Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

How optimistic can one realistically be?


I can’t decide if I am realistically optimistic or in denial about my son.

My son was diagnosed with schizophrenia last year when he was 18, now he is 19. He is young. He is not addicted to anything. He has never assaulted anyone (besides himself). He responds pretty well to medication and therapy when he is at home. These are all good things that make me feel good about his future. But then I read about schizophrenia and think maybe I’m the delusional one here thinking he has a chance in hell.

He has been going to university 7 hours from home and it has not been going well. He did fine in his first semester but was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the second semester after failing everything and really spiraling downhill. He also failed everything this semester (fall sem of second year) and got kicked out of the residence building for odd behavior resulting in complaints (was also hospitalized). So what I have concluded from this is that he is definitely not ready to live alone. I think he needs to transfer to our local university and study there while living at home (maybe go part-time for the winter semester). But I feel like he could still do this with support. He is a smart kid.

Since he has been home he has taken his meds, gone back to therapy (CBT) and is doing so much better. I’ve been feeling like as we learn more about managing his disorder, he is bound to have set-backs (like this semester of university…holy cow he lost touch with reality for a while there), but he is not doomed. BUT THEN I READ THINGS ABOUT SCHIZOPHRENIA. And I think, “what makes me think my kid’s going to be the exception?”… hmm

Sorry for the long post. But what do you think? How positive can you be and still be realistic?


I’ve been diagnosed for a while and still got 8A* a and 2bs at GCSEs, including having a breakdown in one exam and the sza. Just because we are sz doesn’t mean we can’t do stuff just have to find our own way of getting there. Remember university is not for everyone but I’m glad he is trying and the best way is probably to talk to him. You don’t sound like blind optimism just wanting the best for him which is what anyone would do xxx


Well, I’m studying too, and I can’t work at the same time, it’s hard enough to follow classes and have medium grades (before the onset of the illness I had good grades). Dealing with my illness is already a fulltime job and going to school distracts me from it but also tires me a lot.

My advice here comes from personal experience, my mom set the stardads too high, thinking I would be a high achiever. But I live day by day and some days I just want to sleep. I don’t miss school and I’m doing well, but the fear of failure and relapse are big!

The fear of failure has to do with those standards and the fact that I want to be high-functioning. The fear of relapse has to do with how much stress I can take without relapsing.

So, be comprehensive about your sons mindset, hes probably overloaded with information about the illness and how he can accomplish something with it. It’s the most severe mental illness there is, is no joke and not to be taken lightly either.

I had a big talk with my mom about this issue and told her that if I see that I’m not able to do the degree, than I’m not able and that’s okay. My mental health is the most important thing for me.

I’m not saying here that you or my mom are bad parents, quite the contrary, you want good things for your children. Just maybe set the bar a little lower.

With this said, I’m glad he’s doing well, and let him know about this website, maybe he would feel comfortable in sharing his experiences and issues with us and learn more about the illness.

Good luck!


Good title. The answer is who knows? Every person is different and every case of schizophrenia is different. I suggest researching “schizophrenia prognosis” online and you might find some helpful information. You can read some things online that foretell what someones prognosis is by how well they were doing before they got sick. If someone was fairly well adjusted before they got sick than they have a good, hopeful prognosis. Just from reading your post, your son has a few things going for him, that might mean a good prognosis. The fact that he co-operates and takes his medication and responds well to it is a good sign for his future. There are many, many people with schizophrenia who do neither of those things and it makes their life miserable.

Another great sign is: No addiction! As you might know, people with schizophrenia are more prone to abusing substances than a large part of the population. But I’ll leave it up to you to read the articles on prognosis yourself. I don’t know exactly how optimistic you can be. I don’t know if anyone can tell you. At his young age, there is no way to tell what course his schizophrenia will take. You just have to go with the flow and take it week by week or day by day. As much as we want to, we can not predict the future.

As someone who’s had paranoid schizophrenia for 35 years I can say that the disease of schizophrenia is an unpredictable, roller-coaster of a disease. It’s like the tides;it ebbs and flows. It has peaks of misery for the sufferer and than if your lucky, it has moments of relative stability. The symptoms can be intense for very long periods and than sometimes the symptoms can be controlled for long periods. The symptoms are usually more intense at the beginning of the disease.

