Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Can You Hide Schizophrenia for Years?

I found this forum by googling, ‘Why did my brother kill my father?’ The murders, (someone else I loved was killed as well), occurred on Thanksgiving. It’s now January. I’ve been so busy with the funeral, communicating with the IRS, filling out the death certificates, correcting the death certificates, I did not have time to think about it until today.

I walked next to my brother on a mountain trail months ago. I complained to him, “You are a grown man, why don’t you have a job?” We’ve always been close. There has literally been nothing my brother has not confided to me before. After our mother died, I took care of him. He was ten at the time. It’s been twenty years since then.

He dodged my questions about getting a job. He shrugged them off. I grew annoyed. We had driven past thirty different restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores with signs that said, ‘Hiring.’ He was living with family that had even offered to put him through college and place him on their car insurance. I told him he was crazy if he didn’t accept. College would be good for him. I told him I didn’t want a NEET for a brother. I got him to laugh, but he did not tell me he was going to go out and get a job.

Our father had asked me to take my brother out when I visited because he was worried about him. My brother claimed to be scared of the dogs at the table, so he would take his meals into his bedroom and wouldn’t eat with the family. He was drawing symbols on mirrors with sharpie. That, for me, was a concern. I asked him, jokingly, if he was trying to summon a demon. He mumbled he was bored. I got agitated and told him it was creepy, and to stop. He did put the mirrors away. When I came back into his room later he had them out again.

My dad asked me how he was, after I was getting ready to leave. I told him my brother was weird, which at the time, I believed was a result of him being lazy. All he did was game, go on reddit, and post stupid memes on his phone. I didn’t yell at him and I wasn’t as aggressive as I should have been. I suggested to my father that maybe him and our other family members could sit down with my brother at the table and give him an ultimatum. My brother used to take my advice, because he knew I cared about him.

A month later I got a phone call from my sister that two of our family members had been fatally shot by our brother. He hadn’t tried to run after the fact. When I arrived at the house, I stripped the computer. I found my brother’s kindle and went through it. The police had his phone. They told me there’s nothing leading up to this. No calls. No texts. No weird photos. Nothing.

The leading investigator believes my brother is evil. They found a written list of guns in the house. That took planning, which he said is more of a criminal thing than a Schizophrenic thing. Another police officer I spoke to is unsure. My brother expresses very little interest in what is going to happen to him. He asked about the dogs and our surviving family’s welfare, but outside of that, he didn’t seem to know or care that he was in prison. He did insist my father had threatened him with death several times over the years. My father was the most laid back, kind, gentle guy. I knew that was a lie. I told the police officer my brother was lying.

My father was taking care of our other family members. One had suffered a stroke and another had Dementia. It was my father’s idea for my brother to move up with them. My brother wasn’t working and my sister didn’t have a lot of money. She told him to get a job or get out of her house. He stormed out and left all his stuff behind. Now my brother is claiming my father was plotting to kill him, after inviting him up to the house to live there.

A nurse I spoke to told me everything I described sounded like Schizophrenia. The paranoia, self-isolation, belief that one had been abused. I told her how normal my brother was on our walk. She said Schizophrenics can hide their condition, and that they commonly do. I asked about the list of guns and lying to the police. She phrased it politely, but she suggested my brother is a spoiled brat who threw a tantrum. His mental illness didn’t make him commit murder. It only made murder seem like a good idea. He was sane enough to know that this would get him in enormous trouble, and he was sane enough to try and hide it. That was really hard to hear.

Just like with the two police officers disagreeing with one another, I got a second opinion from another nurse. She worked in the ER as well as a psych ward. She suggested it would be crazy to judge someone with Schizophrenia as being ‘evil.’ The concept of evil involves freedom of choice. She went on to tell me that many, many people my brother’s age don’t have jobs and live with their parents. These people argue with their loved ones and get mad and embarrassed. They do all the same things my brother did, not working, playing video games. The difference between a healthy person and my brother is that the healthy people avoid their parents and refuse to get jobs until they are thrown out of the house. A sane person does not resort to murder.

My brother has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder. I have no idea if he did it because he’s evil, or if he’s been Schizophrenic for years and hid it. I am scared for him, and so, so, furious. I go back and forth between feeling devastated and humiliated. I have a company event next week that is going to last a month. A lot of smiling, a lot of networking. This is something I RSVP’d for. It is my job. I have to do it.

