Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

How to support a fellow student (?) with schizophrenia - Not sure... I hope I'm in the right place!


#1

Hey guys, first time poster here, I wasn’t really sure what to name the post!!

So I want to try and give you a run down of what’s been going on…

About 8 months ago I moved to a new city to study a Masters Degree. When I moved in to the student lodging there was a man here who I got talking to who had been struggling with schizophrenia for 16 years, he had just recently split up with his wife, he was off work due to injury and was trying to get his life back in order.

I consider myself a pretty compassionate person and wanted to help him out as much as I could, not every second of the day obviously but with whatever time I could spare.

Eventually he gets back to work, finds a psychiatrist who tells him that he should have been reassessed and suggests that he start coming off the meds because he didn’t believe he had schizophrenia. If I come off as a little negative in this part I apologise, it’s been a long journey with him and I’m not going to lie and say that I’m not frustrated.

Anyways, he is 38 years old, he struggles to make decisions on his own and is very impressionable, which in turn leads him to externalise a lot of his thought process and decision making. This means for me, and a couple of other people who live here, as giving advice on regular basis. However, since his doctor believed he didn’t have schizophrenia he also himself now believes he doesn’t have schizophrenia which for the last few months has led him to really mess with his medication, stopping abruptly, starting for a few days, stopping again, changing doses, all the while saying he doesn’t have schizophrenia then changing his mind once he regresses into a bad place.

What has happened now is he has become very dependant on us, but gets the wrong idea about it, he has religious delusions and believes I was sent here from God for him, he he said it to me many times to which I usually reply ‘buddy I came here on a plane and the plane was delayed, I also flew economy’ just for a bit of a giggle. This isn’t a problem, the problem is the toll that this is now taking on me.

He messes with his meds and become suspicious of me and then apologises about it. For a long time he hasn’t felt loved or cared about until he loved here because we’ve tried to help him out but he also uses that to his advantage, all of us here are students except for a couple of people, so when the semester starts really kicking off he gets angry that we don’t spend time with him. Even though he knows how important the studies are for us, we’re very clear about how important our studies are. He quit his job a month ago and is now at home constantly, he is knocking on my door 5 times a day when I really need to be working and he knows that I’m studying in here. Since he’s quit his job he has regressed really far, refuses to change doctors, I tell him to call crisis lines if he’s feeling bad and he doesn’t do anything to help himself. He’s been looking for work but doesn’t turn up to any interviews, he always has an excuse like his car broke down or he got lost or he can’t do the required pre work accreditation because the doesn’t have enough internet data but will sit there and watch YouTube all day…

He becomes suspicious of me because I try to give him advice and he thinks I’m messing with his head. But then he’ll really play on his delusions to get me to talk to him when he’s feeling lonely, knowing how much work I have to do. I keep my boundaries and I am very polite to him but after 8 months I’ve kinda had enough. I said to him 4 months ago to use this time he has while he has a support network to get back on his feet because I am moving back home at the end of the year. Instead he’s in a worse place than when he got here. I found him out the front of our place in his car laitening to music staring down the road with an angry look on his face and I asked him what was up, to which he replied ‘how can I be free when it’s all around me?’ And I asked him what he meant and he said ‘everybody just tries to make me feel bad’, he then told me a story of how every shop he goes in everybody is mean to him and always look angry like they hate him. I tell him that they probably hate their job and it has nothing to do with him.

He also constantly talks about situations that happened 10+ years ago where people were trying to mess with his head, he tells me stories of all the times people try to read his mind. The first 100 times of listening to the same story was ok but now I can’t cope with it, I have no more energy, I cannot give him new perspective because he is so ingrained in his thinking.

I totally understand all of this, I’m really understanding of his condition and I really want to help him. This week he starting using tactics to try and get me to feel sorry for him, really amping up his delusions so I would talk to him. I know well enough now when he is having an episode, I know his body language and his choice of words and I can see the distress on his face. This was not like that, he did the head down, sappy, feel sorry for me routine and I’d had enough at that point I didn’t indulge him and I went to sleep. I made a promise to myself that I need to concentrate on studies and I would take a step back because I can’t help a man who does not want to help himself. Obviously he got angry, began to look at me with disdain as well as fake smiles and hellos.

I have a fairly high tolerance for situations, I’m pretty tough and resilient but this has really floored me. I have no idea what to do, he does absolutely nothing to help himself. However, I have convinced him to go back on the meds regularly by telling him to gauge how his thinking is whole he’s on the meds and off the meds, he recognises the positives and has thanked me for this. WIN!! But him being here on his own with no job, no friends and a support network that is dwindling is really making things tough for us at the moment. He doesn’t want to get a job even though he says he does, he makes all the effort to get interviews or pre interview work but when he has to go for interviews he won’t turn up!!!

