Hello, I am Lys. I’m currently 17 and I met this really great guy (also 17) who participates in school, does boy scouts, and has amazing future goals. I would like to pursue a relationship with him, but I am not familiar with schizophrenia. He was recently diagnosed within the last four months and been on medication since then. He says that he has no symptoms now, but does that really last forever? What should I be aware of moving foward into a relationship? Or what things can I do to assist him?
Being symptom free will probably not last forever. From what I’ve read here, those with sz very often get to a point where they no longer feel they need their medication—or the bad side effects begin to outweigh the benefits. Starting with a platonic relationship would be wise.
I suggest that you spend a few hours reading the posts on this forum. They will answer a lot of your questions.
Welcome to the forum. Reading what others have posted will help you a lot to understand this awful disease.
It is great that your friend is on medicines and is doing well. My daughter is doing soooooo much better the past 8 months on meds. It has been a lifechanger for her.
As an old person, compared to your youthful age, I remember thinking I was ready for a steady relationship at 17, however, I know now that it is best to take the beginnings of any possibly long term relationship very slow.
My suggestion is to simply go very slowly. My sister dated her husband for 3 years, then was engaged for 5 years, and now they have been married over 36 years. You certainly can learn a lot about a person before the idea of serious relationship comes up.
Each person with sz has a different experience than another with the same diagnosis on the same meds. And there are so many different types of meds it is very hard to predict future outcome.
You are very smart to try to learn as much as you can about sz. Good luck, and take your new relationship slowly.
Easy to say that at 17! But I remember being 17 and no one could tell me anything. I had to learn it all on m own! There’s really not just one thing to say as each case is unique but the only thing I can tell you is that proceed with caution and that I hope you have thick skin. This disease has no boundaries.
It sounds like your boyfriend is a bright and ambitious young man. You asked about how to proceed. As the parent of a young adult with sz, I would suggest that you be first a kind and loving friend. If things get romantic you will want to be careful when it comes to stressful situations ( arguments, break ups) because people with sz are severely affected by stress, changes in routines, and any criticism. Those things can cause symptoms to reappear. I guess what I’m saying is to be gentle. Best Wishes!
@Lys Good advice here. The best thing to do is to get educated with facts. Also, consider how young you are (yes, I was 17 once and I can tell you that I had a lot to learn about life and relationships even though I thought I knew so much). Consider that you have your entire life ahead of you and it is too early to commit it now to someone with such a serious mental illness that can be very complicated and is different for each person. That being said, there ARE some persons living with SZ that are very successful professionals, have families, etc. However, that percentage is small. I am hopeful that better care and education will make this number be higher in the future. Go to a site like NAMI.org which provides information and also lists additional resources, such as a book commonly referred to “Surviving Schizophrenia, a Family Manual”, by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D… NAMI also offers Support Groups and Family-to-Family (including friends) classes. You have to be 18 to attend any of those.
I admire you for your interest in this and care for someone with SZ. We need more people who are willing to talk about serious mental illnesses and learn how to best help people with them, be advocates for changes in mental health care, etc.
@hope4us As part of that small percentage, I whole-heartedly agree with that sentiment.
@Lys your friend may have the potential to be part of the small percentage. His early onset seems a bit of a negative to me, but it could be that his SZ was discovered and treated early. Early treatment, above average intelligence and good personal insights into the disease are positives. I’d say the structure and social networking of Scouting are positives as well.
If possible, I’d recommend some form of talk therapy in addition to medication, and psychosocial/occupational therapy (school and Scouting in his case). It’s not for everyone, but with sufficient insight into his disease and relatively mild symptoms it can be helpful, and trust gained with the therapist may reduce the impact of worsening symptoms.
I’d recommend starting quite slowly or platonically first, for several reasons that caregivers here might not consider. Being infatuated or the initial stages of being in love releases neurochemicals like dopamine and serotonin which are targets of anti psychotic medications. Generally my least stable periods have been in the highs and lows of love affairs. You get better at managing and adjusting medication to compensate, but I tend to crave emotional stability over passion in relationships for that reason.
Also, you may find him distant and cold as a result, or just by nature. So if you are looking for broad expressions of affection reciprocated, you probably should look elsewhere. SZ affects both thought and emotion, and I at least get a bit mixed up between the two. It doesn’t mean we don’t have emotions, but they can be blunted or delayed. I tend to reserve emotion until I think things over. I can also get emotional thinking about things that happened years ago, or projections far into the future. I’m rarely emotionally available in the moment.
I am childless for various reasons, but mainly because SZ is highly heritable and I’d prefer not to pass a chance of the illness onto children, nor have the stress of raising children trigger a relapse. Raising children is stressful enough without the potential that they may develop a mental illness in their teens or twenties. Parents of this forum have my admiration.
I also would dispel any romantic notions that love would heal him, or that you will somehow change him. Some popular movies perpetuate this fallacy. I highly recommend reading biographies and other books over movies, as they tend toward more realistic and practical portrayals. Even then, bear in mind when you read a book, you’re reading something written by or about a small fraction of the top one percent.
Stigma can also be an undesirable aspect of a relationship. Your parents or friends may not approve of your friend, and make fun or you or him as a result. Your friend’s behavior may embarrass you in social situations, and there may be misunderstandings of social situations. You’ll either need to be socially secure, or not care much about what people think.
All this said, if receptive, people with SZ desperately need friends they can trust even if they don’t realize it themselves. It isn’t easy, and as with any relationship there’s the potential for loss. However they can be interesting companions who see the world in a unique way. But that’s all potential. I think the extended prodromes of SZ and Bipolar disorder make a good case for delaying marriage until your late twenties or thirties, if there’s any mental illnesses in a potential mate’s family.
I’m including some links to my favorite TED talks of highly functioning people with SZ. They seem a rarity, but many of us are afraid to come ‘out’, and are often too busy living our lives to advocate much.
Thank you @Lys, and to you as well. While I’m being cautionary for your sake, I feel attempting to guide people with SZ/SZA and caregivers lifts all boats. My experience is not the norm, but I feel it needs representing.
Figuring out how to adapt to your illness on your own is challenging and often quite lonely. Until I heard about Elyn Saks, I wasn’t sure people like me existed.
You’ll find a mix of threads and posts on this forum about relationships with husbands, wives and boyfriends and girlfriends. Bear in mind most don’t post unless they are sharing an issue. I’d hazard a guess that the majority of the spouses married before they knew their partner was ill. I’m less sure of the boyfriend/girlfriend threads, but these posters often seem naive to me, don’t accept advice particularly well, and seem to come and go without much continuity.
By contrast, you seem to be asking the right questions and are listening and attentive beyond your years. If you do pursue a relationship, friendship or otherwise, I’m pretty good at explaining the way people with SZ/SZA think and feel. Feel free to DM me or post on this forum if I can help. Best of luck.
I do see a fair bit of negativity and hopelessness on this site. The families with loved ones experiencing more recovery are probably less likely to be posting frequently. Thank you for sharing your story and insight. Wonderful words of wisdom and helpful knowledge! Thank you for offering hope, because I absolutely believe we should have it. But there is SO much that needs to be changed about how and when treatment and support is offered, housing availability, the criminalization of persons because of their SMI, etc.
My grandson has schizo affective and takes his meds and leads a very normal life. It is just unpredictable as long as he takes his meds and the meds continue to work he can be very stable just like my grandson