I remind myself from time to time that the reason I started this blog was to put a positive spin on schizophrenia as a means of helping others.
When I first got into the SZ business, I used to read other people’s personal stories to see where my son was in comparison. I came away discouraged. For example, someone recommended early on that I read Mark Vonnegut’s book, The Eden Express. Now, that’s a wonderful book, I think Vonnegut Junior is a better writer than Vonnegut Senior, but not a writer I would recommend to someone who is looking for encouragement in overcoming their mental health crisis. Better to read it as a spot on evocation of the hippie era. Mark Vonnegut recovered quickly enough to write a book and then went on to medical school at Harvard after taking a lot of preparatory courses. (He was a religion major as an undergraduate. No surprise there.) Vonnegut remarks in his book that a person going through a mental health crisis is in no shape to take on challenging work for at least a year. Well, I looked at Chris with hope in my eyes after a year and he was in no shape to take on any kind of work. Naturally, I became discouraged. I began to think that Chris was not going to make it. This thinking doesn’t move anyone forward.
Three years went by. Finally, Chris had a small but significant breakthrough after our Family Constellation therapy, and he decided he wanted to take a month long summer physics course at a university in another country. He made all the arrangements himself and returned home after the course was finished having spectacularly failed the course. He had a good time socially, so Ian and I hung on to that bit of progress.
More time passed. Chris’s ventures into academic courses were sporadic and underwhelming. He suffered another relapse and was back in the hospital for three months. Another two years went by.
At some point, I stopped looking at what others were saying about their own progress and paid more attention to the progress that was in fact happening in our own particular case. I stopped being panicky about Chris failing to meet his milestones (as if he was a toddler) and concentrated more on the big picture. I took up yoga and meditation to quiet my mind and to stop the incessant negative thinking. I gained some distance and objectivity.
Negative thinking and fear is terribly destructive for all concerned. Comparing, what-iffing, and self-recriminating actually prevents healing. Helping your relative where you can and leaving him alone to find his footing works wonders.
I don’t think Chris would be where he is today if I had put my faith in traditional medicine or science to sort him out. Science hasn’t a clue about schizophrenia, but it pretends it does. This is scary. We are fortunate in that Chris’s psychiatrist, Dr. Stern, reserves her fifty minute hour to actually talk with him. I consider her a psychiatrist in the old fashioned sense. She’s not a pseudo-scientist. But, the idea is not to have a long term relationship with any psychiatrist . The only way to avoid that fate, I figure, is to not put your eggs all in one basket. Psychiatry doesn’t cure schizophrenia. I look upon it more as a useful pressure valve.
The patient cure themselves.