than with my stepfather, who is not only sane but a respected professor!

Re: As a family member of someone with schizophrenia...

I disagree. It's like saying you bought your friend a wheelchair, showed them how to use it, they used it for a week, then went back to demanding to be carried. It's one thing when the illness is undiagnosed. It's another thing when a person is receiving treatment, then stops.

Re: As a family member of someone with schizophrenia...

While I understand what you are saying here, as someone that also has a mother that suffers from schizophrenia I disagree. The issue is that someone with schizophrenia, form what I understand, almost never realizes that they need the "wheel chair". Imagine if someone kept demanding you take a medication that you didn't believe you needed, you probably would resist taking it. Unfortunately that is the nature of the illness and to get upset at someone that is resisting help is like getting mad at someone with cancer because they wont stop their cancerous cells from multiplying.

Re: As a family member of someone with schizophrenia...

I disagree too. It's more like saying you bought your friend a wheelchair, they used it for a week, then took the wheels off and wore it on their head for a week, then decided it was bugged and threw it in a skip, then insisted it was a spaceship transporting aliens to earth to pollute the water supplies, then refused to drink any water for a week, then blamed you for destroying the world and its ecosystems.

Re: As a family member of someone with schizophrenia...

However bad it was for you, I guarantee it was worse for them.
Well i'm not so sure about that, a lot of skyzophrenic people don't even know they are ill

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