Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Married for 21 years to schizophrenia


#1

Hello everyone. I have been married to my husband for over 21 years.

As a teenager he had issues with depression and suicidal thoughts. I was not completely aware of these issues before we were married. 3 years after we married he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Thus began the mental and emotional roller coaster of medication, highs and lows, the constant guessing game of what’s coming next.

I know that this diagnosis is not his fault and I have tried everything I can to be helpful without creating more pressure, stress or anxiety for him. I have also tried several different coping mechanism for myself so I don’t get too burned out. I have a strong spiritual lifestyle that helps me get through the rough patches.

The challenge I have been facing lately is whenever the doc decides to do a med change there are full frontal emotional attacks towards me during the transition. This is becoming very draining and this last time I left for 2 weeks. I felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore and even though it’s not his fault for having this mental illness the mental and emotional abuse towards me is almost unbearable.

I had a plan to try and get my own place and just stay gone. This caused confusion with my spouse because even though he knows he hurt my feelings, he thinks that all that is needed is an apology or two and everything will be fine again.

I have been meeting with a psychologist myself to work through some of these issues and my husband agreed to meet with a couples counselor next month. My family thinks I’ve dealt with it enough and that I should leave. Unfortunately this is easier said than done.

I don’t know how to explain what it’s like to be married to someone with a mental illness. Whenever I try to talk to him about things we should deal with he doesn’t really think there’s a problem. It’s very frustrating and I feel like I’m wearing my family out by talking to them about him.

So I came here for help, support, understanding and compassion for what I’m going through. To know I’m not the only one going through this and for any suggestions on how to deal and when to know if I should be done or if it’s just all part of the “normal life” of living with schizophrenia.

Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you!


#2

Your question is one without a certain answer and one I ask myself often.

Only you know when you “should be done” and it’s up to you, not your family or your husband or anyone else.

I had to kick my family member (not spouse) with sz out of the house for a time because I could not live with the disruptions and verbal and emotional abuse. This was about my basic needs, at that point, not my family member’s, because I was breaking apart. Not sleeping due to loud noise in the house caused by my family member, being screamed at every day: I could not handle it.

The way I frame this now is that I was not qualified to help my family member during that stage of the illness. Just like if my family member had been injured in a car wreck and I was not physically strong enough to help with showers or not a medical doctor who could perform needed procedures, I simply could not help my family member then and I was hurting myself trying. The decision was very difficult and personal. I don’t know whether I made the right choice, but we live in the same house again and things are going better than they were at that time.

The love we have for people and our education about mental illness, plus just knowing how imperfect all humans are, does allow some behaviors to be seen as results of symptoms and distress. I have serious MI as well and I still lose control of my behavior on occasion so I can be empathetic. At the same time, we’re all humans with basic needs for safety, etc. and need to be able to trust the people closest to us.

The way I determine whether or not to tolerate behaviors from my family member is this: can my family member control the harmful behavior around other people? Do other people receive this attacking speech, disruptiveness, etc.? Sadly, for my family member, the answer is yes and my family member has alienated many people without understanding why or how. So I see my family member who I know for sure likes some people and also can recover and do what is wished for in life, but who is not doing well most of the time, who refuses treatment, and who suffers more deeply than I can understand.

I go to NAMI family and friends support groups to talk with other family members. I go to Peer Connections through NAMI to work on my own illness and spend time with people who make sense to me. If there is a NAMI or other Family and Friends support group near you, you may be able to meet people who are facing these unanswerable questions. NAMI.org. This forum is great too. I’m glad you wrote.

What also sounds positive is couples counseling.


#3

I appreciate your quick response to my post and your suggestions for contacting local support groups. I will try and find a NAMI support group so I can get the support I need to deal with this illness on a daily basis. It’s hard to know what to expect from 1 day to the next but I suppose that is true in any relationship. Unfortunately I grew up in an alcoholic family so the “walking on eggshells” pattern is pretty deep. My spouse is working hard on being more aware of his moods since it been back home and is really trying. I think sometimes I just allow other people’s feelings about my situation get in my head too much and that clouds my ability to make choices I know are best for me and not what they think is best, even though their intentions are good. Thank you again for your sincere response and helpful suggestions.