The news media has revealed many details about Jared Loughner’s mental state that resulted in the tragic scene in Arizona.
In addition to be dismissed from his community college, Loughner also was trying in vain to find work. He applied for, and never heard back from, sixty-five low level positions. You can only imagine what this did to his already deteriorating state of mind.
People who are psychotic or in the fledgling stages of recovery, by and large, are in no shape for the competitive job market. This simple observation doesn’t seem to be widely appreciated. Mark Vonnegut wrote in The Eden Express that the person is too wrecked to do much of anything for at least one year, and Vonnegut appeared to be someone who recovered relatively quickly from his first bout with psychosis. One year is optimistic for a return to an educational facility or the job market. Medication or no medication, five or ten years or more is often more realistic for the time it takes to regain your bearings.
The family often fails to understand this need for time and begins to champ at the bit when they feel that enough time has elapsed. Parents, often in fear, anger and frustration, push their children to go out and bring in income. They think that it will help the child rediscover self-esteem and, more selfishly, it will make-up for the expense of keeping the child at home. Home life becomes more Darwinian the longer the adult child stays at home with nothing to do. Families’ patience is taxed in the absence of understanding. One of the criticisms of NAMI is that it is said to lower people’s expectations for their own recovery because it sees the person as chronic and in need of a lifetime of support. That’s the low side of expectations. The high side of expectations may not be much better, because it pushes people to do things before they are ready.
There is a fine line between being realistic and crushing all hope. Conventional psychiatric care does a poor job of managing these expectations, no matter where you live. When someone has a breakdown, there is a huge negative impact on the dreams and aspirations of the parents for their child. As a parent, I wanted to see Chris return to “normal” as soon as possible, and to succeed at the benchmarks that his peers were setting. I wanted him to resume university and I was devastated when the doctors questioned all of this in a way that said to me his condition was chronic. The more negative they were, the more I fought against it, and pushed Chris to do things that he just wasn’t ready for.
A better way to address expectations during the crisis of psychosis is to be of the mindset that recovery is expected, but just not now. This would go a longer way in curbing the panic of most parents and it would be truthful. Notice I said, expected, I didn’t say “hoped for.” “Hoped for” recovery introduces doubt. People will automatically translate “hope” in their minds as a long shot, something that happens to other people.
Faith healing doesn’t work with hope or belief. It works with firm expectations that healing will happen because of faith that God’s grace is taking place. Family members should be given a different story than the bleak story they are currently fed. The story should be uplifting.