Everyone I’ve spoken to has either one view or the other. It’s either he was 100% evil and planned this or he is 100% Schizophrenic and had no choice. It makes no difference to him, because as far as the state is concerned, it’s first degree murder. I was hoping, because I’m on this site, someone could clear this up for me. If there had been no guns in the house, would he have used some other way? Was this inevitable? Someone suggested I took my life in my hands on that walking trail because we were alone on the side of a mountain. My brother killed my father, and I thought he loved him. Why didn’t he shove me off any of the numerous cliffs we were on, when I demanded he get a job? Did he love me a little more? Did people telling him to get a job have nothing to do with him killing anyone?

My sister feels like she handed my father a ticking time bomb. She has a little boy, who my brother loved and took care of. He was so good with our nephew. When our nephew moved up to live with his dad, my brother got quiet and withdrawn. He loved and took care of cats. The cats were another reason my sister said he had to leave. He wasn’t buying them food, but giving them people food, their food. That was another thing we talked about on the walking trail. How dare he give my sister’s food to stray cats? Once again, I made him laugh. I just thought he was being malicious and audacious, giving away my sister’s food to stray animals. Was this another warning sign I should have picked up on?

My brother and I were so close growing up. We thought up stories together. After our mom died, I took care of him and my sister. I can’t connect him with the killer. They seem like two completely different people. I keep wondering how close I came to getting a knife in my back, or being shoved off a cliff. I was walking next to a murderer and we had coffee and talked. I keep going over what we talked about with a fine-toothed comb, but I have nothing. It’s been months and I still have no idea if he chose this. I’m too old to feel like this, but I want to run away. It’s like I’m fourteen again. Might as well be wearing black and posting on Tumblr.

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In short, yes. It’s possible to hide untreated symptoms for years. I did in periods where I tried to see if I could go it alone without drugs. Friends, family, coworkers and doctors couldn’t tell. Do I recommend it, no. It invariably catches up with you. But masking symptoms is a skill that can be learned, and essential in my opinion for successful recovery. Generally I’ve found people with schizophrenia who tend toward the paranoia are better at hiding symptoms. Unless you trigger certain hot-button topics for them that feed into delusions, they might seem somewhat normal, if a bit eccentric.

By the same token SZ is difficult to fake convincingly to trained observers. Insanity defenses are notoriously difficult to pull off, and rarely yield better outcomes for the accused. You may consider reading about David Kaczynski, Ted Kaczynski’s brother, and his experiences with these difficult issues.

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Not only is it possible to hide untreated symptoms for years, its also possible for family members to not realize their family member has had schizophrenia for those same years.

Sadly, when I read news articles that involve killings where the family member didn’t try to leave afterwards or was reported to be “unusually calm” when officers arrived, my first thought is that it is one of “our” family members.

Many people are killed without the use of guns. Was it inevitable? No, I would say it was not inevitable.

Going forward, I think its possible that you are going to be educating yourself a good deal about schizophrenia. You will learn that your brother is not evil, he has a brain disorder.

Running away can sound like a really good idea. I hope you can find a way to balance everything that is going on in your life. You will be dealing with looking at the past, your brother’s current situation, your grief and trying to keep your own life up and going.

As was recommended on a similar thread, Vince Granata’s book “Everything Is Fine” deals with his struggle and his feelings toward his brother after the brutal death of his mother. Also, Joan Didion’s book “The Year of Magical Thinking” is helpful for understanding and processing grief and mourning.

I am so sorry this has happened to you and your family. Take care of yourselves.

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Firstly, I am so sorry that this has happened to your family. You sound like a loving sister who took on an undue amount of responsibility for your siblings, and probably at a young age, as well. To this lay person, it does sound as if your brother suffers from schizophrenia, a disease for which no preventative measures are known. Barring that, however, even the best of parents have experienced unexpected outcomes in bringing up children, with unforeseen events as traumatic as suicide happening occasionally. In other words, this is not your fault.

Secondly, the opinions of the investigator, the police officers, and even the nurses are probably not nearly as important as that of a psychologist or psychiatrist. If your brother has a public defender, please speak with them to ensure that any relevant psychiatric evaluation is performed, so that, if applicable, your brother may be placed in a psychiatric facility where he can get the help that he needs, rather than in prison.

Thirdly, please get some help for yourself, not only to deal the personal aftermath of this tragedy, but also to learn coping strategies for any unwelcome attention that may follow. Psychologists/psychiatrists have their hands full just now, but other counselors, like the social worker to whom my doctor recently referred me, are still available. If you live in an urban area, NAMI may help, as well.