Anyways (by the way I’m sorry if this seems a little stream of conscious, it literally flying out of my head), his father said to him he has a month to sort himself out or he has to move back in with them, this was last week. However, yesterday he turned around and said that he’s moving back to his family (1500km away) in two days because one of the last jobs that he’d been waiting on turned him down. I’ve been trying to convince him of how much of a good idea this is, for selfish reasons but also in terms of him having solid family support.

I know in my head that because he is easily swayed if I get him to focus on the positives he is more inclined to go because I can’t deal with it anymore, my workload at uni is ridiculously big and I’m super stressed all the time thinking about his problems like constantly asking me for cigarettes or money or something. I feel really guilty, I’m not a manipulator at all, I really think it’s an evil thing but I feel really justified right now. I’m not manipulating for personal gain I just want to focus on my studies. My whole reason for moving was to study and I didn’t realise this is how things were to going to be. It’s like I’m baby sitting a 40 year old child who cannot think for himself, who doesn’t want to work and feels entitled to all of my time. I’ve tried to set boundaries but it doesn’t work.

I’m so sorry for this, I need to get it out to a group that maybe understands what it’s like and I really don’t want this to sound like I’m making his problem mine because that’s not it. I’m just not qualified enough to deal with this and my patience has run out with him.

Can I get some advice as to whether I’ve done the wrong thing by him?? Was it wrong to get this close?? It’s starting to effect me as a person and to be honest I feel like a fucken prick about it.


#2

I think you’ve been incredibly kind to him, and dealing with someone with active symptoms is hard, even for the family members.

Even if you feel like you’re manipulating him to go home, maybe it is for the best for him? You guys will be gone soon, and then where will he be?

I’d just continue to point out the benefits of taking his meds and returning to his family, and hope it’s for the best.

Plus, you only know his version of what the doctor said. It could be the doctor said he’d like to do a new evaluation, and he took it as the doctor things he’s been misdiagnosed. Or, he could have heard the doctor say “I don’t think you have SZ” when the doctor didn’t really say anything.

All voices aren’t command voices, where they tell you to do things. Some people hear real people that are really there say things that they didn’t actually say. My son does that.

But, cut yourself some slack - you’ve done incredibly well, much better than lots of family members do at first.


#3

I think you did the right thing by encouraging him to move home.

Because you are so positive and generous, I hope you can reframe some of your views. I am just going to generalize for a moment even though everyone who has schizophrenia is unique.

Schizophrenia is an illness that affects cognition and social interaction. No one is “amping up” their delusions or other positive symptoms to manipulate people. Most of the time, people with sz massively downplay and do not admit their positive symptoms. The real and severe illness also carries an extreme amount of social stigma.

It sounds to me like your neighbor is not savvy about reading social cues and understanding social boundaries. Since he has this symptom of illness so strongly, it may be good for him to live with people who can spend more time with him because the family relationship might be closer. He might experience more connectivity, company, and support.

Also, when people who have any illness require care and attention, but cannot attend to the needs of others, I try to remember how I feel when I have a bad flu and how “selfish” I am then.

I agree with slw about the voices. They can totally change objective reality and bolster delusions. My family member often heard people saying terrible things to him that were distortions of what was really spoken.

The reality is, you have your studies to attend to and a friend who needs more than you could possibly give. This could happen with anyone. This friend just happens to have schizophrenia, an illness for which there is no adequate treatment or resources available if the person does not “have insight” into the illness. He probably is trying to help himself, but his reality does not coincide with society’s. Luckily, yours does.

Best to you and all hopes for your success in your studies. You are a good friend.


#4

I think you did the right thing, and have been very compassionate and kind.


#5

@drumthumper001 I don’t think it is ever wrong to be compassionate…I think you lead with your heart and you did what you could…truth is people like your friend do require a lot of time and attention and I think it will be best that he goes back to his parents. If it were me I would encourage him to do just that. You have your studies and you are right to try to focus on that to succeed in your own life. I also agree with @Hereandhere there is no “amping up” it is what it is…the illness has many ‘faces’ so to speak…but it is not a willful manipulation…just know you tried to be kind for as long as you could and you may have inadvertantly given his parents a much needed break…but he should go home to them before you leave so as not to be left alone and stranded. Best of luck.