Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Complete understanding and connection

I heard from my longtime girlfriend of 20+ years today. We raised our boys together, (she had 2 sons and I had 2 sons), all very close in age. We were also close neighbors (one street over).

For whatever reason, we managed to stay in touch thru all of life’s difficult obstacles (her leaving her husband, her going back to him, her losing her longtime job of dental hygienist, my leaving my husband, my divorce, our kids graduating from high school, etc). We just both kept in touch thru life’s hardships and joys, although it wasn’t on a regular frequent basis.

It was finally revealed to me tonight that she was diagnosed with schizoaffective/bipolar disorder prox 15 years ago. She is in her early 50’s. I guess the onset was kind of late for her. I have to admit, I was not that shocked. When we were both younger, I remember her doing some very strange things (walking around the neighborhood barefoot in her pajamas, inviting the neighbors husband over for coffee while her husband was @ Work, Just very bizarre things. And at the time I had no idea what was going on, I just did not understand. Now, looking back, it all makes perfect sense. But I still liked her a lot, she was a very kind woman and a good mom. Her kids always came first. We took turns watching each other’s kids. But I knew something was alittle “off”. I think her older son knew from about the time he was 14 that his mother was not well. He came over to our house often (my older son and he were good friends). He sometimes didn’t want to go home. His younger brother was close to my younger son (the one with sz). So, the 4 of them often hung out @ our pool a lot of summers.

Isn’t it funny how life works? My younger son diagnosed 5 years ago with sz, and a good friend from 20+ years ago, diagnosed with the same.

I was still not able to tell her about my son. Even after she revealed to me of her illness. Even after all this time, when it comes to talking about my son, I become mute. I’m still having a very hard time accepting it, and I’m also scared of who she might tell. You’d think I would have been able to open right up and just tell her about my baby. But… I just could not.

But this revelation brought her and I so much closer. She trusted me enough to tell me. She told me she has been on clozapine for years, because her episodes were so bad. I also know her husband, a wonderful supportive man. She said this brought them closer, and he takes great care of her. I’m so happy she is not alone in this, like many people her age are.

Her older son became an engineer and her younger son is an airplane pilot. She did well, given the circumstances. Her kids turned out well, and I’m happy for her. And just her being so real with me about this, saying she had been afraid to mention it to anyone, just made me love her more, because I could totally relate. I did feel a little guilty about not saying anything about my son.

Maybe eventually I will find the courage to tell her about my son… I don’t know.

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We do not have to “tell all”, and especially since it had been so long since you had talked with your friend, that makes sense. Perhaps if you talk more frequently in the future, you will decide you want to tell more of your own journey with a loved one with SMI. But if not, that is OK, too.

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For that reason alone, it is fine that you didn’t mention it to your friend, in my opinion. It sounded like she was finally up to discussing herself with you, and it is probably good that you let the conversation just be about her. She needed to tell you for some reason about her illness. Perhaps in the future you will want to confide, just as it took her 15 years to tell you about her illness, there is lots of future time to perhaps discuss your son’s illness. For now, it is probably best you didn’t say anything to her yet.

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