Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Trying a new approach with my son and it’s working

I may have been doing it all wrong the last few years. I’m guilty of babying and coddling my son most of his life. And that only worsened after his diagnosis. I was borderline smothering him. Most likely from loving him so much to feelings of guilt being behind it.

Last few weeks I have taken a different approach. When I feel he’s wrong about something, I express it. When we are in disagreement, I tell him so. I also remind him no one is perfect or above reproach, and he’s not always right. I speak to him objectively and fairly, just like I do with my older son or any other human being. I was wrong to think babying him was the only possible way. But I think that was more for me and my way of trying to appease some of the guilt I was feeling.

He’s responding so much better to the directness, especially when I don’t show so much mothering. Yes, I love to smother him with love, but he doesn’t like it. He’s no different than any other young man as far as being smothered by their mother. They don’t like it.

Just a suggestion for some moms on here. Try the fair but objective, matter of fact approach and see what happens. A little tough love. I know all we want to do is coddle them and protect them, but in my case it backfired.

Just thought I’d share.

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I’m trying to express my own needs more directly with my schizophrenic spouse, for similar reasons.

Before he relapsed, he seemed to really like the care and attention, but with the increase in symptoms, being solicitous seemed to just increase his suspicions of me.

I do try to be kind in doing this, of course, but I have a lot of needs that are not getting met, and things have felt one-sided for seven years now.

It’s a bit too early to tell, but my increased directness does not seem to be making our relationship any worse, and it may be helping.

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@Itsastruggle, yes I really had nothing to lose by going the tougher route. He was not responding very well to the “always agreeable” approach. And I think he feels more like a “normal” person by my making some changes. Alittle tougher, but in a loving way.

In my case, I was doing it all wrong.

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Well, I am sure you have been doing a lot more right than wrong over the years! And I do think that erring on the side of agreeableness is much better than erring on the side of harshness.

That said, of course it’s always good to be open to the possibility that even our well intended approaches may not always be the most useful. And I’m glad you have been able to make some adjustments that are making life easier for both you and your son.

In terms of helping your son feel more like a “normal” person, I have had a similar thought in that perhaps my being “always agreeable” actually increased my spouse’s paranoia about me because it isn’t really a “normal” way for me to react in response to his frequently disagreeable behavior.

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Thank you for sharing that as that’s exactly how i feel too and i need to be a bit tougher with him for his own sake too , i also feel babying him is destroying him and tough love will help but i won’t lie as my son is stubborn and hard headed and it won’t be easy .

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Hi @Linda, my son is too. He always was a stubborn kid, and if he decides he’s not doing something, there’s no convincing him. I want him to try supplements and vitamins so badly, but he refuses. It’s very difficult, but just recently I decided to be alittle tougher with him and he’s now “thinking” about things, instead of just flat out saying no.
It’s not the norm for me to be like this with him, and I think he’s noticing the change, and responding better to it than before. I’ve started laying my foot down on some things, and it’s working out.

I hope your son gradually starts eating
alittle more. Sometimes I think reverse psychology works best. If your son refuses food, don’t beg or encourage or show him how upset you are. I know this will be difficult, but I would just shrug it off and say ok. And leave it at that.

Sometimes I feel like the harder we want them to do something, the more they resist.

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You’re absolutely right and thats what im doing now and its less stressful . He has good days and bad days and if anyone is going to change it has to be me.I’ve been doing this for a few days now and its kind of working but reading your post has helped me realise that what im doing is good so thank you for the confirmation . Im happy to hear its working for you too : )

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Some thoughts on how this relates to ‘schizophrenic thinking’. Ambiguity and hints can sometimes baffle people with SZ. Just as we can wildly misinterpret things and find subtext and conspiracies where there are none, we can also be completely blind to important true subtext, or be suspicious when people are being ‘nice’ to us, thinking there must be some devious plot behind it all instead.

When you have insight into your illness, you can become hesitant to jump to conclusions or read between the lines because you know you’ve made mistakes in perception and interpretation in the past and don’t want to make similar mistakes. What you may perceive as being a bit dense or unaware, may either be a lack of an ability to read the underlying subtext, or lack of trust that it’s actually the reality of the situation. Inaction is generally safer if you aren’t sure, especially when delusions or hallucinations are involved and this can spill out into ‘real’ situations.

For example dating can be especially baffling as it’s based on significant subtext and signals. If you’ve seen the movie A Beautiful Mind, consider how John Nash approaches dating versus his future wife Alicia. When he speaks bluntly it’s generally a failure, but when she’s clear and straightforward with him and others, she often meets with success.

