Schizophrenia and Parenting: Step In or Let Go?
A message comes to me via social media, along with an invitation to connect. It simply says, "My 27 year old child has schizophrenia, but will not get treatment." Oh boy, can I relate to that. Unfortunately, this is a major dilemma facing all of us who deal with mental illness in our families.
Parenting is always about the precarious balance between stepping in to help, and letting go to allow learning from experience. From a child's first steps to his or her first relationship, car, job, apartment...when to give advice? When to help? When to step back and watch them sink or swim?
For the parents of a child without a physical or mental illness, this process is difficult enough; for those who are dealing with illness in our children, it's that much harder. The consequences of stepping aside, of letting go, could be disastrous: poverty, hospitalization, an arrest, flight, or even - tragically - suicide.
Schizophrenia and Freedom Without Parents
My own son, Ben, 29, has just moved from seven years in a group home (24 hour staffing) to his own apartment. There is some support - a caseworker, medication supervision - but also a new lack of structure. No required group meetings. No chores scheduled. No one - except the roaches - to know if he washed the dishes or not.
Am I excited for him? Of course. Am I concerned? You bet I am. Is there much I can do? Only some things. He could crash, he could cheek his meds, he could oversleep and miss an appointment, he could become lonely and isolated. But if I call to see how he is, he sees right through me. "Mom, I'm fine. I'll get to work on time. Of course I' m taking my meds. I'm fine in the apartment all alone on my day off. Yes, I"ll unpack soon."
So I let him live. Alone. And I watch from the wings, ready to alert his caseworkers if I see any warning signs. Three days ago I saw the unmistakable (to me) signs that Ben had missed a day of meds - so I sounded the alarm to all new staff members who donot know his tricks yet. And now he's okay again - so far.
Now I only see him on family occasions, or on rainy days when he can't take his bike to work. Could he wind up in the hospital again if I am not there to witness symptoms? Yes, of course. And I hate that. But we have only so much control.
Parenting My Adult Son with Schizophrenia
As always, we do what we can and then hope for the best. Keep an eye out for trouble, and our hearts in a place of faith in Ben and his ability to make the adjustments to this new life. Scary? Oh yes. We do the best we can for our loved ones -secretly or openly - and then sometimes all that's left is to take care of ourselves and the rest of our family.
My mantra at these times? "Whatever happens, we will handle it somehow."
I don't always know how, but I know that we've managed before, and will again. And I ask for help when I need it.
Kaye, R. (2011, May 31). Schizophrenia and Parenting: Step In or Let Go?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalillnessinthefamily/2011/05/schizophrenia-and-parenting-step-in-or-let-go
Author: Randye Kaye
I lost my immediate family to suicides (husband of 32 years, ten mths later my older son, then 22, in his delusions, shot, four strangers, murdering two.
Fout years ago, my remaining son had a psychotic break, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia paranoia. His delusions held me responsible for the suicides, and as a fallen archangel, revengee must be undertaken against me, with a silver bullet he was trying the cast himself.
Fast forward through 3 years of (unmedicated) hell. At last was able to persuade him to take meds, and he became ‘normal’!!!
I even convinced myself this past year, that yhey must have misdiagnosed him...
I am alone - as in - my son is the sole family that I have (my father, from Germany, had been my only family that I had , he passed in ‘81.
Not a single inlaw, from my late husband’s family will become involved.
I do have several friends who support me emotionally, but that’s it.
In Alaska, mental health care is vastly underfunded. My son lives in a waterless cabin, and I cannot handle him living with me - it doesn’t feel safe.
Not sure I can handle this second round of his illness- I became almost a wreck the last time.
He’s been off meds now for over 6 mths, and refuses to resume them - after all, he is not ill..
I want to move out of this harsch environment i have lived in all these years - I am over 60 now. And I am afraid if I sell my house and move, my son’s chances of healing drop to nill.
I don’t know how one can move a mentally ill person to another state and receive mental health care and housing assistance there.
These posts nave been so helpful.Thank you.My son 38 after 10 yrs of being relatively well on injections has relapsed very badly.
i warned jis case coordinators for lver 2 mths that this was happening.Fimally too late they put out a warrant to compulsorily put him in hospital but hes gone missing and has been for a week now..The police phone me every day to update me but I actually cant take any more.Ive done everything I can.Ive got to let go for my own sanity and health.
denial. He he has anything. He is like many others who refuses to take meds. He does go and see a psychiatrist that gives him a prescription for medication. He is 37 years old he refuses to take it. He becomes very violent aggressive, has severe paranoia and has been diagnosed with PTSD. My point is congratulations to you that you know what you need to do to help yourself. Individuals like my son are very difficult it's devastating , scary and upsets me because he can't live alone the last house he had he destroyed. Sadly that in the state of New Mexico there is no mental health programs that will help if he refuses to get help.. I've tried to get guardianship and that failed so each time he acts out he goes to jail and that's not the solution.
