Watching Family Suffer With Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia - schizophrénie

Schizophrenia – schizophrénie (Photo credit: http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca)

Here is a journal entry I wrote last night.

I hate having to watch my brother suffer. He developed schizophrenia about 6 years ago and it still affects him today. I don’t think people realize that. It was extremely tough back when he first got it because we weren’t exactly sure what was going on with him. We knew he wasn’t himself and wasn’t “in his right mind”.

He had been at a sports camp because back then he was really into running and competing in road races and track events. He still runs but his mind doesn’t seem to allow him the joy like he used to have. My parents picked him up early from camp because he had called and hadn’t been having a good time.

It was scary that first night he came home. He was crying and thought he was going to die. Looking back I think he probably had a panic attack but it was really scary at the time. My whole family was crying and not sure of what exactly was all going on with him. My dad called 911 and they took him to the hospital. The hospital didn’t see anything wrong with him but kept him overnight for observation.

The next day he came home. Because this was during harvest season and my dad was a farmer, he was on the field and my mom and oldest brother were at baseball or something like that. (I don’t actually remember where my mom and oldest brother were at this time. They may have been on the field too.) So it was my brother who came home from the hospital earlier that day and my two younger brothers at home.

I remember some of the details of that day very clearly. It was July 27th (it was my oldest brother’s birthday the day my second oldest brother came home from the sports camp). I was sitting on the couch watching a Winnipeg Blue Bombers game. Not long after Milt Stegall broke the CFL’s touchdown record, my brother started acting strange. Strange because it wasn’t normal for him.

Wrapped up in a blanket, he got up from the seat he had been sitting on beside me and walked out the door. I followed him because I was worried about him. He got into one of our vehicles and was going to drive to church because he wanted to be baptized. I tried stopping him and thankfully my mom thought ahead and hid all the keys to the vehicles. That didn’t stop him. He decided he was going to walk to church. We had a two-way radio in our house so we could communicate with people on the field. I quickly radioed my dad and told him what was going on. Then, I ran outside to try and stop my brother.

Just before he could cross the road, my dad drove up in a grain truck and got him back to the house. Later when my mom came home, they brought him to a hospital farther away but was more prepared to handle situations like my brothers. From there he was transported to the mental ward of a hospital in Winnipeg.

It took weeks to diagnose what he had as schizophrenia and it took even longer than that for them to get the right combination of meds to combat his symptoms.

It was a long process for him to get where he is now where most people wouldn’t realize he had schizophrenia unless someone said something about it. Even now when his symptoms start to rear their ugly head most people wouldn’t even notice. However, I know him well enough and am perceptive enough that I could tell they were rearing their head at supper time. He is aware of the symptoms and often takes meds when he needs to.

I’m glad he’s aware of them because otherwise he might have another relapse and that would be difficult for our family as well as him.

It’s difficult to see him suffer. I just wish I could take it away from him. It also occasionally wants me to make those who abused him at camp pay for how they treated him. (I don’t want to necessarily get into what they did as I don’t entirely know all the facts and don’t remember all of the details I had learned back then.)

It’s been about six and a half years since he first was hospitalized because of his schizophrenia and he’s never been the same since. My dad made a comment to me a little over a week ago that character/personality wise he was very close to being the same as he was before he got sick.

I’ve seen it at times too. However when things like this happen, I hurt for him.

Here I am, with tears in my eyes, wishing he didn’t have to deal with this illness.

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6 comments on “Watching Family Suffer With Schizophrenia

  1. Johnny Ojanpera says:

    I had a very similar experience at 19, with a lengthy hospital stay, med adjustments and a diagnosis of bipolar 1. There is very little difference between bipolar and schizophrenia, and relapse is always a fear lurking in the back of my mind. I am actually still recovering from my worst episode in ten years. I know the toll it takes on the people closest to me, but it has a random cycle that is very unpredictable. The worst part for me is that none of them can really do anything but watch and stay on alert for obtuse behavior. I truly hate it. Thank you for sharing this, it takes bravery to talk about mental illness.

  2. Thank you for sharing this heartbreaking story, it can’t have been easy. My thoughts and prayers go out to your brother and family!

  3. Elaine Stock says:

    Angela, my mother suffered from schizophrenia (which I’ve written about on my blog a few times). The onset for her began in the 60s and spiraled into the 70s–all times when this malady still was in the family closet & doctors really didn’t know how to treat it. Today, there are much better meds. I do remember a time when she told me that if she could, if there were something she could try to take it away, that she would jump at the opportunity. For her, there wasn’t. The troubling part about this problem is that it just doesn’t impact the individual but the whole entire family. And that’s why I can hear your pain and anguish as well. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I just lifted you all in prayer.

    • Thank you! Your prayers are appreciated. I feel sorry for everyone who has to go through some of mental illness whether they are going through it themselves or have to watch a loved one suffer through it.

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