Mother has schizophrenia and I am an only child living alone with her

Hi,

I am an only child, 23M, from the UK.

My mum has had schizophrenia ever since I was a young child. She never took drugs, smoked or had a problem with alcohol (rarely drank). We believe her schizophrenia was triggered due to a rough divorce with my dad but we will never know for sure what caused it. She is 53 now.

This is my first post here and have only just discovered the forum as of today. I’m not really sure what I want out of this post but I will share a little of my situation as someone who is an only child, with divorced parents since I was 2 years old, and have not seen my dad until the latter of my life (around 16 years old), even then it is only once a year, if that, and of course he cannot begin to understand the severity of what has happened to my mum.

My mum and I have moved house three times due to her having an episode and spending all her money so therefore having to sell the house and downgrade to pay off the debts. I am now living alone with my mum in a one bedroom house, with my mother sleeping on a pull-out bed downstairs in the living room whilst I have the only bedroom and bed in the house (seems unfair on my mum but this is the way it is). My house is tiny and I guess you can imagine what that’s like, 24 hours a day being only one bedroom door away from my mum and the horrible traits of schizophrenia.

Just like most people with schizophrenia, my mum does not think she is ill and thinks just about everyone, family included, is out to get her. Due to this, she never leaves the house and she has had a very hard time taking her medication and not just spitting it out when I’m not looking or just not taking it at all. When she doesn’t take the meds the schizophrenia gets worse and eventually she has a full on psychotic episode. During an episode she will do unlawful things (unknowingly) as well as spend crazy money (which she doesn’t have) / selling the house etc. eventually she will be sectioned by law to the psychiatric ward in a mental hospital and put back on the meds and after a few months she can come home again. During this time I would usually have to live with my grandparents. It most recently happened when I was 18 so I could just stay in the house on my own this time as I was old enough to do so. We have only just now, ~16 years after her schizophrenia diagnosis, got her into a good routine where she takes the medication every night (or so we think).
However, the point is here that every time she didn’t take the meds and had an episode, when she returned to ‘normal’ her ‘normal’ became worse and worse with each episode. It is now that my mum cannot return to how she was and she is very much so gone. She is no longer that person she was. She is still a very loving, caring devoted mother, but just has all the wrong intentions for me, her only child, which is understandable due to her condition.

In the past, I used to resent my mum (I love her but hate the schizophrenia). I tried absolutely everything to snap her out of it, of course to no avail. I hated being seen in public with her (back when she actually used to leave the house). I would also get so angry with her and I would say some pretty nasty things and sometimes I would even get physical; not my proudest of moments. I constantly feel guilty because of how I have treated her in the past. For the latter of my life, I have hardly said a word to her, even on mother’s day or her birthday etc. (we live in the same house and I always shut her out and say nothing - kinda weird but hay-ho). I don’t know what it is, but I have found it so hard to talk to her. Even now, our relationship is far from ideal. I find it really hard to go along and agree with whatever fantasy she is talking to me about this time. Only recently I have been making more of an effort to go along with it.

My friends know about my mother’s condition but I will never openly talk about it, in fact, I actually hate talking about it and even when people who are close to me ask ‘how is your mother doing?’ it just instantly gets me thinking about my mum and the guilt (and all the other emotions…) I have surrounding the situation, which is hard to snap out of. These people are just being nice but at the same time they really do not understand the gravity of the situation and the toll it’s taken on me and my family. Maybe I should start getting therapy as I have never tried it but have been recommended it by just about everyone.

I have been at university for the past 5 years and during term time I have been living away from my mum as I had a house with my friends at university. Sometimes I wouldn’t even go back home when the semester finished as I enjoyed the freedom. I can’t lie, I really enjoyed the peace of mind and the time away but I have now finished university and am living in the one bedroom house again with my mum. I will be living here for the foreseeable future as I have no idea what I want to do with myself.

In my teenage years up until around 21 I was drinking, smoking and doing a lot of drugs as well. I have been to a lot of parties and had great times but all of this substance ‘abuse’ was just masking my social anxiety as I am a completely different person when sober; it was some sort of coping mechanism for me. I still drink when I go out now, but I don’t go out nearly as much anymore. I worry about my mental health nowadays and really do not want to end up like my mother.

