Often what’s missing is a sense of pragmatism, making practical beneficial choices and putting matters in proportional context, regardless of vocation, avocation, socialization or lack thereof.
My brother with a bipolar DX overemphasizes social contact, concerning himself with social status and stratification because he once worked as a bartender in a country club—among other jobs. It rarely pays off for him, and often leaves people perplexed and/or feeling sorry for him when he compensates for his lack of status and achievement with puffery, ingratiation or inappropriate gift-giving. He achieved a Master’s Degree and had several relationships since his diagnosis, yet these have debatably served more as a reminder to his lack of success than indicators of it.
So no, I wouldn’t say socialization, a relationship, a hobby or even a job is necessarily THE answer in and of themselves. But under the right circumstances, all in concert can certainly help.
In recovery, while struggling with paranoia and doubt in social situations, I came to a helpful realization: the world was largely indifferent to me—people were too focused on their own concerns to even notice or care much about me. (Stuck in the @caregiver1 rinse-repeat cycle) That is unless I could develop, articulate and demonstrate my value to others. So that’s what I set out to do.
These are universal problems, mental illness or no, and balancing them forms the bulk of adulthood. The challenge for people with SMI is the diseases strike in young adulthood, often before you get a chance to complete foundational steps of building your value. And COVID lockdowns taught us all that sole proprietorhood in all aspects of life is a tempting lure away from the stresses of work and social situations, but in most circumstances it’s not a practical or ideal long-term way of life.
So what’s a caregiver to do? Keep trying, and see if you can coach the person under your care to build their value in small incremental steps.
My first thought when @VermontWoman1 said her son was “doing his own thing” was “which is ???” What I’m getting at is: can “his thing” be developed either as a hobby or a vocation that improves his life? For example a person interested in video games might review them online, or set up a stream playing them, or work in a store selling them, or go to tournaments as a spectator or participant, or Cosplay as a character or other creative pursuits which can lead to other things. My experience is rarely does your career or social life travel in straight lines, unexpected twists and turns seem the norm rather than the exception. I’ve elaborated in detail the twists and turns of my path of recovery in the previous posts, so you may search my post history if interested.
Another lesson of COVID lockdowns I feel we can all relate to is: do I bother to mask up and go to the store, or do I order online and have it delivered or pick it up? With SZ it’s as if you’re in perpetual lockdown, so it’s just easier to stay home and avoid the hassles of dealing with the world. But as we’ve learned, that’s half a life. So what I’m advocating is coaching of similar gradual small steps we took into the world in larger and larger groups and maybe even dropping our masks at a point where we feel safe.