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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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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...

She accepted treatment for some 3 years, which I remember as being a time of real happiness in my family. Then she decided she was feeling too good to need it any more and stopped taking her meds, at which time she started to lose it again of course. She then refused all treatment for almost 20 years, until the murder, at which time she was placed in a hospital and given treatment whether she liked it or not.

I've spoken to several psychiatrists and psychologists, and what they explain to me is that schizophrenia slowly builds neural patterns in the brain due to ongoing use of the nonsensical thought patterns, and that over time these wrong thought patterns will get more ingrained, which is to say, worse. That's why someone refusing treatment gets more nonsensical over time. The problem is, after a long time of no treatment, these thought patterns are strongly ingrained, so even though she has been medicated for over 15 years now, all medication can do for her is stop the voices in her head: it can't eliminate all the nonsense she has already built up in her mind. It does offer her an opportunity for her to examine her thoughts and realize they're nonsense and try to overcome them, but from what I can tell she has no desire to do so.

Understand, I have not seen or spoken to her for some 15 years. It's too dangerous for me to do so. I am afraid to even contact her state caregivers for fear that they will accidentally reveal to her my contact information, or try to zap me with a bill for her care. So, I have to deal with them through third parties.

From what I have heard, it is clear to me that she continues to plot to escape (while fortunately being too inept to actually do so), to obsess about guns, and has convinced herself that as soon as she can become free of the evil government people holding her captive for no reason she will track me down and I will care for her in my home for the rest of her life, despite that I am somehow also less than 5 years old in her mind and need her to look out for me so I don't get run over by a car, presumably hers. (That's how she tried to do me in several times.) Recently she has begun saying that she understands that I don't want her in my life and she will respect that and leave me alone, but she has said that before and subsequently obsessed about finding me again, so I'm not buying it; I think she has figured out that it's one of the things her caregivers want to hear as a prerequisite to being released, so she's saying what she thinks they want to hear. She's pretty good at that, at least while she is having a period of lucidity.

She has never expressed any understanding of the fact that she utterly destroyed my childhood and has had an enormous lasting negative impact on my life from which I may never be able to recover.

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!

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