I can’t educate you here about everything having to do with schizophrenia but you can find a thousand articles online about many aspects about it. Many, many books are written about it so obviously there is a ton of information about it that you will not hear on these forums but you can also get a wealth of information here about personal experiences from us.

Incidentilly, schizophrenia is not all doom and gloom; you will see we have many funny stories and gallows humor about schizophrenia on this site. Paranoid schizophrenia is no laughing matter but you have to laugh sometimes anyway, lol. I know it’s extremely serious in you and your sons life right now. But hopefully you will reach the point in the future where you will be able to relax and get a few laughs in. Yes, things can change by the day.

You write: “What makes me think I’ll be the exception”? You may think that thought and a lot of others. And I’ll answer you. Because we are all the exception! At different points in our lives we shine. Other times we sink into misery.

I have written my story many times. I got diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1980 at age 19. I went into my first psyche ward at 19. By the way I was NOT a well adjusted kid before I got schizophrenia, I had few friends and very little contact with the opposite sex. Girls aren’t interested in guys who don’t talk to anyone but his few friends, and they’re not interested in guys with no confidence and self esteem. Anyway, after I got diagnosed I spent literally two years in extreme psychosis. I was put in a group home for schizophrenics after the psyche ward. Iived there for a year and I had no friends, no job, no money, no girlfriend, no school, no independence, no car and lastly no sanity.

I was unmedicated the entire time and I paid the price. I suffered horribly the whole time and spent months sitting in the backyard by myself fighting to keep my sanity. From there I was put in a locked psychiatric hospital for 8 months. More suffering for every minute of every day of my waking hours but I was put on medication and that helped. I got released into a nice group home and joined a vocational program where the goal was to get back into the work force. Which I did, 9 months after leaving the hospital. A mental health agency got me a job at a small independent business in the community and I stayed there for four years, despite bad symptoms. During my time at my job, I moved into semi-independent living and from 1983-1987 I lived in various houses with other mentally ill people. In 1986, I got addicted to crack. I have some stories about my life as a I abused crack but I won’t get into that here. I’ll just say, I spent thousands of dollars on it, was victim to occasional violence, sold or traded most of my possessions for crack, and almost got arrested several times because of my drug use. But happily, I later got clean in 1990 and I now have 25 years clean. Anyway, to make a long story short, I have worked almost steadily since 1983. I went to college and I need only four more classes for my AA degree. I have driven my own car since 1996. I lived independently since 1995,until just two months ago. Unfortunately I had a major setback two months ago when my mom died, and at the same time I lost my housing. The stress of losing my mom caused me to crack and I had to be hospitalized for two days and I had to stop school and then move back into a group home where I am now writing this from. My last prior hospitalization had been in 1990. I stayed out of the hospital for 25 years until just two months ago.

So you want to see an example of why your son can be an exception? You just read it! Man, if you would have seen me in the hospital and at the group home in 1980-81 you would never predicted I would have done the things I’ve done. Back then I had no hope, I saw no light at the end of the tunnel. My life is a miracle. Like I said, I had a recent setback but I am ready to go back to work this Wednsnday, the 23rd. I will stay in my housing for a year and start up online classes again. A (nice) girl on here referred to me as a Phoenix whose been destroyed but who keeps rising up out of the ashes. That’s me.

My advice is to look into all the resources in your area. Maybe join some support groups. Yeah, going to school closer to home sounds like a wise move. Like I said, in the beginning the disease is at its worst. Recovering is a life-long process for most people with schizophrenia. There’s no overnight cure. Progress or good recovery can take years. It’s good that he’s doing better now but he is not out of the woods. Schizophrenia doesn’t just disappear in one day. It takes a lot of hard work to recover, both on the part of the person who has it and the person who is trying to help him. Optimism has it’s role in schizophrenia but remember, much like a lot of things in life, there’s no gaurentees. Good luck.


In what way an exception? Getting a college degree?


I guess it depends on what your expectations are. It seems like optimism :smiley: is a nice and desirable quality in itself.

