Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

How to help my son feel safe taking his meds?

My adopted son was severely abused in his old home. His birth mother ended up putting him in a wire dog kennel and leaving it in the basement, in a few inches of standing water, and he was found several weeks later. It was pitch black, he had to drink the dirty water on the ground, and the tepid water caused some of his flesh to literally rot - and bugs got in. Obviously very traumatic. His schizophrenia became symptomatic during that time and now he is convinced that there are bugs all over him all the time, trying to eat him up. He thought a bug was behind his eye and clawed it out. He’s got big scratches all over him where he tries to scratch them away. But the point of this post is not the bugs. The point is that he has severe abandonment issues (obviously) and he believes the voices in his head to be people that won’t abandon him, unlike everyone else. He causes harm to himself and lives in constant fear because of his schizophrenia and we got him to take medications once and it helped a lot but when he stopped hearing the voices he got scared and refused to take them. I could force him to take them, or trick him, but I don’t want to do that. I want to keep building the little bit of trust we’ve been working on. How can I make him feel like the voices are not the only constants in his life and that I’m not going to abandon him?

hard case, the answer is time, offer ice cream to eat the meds

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He does love his ice cream! I do hope that he’ll come around at some point. He has gotten better since about two years ago when I first adopted him. He can sometimes sleep alone in his room as long as both of our doors are open and the lights are on, and he doesn’t freak out if the doorbell rings. And some other stuff. He’s made a lot of progress!

I agree , give it time and lots of love and attention

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Thank you! We spend virtually all day together and I try to invest as much emotion and focus on him as I can without going crazy myself. One nice thing about him is he’s generally comfortable just being in the same room as me without actually interacting, so I can work on my laptop and stuff and he can build LEGO or draw or something.

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OK, how old is he…?

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He is fifteen years old.

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Have you asked him what his voices say to him ?
Maybe once you get to know the voices also, you can mirror what they say and how they give him the comfort he needs to hear.
(just a thought )

Maybe have him pick out a lego set or a art set reward for taking his meds ?

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That’s a good idea! If he learns that I can say the same things, maybe he’ll rely less on the voices. And he does love legos so I can definitely use that as a reward.

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I’m seconding that this is a good idea. Not that you need to mimic the voices, but if you can get behind what messages they supply to him and you and other make efforts to provide the same kind of support very regularly, he may become less anxious about not getting the messages internally.

I also agree that you have a lot of stuff on top of SZ in play here, and it will take a lot of additional time and undoubtedly some professional services to help this boy.

I have had to adjust my notion of progress, and look for very small positive changes to keep me going.

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For sure! We do have professional help here, and yes it is certainly going to take some time to help him be the person he really is. When he gets around to talking again (sometimes he doesn’t talk for a few days or even a few weeks) I’ll try to ask him what kinds of things the voices say so that I can make sure he gets the support and validation he’s looking for when he listens to the voices.

Is he also autistic ? I ask because you mentioned he can be non- verbal.
Weighted blankets can be helpful at night to soothe anxiety.

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No, he is not autistic as far as I know. It’s pretty common for traumatized kids to not talk and while it’s been about two years now the dog kennel thing wasn’t the only (or even the worst) thing that happened to him. He was severely phsyically and sexually abused throughout his entire childhood and I can only imagine the horror of living such a terrible life, and I’m sure I don’t know the half of it. If I was him I’m sure I wouldn’t want to talk either. A weighted blanket is a good idea! I’ll look for one to buy. He does definitely like soft things and likes to sit with a blanket all the time anyways so I’m surprised I haven’t thought of a weighted one myself.

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I just want to say how sorry I am for him but thank God he’s safe now. You’re amazing for taking on such a challenging situation. Please care for yourself.
I’m watching the trial of Gabrial Fernadez on Netflix and have read The child called it. It sounds like
he could have been the child in those stories. There are no words. I sure hope that whoever did this
to him is being punished. Take care.

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@Mojoclay Thank you! I appreciate the kind words. I wish they were being punished too. Sometimes I lie awake in bed almost shaking with emotion because I literally just cannot comprehend that such monsters escaped authorities and are just existing amongst us. Sometimes he has these really vivid flashbacks and he tries to communicate to me what happened because that’s what helps him feel better and I’m not going to share any stories without permission because I don’t want to upset you, but some of them are truly unimaginable. Disturbing scenes in books and movies are one thing, but when you know they’re real and you personally love and know how sweet and gentle the victim is it really is on a whole other level. It’s definitely made me cry. Overall, he is doing better though! We went to the library and the pet store and then the frozen yogurt place, which is the biggest outing he’s had in a while, and it was exhausting but he enjoyed himself and it was a lot of fun. When we came home he had tea and then a loooong nap haha.

I’m thinking maybe an emotional support animal might be helpful. There are organizations that provide animals for autistic people and folks with PTSD.

Another thought is to play talk radio, comedy or other stations. Playing audio books in the background might also help. I know I wasn’t fond of music stations in my prodrome, but found talk radio comforting.

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@Maggotbrane I can try some music or something! I have a nice record player and a large collection of vinyls and he likes to pick them up and look at them but if I ask if he wants to hear them he always just puts them down. Until right this second I literally never thought about the fact that he’s never heard a vinyl before and has no way of knowing that the circle in the colorful box can make music. I’ll try that and see if he likes it. And talk stations are a good idea! Sometimes I put one on in Russian so he can listen to it because that’s his native language and while I do speak it myself, my automatic response is always in French or English and I feel like he gets more homesick when he never really hears his mother tongue. I am technically fluent but it’s not the same and I’m good at reading it and understanding what people are saying but my actual speaking sounds weird because I’m speaking with a strong French accent.

I’ll second that, @nic1 I think an emotional support animal might do wonders.

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I’ll look into it! Thanks for the suggestions. @Maggotbrane

And it may not need to be a trained support animal. Having a cat has made a big difference for my son.

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