Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Give up on spouse with schizophrenia?

Just found out spouse has schizophrenia. He hid his mental health history from me including hospitalizations. He was secretly taking meds before ( injection) and then stopped. He was the perfect man before schizophrenia stole him from me. I watched him change before my eyes and had no idea what was happening. He started accusing me of cheating, and doing the most horrible things. I told him to get help and get on meds or I’m taking the baby and leaving. I begged him to take meds. He didn’t so I left with the baby. He got mad and filed for divorce. Says he loves me and doesn’t want a divorce though!!

He denies having schizophrenia and says it’s the wrong diagnosis. He dislikes the side effects of the meds. I’m so heartbroken over this. His family does not want to be involved. Now he is so cold towards me and barely talks to me. I feel so hopeless. Going to try to get him in Mental Health Court from crimes he committed. Some people are telling me to RUN far away since I have our baby to take care of. This is so hard. Looking for advice and support because feel so alone.

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What is your ideal scenario for your situation? Your husband starts taking his medication and reverts back to his old self, you forgive his mistreatment of you, his lies and his marrying you under false pretenses? Do you think this is realistic? Is there a middle ground you’d find tolerable?

Would you feel the same way if your husband had hidden a substance, gambling or sex addiction and relapsed after you married? Would you be able to trust him after you learned this?

You say you’re considering trying to get your husband to mental health court because of illegal activity. How do you think your husband will feel if you succeed? Do you expect you both to forgive each other and things to return to normal?

I understand you feel alone in this, but life with someone with SZ is a life of disproportionate compromises for caregivers. Only you can say how much you will sacrifice to continue your relationship, but I think it’s telling that you left him and he filed for divorce. Presently the disease and his discomfort with side-effects have more power over him than his love for you. While this could change, it will take a considerable investment of effort on your part for an uncertain outcome. You have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.

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@Maggotbrane Thank you for replying to my post. Ideally, I want him to get on medication and then for us to go to counseling. I haven’t been the perfect spouse and I never hid anything from him. It seems like there is no middle ground with him. What could be a middle ground?

I would feel betrayed and heartbroken if my spouse hid a gambling, sex, or substance abuse problem from me. And if we are married with children involved I would say they have to get into counseling and live a healthy life.

I am only trying the mental health court because I want my spouse on medication. I don’t want him to go to jail, and I know he committed the crimes due to his mental illness. I know he is currently in psychosis and has no insight. A doctor has predicted that without medication he will get worse and end up homeless. I think he would be thankful that I did everything to help him get healthy.

I didn’t realize how much power the disease has over him. It’s hard for me to accept that he would choose to lose his family to the disease.

If he has been off meds for 2 years will it take 2-3 years to get stable? How long will it take for the delusions to disappear? What about the hallucinations?

I don’t think life with him would ever be the same because I think in order to have a healthy relationship he would have to commit to being on injections and going to therapy and groups. I guess that would be the new normal.

Thank you for your response, these sorts of threads come up from time to time here, and when the OPs get responses they don’t want to hear, they stop coming and we rarely hear from them again.

The point I’m trying to make is it’s far more likely that you’ll be compromising, not your husband. Your position is your husband needs to take medication, so there’s little room for him to compromise. He might have a little say on which medication and how much, but that’s mostly the doctor’s choice— not his. His only real power is veto power, and that’s what he’s been exercising.

While there are ways to diminish or mask symptoms and modulate behavior without drugs, these aren’t mainstream solutions and difficult to administer and will likely require increased supervision and research by you. Most people will say traditional counseling without medication while florid is pointless. Generally these are better as additional treatment beyond medication, but some people get by with only these.

I’ve done medication and talk therapies, was only hospitalized once for SZA and have 35 years of recovery while employed in a professional job. I am not married, and do not have children. I do not engage in serious relationships without disclosing my illness. I do not think it is ethical to hide this information. SZ is heritable, so I do not think it is ethical for me to have children. Your husband has done both.