The scary thing is I read here that someone else’s mother also has schizophrenia, and when this person went onto having kids of their own, one of their kids now has schizophrenia at a very young age. This was something I had not even thought of the possibility of happening. Not to mention what the likelihood of me (someone with pretty severe daily anxiety and likes to isolate themselves a lot) developing schizophrenia is.

The sad thing now is that my mum is 53, and although she is doing ‘relatively’ good, people with schizophrenia tend to die 15-25 years younger, or so I’ve read. So the day is creeping up on me. I love my mum with all my heart and that day will be the next challenge…

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Welcome to the forum sprock,

My husband’s mother was neurodiverse/schizophrenia. He and his brothers had quite the unusual childhood. His mom self medicated heavily with alcohol as her symptoms worsened in her 30’s. They never realized their mom had nds until she was in her 70’s and was diagnosed by a geriatric psych hospital. They excused all of her behaviors over the decades on alcoholism. She spent a lot of time in her bedroom alone smoking and drinking for decades.

She did hear voices which she expressed as things people had said to her. In this vein, she caused a lot of teacup storms for the people around her. She would tell anyone who listened that certain people had said mean things to her or had said mean things about the person she was talking to at the time.

From your genetic concern, it is interesting that my son and his grandmother expressed voices they heard in the same manner. Both frequently attributed their voices to actual people and built delusions about those people.

sprock, may I ask, how did you learn about your mother’s schizophrenia? How old were you? Please don’t answer if you are uncomfortable with the questions. I am curious because my grandson has a mother who is diagnosed with severe bipolar. I wonder when he should be told about his mother?

Thanks for posting, hope

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Hi hope,

Thank you for your reply. Very interesting to hear about your experiences. I hope you are doing well yourself.

How I learnt about my mother’s schizophrenia:

I think she was originally diagnosed with a bipolar disorder when I was around 6/7 years old and still to this day my mum believes she has bipolar, not schizophrenia. However, it was later discovered by other doctors and I’m not quite sure when, probably within the same year to be honest, she actually had schizophrenia.
As I was too young to know what was even going on at this point, it was my grandparents and my aunt who were dealing with the doctors and medical side of things. I always knew my mum wasn’t right as she was in and out of hospital for months at a time but I was not told until I was about 18 what she really had was schizophrenia (my aunt told me). I knew my mum was off her rocker a lot and I should have connected the dots better but the sz bomb was dropped when I was 18. Only now, at 23, I am doing a bit more digging to really find out as much as I can and other people that I can relate to. I have really tried to just ignore what’s happened and suppress it as much as I can, but this is not the way to move forward with it and I am only coming to terms with this very recently.

I think it helped when I was growing up that I didn’t know it was schizophrenia until a later age. Although at the same time I wish I would have just known, as it has led me to failing to understand my mother’s illness for years now, which also led to neglect for my mother.
It’s a difficult one to decide when to tell your grandson. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Just sucks either way really lol.

I wish you the best

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Welcome @sprock to this forum. I hope you keep coming back to read and learn how others have helped their loved ones. I can’t imagine what you went through growing up and not knowing that your mother had a severe illness. I am happy you love her and are helping her. This site is a great place to find your own emotional support.

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The fact that you are here and talking about your life with your mother tells me you are growing as a person. It’s a great step to be able to reach out for support.
I hope you continue to take care of yourself. I don’t think you should feel one bit of guilt around that or around any frustrations you may have expressed in the past. It’s a terrible illness and frankly can bring out the worst in all of us.
A good therapist could help you work through a lot of these feelings.

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Dear Sprock,
My mother was also schizophrenic. My mother passed away in 2010. But I am still healing from the trauma of growing up with someone who was so ill. I have finally begun therapy (actually trauma therapy). Like you, I felt so much guilt and accountability for Mama that it never occurred to me how much I was a victim of the disease. There is so little out there for children of schizophrenics. I wanted to suggest Surviving Schizophrenia, which is a great resource. It goes over traits of schizophrenics, myths and genetic probability. I also wanted to share a book that really helped me not to feel so alone. It is Growing Up with a Schizophrenic Mother by Margaret J. Brown and Doris Parker Roberts. It is a case study from the 90s of 40 children of schizophrenics. I hope that you find peace. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone, and I’m sorry for your pain as well as your mother’s.

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