Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

I miss the man I knew


#1

For any of you who has a family member or friend who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, you are more than well aware of the horrendous stigma attached with it. More than likely, you have hidden the fact from other friends and acquaintances and, even if mentioned, you may shroud the illness with some other name. I know this because I’m one of you.

My ‘significant other’ who I have known in various phases as lover, friend and confidant, was diagnosed as schizophrenic in 2001. Over the years, his illness has very gradually reduced our relationship to phone contact only because I cannot predict when he may suddenly slip into another psychotic episode. In the years before that happened, I tried to help him with his immediate needs, such as financial help. Because of his illness, he stopped working and tried to support himself on his social security checks and whatever savings he had. It became clear, however, in 2006, that my occasional financial help was not enough. So, I started sending him regular checks every two weeks which were, of course, meant to help pay his basic bills. All of that ended in 2012 when he was hospitalized in the psychiatric unit of the VA hospital. It was only then that I discovered that he had not been paying his bills with the money I had been sending him. Instead, he was spending most of it on wine or alcohol and perhaps even drugs. I was even accused by one the nurses at the VA of being an enabler – that hit me really hard.

His recovery after getting out of the hospital was also very rocky and painfully slow. The climax finally came on Thanksgiving day, 2015. As we had done for many years, I invited him for the holiday dinner and, at first, everything seemed fine. It was only after the meal that he suddenly turned on me, bringing up bizarre accusations that I was somehow in league with his doctors to have him ‘locked up’. His threatening behavior scared me to a point where I have never since allowed myself in that position. I wondered later if his sudden change in behavior happened only because he might have forgotten to take his meds that day. Whatever the case may have been, it turned into an epiphany for me. I came to the sudden realization that I simply do not have whatever it takes to cope with the chaotic nature of this illness.

It has also left me a very deep sense of guilt since that day. I have known this man for more than 40 years and we had, like in any relationship, our good and bad times. Now, when I get off the phone with him, that’s when the guilt comes flooding in – how can I simply abandon someone who meant so much to me for so long? At the same time, I also feel a horrible sense of loss – the man I knew simply does not exist anymore and I miss him.


#2

@marywright I’m so sorry you are going through this. I really feel for you… so many kind people on this forum understand what you feel… My sister is afflicted with this and my brother-in-law (they used to be our best friends before the illness) and it’s tough and we are trying to figure things out… part of trying to take care of myself in the process is to have a support system for me as well as seek therapy… Wishing you health, love and healing


#3

Thank you for your kind words. Holidays, for me at least, are the hardest and I’ve developed this defense mechanism of burying my feelings so deep that they will often erupt in unexpected ways - like, a sudden fit of rage about something very minor or some harsh words with someone at work when I’m not normally that way at all. That feeling of helplessness is sometimes overwhelming and knowing that so little is really known about this illness - what causes it, how to effectively treat it on a case by case basis. It just seems like his doctors are all stumbling in the dark, not really knowing what they’re doing. Sometimes I just want to scream -


#4

@marywright you can’t imagine, I feel every single thing you mentioned especially this year… I used to appear as a “wise” balanced adult but this year I was overwhelmed and just burst into tears in inappropriate times. This forum has helped me tremendously and talking to a therapist (and minimal but important to one trusted friend). We should not give in to feeling ‘helpless’, whenever I can I just go out walking or exercise in the house, do any activity to keep my mind off of things I cannot control and engage my mind in useful things as much as I possibly can and run errands or even if I can I just watch something entertaining (I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to but it does help actually), anything to make me feel bit healthier.


#5

Thank you again - although I hesitate to say that misery loves company, I will say that misery does lessen somewhat when you realize you’re not alone.


#6

Definitely not alone. I feel free to share and express my feelings in this forum, there has to be an outlet for us…


#7

Please try to help yourself not feel guilty. Sometimes, we do NOT have what it takes to cope with the chaos of this illness. There are so many levels of illness, and so many errors in diagnosis and medication that it is a roulette game in my opinion. I, for one, do not judge you at all for separating out. You are not abandoning him. If he turns on you, threatens you, and you feel you must disassociate from him as the illness takes him down, there is so little you can do to help him recover.


#8

Its important to talk to someone. You feel much better after sharing it wg counselling or samaritans. You are doing your best. Only someone who has been through it knows what it’s like. I go to the gym or visit seaside as it gives a bigger perspective. When your in the middle of an incident it is the whole world. But in calm times you realise you start thinking philosophically about life and the fragility of the mind, and the preciousness of life. You develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be a person. You see how powerful yet delicate our minds are. You see how irrelevant and silly most of what people find important is, and that ultimately hope and love really are all we need.