Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Am I being unreasonable? - Helping Brother, My Pregnancy


#1

I recently moved back home as when I found out i was pregnant I wanted to be closer to my family (I was living abroad). I have a 23 years old brother with schizophrenia who lives with my parents. He was diagnosed about 4 years ago and is one of the reasons I moved away in the first place as at the time he was in the early diagnosis stage and certainly not willing/capable to understand he needed help and i felt i was contributing to the stress he and my parents were feeling.

He has now been on clozapine for almost 2 years and many of his symptoms are under control (or as close as i think we will get) and he has never been violent (the off hole punched into a wall in the early days but never towards himself or others). He goes to an outpatient clinic 2 days a week (they take them on walks/to the library…etc) but otherwise spends his time at home. He used to smoke a lot of weed (doctors believing this helped the illness appear/develop) and has recently started up again (as opposed to smoking occasionally I believed it is now a daily occurence). He has a disability allowance that my parents let him use as he wishes (£750/month). He is also diabetic and the only reason his blood sugar levels remain acceptable rather than dire is because people remind him/cook for him…etc

They believe that the reason he has not been hospitalised in the past couple of years and that he takes his medication (always upon demand not automatically) is because he is allowed to live in a stress free environment.

They have recently asked me to “leave him alone” ie stop nagging at him, usually entirely related to his diet (I know what long term sugar abuse can do to diabetics and worry for him when I see him binge eating) or about small things like putting his plate in the dishwasher/cleaning up after himself.

My mother does everything for him without ever asking him for anything (washing, cooking, cleaning…etc) and now i have come home has passed on a lot of these duties to me - which I don’t have a problem with but i feel not integrating him/reminding him of social norms does him no good either. I do not believe allowing him to live like this helps him or gives him any semblance of a normal setting.

I Worry about the day my parents are not around if he is not made to understand/live in a more normal way.

Am I being unreasonable? Sorry for the long thread I just need to hear from other people not directly involved but who understand the situation!


#2

I can see both sides. Your parents have probably lived through the living hell (pardon my French) that can occur when a young adult with schizophrenia is diagnosed and unmedicated. They have realized that along with his medication, a stress-free environment can be very conducive to him, and them as well. The payoff is worth it because they can live (somewhat) normally.

This will not change because you want it to. They have found their balance and they know what sets him off, so they avoid any of those triggers. They have found their new normal. It sounds to me like you might have to find a way to adjust to that new normal. Many of us have been there.

You can have your beliefs, but may find that often times they don’t fit into the schema of an individual with schizophrenia. We can be your support, so coming here is a good first step. This is a great place to vent.

Hang in there…hugs


#3

Your concern for your brother’s dietary choices is a valid concern. Personally, since I have been unable to get my son on medication for his scz, I think your parents are doing a tremendously wonderful job.

I think its important that you support the environment they have set up in their home. Take care of yourself as you prepare for the arrival of your own child.


#4

@Holly67 and @hope thank you for your insight. Sometime just putting words on paper so to speak helps. I realise how lucky we are that he is on medication and safe. Reading a lot of posts on here makes me realise how often this is not the case.

I think just like everyone else, we want the best for the people we love and care for. I think my problem is less with my brother (health concerns aside) and more with my parent’s attitude towards him. Which as you said probably came about in order to cope with his illness in the first place. I expect them to treat him the same way as myself or my other brother or the way in which they did before, but he is not the same making this impossible.

You’ve both given me a lot to think about. xx


#5

Hi - I’m not going to comment on your brother - rather on how to have a healthy pregnancy so your child is less likely to get schizophrenia. I recommend you really focus on nutrition, avoiding getting colds/flu, and keeping as low a stress level as possible. Here are some items you may want to read:

Preventing Schizophrenia:
http://schizophrenia.com/prev1.htm


#6

I think you are responding in a normal way to an unusual living situation. For most of us parents, we have been told by doctors to create calm, low expectations environments to help lower stress, which contributes so greatly to this illness. I can see how from another point of view, it looks like we are not doing right by our loved family members. Serious mental illness requires lifestyle changes the way other illnesses do. And we all try to help our families make these changes.

As you write, your parents have had to change the way they treat him and lower the expectations they still have for you and your other brother. I don’t know what that would be like.


#7

Hi Grey.

I understand your concerns. I have them as well for my own son.

Regarding the binge eating, I know that’s difficult to watch, especially when you know the damage it’s doing. The way I am addressing that with my own son is to limit the amount of high calorie/high fat foods I bring into our home. Also, I do not give my son his disability money to spend how he wants. I made it very clear to him early on that disability money is government money used to pay for living costs, such as food, shelter, and clothing. I made sure I was his benefits “Payee” right from the beginning. There’s a good chance our son will need our living support for the duration, but just in case we have some miracle, I feel it’s important for him to at least hear me say that money “doesn’t grow on trees”. Maybe it will sink in, but maybe it won’t.

Regarding the household chores, as my son has continued to stabilize, I’ve increased expectations very slowly, just bit-by-bit. No, he does not do laundry, vacuuming, yard maintenance, etc., but he is expected to get his own breakfast and lunch, and he is expected to clean up after himself. Currently, I’m encouraging him to pick up the pace with cooking, such as boiling water for pasta and following directions on the backs of packages. These were things my son was able to do before he became ill, before he suffered cognitive damage due to psychosis. Again, my hope is he will some day live more independently, so I feel it’s my job to try to prepare him as best I can.

I do agree with what the previous posters have said to you, that your parents have probably been through hell to get your brother stabilized, and that they have expectations set up to keep him stable and keep things peaceful for them. I totally get that. Believe me. I could never judge how other families manage their ill loved ones. I’m just telling you how I’m approaching things. Stress causes psychosis, so expectations have to be adjusted and readjusted. It’s a delicate dance we all do.

My son is 21. He was severely psychotic for about a year and a half before recently beginning monthly injection. He refuses psycho-therapy, does not have friends, and does not work. We’ve been through and still do experience the same hell your parents probably went through.

I know it’s hard, but try to just love your family and not worry about “fixing” things. Your baby needs your undivided attention. Peace.

Edit: One more thing…The continued pot smoking is a recipe for disaster, in my opinion.


#8

I think I would encourage him to help you do things. You’ll know when you need to back off and just because he helped you one day doesn’t mean he can do it the next and visa versa. My son requires us working right by him. Sometime I have him a pillow and case and he puts it in it and sometimes he acts like he doesn’t know why he is holding it. Just be patient and learn all you can about this illness. God bless your family.