Struggles of a mentally ill son

A mother wrote me about her son, who has schizophrenia:

When my son’s anti-psychotic medication caused diabetes, he was put on a new med.  Before it took effect he started self-medicating with crack cocaine and alcohol and lost his job and housing.  In helpless frustration and despair, he burned his arms deeply with a cigarette lighter

Now he seems to have frightened himself back into sobriety. He told me he realized that he would have some horrible scars from burning himself. After a day of waging that familiar internal war among my feelings of anger, despair and unconditional love, I returned to the fact that my emotions – once again! – needed to be put away while I worked to bring every service and support to bear on his crisis.

I got him back into his dual diagnosis psychiatric/addiction-treatment program at Center for Human Services, updated his psychiatrist before their appointment, and told him he needs to go to AA every day. This week, his counselor saw him individually on two days, and in group session another day, so I am very thankful for some relief there. He also called Community Psychiatric Clinic for help with finding housing. This whole episode started when his meds were changed through no fault of his, and I still don’t feel sure that the new medication is right for him.

We had a big, semi-rational talk that he initiated the other night. He told me that he hates it when I interrupt him. I apologized … and then did it again about two minutes later.  He raised his eyebrows with such an accurate understanding of my habitual shortcomings: “Do you see what I mean about your constant interruption, Mother?” his eyebrows said. So I apologized again.

And I thought, “What an astute man he would have been, had he not had to deal with schizophrenia.”  It was a touching conversation.  Slow thinkers have always been hard for me, but this is very important to him, so I will redouble my efforts to pay attention and not let my anxiety get the best of me.  It is so important to be respectful.

Companionship for someone isolated by mental illness contributes to their stability and feelings of self-worth. Ideas about how to get started are tabbed above.

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