I’ve recently started dating someone with scitzophrenia, but she didn’t tell me about it until a couple months after we started seeing each other. She still seems ok when she’s on her meds but she tends to have her moments as well. With me being new to this I don’t really know how to deal with it sometimes. I’ve been doing some research on the subject to help me better understand scitzophrenia, but I’d like the options from others who are dealing with this same matter.
Welcome to the forum Aaron. I’m a parent/caregiver to a SZ son who is 19. I don’t this question is in my wheelhouse but just wanted to encourage you that you’ve come to the right place. And I’m glad you are attempting to understand versus just running away.
Also, search for this thread. Good insight: G/F of 7 years most likely Schizophrenic w/Anosognosia
What exactly do you mean by “has her moments”? Perhaps you can give more details as to her behavior so that we can understand what the issues are. Also, is she consistently taking her meds?
The best is to talk to her about. Confront the illness. Ask how it feels. Ask her what you should do if she goes into a psychosis or if she stops taking meds and is unstable. Ask if she wants to write instructions or give you permission to know about her care if she is hospitalized… She can give you written instructions so you can get info if she is hospitalized. You should also know her doctors’ names. Reassure her that you just want to help and to stand by her.
As someone who’s sole dating experience is after developing a related illness, Schizoaffective Disorder or SZA, I second this. Talk to her about it. Ask her about her full experience, before and after SZ. How it impacts her life now, how her life has changed, what her treatment is like.
Most of my mistakes in dating have come from partners saying, “okay” and never broaching the subject again. Consider the trust and courage it took for her to tell you about her illness, and how much she has invested in the relationship to have what I call “the talk”. Consider also the possibility she has a limited circle of support and friends and may have a lot riding on the relationship. You may be the first person she has dated at all or since her diagnosis, or the first that she’s been serious about. If you are less serious about the relationship than she is, she needs to understand that going in, as breakups can be more devastating to her the longer it continues.
The “splitting of the mind” coined for SZ is not between her “personalities”, but between her thoughts and emotion. Let that sink in. She may have blunted or delayed emotional responses. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t have emotions, quite the contrary. She may have quite deep emotions, but have trouble expressing them appropriately or in-the-moment. People with SZ are prone at times to be either quite detached or melodramatically emotional. With periods of separation, she may be able to “think” herself into emotions like love and hate. She may also attach disproportionate value to emails, texts, letters, poems or things said in conversation or phone calls. My opinion is face-to-face conversations are best.
People with schizophrenia often operate in what a previous therapist called low-touch and low-communication environments. Hugs and other physical contact may be confusing or scary to her, and sometimes simple customs like asking people “how are you?” or “thank you” in certain circumstances or unwritten rules about interaction may be confusing to her, because they seemingly lack intent or purpose. I know I had to be schooled on many of these customs. Some like “how are you” are now second nature, but understanding initiating physical contact or closeness is often a struggle for me. I’ve had girlfriends have to be very blunt with me at times.
All this said, if you accept these challenges and she keeps up with her treatment, she can be an interesting and endearing companion. I’ve had partners say at first they thought “I couldn’t be real”, but over time came to understand me. I’ve had my share of break-ups, nearly all were initiated by the other party. Some worse than others and I survived. It’s likely if the relationship ends, you will be the one initiating it, as long has she retains her mental health. For someone with SZ relationships are huge investments and hard to manage, and we have a lot to lose, so we tend to be “lifers” and stick in relationships even if they are unsatisfactory. In relapse, however, we may seemingly turn on a dime and hurt people emotionally. These times are often driven or exacerbated by symptoms of the illness, and while it’s hard at these times to detach emotionally-- it may be necessary and even healthy for you to do so.
This is very much a different dynamic than a parent/child or other family relationship. You need to understand this, and have care not to confuse the two or spiral down into a “siege mentality” if the relationship is not meeting your needs.
keep being supportive @Aaron1 …you seem a nice guy
Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us who are trying to understand our loved ones @maggotbrane. I find your posts so encouraging and they give me hope. I am gradually figuring out who my son is again and learning to connect with him.
