I can remember the weeks after coming out of the hospital and moving back in with my parents, it was a scary time, to say the least.
I was riddled with paranoia and delusions, my meds weren’t right yet and I was suffering from a host of side effects, and though I had been cleared to be released, I was still very very sick.
Remembering some of the things I did and said to my family in those weeks still haunts me, and over the years I’ve had time to look back on what I was like and sit in mortified embarrassment thinking on it.
At one point I was playing the piano with my mom and she reached over across my lap to play, and for some reason the first thought in my head was that she was trying to sexually harass me.
Another instance involved accusing my dad of cutting the brake lines in my car after we had replaced the brake pads.
I was a monster to my family in those early days but I hope they realize that I was just trying and suffering in a really really bad way.
The fact is, schizophrenia (and any mental illness) can really test a family. For many it’s a breaking point causing division. I even remember my mom telling me, later on, that she even went to her own doctor for depression over my behavior.
I count myself incredibly grateful for the strength and the love of my family in those days, and I realize that that type of stuff can just be too much for some families.
My parents’ love was never more apparent than when they chose to educate themselves as much as possible on mental illness nearly the moment after I received a diagnosis. They went to the bookstore and bought every book they could find on my condition in an attempt to understand, even just fleetingly, what this meant for me, and them, and the family.
Later they took it upon themselves to attend and even teach a class on having family members with mental illness.
I worry I never properly thanked them enough for taking that initiative because that class changed everything they understood about mental illness. It gave them a basis and starting point for understanding the reality of what this diagnosis meant.
Mental illness can be incredibly tough on families if they don’t understand it. It can cause resentment, divorce, and sometimes even homelessness. Many times, they don’t even understand that something is wrong with their loved one and they justify the behavior by saying they’re just looking for attention or they took too many drugs; if they just stop, things will go back to normal.
It doesn’t seem to really click until a diagnosis by a healthcare professional confirms mental illness. And even then, they could refuse to believe it as anything other than personal shortcomings.
Mental Illness and schizophrenia though, are very real, and they’re there for life.
In my experience the best thing a family can do when they have someone newly diagnosed with mental illness is to educate themselves, attend classes and look into support groups for learning how to take care of their loved one.
Know that it’s a long hard process to get back to stability and understand that the suffering their loved one is experiencing is sometimes too hard to explain in words.
Be there for your loved one, that’s really all they want and need, just be there.
Talk without criticism when they want to talk and just love them to the best of your ability.
The knowledge that someone is with you and has your back can make or break recovery for those diagnosed, it can mean the world in that dark place.
It will be hard, and it will be long but eventually you’ll get to a point as a family where things are easy again, and where things are stable.
You’re not alone in this struggle and you can make it out the other side. I know this and my family knows this.
It’s gonna be ok.