Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Trying to do it all myself

I’m a single mom, running a business, working a lot of hours and caring for my son for the last 5 years pretty much on my own. I have a small handful of people including my older son & his girlfriend that I could turn to should I need help or if my son is in a crisis. And I emphasize small because it really is. Like 4 people (my mom & dad have both passed and I’m an only).

My question is do I let someone into my life as in a significant other to help? Do I chance this? There are so many things that could potentially go wrong with this scenario, starting with my son not accepting it and possibly being a trigger for him (it’s just been he & I for so long), my having to find more time now for a relationship, and of course the obvious, if things don’t work out. I don’t need the additional stress that a relationship could bring.

I’m just so used to doing everything myself and carrying the entire burden, and I’ve gotten somewhat comfortable with it. But it is just so exhausting mentally and physically, and the little time that I do have I’ve gotten kind of selfish about it. Not sure I’d want to sacrifice that time for someone else. I’ve grown to love my alone time, even if very brief, just to unhinge.

But it’s so tiresome, and sometimes I do feel lonely and wish I had an understanding, supportive partner Who’d help if he could. This would have to be key.

I know couples who have a MI child don’t always see eye to eye on things as far as the best course of treatment or how to handle a stressful situation that may arise. And therefore, it puts a strain on the relationship.

I’m just torn. Am I meant to just live out the remainder of my days alone, caring for my son? Or is there hope that maybe my life can have some meaning in addition to my son being my whole world? And I also wonder if I can even give any part of myself to anyone, I’m completely drained and sometimes feel mindless from taking care of my son. He will always be my #1 priority, and I know that will not change.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? Go it alone or give someone a chance and let them in? This is another issue, I’m very guarded when it comes to letting people around my son, and my first instinct is to always protect him.

Just some thoughts that occasionally enter my mind

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Hi mbheart, do you know someone already? Or thinking more along the lines of meeting somebody new?

I’ve had a boyfriend for the last 6 years, so he’s been in my life since my son was 15. He met my son as a quirky, funny, socially awkward kid. So he really knows how my son used to be, and that helps. He really has been a rock for me during this past year. He lets me talk and cry on his shoulder. He is holding down the fort and feeding my cats while I’m away

That said, this has taken somewhat of a toll on our relationship. We have separate houses and will keep it that way probably forever, as he likes to give my son and me space, and also he needs time away from it all.

He sees how mean and disrespectful my son can act sometimes, and it angers him, even though at some level he KNOWS its the illness. He used to work as a lawyer for the mentally ill, so he knows the signs and symptoms better than I do. He believes, with justification I suppose, that I let my son push me around and that I give him too much. It’s just so hard for me not to, when so much has been taken from him.

That said, he jokes around with my son, and occasionally gets him to come out with us (when he was at home over the fall).

So back to the subject, I think that it could do you good, if you found the right person. They would have to be very kind and patient, and it would help if they had an idea of what mental illness is all about. It might be really good for you, even if you had to keep the two parts of your life separate at first.

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You should absolutely pursue a relationship if you want to be in one!
From your description of yourself, you must be very strong, independent, dedicated, smart and caring. It would be a shame for someone with so much to offer to be lonely!

However, you can’t expect another person to want to be deeply involved with becoming a caregiver for your son. That would be icing on the cake.
But, you can expect the right kind of person for you to be supportive and help streamline your efforts.

Direct involvement with caring for someone who has a disorder is extremely stressful and time consuming.
But there are a lot of other ways a significant other could help. My girlfriend for example:

  • Reassures me that I am doing good when I need to vent about my DX’d brother.
  • Asserts that I deserve to have things I want and to achieve goals for myself.
  • Helps tremendously by keeping chores and errands organized for both of us. That way, the house doesn’t fall apart and the fridge doesn’t become barren when I am otherwise overwhelmed with caring for my brother during a mental health crisis.
  • Promotes a calm, comfortable, safe home for me to find peace and solitude when I need to.

My girlfriend does not get directly involved with my brother’s needs, or intervene during crisis. She has never and would never try to coach him through a bout of anger or depression or delusional thinking. She probably would not feel comfortable taking him to a hospital if he asked her to.
However, she does help in so many ways to free me up from my own burdens (especially in physical ways, like offering to do dishes, cleaning, meal prep, laundry, etc) when my brother is in crisis and I am not able to do those things for myself.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t expect the right kind of person to be supportive. But to expect another person to make the kind of sacrifices you have, or for them to understand your son’s disorder and his needs is a lot.
There are a lot of other ways a healthy relationship can become a positive contributing factor to all facets of life. It’s the little things that matter most. The little things at the right time which enable you to achieve the goals you set for yourself and to follow through on your responsibilities, without feeling burnt or used up.

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Hi @soworried,
Gosh no, I have no one particular in mind. This is something I occasionally think about, especially when I’m feeling extra exhausted and feeling sorry for myself.

