Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Grandson with uncle who was schizophrenic

I used to come to this website years ago, and can’t begin to say how much it helped me. My son was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia, but not until he was in his later 20’s. He started traveling at an early age when he left college, and at first I thought it was great that he wanted to see more of the world, and try different things, but he would disappear for months at a time, and didn’t keep in touch - when I did see him, which was very rare, he would be mean and short-tempered to everyone. All I could do was internalize it, and blame myself for not being a better mom - it felt like he hated me, and I couldn’t tell anyone that I knew my son hated me - I tried that once, and the counselor made it look like I was feeling sorry for myself which just added to my grief and anxiety - but, I knew something was drastically wrong and I couldn’t understand - later, after years of trauma (he got in trouble), he was finally diagnosed, but refused to accept it. He ended up being institutionalized - he complained about pain continually, but nothing was done until finally the pain became so severe that they were forced into checking more thoroughly, and they discovered he already had stage 4 colon cancer - he suffered greatly. My anger and rage about him being ignored with this pain almost killed me too. He died in 2004, and I fell completely apart - I know people who have lost their children to accidents, suicide, drug overdoses, and yet, they seemed to get through it with some dignity - not me, though! Anyway, I am back on my feet again and I’m doing well now. Recently, my grandson, who is 22 has been acting strangely - maybe I am easily panicked now, after living through years of my own son’s schizophrenia, but my grandson will not respond to people when they text him. He also has not been caring for his personal hygiene - I am hoping this is just an age thing, or a phase that he is going through. I know there are negative symptoms of schizophrenia, and that’s why it can remain undiagnosed for so long, but one symptom is that some people with this lose the ability to maintain relationships. My grandson is a busy guy, and is running his own business, but is almost impossible to wake up. He pays no attention to anyone’s birthdays. My son-in-law says that he goes out with friends on the weekend, and that made me feel a bit better, because at least he seems to be socializing. It is possible I am “reading” things into this, but I know this disease is slow and insidious, and I guess I just feel a little afraid. It is 17 years since my son passed away, but in some ways, it seems so recent. I took a lot of photos of my kids when they were growing up, and always thought we would be together some day looking at old photos, and happily remembering times gone by - but, I look at the old photos and I don’t feel happy. I am still organizing them for my daughter, though. Anyway, thanks everyone.

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Hi there sawdust. I’m so, so sorry for your loss first of all. Time has a way with some things, but the loss of a child is great and forever.
It’s important to remember that we can’t carry guilt forever too. Rather to carry the good memories, nurture ourselves as best as we are able, share the best memories…
As far as your grandson sounds, I’d hate to be presumptuous, but sounds like perhaps he’s just working hard, keeping a strong social life, motivated to make his own way and enjoy as much as he can in life along the way perhaps…
I think it’s a very reasonable and smart awareness you have though, understanding that these types of mental illness are often genetic. Be wary, but go easy on yourself, and maybe tap that fear on it’s shoulder and ask it ‘Are you My Guilt?’ You will know the answer. Love your grandson with all you’ve got and be excited for his successes and independence and being who he is for who is!

Side note: I’m just about the absolute worst with dates and birthdays… I’m not sure that signals a mental illness though :hugs:

Hello. My son had heavy negative symptoms and always seemed to maintain friendships but as his symptoms worsened and he stopped showering, washing clothes, etc., his friends started dropping off one by one until it was down to his dad and me. He’s better now but the residuals of those symptoms are still evident.

Your insight is going to be very valuable to your grandson. I would be hypersensitive too after what you’ve experienced. Also, I’m not showering as much lately either and texts are exhausting to answer, so I sometimes just don’t. This pandemic has a lot of people feeling very sad. GenZ especially. Sounds like he has a good support system.

Hi luv_books - I would like to chalk this up to his age, but it seems it is more than that. It is odd that he is not taking care of his hygiene, and sometimes, my ex son-in-law can’t wake him up, even though he has people waiting for him on job sites (he doesn’t drink much). I’ve read where sometimes groups of friends change, and this is what has happened - he hangs around with an entirely new group of people. He never has seemed like an emotional person to me, but it also seems strange that there seems to be “no” emotion. It bothers me for the last 2 Christmases, he has showed up and brought nothing for anyone - he makes good money. He also seems to have some grandiose plans for a new business, even though he is not able to keep up with the one he has. He lives with his dad, as his parents split up many years ago. I can hear in my ex son-in-law’s voice that things are going off the rails, and being the dad, he thinks he has to “be responsible” for making sure my grandson does things. I never, in a million years, would have guessed my son had schizophrenia years ago. He was in college, about the age of 22, when things started going haywire - he dropped out, and wanted to follow a girlfriend to Europe, which he did. He broke up with his girlfriend in Europe, and then stayed there to travel around. All this sounds good, but he would write me letters from Europe, and I knew that “my son” was not writing those letters - they were written by someone else it seemed. The sentences and words were not written the way he would phrase things, either. When he came back to the U.S, he traveled all over - I thought this was great, because I always wished I had done something like that, but only later did I realize it was a symptom. He continued to be rude to me, but I secretly knew it was because I wasn’t the mom I could have been (that guilt kept me from the truth) - I was deeply disturbed by the strange nature of our communication, but I still would not have guessed it was mental illness. It was only after he moved, once again, to New York, and ended up threatening someone there, that I found out more. He had a girlfriend in New York and she called me to say that his behavior was bizarre - I told her that it MUST be drugs, and she said no, that she has known many people on drugs and this was NOT drugs. We flew him home, and that’s when I feel like everything came crashing down - he was diagnosed, but refused to accept it, and we went through years of anguish while he traveled around the country, homeless to homeless shelter, and even living in the woods at one point. This is why I am concerned about my grandson - it took me a long, long time to finally understand what was going on with my son - now, I cannot help but be suspicious because this is the exact age that it started for my son and I was so naive. I don’t want to imagine things - but I lived through awful times with my son’s illness, and he suffered greatly in so many ways - at the end, before he died, he was on medication and I was able to tell him how much I loved him over and over again. It changed my life and my daughter’s life forever. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what I think anyway - I tried talking to my son-in-law, but I don’t think he is open to even considering this possibility - I sooo hope I am way off base!!! Anyway, thanks for listening.

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I have a close friend who has dealt with every trauma of having a full fledged paranoid schizophrenic child for more than 20 years.
She’s an intelligent, driven, passionate woman. She is a logical and practical person by nature.
She still lives every day of her life blaming herself for the fact that her child showed the genetic disease. Blames herself saying ‘I should have never had children I knew better’. Blames herself saying ‘I had a crazy aunt (or uncle)’.
Go ahead. Keep blaming yourself.
OR… accept the 1% reality because HERE IT IS!!
And it’s ours, it’s our loved ones, it’s our entire reality. (No. That irony does not escape me.)

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@sawdust
Our son was very social until things went off the rails with him. For years he was isolating from us which I chalked it up to normal teenage angst because he remained very social with his friends. Once his SZ behaviors became apparent they all left except for his girlfriend. He also was always very hard to wake up. None of this means this is going on with your grandson but definitely keep an eye on things.