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Hi Beth and welcome to the forum.
Many with schizophrenia get their diagnosis while incarcerated. Often that is the first time they get meds as well.
You will find a lot of good information on this site. I hope he is seeing a psychiatrist and maybe that is where you could help him the most; being his advocate for treatment. He may become a different person while medicated.
My heart breaks for you and your family.
I don’t see how you would have had any way of knowing he was so ill. I agree with others, it sounds as if he is ill, not evil.
My heart goes out to you and your entire family.
:heart:

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No one really knows. In my community, a man in his late 20s stabbed his father to death- he too was calm when the police arrived. Maybe if there were a gun in the home it would have been used. It’s really hard to say what the triggers are.

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Thank you, I needed to know it was possible that this was a thing my brother was trying to deal with this as long as he could. I’ve only met two people in my life who have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. One was a super sweet, super smart coworker of mine in a deli. The other was a soft-spoken, scared eighteen-year-old living with his grandmother. When I left the house, the grandmother informed me he was afraid I worked for the government and I had been sent to spy on him. I know literally nothing about Schizophrenia. I will start with David Kaczynski. Thank you for suggesting the reading.

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Good evening. Thank you for suggesting NAMI. My grandma was an awesome influence after my mom passed. She did loads of laundry, cooked food for us, and paid us for getting good grades. I feel bad about that last one XD. My grandmother was amazing. I credit her if I ended up okay. I was fourteen when my brother was ten.

I needed to know it was possible this was an accident. I’ve had to cut people off before, but never like this. There were hundreds of photos I recovered with my brother and father, (we had to dig through photo albums to make a slideshow for the funeral), that showed my brother hugging him across two decades. The last photo I ended up recovering he was standing four feet away from us all with his hands in his pockets. He was still smiling. Just not close.

I did, recently, have to cut a friend out of my life who was pretending to be mentally ill for attention. I’m afraid I let my experience with her influence how I felt about my brother. She was obviously pretending, because the second I got her loved ones involved by showing them the emails and texts she sent me, she became enraged. She said those had only been for me. My counsellor knew I was being manipulated before I did. I thought my friend was insane. The counsellor explained some abusive people use mental illness as a screen to control others. I am positive that is not the case with my brother. He never has tried to hurt or control people. I even used to worry about him sticking up for himself.

I will read, ‘Everything is Fine’ and ‘The Year of Magical Thinking.’ Thank you for your suggestions. I will do everything in my power to take care of my family around me.

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Good evening, thank you. I already feel a little better reaching out here and getting some facts. The thing that makes this hard is that I am absolutely, 100% alone reaching out to my brother as far as my family is concerned.

I do not blame my uncles. They’re all in their sixties. My grandmother has Dementia. Having a person threaten you with a gun, to get into a room, and then ask you what the address is to the house to call 911. I can’t imagine. I know nothing about Schizophrenia, but when my grandma was diagnosed with Dementia, I did learn a little about that. You basically turn back into a little kid. Hearing her complain about what she had to eat, where her dogs were, her hair appointment for two weeks, she is a kid. She was never like this as an adult, but she’s becoming twelve again.

I can’t type out the rest of what I wrote. I’m in the military, I can’t leave. I would have if I could have. I am in another state. I can’t help him. I have to hope the people in charge have the common sense to diagnose my brother if he’s ill. I’ll try reaching out to his attorney, but the police didn’t want me to see him. The only thing I have to reach him is his case number, and I know his state-provided attorney’s first name. That’s it. Would that be enough to contact people? Would they have the common sense to get a psychiatrist to evaluate him?

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Thank you for mentioning Vince Granada’s book which I wasn’t aware of, yet he and his mother were friends of mine and my older son
in grade school. I’m interested to read what he wrote about this country’s broken mental health system.

Ironically, my youngest son has Schizoaffective Disorder. He is very gentle, kind and loving. He has enough insight to know his voices aren’t his thoughts and when to take himself to the hospital. Not all do.

I blame our terrible mental health system for not supporting our loved ones enough to avoid these tragedies.

I’m so sorry for the losses this person has had.

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@Donna1 Vince Granata’s brother did have the symptom anosognosia, he does a nice explanation of what that means and explains in detail the efforts his family made to help his brother.

He writes in detail about his personal journey after the tragedy, as he dealt with the loss of his mom and his feelings toward his brother.

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It sounds like schitzophrenia to me…my son got at age16…he was sweeet kid… he tried killing me 3 times…with knife, choking …hehsdpsrsnoia…it, seems liketheyre devil possrssed…like weak kids who devils torme tand tell. To kill…his adult siblings didnt believe me…not till this last yearwhen olfer son tried to protect.me and sch. Son went bollistic on him…he thought it was like devil possession too…he wrote song this yr about called “time” by nite tides …