Many of you know my story and know how grateful I am that my son has no more voices or delusions these days and that he and I co-habitate peacefully together. Having said that, you also may know that while the positive (or more dangerous) symptoms tend to be controlled or dissipate with proper medication and often with age (my son is 36), the negative symptoms or lesser symptoms continue throughout life, some days more so than others. Following are my observations pertaining to negative symptoms I see in my son. Or what I perceive to be negative symptoms.
One of the most persistent and seemingly unchangeable symptoms is my son’s dedication to having only me as his “friend and companion”. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy to pieces, he is a great companion himself and fun to be around but he is 24 years younger than me, I have encouraged him every way I can think of to get him to branch out, even through some of the mental health groups that are out there, there are social groups for recovering schizophrenics in my area, basically discussion groups but they can go get coffee or a lunch if they want. He use to be active in AA and NA. Once he felt he didn’t need them anymore all of the seemingly meaningful friendships he had developed were dropped. They were friends, they visited him in the hospital when he started having seizures and they invited him over for cookouts and to watch ball games etc…I use to have high hopes he would continue to have these social outlets away from me and something just for him.
Then when he dropped the groups citing that he doesn’t drink or use any drugs anymore and he hadn’t for a long time he said the meetings and everything that went with them were totally unnecessary. I said --" but you have so many friends there". He said “they’re not my friends they are recovering addicts or recovering alcoholics, they go because they have to go.” My heart dropped that he didn’t feel for these people what I even felt for them myself and they weren’t my friends but I SO appreciated all they had included my son in over the years. Anytime we spoke they would always say how much they liked my son and was glad to know him. He apparently felt nothing for them. He tells me that socializing is just not his thing and he likes being alone. I really couldn’t argue it with him because I like to be alone too and socializing is not really my thing either…I ran out of arguments.
Recently my son has showed a surprising increased interest in cooking with me. I love it. Making dinner I put him to work as my sous chef. He is trying to learn and that warms my heart. He likes to attempt to try different spices and techniques for cooking like baking instead frying or sauteing instead of boiling etc… I have a lot of hope this interest will go far fingers crossed BUT a few days ago he was making his favorite sandwich a turkey and muenster cheese on whole wheat with mayo and a tiny dab of mustard and either insanity or inspiration or both hit him at once and he put a whole bunch of unnecessary spices on his sandwich without even saying a word to me about it or asking anything. He told me later he had put extra salt -pepper, cayenne and dill weed and other things he couldn’t remember the names. (I pictured a mound in the middle of his turkey ) Anyway about an hour after eating this sandwich he didn’t look good and shortly after he started getting sick and throwing up…he was sick most of the rest of the day and very fortunately was better the next day.
I felt horrible seeing him so sick from something that could have been prevented had he mentioned something like " does all of this spice go with this sandwich?" …anyway…he survived…I survived …but it made me think that there has to be some disorganized thinking still present in his mind even though he mostly does okay. I didn’t want to discourage him from experimenting with cooking but I explained that a sandwich is a sandwich and rarely needs all those spices, especially salt on lunchmeat!?..I laughingly said that he was on “spice probation” for awhile until he gets more experience with them. He laughed like yeah I need to be! Seems he learned the hard way.
One more thing I am seeing frequently is a delay in response time during daily activities. Like say we’re folding laundry and he is done and needs to get his basket to put his clothes in…I just watch him…he finishes and literally looks like he is “putting thoughts together” maybe 2 or 3 minutes (kind of a “deer in the headlights” look momentarily)…whereas most of us would unconsciously grab the basket without thinking and fill it with the folded clothes, he has to methodically bring his mind to that next step…then and only then he will reach for the basket…I had to reel myself in from doing “the next step” for him because I am a multitasker and I do things quickly and habitually without much thought.
It took me a bit to see he was trying to do things but just slower and much more methodically. This I think is the leftovers of the illness and the maybe side effects of being heavily medicated most of his adult life. I decided it’s “his thing” “his way” and I need to step back and let it be and grow my own patience.
Lastly, he will still stop or start things very randomly and seemingly without any rhyme or reason. I do not understand this aspect of his personality but I have learned to accept it. Yesterday he stopped a supplement that had been really helping his cholesterol numbers, no reason, he saw the look on my face like “whyyy??!” and he quickly added… “at least for awhile” …so I said okay. Path of least resistance and all…
For the first time ever he admitted to me this week that he feels anxiety sometimes. He never admitted that anytime before and he rarely ever looks or behaves anxiously. He always appears like a rock of strength these days. I looked at that admission as a real positive sign of growth and self awareness. He believes that anxiety during these times we live in is pretty normal and he feels like his is no different than what everyone is feeling. Still…I keep an eye on him. He’s very well and yet there are the challenges and often ones you never expect or even notice, unless you are watching…carefully. Thanks for listening/reading.