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@Maggotbrane, yes he would often look at me suspiciously when I was always too nice of just always agreeing with him. As if though he was questioning my sincerity, and rightfully so. I mean, who agrees and appeases 100%, all of the time?

I’m finding directness coupled with sometimes honest, blunt replies and answers are working for us. I was sugar coating everything. He likes knowing that there are no hidden agendas when people talk to him. He prefers the “what you see is what get” approach. Trying to get my older son and other family members to address him the same way.

I learned he does not wish to be treated as a helpless invalid, because… HE’S NOT.

Thank you so much @Maggotbrane, having gone thru it, you always put clarity and perspective on different areas.

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Thanks, Maggotbrane.

My husband, when paranoid (which is six months now, for this relapse), often experiences me as “talking in riddles”.

I can understand his take, as this generally occurs when I am trying to avoid telling him that I think he is misperceiving things and that what he is experiencing is mostly to entirely in his head. So in a very real way, he has me nailed: I am being evasive.

I guess I haven’t come up with an optimal way to respond in these situations. Things go best when I empathize with the underlying emotion, of course. But he can be pretty persistent about wanting my input and I sometimes end up in a position where I feel trapped between being seen as evasive vs. expressing that I don’t agree with his perceptions (which of course is distressing to him as well).

It can feel like a no-win for us both.

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I see how this can be difficult for you. Some ideas… My approach in these cases with my brother is to ask questions to clarify his positions without contradicting him. Questions like, what makes you think that? Why is that important to you? What would it mean if that were true? All The Who, What, Where Why, When questions a reporter would use. Sort of a mix of neutral fact finding questions with feeling and emotion checking questions.

It’s a bit of Dr. A’s ‘reporter’ technique mixed with a scientific peer or legal review. If there are logical holes in his theories, ask about them. Since these are largely questions, I suppose they could be considered riddles. Another tack is to bring up his history or relate your own relevant stories. When pinned down, try things like I don’t know or I have to research or think about that, or agree with him in the hypothetical. It’s a little like having a religious debate. When you take positions it’s best to be neutral and say, I see you believe this and restate their position and then state your position and say it’s okay to disagree and try not to devalue their position. When taking stands, agree to disagree or be agnostic… I don’t know about that.

A little secret that may help. Most of the time paranoiacs are consumed by their delusional thinking and being ‘right’ with their theories, but they actually dread that they might come true. This is because it opens up a whole new set of implications, and they’d rather not think about what happens next. Usually some sort of existential crisis that means their life would suddenly change or end, and they aren’t prepared for it. If you call their bluff by granting them their wish hypothetically, it’s completely fair to ask them well what comes next? This may send them on their heels a bit.

Overall, I think it’s okay to question his logic, but not his feelings. And take stands logically without devaluing his position by either agreeing to disagree or supplying an alternative— hopefully a more probably or simple one. Delusions rarely follow Occams Razor. When we hear hoofbeats it’s always almost always zebras, not horses. It’s okay to call him on that. It may activate more critical thinking on his part. This is sort of next level kind of stuff, when the usual bag of delaying or evasive tricks are exhausted. I don’t recommend starting off with logical arguments.

Since I have a scientific background, I sometimes muse about scenarios where both our ‘realities’ are true, and people with SMI are stuck in between two universes and both realities exist at the same time. There are scenarios and thought experiments in quantum physics that hint at these possibilities. Schrödinger’s cat is one of the more famous ones. You may also consider getting him some books on the Philosophy of Epistemology or Philosophy of the Mind. That may keep him busy for a while, and off your back. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hmm. In considering your suggestions, I think I tend to shift away too quickly from asking questions in an exploratory way to asking questions intended to shift his thinking. I will try to stay more in exploratory mode.

I do think having a scientific bent is very helpful in coping with psychotic experience - it helps to counter the confirmatory bias that is the natural tendency in human thinking. And I have always liked the idea of multiple realities.

Thank you for your detailed, insightful and thoughtful replies. As always.

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this is such a healthy thread ! I love the solutions and positive healthy talk.
I have gotten on here and have come away with a panic attack & fearful for my son and the future.
thank you !

A little something I have done with my son (23) is to have “check ins” a time we both sit down together and let him just talk about anything he may be feeling, believing or thinking. I usually have a notebook so I can follow and take notes to keep up and remember. These check in’s help him get the facts on his beliefs before they may go off on their own and become concrete. This also helps me make sure that his meds are still working ( which they are ! )
or if there is something his Dr. May need to know.
Life gets so busy and with their ability to misinterpretation is so huge that these “Check in’s” have saved us with many misunderstood familly situations, feelings and fears. L.U.V.E

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@Mojoclay, yes I agree! I “check in” with my son daily (almost like a reality check). I feel it’s a great security for him to know our family is all on the same page when it comes to him. We just want him to continue his progress (keep his apt clean, do things that may bring him some joy or comfort, whatever that may be, and continue to make his best effort to join in some family functions). I let him know all we want is for him is to be content, and I will support him should he ever wish to return to school, get a job, etc. Also to set him straight should he be “off” on some things.

