Shedding Light on Schizophrenia

Although I have branched out into many other topics with my blog these days, one of the main reasons I started it was to help others understand the impact of mental illness on those who are personally affected, as well as on their family members.  I recently came across an interview that moved me to tears. I never had the chance to have a conversation with my mom about how it felt to have schizophrenia because she was not able to acknowledge she was ill. Our family didn’t know how to deal with this illness of hers, which resulted in multiple hospitalizations and  a constant struggle to balance her personal rights with the need to keep her safe. There was always this sense that we should be doing more to help her, and my father experienced a lot of judgment about how he handled things. The truth is, there weren’t and still aren’t enough treatment options available. The medications have many unsatisfactory side effects, and many people with schizophrenia end up being incarcerated, homeless, or shunned by society. There are not enough programs for people with this illness to help them get on their feet and stay on their feet.

I visited a wonderful blog by Val Resh, whose honest and raw perspective about what it is really like to have schizophrenia is thought-provoking and inspiring. Here is a video she produced called a Drop of Sunshine.

Usually the only media coverage people with schizophrenia receive is when something bad or violent happens. The public never gets the true picture of this approximately 1% of the population whose only real threat to society is being different.

When I watched these videos, they brought back all of those memories of the way my mom’s illness manifested itself through paranoia, delusions, hallucinations and voices in her head. I realized that even today in our society which has more freedoms than in India, people with schizophrenia are still treated like second class citizens and it breaks my heart.

My mom was very lucky that she was married to someone who was willing to provide for her and care for her for the 40 years they were married before she passed away. Despite her illness and dwindling support from many of her siblings after her paranoid episodes caused her to keep pushing them away, she managed to raise four children and maintain an organized household. She never gave up and was a fighter.

My mom was a wonderful gardener and spent a great deal of time in our back yard. I remember one year she grew giant pumpkins just by placing a few seeds in a bag of soil. The year I started this blog, pumpkins started sprouting up in my back yard even though I hadn’t planted any seeds. It probably happened when we put one of our Halloween pumpkins near the garbage cans at the end of fall. Nonetheless, I took this unexpected surprise as a sign from my mom to continue on with my mission to shed light and awareness on the illness that made her so unique.

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13 thoughts on “Shedding Light on Schizophrenia

  1. I’m glad that your mom found a good, supporting husband in your dad. My first husband didn’t “believe” in mental illness and flat out told me that bipolar is “just an excuse” for me “acting out.” It’s people like my first husband that keep mentally interesting people afraid of talking about it — and one of the many reasons why he’s my first husband. ^_^

    And thank you for talking about mental disorders. So few of us do, and that needs to change.

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    • I like the way you put that – mentally interesting – a great point. And yes, it is a shame that so many people do not “believe” in mental illness. It doesn’t even make sense that those same people have no problem accepting physical illnesses. It is sad that you were denied the support you needed because of someone’s own denial. Thanks for checking out my post!

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      • Eh, if he can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. He didn’t believe I had migraines either, so there’s that. He, and people like him are why I’m so vocal about being mentally interesting. Because I refuse to be ashamed over something that I have no control over.

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  2. I remember my mom spending a lot of time helping Aunt Shirley, her little sister that she loved so much. Driving her places, visiting her in the institutions and making sure her name was on her things because people would steal them, and checking on her. When your mom wasn’t medicated, she would yell and say hurtful things to my mom, but that didn’t scare her away.There was so much instability and dysfunction in our moms’ childhood. The more I learn about Grandma and her bizarre behavior, I am convinced.she was bi-polar. Maybe that is part of what led me to work in the mental health field. Trying to gain understanding.

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    • I am so thankful for the support your mom gave my mom. I know how hard it could be to deal with her anger and I am so thankful that your family was there for us. I am glad you are in a field where you can use your compassion and first hand experience to make a difference. Thanks cuz.

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    • It must have been so difficult for your mom and the rest of her siblings when she continually pushed them away when they tried to help. I didn’t get that across clearly in this post, so I have modified it to make that more clear. Schizophrenia is a difficult illness to deal with on many levels, and those who loved her dearly had few resources or support. The illness affects not only those who have it, but those around them as well.

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  3. This was a touching post Amy. Well done to you. I’m afraid where mental illnesses is concerned, there isn’t enough awareness, information, education to the family members and such for all mental illnesses. I can only imagine Schizophrenia would be the worse in that sense. Where we live, (Smoky Mountains) Franklin, NC. it’s virtually impossible to find mental health care. There is one organization, Meridian, and two doctors. There is no type of counseling or anger management courses; they simply pass out meds getting you in and out as fast as possible. My husband suffers from Depression and being Bipolar. Counseling support groups for family members, kids, parents, spouse, None!! Because of blogs like yours we are able to share these posts and spread the information in hopes of making people more aware. Bravo to you!! Sharing this now. 😉 xo

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