Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Problems with Enablers


#1

Hi everyone,

I am new to this forum, and this is my first post. I am close friends with a person who was recently involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital because her untreated schizophrenia was slowly killing her. She had dropped out of her prestigious academic program, withdrawn socially, and recently, stopped drinking water and feeding herself. When she was admitted to the hospital, she was about 30 pounds underweight and dangerously dehydrated. You get the picture.

My friend’s family and her closest friends (including me) all agree that she is ill and needs treatment. We fully support her treating physicians, who are in the midst of a legal process with the end goal of court-ordered treatment. However, my friend has no insight into her condition, and she has assembled a group of casual friends and acquaintances who believe that she has been wrongfully detained. In addition to being severely ill, my friend is incredibly bright, articulate, and likeable (when she is not having violent episodes). She can be very convincing. She has managed to convince these people (I’ll call them “the enablers” for the sake of concision) that her family and close friends are basically monsters who have locked her up in an effort to harm her. I do not think she has convinced the enablers that she is not ill (given her current state, that would be next to impossible), but she has managed to convince them that we are jerks for pursuing involuntary treatment in a psychiatric facility.

This group of enablers has now formed an anti-psychiatry cabal. They have begun meeting in secret, holding conference calls, and even surreptitiously recording phone calls with my friend’s close circle of care in an effort to undermine us. Some of the enablers have taken to calling and emailing my friend’s mother and berating her for attempting to have my friend treated involuntarily. In addition to devoting almost every waking hour to helping my friend, my friend’s mother now has to contend with a group of enablers who make her feel harassed, undermined, and deeply hurt.

My friend is gravely ill, and this fact is abundantly obvious to me and most other people who have interacted with her. I do not understand where the enablers are coming from, but I do know that they are very harmful to my friend and to her circle of care. A few days ago, one of them was visiting my friend at the psychiatric facility and encouraged my friend to cause a huge scene. That particular enabler also recorded the entire episode on video, thereby violating the privacy of other patients in the facility. As a result of all this, the hospital revoked my friend’s passes to go outside for the rest of the weekend and possibly longer. My friend previously had passes to go outside for hours at a time, and I think that was good for her.

Anyway, has anyone else experienced this sort of thing? Is it common for family and friends to face this kind of criticism (and even vilification) when they attempt to get help for a person who is suffering from schizophrenia? Does anyone have any insight into how to manage this situation?

I believe that the enablers are harming my friend. Any insight into this situation would be helpful and greatly appreciated.


#2

I haven’t myself, but the anti-psychiatry mob are a real thing in the US. I think your friend’s mother should start with some kind of injunction against the harassers. Also, there is no reason why they, as a group, should not be banned from the psychiatric facility. Her mother should speak to the doctors about this. Of course, that will give them more fuel for their mass paranoid delusion about psychiatry, but that’s their illness, and right now their illness is having a negative effect on your friend’s health.

These people are absolutely no different from the morons who tell me I can cure my diabetes by eating this or that obscure herb and doing yoga, that the “evil” pharmaceutical companies just want me to be dependent on insulin, that it’s all a “plot”. They just latch onto one issue or other and make it carry all their own feelings of impotence. They are bad enough on issues like cancer and diabetes. They are lethal when it comes to Serious Mental Illness. This lot and the “faith healers” far surpass any pharmaceutical company when it comes to causing suffering.


#3

Thankfully, the hospital has already banned two of these people from the facility (including the one who instigated my friend to cause a big scene). I agree that it would make sense to ban all of them and will raise this with my friend’s mother. Unfortunately, the whole group maintains contact with my friend by telephone and email as well, which is very hard to control. My friend’s family (and the hospital) are trying to protect my friend without unduly curtailing her ability to use a phone, use her email, etc. It’s a difficult balance to strike. I really appreciate your support.

It’s funny that you mention anti-medical-establishment advocates of new-agey treatments like herbs and yoga. A few of these enablers have been exhorting us to visit an expensive alternative care facility that offers exactly that sort of “treatment” (and has no psychiatrists on staff). It scares me to think about the severely mentally ill people (and their families) who are exploited by places like this.


#4

Yes, the such thing is how much money they extract from people for coffee enemas and stupid advice. Then they accuse the pharmaceutical industry of being unethical.


#5

I think it’s really important for people to have friends and support, even if I do not agree with their views.

While I would hate it if my family member had this group of “friends,” I would try to get to know them and listen to them (agreeing to disagree when we don’t have the same ideas and opinions), try to all join together because what if I alienate my family member? Then someone else will have to be there to provide basic support. The government social supports where we live do not cover everyone, especially people who cannot figure out how to fill out long forms and get themselves to appointments, etc.

If the “enablers” are as awful as they sound, they will not be there for your friend if she leaves the hospital and has another psychotic break or needs support. They will blame her for her illness and abandon her. Then, you and her family will still be there.

