Visiting a family member last week I couldn’t help but be reminded how good things are for me and how much worse they could be.
My family member is not only very disabled physically, he’s very disabled mentally.
While ms slowly destroys my physical being with pain, fatigue, and at times keeps me from doing the things I used to be able to do, I can’t help but be thankful my mind is intact. Very thankful. Even the occasional anxiety, or cognitive issues that come with ms are nothing compared to having a serious mental illness. Talk about putting things in perspective!
I’ve been wanting to write about this for some time. We hear so much about anxiety and depression these days. As a society we’ve finally become somewhat comfortable talking about depression and anxiety, however, we very rarely hear about schizophrenia.
Approximately 3.5 million Americans are living with schizophrenia. It is usually diagnosed between the ages of 16 – 30 according to NIMH. My family member was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age fourteen.
Some symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, cognitive difficulties, social difficulties, unable to pay attention. There may be suicidal thoughts/attempts or violent behavior. Most schizophrenics are not violent.
The said risk factors that contribute to developing schizophrenia according to NIMH are said to be genetic and environmental and even viral. The same three that are believed to be the cause of Multiple Sclerosis. Makes you go hmmmm………
Different brain chemistry and structure including brain substances and neurotransmitters are also believed to play a role in schizophrenia according to the NIMH.
For the longest time I remember being petrified that I would “be like my family member”. I carried that heavy fear growing up until about age forty. I believe this is a normal fear. One that I no longer have, thankfully.
I can tell you from firsthand experience it’s hell. It’s hell for the person who is affected and it’s hell for the family who loves them. My family member is super intelligent and a favorite of mine. He’s also super paranoid and it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that he has never lived a normal life and never will.
Schizophrenia ruins lives.
Paranoid schizophrenics are kind, gentle, loving people who have a devastating mental illness through no fault of their own. Like any illness there are varying degrees of severity.
When a schizophrenic person hears a voice, it’s very real to them. They are hearing what they’re hearing.
It is not “the devil” as people have said. I know and love a devoted Christian who is a paranoid schizophrenic.
While there is medication today that has been proven to be effective, it comes with its own dangerous side effects. When on this medication I witnessed my loved one return to normal! Unfortunately the side effects were serious enough to warrant being taken off the medication.
When off this medication, among other things, I witnessed my loved one seriously harm themselves multiple times. Then there’s the unpredictability towards other people that may occur. It’s natural to feel heartbroken or guilty when someone you love hurts another person. It goes without saying it’s inexcusable. Remember, it’s not YOU.
Like any illness, when you love someone, you learn to live with the ups and downs and there are many. For instance, recieving phone calls in the middle of the night and you’ve become so accustomed to it, whatever the horrific news is…you just say “okay, thank you for calling”. What else can you say?
Acceptance is the key to eliminating stress (which is the worst thing for ms) and anxiety for myself.
I always enjoy spending time with my family member. Schizophrenics are so much more than their illness. They’re human just like those of us who do not suffer like they do. They’re funny, intelligent, loving, kind, generous, and have a lot to offer if we only look at them and not their illness.
Like any other disability.
I love my family member. I hate the illness.