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Hey Maggotbrane ,Hope all well , have you always had insight ?

Well, I’m probably not the best judge of that, but to varying degrees most people would say yes.

Here’s a bit of my history and you can draw your own conclusions:

I had a long prodrome in college where I became increasingly isolated, and had trouble with school. I had trouble concentrating on classes and had an erratic sleep schedule, so I often missed classes and/or pulled all-nighters for project deadlines and cramming for exams. My grades were all over the map and I often dropped or withdrew from classes. At the same time, I was keeping a front up to my parents and family and covered up my academic issues. Eventually I kinda ‘faked’ my undergraduate graduation, since they allowed you to walk in the ceremony at the time, even if you hadn’t finished your degree.

I then had the burden of trying to support myself while going to school and hiding it all from everybody. Under the pressure, I began to believe I was being followed and became increasingly paranoid and had delusions that the police and/or FBI were following me. I enlisted the help of my brother who lived in the next state, and asked him to help me turn myself into the authorities. Instead he put me on a plane back home and thinking it may help my situation with the authorities, I requested that my parents get me psychological help.

I wasn’t keen on medication, so I started out with Jungian talk therapy. I had a disastrous first session with a psychiatrist my therapist referred me to, so I went without medication for a year, while I attended a local college and worked a part time technical job (at the insistence of my mother). My delusions intensified and escalated since I’d crossed state lines and my perception was I was under surveillance at home by the FBI. I managed to hold onto my job and stay in school while this was all going on, and planned to go back to my college to finish off my undergraduate degree.

In talk therapy, I thought I was close to working out my issues and realized my ‘watchers’ were not real. But under the stress of preparing to go back to college, cover for the time off I was going to take from work, and various interpersonal problems, I rebounded. I didn’t sleep for three or four days, started vividly hallucinating and having florid delusions. I was placed under a 72 hour psychiatric hold, then hospitalized, but voluntarily signed myself in for treatment at a hearing.

I was diagnosed as SZA and submitted to taking a mood stabilizer, because I was aware they could detect that I was compliant with a blood test, so they’d let me go back to college. They let me out, and I attempted to finish my classes but when I heard some classes I’d taken wouldn’t transfer, and I couldn’t finish in that term, I despaired and had trouble with classes and dropped them. I stopped taking the medication after the hospital, I was supposed to be evaluated for an AP, but somehow the follow up wasn’t communicated to my psychiatrist and I didn’t see the need to address the error.

I returned home and went back to my job unmedicated for a while, but started having trouble concentrating and keeping things together, so I asked my psychologist for a referral to a different psychiatrist to explore medication options. I did this, because I realized I was likely to lose my job otherwise. I was prescribed a relatively low dosage of a typical antipsychotic, and improved.

I won’t say I was symptom-free or I took my medication religiously, but I have been steadily employed in white collar positions ever since. I took a couple short breaks to go back to school and between jobs and had a mental crisis or two and a few year or two long delusional periods, but nothing I couldn’t handle. It’s been about 35 years since my first and last hospitalization. My first Jungian therapist said I always had a small piece of my psyche holding onto reality that guided me. You may call it insight if you like, but I’ll just say I was very lucky.

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You made me smile reading your story , i’m really happy for you , i believe having insight is already a 90% recovery , i wish and pray my son and many others on this forum will gain insight or get lucky like you say ! Thanks for sharing : )

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I appreciate you sharing this approach, I too have babied my daughter because she is just so clueless sometimes about things. I sometimes help too much, she accepts my help and then her husband will be angry with me. Then, we don’t talk for a while and it makes me feel sad like I am abandoning her for a time. It’s a mess really.

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@juliea, yes I feel like am I doing too much and hurting him by somehow inhibiting him from being independent or am I not doing enough? But I can honestly say I have gone above & beyond, and I have no regrets about that. However, there are certain areas where I had to draw the boundaries with him, as I felt I was not really helping him in the long run. I will not be here forever, my goal is get him as independent as possible, as long as he is willing to do things that “grown ups” would normally do. I’m just glad he’s responding well to the change.

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Mine is too and I think letting go when it’s not a safety issue is a good goal.

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