There is good and bad to everything I suppose, and this includes having a SO. You are absolutely correct, he would have to have extra room in his heart for my type of situation and be very understanding, supportive and patient.

My biggest worry is that I never want my son thinking I abandoned him for a man. Because that would never happen.

If I were to start seeing someone, I most likely would keep the 2 lives separate, for awhile at least, and see how things go.

This may sound crazy, but my happiness is honestly dependent on how my son is doing, therefore I feel like I have very little to offer to anyone. I’m completely depleted.

How is your son doing? I hope you’re finding alittle peace somehow.

@No one,
Thank you for your positive energy! :purple_heart:

My son’s dad and I divorced when our son was in 4th grade. I was the primary caregiver for many years, and alone. I met someone else when my son was about 12 years old, and we got married then.

My son had already experienced struggles, but we were in a fairly stable situation at first. Then my son began to act out, and the relationship between him and my husband became fractured. I think my husband never felt he could really be a parent to my son, as my ex was pretty negative about him.

My son’s behavior reached a point that I couldn’t manage him on my own, and his dad agreed to take him. That lasted only a few months, and then my son was sent to a boarding school.

Fast forward 2 years, and my son returned to live with his dad. He had been on seroquel and Depakote, but he stopped taking it, and at that time he had his first identified psychotic break. After a couple of very chaotic years, my son moved back to where I live.

Because my husband and he didn’t get along, my son hasn’t lived with us. My husband doesn’t help with him in any way other than to not complain about the time I spend providing support for my son. HOWEVER - I’m still glad I have him to go home to and to lead a somewhat ‘normal’ adult life. It DOES get lonely sometimes, and it can be exhausting to work, provide support for my son, and also maintain a home life. But I have been able to make it work, and I think for the best of all involved.

And in the last year, someone else has stepped in to provide some backup for me with my son, and that has been such a blessing.

I guess my point is that if you met someone with whom you are happy, then a relationship can be good for you, and the person’s involvement with your son is independent of that. I think as long as the person is understanding enough of the fact that this is something you must do, then having another person close in your life can be a good thing.

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@Vallpen

Thank you for sharing your story. Our stories sound somewhat similar. I divorced my ex (a raging abusive alcoholic), when my son was 9. My kids NEVER accepted it well, (how many kids do?). Long story short, by the time my son turned 12, he was acting out and getting into fights and and didn’t want to go to school. I could no longer manage him. His dad offered and thought a change of environment and scenery would be good for him. (Wrong!). So, against my better judgment, I let him go live with his dad. His dad had already remarried by then and had 2 babies. You have your “good” stepmoms and you have your not so good stepmoms. So many things I could mention here and go on and on about the things she did, tried to do, but I won’t. My ex was a puppet and he followed her rules. My son got caught up and got hurt. Like your son, my son had his first break I believe around 14. Lots of chaos at my ex’s, and I believe my son suffered tremendous childhood trauma. He also was sent to a school out of state when he was 16 where he was able to graduate high school. Then he came back to live with me. From there, things went from bad to worse…first long term hospitalization @ 19.

I feel so much guilt to this day, what if I did this or what if I did that? Always having regret for some of the decisions I made.

So, in order for me to be with someone, he would have to understand and accept completely the history of our lives and my dedication to my son for the rest of my life. He would need to add something to my life in the sense of having shoulders to cry on, and just being supportive of how my life really is, (being able to fix things around the house wouldn’t hurt either). I’m already doing it alone, and wouldn’t mind @ all if he was broken in some way as well. I think most of us are broken…

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Some of my daughter’s trauma has to do with moments where I lost my temper with her at various times. This is not the primary trauma for her, but it is a part of it… so I can relate to this feeling… a nagging thought… did I screw up my kid?

I am still learning to deal with temper as I am learning that hyperactive emotions is a part of my ADHD… I am using an app called What’s Up which is based on cognitive behavior therapy to help me deal with my emotions…one of the things it reminds you is the past is the past and doesn’t have to impact the present… The should have thoughts are common. I try to focus on the present… which for me is a closer relationship with my daughter as I am learning how to be an active listener.

Reminds of one of my favorite songs by lovelytheband, “Broken”:

I like that you’re broken
Broken like me
Maybe that makes me a fool
I like that you’re lonely
Lonely like me
I could be lonely with you

We are a little broken and people can be broken together.

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@Windyhill63,

Yes you mentioned this song before. I love it. I think it describes today’s world perfectly. I often wonder if it was this bad when I was a kid growing up in the 70’s. I feel like world was alittle slower, alittle gentler, alittle kinder…

I live with the nagging thought everyday. I’m the hardest one on my myself, very critical of myself and my faults. I often tell both of my sons, I’m sorry for the things that I might have done to make your lives harder now, and they both say “mom, just let it go”. In my sz son’s clear moments, he even says “love you mom”… this doesn’t happen often, but when it does, that is the reason I keep going and working, I want to leave behind something for BOTH of them…

People say you have to learn to forgive yourself, it’s so very hard to do, at least for me…and when I look @ my son with sz everyday, that makes it even so much harder.