Were your husband return to taking medication, it might take just a couple months to return to similar functioning. The longer he’s off medication, generally the further his decline will usually be, and there’s a point of diminished returns by some reports with frequent periods of relapse.

As for your husband thinking he’s been misdiagnosed, does he think he has some other mental illness? Two other possibilities are Bipolar Disorder and Schizoaffective disorder (SZA). Frankly, since he responds to medication and these illnesses appear to operate on a spectrum, his diagnosis is probably irrelevant aside from some personal satisfaction with a different label.

One feature of SZ that you may not know about is anasognosia which is a lack of insight into his disease. It may be the cause of his unwillingness to continue medication. I think the easiest way for you to understand this phenomenon and possible steps to counter act it is to watch the following video. If you decide to stick with your husband, you should realize you will be making a lifelong commitment and will need to learn as much as you can about the disease to help you and possibly your child navigate the illness.

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I don’t normally post on these forums because I’m diagnosed, not a caregiver, and therefore really belong on the patient forum. I’ve been wanting to come over here and tell you guys my experience for a long time. I had bipolar from age 15 to age 30, at which point I developed schizophrenic symptoms (delusions, paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations). I went completely out of my mind for a period of about two years. I was already seeing a psychiatrist for my bipolar however, and was therefore always 100% med compliant… but even so, I didn’t start improving until I had been sick for a full two years.

It’s been six years since my diagnosis changed from bipolar to schizoaffective (and when I started hearing voices and believing things that weren’t true) and I no longer suffer from any delusions or paranoia. I still hear and see things, but I never suspect my family of anything they aren’t doing, and I no longer cause them heartache.

If your spouse has only had it for a few years, there’s a good chance he will recover partially within the first 5-10 years of the disease. The most important thing by far is for him to become med compliant and start trying different antipsychotic medications. It took me a year and a half and experience with five different antipsychotic medications before landing on one that effectively removed the delusions and paranoia without giving me horrible side effects.

You’ve got to find a way to get him to take medications or he’s going to be lost. I don’t know how to do this because it really wasn’t necessary for me… I always took my meds. If you can get him to take a 1 month or 3 month injection, and it gives him some relief, he might be able to take stock of his life and realize that he feels better on the med than off it. What helped me realize I was out of it (I was iffy about whether I was sick or not for the first year) was visiting this forum’s sister forum, the diagnosed forum. There I would post my concerns and the other members would help me with a process called “reality checking.” They could tell me if I was paranoid or delusional and I would listen, as some of them have been dealing with a diagnosis for over 15 years. Now I post on the diagnosed forum every single day and it keeps me level headed and stable. I’m on federal disability and can take care of myself, and my relationship with my family is back to where it was before this all started.

They say delusions and paranoia are hard to remove, but in the end Zyprexa helped me shake them. The problem however is that I can’t recommend the drug because every antipsychotic affects different people in different ways. What works for one person might be ineffective for another. It really varies from person to person. One good example is that Zyprexa tends to cause weight gain in most people who take it, but I’ve never gained a pound on it. You just need to want to get better, and find a good psychiatrist and just agree to spend the next year trying each medicine in turn until you find one that works.

During my first two years with the disease I was cast out of my home and ended up in jail, where I was put into solitary confinement 24/7 for 5 months straight. They did not give me my medications despite my asking and I was tortured by voices and visions the entire time. My point is, sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. Coming out of that place I was willing to do anything to avoid ending up there again… and then I found the wonderful diagnosed forum at forum.schizophrenia.com and things began turning around. I have several buddies over there that keep me on the straight and narrow.

I feel like I’m rambling, I don’t know if this is helping, it’s such a rough disease. There is hope for recovery though, it’s not curable but it’s treatable. I just wanted my family back, that was my motivation for admitting that I was sick and needed help.