Did you see this on another part of this website:


Thanks folks.

@Everhopeful: The exception by having a fulfilling life, not by getting a college degree.

Truth be told, I don’t care if he gets a college degree, in principle. I do care if he gets a college degree if getting a college degree is what will make him feel like he succeeded at something. He is doing school because that’s what he used to want before he became really mentally ill. I think he still wants to deep down because he seems really depressed by his “inability” to do it (based on his current failure).When he doesn’t want to, it’s more that he doesn’t want to do anything- but not that he WANTS to do nothing- there is a big difference between those two. I think getting a degree would be good for his self-esteem because he currently feels like he can’t. But if he finds something else that he’d rather do and that makes him happy, then I’d fully support that! I don’t care what he does as long as his life is fulfilling.

He doesn’t work and I don’t expect him to (or any of my kids; school is their FT job). We are financially stable and can financially support him forever if need be. But going back to the self-esteem thing, I think he’d feel more accomplished if we didn’t support him forever. So I think a goal for him should be to have as much independence as possible while staying healthy, just for his own self-esteem.

My son has never talked much about his feelings. When he was little (6 or 7?) we had a system where he could write his feelings about our behaviour as his parents and then he would put the thoughts in a box which we read when he wasn’t around. He liked that. I’m not sure why we stopped…I guess he just grew up, lol. But we seriously need a system like that now because I really would like to know if I’m stressing him out. Any ideas, by chance?

@77nick77:thanks so much for sharing your story.

@Hereandhere: thanks for the link, I hadn’t seen that!


OK, it’s still possible for him to have a fulfilling life, but by his own standards. So long as he doesn’t engage in risky behaviour (substance abuse etc).

It can take years after being diagnosed to have any desire to do anything or be capable of doing anything as it’s about survival, readjusting ,hopefully finding the right meds and staying on them during those first few years.


It might be wise to take things slowly for now and focus on recovery and just taking it easy and taking small steps to achieve goals. It’s just a suggestion. Is he realistically ready to handle college? It’s good to have goals as long as you guys don’t set yourself up for failure. It’s good to do something and try to go to but it might be good also to have a back-up plan.

Schizophrenia is very traumatizing and when I was his age I knew other schizophrenics who I thought were way more ill than me and I saw them go to college but at age 19 I could never have done it.

Have you checked other resources in your area like day programs, mental health clubhouses, support groups, vocational programs, etc? When I got my first job out of the hospital, I didn’t just one day say out of the blue, “Hey, I think I’ll go out and get a job”. I took a LOT of small steps before I got employed. It takes patience sometimes. Any motivation on his part should be nurtured and encouraged because not everybody has that, but too many failures could hurt what little confidence he has. Maybe try something you KNOW he has a great chance succeeding at to build up his self esteem.

Speaking of failures, since I got diagnosed in 1980 I have had about 15 or 16 different jobs. I have been fired from half of them. But on the other hand I have succeeded at quite a few and worked several places for more than three years each. Getting fired is not fun, but hey, I just go out and get another job. I’ve been a great worker at some of them.

At my janitor job now, I have been there for 4 years and my bosses like to tell me what a great worker I am. The reality is that it is possible for people to accomplish many things in life, but I have had paranoid schizophrenia for 35 years and I’ve known many mentally ill people and quite a few other people with schizophrenia and the reality is that we can’t do everything. There’s a lot of stuff we can’t do. That’s the reality. It is the rare schizophrenic who can work AND go to school AND have the girlfriend AND socialize AND be happy etc. I’m not bragging but I have come close but I know I have limitations. Just like you wouldn’t expect someone in a wheelchair to be able to accomplish everything he/she wants. I’m not trying to discourage you at all but because I believe everybody with schizophrenia has potential. I’ve seen too many people with schizophrenia in too many settings shot down and seemingly hopeless, only to run into them a couple of years later holding down a job or with a girlfriend on their arm.

It’s a crap shoot, you don’t know who will succeed and who won’t. Your son can greatly improve his circumstances if he stays on medication, stays off of drugs, sees a psychiatrist reguarly, keep an open mind, takes suggestions, and co-operates in his own treatment. A good predictor of success for someone is if they have family support. I can’t stress enough how important this is. It doesn’t seem to be a problem for you guys. Anyway, this is what I’ve learned and I hope it helps. Good luck.


