One nugget of information I picked up early on in my research into schizophrenia was that some doctors noticed that people who recovered had parents who barely noticed that their child was ill. It was hard to know what to do with that kind of information, so I just tucked it away at the back of my mind.
This, in retrospect, is low expressed emotion. It is harder to do when your relative is floridly psychotic, because you have to pretend that nothing is really very wrong, when something seems obviously very wrong indeed. I have tried this “don’t see don’t tell” strategy all along with varying degrees of success. Right now, after seven long years, it is working very well. My husband and I don’t discuss Chris. He is no longer the subject of our concerns after a day at work. This is in sharp contrast to the first few years, when every odd gesture, every odd statement, every missed appointment, was a cause for worry. We discussed whether Chris was ready to take a course, we discussed the meds ad nauseum (and disagreed over the need for them), we worried about his future.
We are done discussing Chris. Recently Chris enrolled for a single course once again at the local university. “Fine,” I said to Ian, “if you want to check-in with him on how he’s doing, and monitor his output, great, but count me out. I don’t want to get all involved in worrying about whether Chris can pull it off this time. I don’t even want to discuss this with you. Just keep in mind that if Chris finds himself struggling, you will have to be the one to pull the plug on the course before the drop date.”
So far, our “don’t discuss, don’t tell” strategy is working. I’m sleeping at night, Ian and I aren’t tense about Chris. Chris seems to be doing okay. I don’t ask about his coursework, even in a superficial way. I try not to initiate conversation with him. I have learned the hard way about how unnerving this can be. If we just let him get on with it, Chris will be fine and so will we.