Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Just want a hug

Every day is hard for us and we all have different degrees of illnesses that we deal with. However one thread that seems to be pretty consistent is the lack of true empathy…the idea that they can put themselves in “another’s shoes” and feel anothers pain. With that said, does anybody truly miss, like I do just a hug? The …wrap their arms around you and you feel safe and understood and able to let out a breath that has been holding all of your pain…hug? It’s been another truly bad day. We have had so much more of those than good for the past few months and it’s so hard and I miss the man I fell in love with and really wish he were still with me, not the Mr.Hyde I live with now. I know God doesn’t hate me but this really really sucks. I am so tired…so freaking tired.

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@GEORGE,

While you certainly deserve a hug and I understand changes in your loved ones are tough to bear, you may want to consider that empathy is a bit of a two way street. I’ve discussed possible reasons that expression of empathy is stunted in people with schizophrenia. I’ll search for a link to that thread and add with an edit later on.

As far as hugs go, they may present a level of vulnerability or stimulation that are harder for him to bear in his present state. Schizophrenia is a disorder of thought AND emotion, and in my experience it makes it harder to link the two. I remember having workmates remind me of the importance of pleasantries like a good morning or girlfriends having to prompt or remind me of hugs and kisses and so on. It’s as if there’s a disconnect of awareness and a lack of rhythm and synchronization to emotional and physical actions.

Your partner may be forever changed by their illness and you and he may need to adapt, I know I did. In my case I had to start from scratch, as my family is low on expressed emotion and I developed SZA before I had significant dating, social or vocational history. It’s similar to experiences that autistic people have with intimacy and social closeness. I’m reminded of the HBO movie, Temple Grandin, and the story of her “hugging machine” which gave her the experience of being hugged outside of her fight or flight response to receiving hugs from others. It’s an excellent movie, and I see overlap in challenges of people on the autistic and SMI spectrums. Grandin’s mother as portrayed in the movie is a model of a fearless caregiver. Here’s a relevant clip:

It’s possible to work through these deficits with careful prompting and exposure. I took up acting in part to bridge the gap between thought, emotion and physicality, and over time I did get better at it— but it takes work. Unfortunately, as with most caregiving, the lion’s share of the work is the caregiver’s burden. So if you feel you need a hug, don’t expect your partner to read your mind, ask for one. And if your partner has trouble meeting this need, work toward it or ask a friend.

Edit: here’s that thread on lack of empathy…

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Sigh, oh @GEORGE I do know what it feels like to badly want the hugs from your loved one that stopped with the illness. I was without hugs from my daughter for years, thankfully now I get one once in a while.

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Thanks @Maggotbrane , I will have to watch that movie. The clip was very good.

Ironic that you parallel autism with schitzophenia. I spent most of my career working with special Ed and special needs teens, several on the spectrum, some pretty severe. I can see some similarities now that you brought that up. I think it’s difficult because 1. When you work with a kid you only have them for a few years so the changes you see if any are small and 2. Your personal investment is different and 3. They don’t hold your heart and know your weaknesses. When my husband and I were first together he touched me constantly. This was before his diagnosis. As life happed and stresses of life and marriage kicked in things changed. It’s like there was a direct line between his difficulty dealing with stress and his ability to physically or emotionally connect. I didn’t know then but this had been a pattern for a very long time. Failed relationships, jobs, friendships, etc because after the honeymoon period things would fall apart and not only could he not understand others he had/has had difficulty connecting enough to his own so taking responsibility for his own feelings and behavior just caused more problems so he would give up, quit or move on to another job, another relationship. So having what I thought was a loving affectionate and empathetic man to one who can barely connect on the most simplistic level is heartbreaking. I work very hard to be as understanding and supportive as I can because I recognize that if he could stand outside himself and have the ability to objectively look at himself he would never want this anymore than I do. There honestly have been times the only reason I held on because I didn’t want to be one more person give up on him. But it’s hard and it’s lonely and sometimes I want a moment of selfishness to vent…or to cry or to just feel a little sorry for myself if even for a second in a place thats safe because I can’t do that in my “real life”. That part requires me to always be on and always be strong. I know you all understand that better than most.

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Yes @GEORGE, I know what you mean. My son (SZ) was always over-the-top affectionate when he was little, hugs all the time, he’d hug total strangers - just loved hugs. He struggles a bit with them now but I still get the occasional one. It’s a beautiful thing when he initiates!

@Maggotbrane, LOVE that movie and that scene in particular is very powerful. You’ve just reminded me that I must buy that one and share it around.

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