I am schizophrenic and I live a full life but I don’t work. Universities are going to cause stress on performance and that is bad for schizophrenics…if he is so smart then let him take half a load instead of a full load of classes.? I used to be an architect before I got sick but I was late onset at 35. I think people that get it at that young age better adapt to the life on disability. A lot of posters on this site work and go to college, but for me, I can’t work. No concentration and lack of being able to sit still for a long time. Good luck with your son, you sound like a very caring father.


Possible ideas: family therapy could be an option. I found out one of the ways I stress my family member in one meeting and was easily able to stop.

Also, individual counseling and/or a support group for you and/or your spouse, plus continuing education. NAMI family support group and Family to Family education are widely available in the US.

You sound like you love your son very much and will be able to support him in healing, managing the illness, and meeting the goals he sets for himself.


That’s true that going to school won’t be good for him if he continues to fail. I guess the reason I still think he might not is that he’s always gone to university away from home and I feel like the “away from home” part is a large part of the stress. So if we tried one more time, but with him at home, he might still be ok, especially if he started off part-time. But maybe not.

If he were to not go to school next semester, what would he do? There’s something very unsettling about the thought of him with nothing to do all day. Sounds depressing to me.

Family counselling…what a great idea!


Mental illness is debilitating. Healing and recovery require lots of energy and can take some time.

Make sure to talk to doctors and your son; if he enthusiastically wants to go back to school right away, okay, but it’s also okay to let a person with an illness rest and heal.


Nearly a quarter century ago I was diagnosed with SZ (Disorganized type). Was told I had a poor prognosis and that I shouldn’t ever expect to go to school, work, get married, have kids, etc. Since then I’ve done all of that. Educated. Employed. Married. Have a wonderful teen daughter. Am part of my community. I also had problems with booze, weed, and uppers. Kicked all of those habits over 23 years ago as well.

It took years to find meds that worked and untwist my thinking and the recovery always seemed to come too slowly. I’m med compliant (have tried to go without – bad news – don’t recommend it to others). I try to keep a positive attitude.

I’m nothing special. If I can do it, so can others. So, yes, there’s hope. :smile:



@Hereandhere: That’s not something I’d ever seriously considered. We scheduled a time to talk about what he’s going to do next semester. I will let him know that’s a welcomed possibility. I’m still learning a lot and adjusting the way I see things.

@pixel: that’s great to hear!

I am going to lower my expectations a bit. I see him panicking a little bit about school as his grades come in (which is unnecessary because we already knew they sucked) and I don’t want him to panic. And it IS panic about us- he kept mentioning how much money we had wasted. I feel bad that he is panicking about it because I’m honestly not broken up about it. Were we not paying for a LEARNING EXPERIENCE? Yup and we got that, so it’s ok, lol. I’m worried about his future but I’m not pissed and resentful about how things have gone so far. Actually I’m quite proud of him. I’m going to try to make that clear too.


Yes, it helped me tremendously when my mom used to tell me how proud she was of me. Us people with schizophrenia don’t necessarily get enough positive recognition so its nice when we hear something positive about ourselves from people, ESPECIALLY from the people who know us best, our families.

Like I said before, having family support is instrumental in our recovery. Those of us who have family support have a better prognosis than those who don’t. Yes, I always do worse when I have nothing to do. If I just sit around with nothing to do, all I do is just think about my problems and I also tend to get really negative. Maybe there’s day programs for adults in your area. I’ve been to a couple years ago.

It’s good to be with people who are going through the same thing as you. I guess you might think it would be a step down from going to school and I understand that. But those programs aren’t that bad, at least in my area, When I was in those we held groups, classes, ate lunch, played games, exercised, went on outings,had plenty of breaks to just sit and talk with each other. It might sound too easy or not challenging but it’s better than doing nothing.


Be optimistic that now you understand somewhat of his condition and got him home safe. It’s a learning process not to react to his behavior but to understand that the meds are at play here and most cases always will be something he has to adapt into his life.