Hello. My sister has struggled with schizophrenia since high school. She is now in her 40s. For the past 3 years, she has struggled with attempting suicide. I love my sister and want to see her and support her, but have noticed a pattern that whenever I or other family members visit her she attempts suicide shortly afterwards. She is living in state-run facilities or hospitals where she has constant supervision and medical support staff, so she is safe. When I don’t visit her, she feels unloved. When I do visit her, I almost lose her. Is it better to see her so she feels loved, or to not visit her so she stays stable? Anyone else struggle with this same situation?
Keep it to writing letters?..
Are phone calls possible and do they make any positive difference? Or - as another member mentioned - letters?
How do the visits go when you are there? We have to be very careful not to add stress to our ill family member’s lives.
Thank you for the suggestions. Yes, we talk on the phone a few times a week and she seems to enjoy these conversations, and so far they haven’t led to suicide attempts after the calls. Sending cards in the mail is also a good idea!
Have you discussed this delima with the staff at where she lives? They see her everyday, they can offer good advice. The SW is a good resource.
Phone calls and letters sounds like a good plan. I so admire you, and hope for better times ahead for you and your family. ️
This is a good suggestion and we have asked for staff insight from time to time. Unfortunately, she never stays in one place long enough for the staff to really get to know her and her case.
Thanks @DoubleN. It’s been decades of struggle. Only recently has my family been reaching out for resources to help cope. Knowledge is power!
I really appreciate your post because it never occurred to me that my visit might trigger my 45-year-old son with paranoid schizophrenia.
We e-mail, call and write occasionally. I e-mail him about 5xs a week to say "Good Night and tell him that he is loved.
I never push to visit. He often says ok then cancels at the last minute.
How else can I let him know he is loved?
@VermontWoman1 I think you’re doing a great job! Your emails are so sweet and very loving. It’s possible that he cancels the in-person visits because it is a trigger for him. For us, I believe it’s a trigger because the visits are a reminder that she can’t come home with me when we say goodbye, and she must stay in a less-than-home-like environment hospital setting until she gets well enough to be in a group home. To answer your question as to other ways you can show love, you could incorporate regular phone calls into your routine. Perhaps calling every Sunday, for example. You could also send him care packages with his favorite snacks! That’s a nice surprising way to show affection.
Merci for your thoughtful response.
I deeply appreciate the people who respond here,
I feel cared for and not so alone
as I struggle to understand what my son has to cope with.
Knowledge, yes! Learning more is one of the reasons I recently joined our county’s mental health advisory board. It’s a great group of family members, county employees and other professionals in the field, and people who have been through the system as recipients of mental health or substance abuse services. It’s a great way to learn more and partner with the people who are on the front line every day providing services.
I have a similar situation with one of my daughters. She has a delusional disorder that has not been formally diagnosed, but is obvious to my husband and me. It started in her teens (we knew nothing about psychiatry at that time and assumed it was part of her experimentation with drugs so we focused on that); she is now in her mid-40s. (One of her grandmothers had schizophrenia, and her younger sister developed it several years later in extremely obvious ways, so there’s a hereditary element.)
We love her dearly, and believe she loves us, but whenever we’re in our presence she truly believes I am inserting my thoughts and perceptions into her mind, and that I am also aware of her thoughts, feelings, and needs. So on the one hand, she feels constantly intruded upon, since she reads incredible things into anything I say or do or even my expression; and on the other hand, she believes that I do things “wrong” on purpose out of some desire to harm her. Like not folding her laundry properly, or topping off the sugar bowl “because” I “knew” she had been planning to wash it instead. Her rages are terrifying.
After decades of trying desperately hard to manage to be in her presence without setting off one of her heartbreaking screaming tirades, we’ve finally concluded that it’s best all around never to be in her presence again. Even phone calls are impossible, since she believes I can push my thoughts into her head through the phone line!
Thank God for Face Book! After her most recent explosion, last spring, I very gradually started clicking “Like” now and then on things she posted. After a few weeks I dared to type a comment agreeing with her. No outbursts, so I progressed to making slightly longer comments and adding some factual information (she’s very intellectual, even brilliant).
Now, months later, we have a friendly and positive Face Book interchange every few days, always on neutral topics. She has remained stable. I treasure this contact, and believe it’s important to her as well. Sadly, her father has not been able to manage this–she will not respond to him at all, apparently still furious because he stood up for me last year when she’d grievously hurt me (emotionally, not physically) during one of her paranoid episodes.
She and I will never have the warm relationship I’d long hoped would emerge; she’s simply not capable of it, as some important parts of her are stuck in the early teenage years. That’s just who she is and there’s no way to change it. As long as our contact doesn’t happen in person or on the phone, she and I both feel loved and she stays stable. I’ve accepted that I will not hear her voice or see her in person for the rest of my life. I give her the best support I can, which ironically is to keep this distance.
My son gets very depressed after a visit with his brother. He feels jealous of his older brother. His older brother has a life he wishes he could have. He also hears things, derogatory things, being said that aren’t being said. So visits always seem to make him feel worse.
You are not alone.