Ian had lunch yesterday with a friend of ours who has known us since the time Chris had his breakdown. The conversation turned to Chris at one point and our friend enquired in a plaintive voice if Ian and I had joined a “support group for schizophrenics.” Ian felt indignant. “Well, no,” he retorted somewhat testily, “we no longer even think of Chris as “schizophrenic” and we don’t feel that we need support.” Our friend sees Chris regularly, and while it is true that Chris is not employed or actively involved in taking courses, our friend can surely can see that Chris is more or less back to “normal.”
But our friend doesn’t see that. He sees the label for the so-called disease, which says that Chris is a “schizophrenic.” He’s not alone. There are certain people with whom we hate to discuss Chris because we get that sorrowful look and tone of voice from them that implies that Chris is his label. When we express our confidence in Chris that it’s just a matter of time before he is ready to go back to university or take on challenging work, other people don’t know how to respond. They somehow “know” that this conviction of ours can’t be. We get a tone of voice that implies skepticism.
Ian said something else interesting, interesting because he doesn’t share my anti-medication bias. He said he wished that the doctors gave us the right message from the beginning about Chris, that he just needed time, probably about ten years, to build his personality. Instead, the doctors gave us the wrong message from the beginning, that Chris had this thing called schizophrenia, that was a chronic brain disease and that life as we and Chris knew it was permanently over. Well, life isn’t over for us. In fact, we’re enjoying it a lot, and we really appreciate the gifts that Chris brings to us on a daily basis. We think our three sons are just super young men and we enjoy them all. In many ways, life couldn’t be better.