Best of luck, and yeah the Ted Talk that was mentioned above is a great one, there’s also one by a fantastic woman named Elyn Saks, one by a woman named Eleanor Longden, and another by Cecilia McGough. These were some of the first videos I watched when I got into the process of recovery.

I wish you guys the best. Please feel free to use the forum if it helps, you’re definitely not alone. Remember that this diagnosis does not necessarily mean that you will have to be a caregiver for life. That was something my mother was unwilling to do, which is totally acceptable. Nowadays she doesn’t have to be thanks to my recovery. I am so glad to have a healthy relationship with her again.

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@Maggotbrane I came to this site for honest feedback and support. I feel like that is what I got from you and I appreciate that. This illness is very difficult so I’ve learned very fast there are no easy answers. It very hard for me to accept that so far he is refusing medication and you are right he is using his veto power! I watched the video and read the book and I’m confused on if he has the lack of insight or if he is in denial since he complained about the meds. Either way you gave me a lot to think about.

@agent101g thank you for the reply. That is all really good information to know and I appreciate you sharing. That is a good idea about the longer lasting injection. If I can have any input I will ask for a 3 month injection for my husband. It was also nice to read that your mom does not have to be a caregiver for forever. I’m sure that helps make the family relationships better.

See if you can get him on clozapine. It saved my grandsons life. People told me to run and I didn’t but my grandson was willing to taje meds

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@Feelingalone, I was trepidatious when I first replied, because I was concerned that people with strong opinions on the subject might reply first and scare you off. It’s unusual that both responses so far are people with direct experience with SZ, and that may temper the tone of the thread.

Dr. Amador’s target audience with LEAP is people with full-on anosognosia, but I believe anosognosia exists on a spectrum. One failing I see in his work is he either doesn’t understand or emphasize this and that LEAP functions as a universal strategy for bringing people to agreements rather than arguing, illness or no. If you look back on my posts, I employed elements of it in our interactions by asking questions and attempting to get you to see things from his point of view.

If you look into my story which I’ve repeated many times here, I existed on that spectrum. While I accepted I had a mental illness, I was dead set against medication, so I opted for talk only therapy. I blundered into a form of LEAP in the process and after a year came to accept I needed medication. Whether this was anasognosia or denial or stubbornness or whether my diagnosis was correct or not misses the point. I had to be motivated to change my behavior and want to take medication.

Even with my success, I struggle with LEAP with my brother with bipolar disorder. He say he ‘accepts’ his disease and his alcoholism, but often uses his illnesses as fatalistic excuses. If you are familiar with AA, he’s stuck at step one. It’s been a long hard battle that we’ll probably never win. I continue fighting with hope, but most likely the best we can hope for is to keep things contained.

@agent101g, welcome! There are other DXed folks here, some are caregivers and some not. As long as you aren’t disruptive and respectful that the focus here is on caregiving, you should do fine. Some value my opinions here, because I offer a different perspective and insights into SZ thinking and behaviors that people under their care can’t articulate. Since everyone’s experience is different, there’s value in additional perspectives.

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In my opinion, you are faced with an impossible situation which others have no right to judge…

With that said, walking away to give your child and yourself a chance of normalcy is an option to be seriously considered.

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Not taking meds is a common symptom of serious mental illness, especially schizophrenia. It is called “anosognosia”. Please look up other posts on this site about “anogognosia”. I can’t say enough that family members MUST read the book “I Am Not Sick; I Don’t Need Help” by Dr. Xavier Amador. The next step is to find a support group like NAMI National Alliance on Mental Illness, to help you get through this. NAMI Family Support Groups are led by others who also have a family member or loved one with mental illness. The support group facilitators have been trained to lead the group. NAMI also offers a Family to Family class in many locations at various times of the year. The class material provides an amazing array of information that will help you. Class availability may be affected currently by the pandemic but keep watching for its availability and contact your local NAMI. The book, and NAMI Family to Family class (and support group) are the best things I have ever done to help myself and my loved one.