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I can be my own worst enemy when it comes to criticism… I know all about being hard on yourself.

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As far as the subject at hand… this is what I tell my kids: (you probably know this already) start with building a friendship without the pressure of “going out” first…it really helps build a solid foundation for a strong relationship should it develop to anything more.

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@Windyhill63,

I agree, don’t want / can’t handle anything “heavy”. Just something very comfortable, someone who will listen to me, someone who needs me to listen to him…

A solid friendship would be nice…I have not gone anywhere in so long, not even sure I’d know how to even socialize. But I was thinking the other day, there are still so many places I’d like to visit before I die, someone to do daytrips with would be so nice. Just to take my mind off of my son for a few hours. And in my fantasy, the person I meet will also have MI child. I really think that would build a great bond/trust, especially since I don’t tell anyone my son has sz.

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That for me is a problem for me in general! It is hard for me to develop any good friendship with anyone… many social anxieties… something my daughter and I have in common…

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Ah, @mbheart I ride the guilt train too sometimes. But I know I didn’t come up in an ideal family structure, and I didn’t develop schizophrenia. It isn’t causal in that way.

I think someone who is understanding and accepting and a shoulder for crying on (and can fix things) is what I found in my partner. We recognize we both have baggage and help carry it along, and even sometimes encourage each other toss some of the stuff and leave it behind.

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That’s how it started with my boyfriend. We met online, and we each had two children of almost exactly the same age and gender. Our boys were still in high school, and it was understood implicitly by both of us that they came first, before our relationship. At the time I hadn’t dated anyone since the end of my marriage (3 years earlier), and I was a little dissatisfied that, although he was truly a friend with whom I could talk about all sorts of things, we seemed to be a little more (actual) friends with benefits than dating.

After a number of months, I broke up with him and started dating someone else. It took only about two weeks of dating somebody who wanted to insert himself into my family and use up my free time that that was an absolute “no go”. We had maintained our friendship through those weeks, and got back together and have been together ever since. Over time we’ve evolved into something more like I thought I wanted, anyway, but our kids always come first, and it’s one of the things that make us work so well.

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This is how my wife and I met… I was in Iowa and my wife in NY. We met in a Christian singles chat room on mIRC. We started talking online and emailing each other…then we met in person and connected instantly because of all the online communication.

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To follow up with what @Windyhill63 said;
Communicating online before meeting can be super helpful with dating.
Establishing an intellectual connection is a big part of the overall.
Email / text doesn’t answer the question of chemistry at all, that can only happen in person. However, it does help eliminate people you might have wasted one or two dates with and also helps give the right kind of person a chance to demonstrate their morals and ideas are similar to your own.

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@wreklus,
Very true. Time is not something I have a lot of between my son & my business. I would really be angry if the person who portrayed himself a certain was not, in reality, who he said he was. Plus I think I would know more my just talking for awhile if I’d even want to go out with that person.

@Windyhill63,

I think online dating is how most people do it now, although I’d much prefer just meeting someone by chance. As I mentioned, it would be nice to meet someone who has struggles of his own, possibly related to his children.

@mbheart
As someone who seems to be accustomed to taking the lead on making sure situations turn out the way you want: between starting your own business and being a caregiver…
I’m surprised you’d want to leave your relationship status to chance.

Not that I’m one to judge, just that it seems somewhat indirect for someone who must normally be very direct about their decisions.

Personally,
When I got actively engaged in seeking a positive relationship; I learned a lot about myself as well as what kind of person I need.
I did some self-improvement and practiced my dating habits (it’s a lot more complicated than anyone wants it to be).
I ended up realizing that a lot of the things I didn’t think should matter - actually do matter a lot; both in my own mannerisms on a date and also in the qualities of another person.

Some things I found out were very important for me to find in another person:

  • Solid career
  • Clear and sound reasons for the major life choices they’ve made
  • Similar past struggles to my own
  • Similar knowledge of popular culture and world culture
  • Intelligence
  • Evidence of determination and drive to achieve goals

I thought those things were sort of “icing on the cake” before I got serious about dating, but I was wrong.
It turned out that those things are fundamental. If someone was going to have the capacity to really understand me, to be able to fall in love with me eventually, they would need all of those qualities. Otherwise, they’d never understand where I’m coming from when I talk about things like struggles at work, or goals I want to achieve, or why I always do things in my own quirky ways.

That wasn’t going to happen by chance. I needed to go out and find those things, after much disappointment (for both myself and for dates).

I believe all of the above hit on different points especially wrecklus. You MUST take care of you. Is you son involved with any DMH services, Dept of MI? At some point he will need to live with others or supportive housing of some kind. We will not be here forever. It’s terrible as there is so little out there. We’re in MA and supposedly have a lot of services but still very lacking. Living alone in an apartment which seems to be what MA and other states do is lonely. But if there is support, yourself, friends, support group etc… can work. But you do need to take care of you.