@Aaron1, I can understand your girlfriend waiting a couple of months to let you know her diagnosis. Perhaps she was checking you out thoroughly first to make sure you were someone who could accept that information and still love her.
Good on you for doing the research so you can be a supportive and loving partner. Perhaps it won’t be a breezy relationship but what relationship is? I have a son and a step-son both with schizophrenia and both of whom would love to be in a relationship. Both would be gentle, loving partners. But sadly it hasn’t happened for either of them yet. They are honest with people about their diagnosis and I think it scares people. Thankfully there is more information out there these days about the illness so people can understand it better.
You might be interested in this young woman on YouTube who has a series on living with schizophrenia. I have found her very encouraging.
All the best with your relationship.
If I could tap the appreciation button thrice, I would, if not more!
On a few things MB hit on, and if I may, my own experiences with SZ of many varieties:(Catatonic, Paranoid, ‘Acute long term drug induced psychosis’, Disorganized…)
One of my closest went into catatonic when we were in our mid teens. One, exact, moment in time and apparently !crash, burn!.. and a lifetime of absolute non-function. “Meds are ‘water’” is what they’d say… (anosognosia) IF they talked at all…
My ex husband Paranoid type, heard voices that told him to do things… full Insight, took his meds (clozapine. He knew when he needed them mostly, but was violent and would act on the voices at times. His voices were not nice, murderous, and sometimes apparently funny).
Another friend along the way what was termed at the time ‘drug induced acute long term’ (which makes no sense to me now…) They feared and were terrorized at EVERYTHING and could not come out of the fear delusion. Sobbing, confused, screaming, wandering through traffic. Then, Basic regimen of AP and a mood stabilizer… They became fully aware that there had been a problem…
And my current partner, why I came here, SZA, Zero Insight, no meds (there’s nothing wrong except with everybody else I don’t need help).
Oddly, it took me through all of them across my life to FULLY understand the disease, at least to the degree that I do now.
Because when my good friend went catatonic, they struggled for the rest of their life, years, I understood that “Schizophrenia” was a disease of the mind, never curable, but we treat the symptoms with proper medication…
When I understood “acute psychosis” I’d never have the opportunity to see if that person’s condition was ever ‘ok’ without small doses of AP meds. That person seemed quite well after meds and the chaos.
And then I had met somebody, excited and exciting. (Not dating) We had a good time and a lot to talk about and a lot to learn from each other… and they said in confidence one day:
I have something called Schizophrenia.
I said… “I got it. I’ve known a few.”
They said: Probably not. It’s pretty severe. It’s considered a brain disease. And I may come off smart and clever and interesting to you NOW… but tomorrow. It’s very likely I’m not the same person. A person you’ve never met. And when I say ‘same’, I mean, I’m not going to know you, or your face. I’M not going to know if I was here or not, and it scares me…’
Answer: I’ll remind you. It’ll be fine…
Them: “I write lists on the board to make sure stuff gets done… (told them ‘a lot of us do that who have a big load to orchestrate. Good system!!)
And true to word, they had no clue. I showed them small things, with absolutely no aggression, or judgment, or cause, but to happily move through the motions of finding… and knowing THEM knowing that they were still in charge. Of themselves, their time, and their place.
I had asked one evening about a book on their side table next to the recliner… Elyn Saks. Having no idea by title, I had to ask…
If you see your loved one in the perimeters of actuation and dialogue and FUNCTION… this is not a bad one to pick up.
If you see yourself in the throes of violence and abuse…
And you have children…
Your children come first and foremost.
No question. Do not doubt yourself.
This s a hard line I’m going to speak:
You may live the rest of your lives wondering if your children are going to have the same disease… probably.
You can’t change it.
Roll with the punches.
Make your child first!
YOU ARE THAT STRONG!!!
Having a relationship with somebody that may or may not last, for however long,
Thanks for sharing that series, @Lilies. Very interesting.