There are no easy answers. It takes hard work. But these are the tools, so if you really want to help your loved one, you have to use the tools and do the hard work. There IS hope! Keep us posted!!

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Thank you for the response. I think I am facing an impossible situation. I wish there was a cure for this illness.

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For better or worse…Until death we do part! My silly self thought for decades that I thought I could change the man I loved. I went through 40 years of living with a functional alcoholic. He did change but I and our children have scars. Now we are trying to deal with our son who was diagnosed last year with SK. I am too far away to help him and legal issues are not helping.

As explained to me by a minister after one of my middle of the night counseling sessions…there is more than one death in a marriage. I don’t believe that and my relationship with my husband. He did stop over night and I am glad I stayed with him because he truly was such and I would have forgiven myself for leaving him his hour of need. Our son is in an hour of need right now but he will not let us help him. You also have to make the decision for your child…will your relationships endanger or destroy their live as well. Think with your head not your heart. Tough call.

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I think that because he has chosen to not take medicine or see a doctor that makes it impossible for me to stay with him. I don’t know of anyone who has raised a child with someone who is SZ and not taking medicine. Also scared child services could take my baby away under those circumstances.

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In some of the NAMI groups I have learned that some can do without meds however it is rare and life stressors are few…living in the country isolated etc…

My son does not believe he is sick…agnosia etc…he is making more and more bad choices and is putting me and my husband in legal danger of losing all that we have worked for. Please pray for me that I have the strength to do what needs to be done, have time to do it before the worse happens and live with my hard decisions…

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Thanks for sharing your story with us. Glad to have you here.

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That makes sense. I am glad you are able to take the needs of yourself and your child into account as well as those of your spouse. A very challenging situation.

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No situation is impossible, but there is no cure. We have to accept that things are not what we thought they were going to be but that does not mean give up or that there is not hope for a better future. People do the same for loved ones who have brain injuries, amputations, lose ability to move legs or limbs, etc. Schizophrenia is different, but it CAN be managed. We have to do the hard work but also take care of yourself and your family. There may be a time when you have to let go, but I encourage you to do the things that have been suggested here. A friend of mine likes to say “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” Would you want him to give up on you if it was YOU that had SZ?

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Thank you for your clear headed response. I always appreciate your responses

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I am saddened to hear of the loss of your good marriage, it must be so very hard for you.

The reasons why I won the battle against my daughter’s schizophrenia were many. She went psychotic at age 32 in March 2016. I took her in or she would have been homeless, but my life was turned topsy turvy with screaming, 24/7 hallucinations, police to my home over 40 times, and great despair. But in Dec 2018, a 2nd arrest, 5th forced hospitalization, and court ordered meds (or go back to jail) helped bring her to sanity again. I was armed with knowledge from the good people on this site, and NAMI, and that helped me to never gave up trying to find a way to get her on meds despite the hellish journey.

She was put on a shot that knocked her psychosis out pretty much right away: with almost all hallucinations and delusions gone within 2 months. Thank God the meds were court ordered those 2 months or she would NEVER have agreed to take them. When the court order wore off, she kept taking her shot. I don’t know why, as she felt she didn’t need it, but since Dec 2018 she’s been her new normal, and she willingly takes her injection monthly.

You COULD try to get your husband committed. If he’s guilty of crimes or threats of crimes or even touching you (battery) or threating to harm you (assault) it’s possible he could be involuntarily committed. On the right med, he could settle back to sanity. Or not, if he’s put on a med that doesn’t work. It is a house of cards to make everything fit together into a solution. My daughter would still be lost most likely, if I hadn’t called the police many times to get her committed. Perhaps you can bring your husband back to himself with the help of the police, courts and hospitals. Only you can decide if you want to try that path.

Good luck no matter what you decide. Keep coming here, you will find support from people who understand.

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I’m really sorry you are dealing with that. Please do everything you can for you and your family. It seems like jail and the hospital are the only options for when our love ones aren’t med compliant. I’ll be praying for your family.