What a terrible position you are in. I feel for you and what you are going through. You are not alone--there was a time I had very similar feelings about my severely bipolar daughter. Being here in the States, I don't know what resources you have available, but I would suggest that you call ConnexOntario at 1-866-531-2600 and start there. It is a hotline for services for mental illness, addiction and other difficulties and seems to have a wide networks of services. Even if your support is only over the Internet or through a help line, you need some support to get you through this time. Please reach out; I believe help is out there. Secondly, here is a link to an article about schizophrenia and violence https://www.living with schizophreniauk.org/schizophrenia-and-dangerous-behaviour. While it was written in the UK (rather than Canada) I think it has a lot of good hard facts for you to hang on to so that you don't frighten yourself too much with some of the horror stories one can find on the Internet. Finally, is your son in therapy? Can you coordinate with the therapist to provide your son with help? Here, privacy laws mean that providers cannot talk to the parents of adults with mental illness without written consent, but we get around that law by having one-way conversations whereby the parent talks to the therapist but the therapist doesn't talk back. My point is, adult or not, it is possible to actively participate in your son's healing with a little creativity. I know you feel overwhelmed now, but if you can help your son take little baby steps toward wellness, those steps eventually add up to some real gains. Six years ago, I was living in a similar hell with my daughter, but with meds, therapy and lots of little baby steps, we are now in a much better place. That you and your son can find a place of wellness is my wish for you.
I can only imagine how hard this must be for your family.
I highly, highly recommend you get your hands on this book before doing anything drastic: https://www.amazon.com/Someone-Mental-Illness-Treatment-Anniversary/dp/0967718937/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522333422&sr=1-1&keywords=i%27m+not+sick+i+don%27t+need+help+by+xavier+amador
(I have no affiliation with the book and nor does HealthyPlace.)
Your son is not alone and neither are you.
- Natasha Tracy
- Blog Manager
- Author of "Breaking Bipolar" blog
I am so sorry for all the troubles you are having. That has got to feel overwhelming. I'm glad Natasha offered you some reading material that might be helpful in making your decisions. I would like to add that I really feel NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) is a wonderful resource for support for you and your kids. Not only can you meet other parents who are experiencing similar issues, but they also have groups for siblings so that your children can feel like they are also getting the support they might need. Additionally, NAMI can put you in touch with local resources and give you a place to vent. (We all need to do that.) HealthyPlace.com has contact information for NAMI on their "Resources" page. I wish you, your son, and the rest of your family only the best as you navigate through this difficult journey.
As the mother of two mentally ill adult daughters, I couldn't disagree with your therapist more. (Mind you, I'm strictly speaking for my own experience.) Would you withhold a diabetes diagnosis? Would you withhold a cancer diagnosis? This is another serious illness that needs to be addressed. When your daughter finds out that she has a mental illness and you knew and didn't tell her, she'll feel betrayed. Instead, I would research your daughter's diagnosis, find out celebrities or other famous people who share your daughter's disorder and are thriving in their lives, see if you can find info on successful new treatments, then sit down with her and discuss how her behaviors are linked to the diagnosis but here are the things we can provide as tools to overcome your challenges. Chances are she'll have a personal "ah-ha" moment when she realizes the diagnosis makes things make sense. Empower your daughter with hope that, now that she understands what's happening to her, she can use the tools available through medication and counseling, to achieve her highest potential. It won't be easy, a mental illness diagnosis can feel devastating, but by empowering your daughter with knowledge, you can allow her to take control of her life and her disease. Check out NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) for both of you. You can find the number of your local chapter on the Resources page of the HealthyPlace.com website. They have group meetings for your daughter and family-to-family support groups for you. Good luck to both of you.
I wish I could tell you that everything will be okay, or offer some sage advice that will fix the problem. But, you and I both know there's no magic bullet out there that will fix this. All of your choices are "bad." And, I'm so sorry. You are right, however, in doing all you can to take care of yourself. You need to do this for yourself, and for your daughter in case there comes a time when she wants help. Do you have friends or family that you can turn to? Or, even just someone to go out and have coffee with to fill your own soul? In the meantime, it sounds like you've done all you can and have really stepped forth to be a good mom. That's all you can do. Take care of yourself.
This is Susan Traugh, another author at HealthyPlace.com. I'm so sorry to hear that you are having such problems, but am excited for you that your daughter's condition was found so soon and that you can begin getting her the help that can vastly improve her life. It is understandable that both your ex is dealing with denial--this can feel like a devastating diagnosis. But research shows that the sooner you start addressing your daughter's problems, the better the outcome. Start by educating yourself as much as you can, and passing that information on to your ex so that he can do the same. A good introductory article on HealthyPlace.com is https://www.healthyplace.com/thought-disorders/schizophrenia-children/schizophrenia-in-children-symptoms-causes-treatments/. Also, check out the "Resources" page on this site. HealthyPlace has compiled a professional and reliable set of resources that can really be a jumping board into understanding your daughter's illness. Next, I recommend that you contact your local NAMI branch. (National Association for Mental Illness.) They have many programs for families to help educate and support them in this journey. Their "Family-to-Family" program is a 12-week program to teach families about their child's mental illness and tools to work with their loved ones and find professional help. It is well worth your time. Finally, if he can, I would suggest that you invite your husband to meet with your daughter's psychiatrist with you and learn more about why he came to the diagnosis that he did. Stephanie, there is support out there for you. Not knowing what comes next is probably the scariest part of this journey. But, once you educate yourself and find a support system, it does get easier and less overwhelming. I wish you the best on your journey and feel free to check in when you need to.