Early on-set schizophrenia & losing their childhood

To avoid any confusion, my cousin uses they/them, so that’s how I’m referring to them.

I haven’t been able to have in-person contact with my cousin since they’ve moved, but we stayed very good friends online. They’ve had a really tough year, so they haven’t had a lot of access to technology. They were diagnosed with schizophrenia in their mid-teens, but their delusions & hallucinations haven’t been this bad before.

I know they struggle with keeping in contact with friends/making new ones, so I’ve been sending them letters once a month or so. They usually take a few weeks to reply when things are bad. My aunt told me they were always really happy to get them, but I’m worried some of the stuff I mention might be upsetting.

Their biological father was awful, and even before any schizophrenia symptoms, they never had much of a childhood. They took care of their little siblings and at one point had a job, but they never regularly went to school and couldn’t graduate. How sensitive should I be to their situation? I offhandedly mention school and friends, but I’m worried it will just remind them of what they’re missing out on — especially because of the mindset they’re in right now.

I’ll be writing to them as long as they still want me to, but any advice about what to avoid would be much appreciated!

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Hi @mossycobble and its nice to see you on the site again. Just the fact that you send letters to your cousin is the best way to help, especially since your cousin responds to you. I suggest you just always send a letter monthly to them, or perhaps more often, even if they don’t respond.

Personally, I feel I learned a lot about calm conversation from talking to my daughter when she was in psychosis. It is best to talk only about neutral things like food, clothing, weather etc unless she herself brought up a touchy subject to speak of. Our first real conversations through her psychosis were about opening her door to me to accept a plate of dinner. Then the next conversations were about going for a walk with me and the dog. Eventually those habits became daily, and more improvements were made one by one.

Send letters that contain good news. Perhaps include a self-addressed stamped envelope back to you, so they can very easily respond without having to find a stamp and envelope. Your cousin is very busy in their own mind so that daily activities can be very hard for them. Be happy when you get a letter back, that is hard for a person with this illness.