Pace yourself. You and her family are committed to your friend. There could be a relapse or other difficulty even without these people around. Keep going. Don’t fight those “enablers”; the friendship might not last very long. If it does, then they are real friends and will eventually accept the realities of mental illness because they have truly been there for someone who suffers so deeply.

In your fight to help your friend, this is an additional battle you don’t need and you can’t win. Like I said, if some people were doing this to my family member, I would try to get along with them and ask them what they are really willing to do to help. How would they respond if my family member were starving??? Would they find wandering family member on freezing nights and get to warmth to prevent frostbite? Have polite and informative interactions with law enforcement? Wash their clothes? Do their dishes? Make their meals, if they are eating? Make sure they don’t leave the stove on if they cook? Get them to appointments so they have social supports and services? Pay for their recreation and give them rides to and from? Buy them clothes and shoes when all theirs are torn and hole-y when they refuse to go shopping? Coordinate payment of all their bills? Get them a place to live if they get kicked out of the old one? Most likely, the “enablers” have no clue what is actually needed.

When your friend’s family does not agree to pay for the alternate care facility without doctors, maybe they will pay for it JK. I have a harsh sense of humor.

I personally define mental illness by logistical dysfunction, additional negative life stress and emotional pain, along with any resultant harm or disability. Anyone who can respond and make any part of these illnesses less painful or burdensome for the person who has the illness is fine by me.


#6

I totally agree in general about the importance of having support from friends, whether or not they agree with the plan of treatment. In this particular case, however, friends and family have had a hard time with the enablers in large part because of their refusal to engage with us in a positive way. The enablers have a ringleader who has convinced them that we (my friend’s family and close friends) are deeply unethical and cannot be trusted. We have tried to reach out to the enablers (including the ringleader) and explain our point of view, but these attempts have fallen on deaf ears at best and provoked hostile responses at worst. In fact, when we tried to open up a dialogue with the ringleader, that was when she started surreptitiously recording her phone calls with us (and playing those phone calls for our ill friend, and for those of us in the circle of care, in a failed attempt to create divisions between us). I actually think that the ringleader is mentally ill herself and needs help, but that’s another story.

It’s a really tough situation. I do hope that they will eventually tire of this cause. Better yet, maybe they will stick around long enough to understand just how ill my friend is. Maybe then they will realize that they should be working with her family and close friends, not against us – even if they aren’t on the exact same page as us.


#7

Indeed, tough situation. Certain factions of the anti-psychiatry group can become quite militant. They are in fact engaging in behavior that would be real justification for developing paranoia - recording private conversations!

Personally, as much as I would want to, I would refrain from any contact with them myself, but remain as non-committal as possible if they come up in conversation with your friend, and try to keep comments to, I understand they don’t agree with the choices being made, We love you very much, and want you to live a better life, I’m sorry we can’t agree on this, and, the ever-safe fallback, that’s something you need to talk about with your doctor.


#8

Oh my goodness, yes! We were recently approached by a woman at our church who is a “health coach” and by health coach I mean someone who thinks a gluten free diet will cure almost any ailment. She wanted to consult with us on our daughter’s condition (she doesn’t know it’s schizophrenia, just that our daughter has some sort of mental illness going on). We politely declined, saying that diet and lifestyle choices weren’t really going to help with this particular problem (aside from making healthy choices like she already does), and this lady got pushy and arrogant, telling me I should do some research. I got so mad. As if I hadn’t already read multiple books about this disease and researched what I could about it. So infuriating!!!


#9

If I were in that situation, I would be sure to inform your friend’s medical team about who the problem people are, have as little contact with them as I could, and possibly get restraining orders against any who harass you.

I like the way Vallpen suggested you speak to your friend about it.


#10

Thanks, everyone, for all of the helpful comments.

Update: The situation seems to have stabilized for the sad reason that these people are already starting to abandon my friend. I didn’t expect that to happen so fast. I guess once they spent long enough with her to figure that out that she is severely ill, they didn’t want to stick around.

I think this has been damaging for her. She has a circle of people who are supporting her, but right now, she sees us as enemies. When we visit her, she usually treats us with scorn (which is understandable – she has anosognosia and therefore cannot understand our point of view right now). She saw the enablers as her true friends, and now they are gone. I can’t imagine what it’s like in her head right now, but I get the sense that she feels even lonelier and more afraid than she did before.


#11

It might be helpful to reach out to close family friends that are or have been positive and supportive in your family’s or daughter’s in the past and encourage them to re-engage. Everyone needs friends to talk to.


#12

Dear waxwing, Thank you for updating. It was somewhat predictable that the “enablers” would abandon her. I’m sorry this happened to her as loss of friendship is so painful.