Posted in Caregiving

Disbelief

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

If you haven’t been following the blog this week then you’ve missed out on learning about the new public service announcement (PSA) about mental illness.  You can view the video at http://www.bringchange2mind.org and see not only the artistry in the piece, but the power of the message.  So why am I writing about the PSA once again?  Up till now I’ve been focusing on the message, the importance of bringing mental illness to our consciousness, and the courage of those who participated in the PSA.  Now I want to turn my attention to one of the parents who accompanies her son in the PSA. 

The woman is the mother of an adult son who is schizophrenic.  When they interview the pair she tells about how they found out about their son’s disability.  They had gone on vacation when they received an emergency call that their son was in a psychiatric hospital.  They immediately rushed home, went to the hospital and proceeded to check him out not believing he was ill.  Over the next few days the son’s symptoms surfaced in a way that the parents couldn’t deny the problem and he was re-admitted to the hospital.  Why do want to live in the land of disbelief?  How does it serve our world view?  What happens when our assumptions about health are shattered?

This mother was well-meaning, loving, concerned and a host of other admirable characteristics, but like all of us, her blind spot got exposed.  We all have it, that place just outside our consciousness that nags at us and gives us clues but we choose to ignore.  When this happens, whether it’s a mental health or physical health challenge, the clues land at our feet and for some it takes a crisis to get everyone on the same page and to acknowledge the problem.  I’m wondering if our blind spots get revealed on the health issue, do they become exposed in other areas of our lives? 

We don’t like to think about mental illness because for many it conjures up images of Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.  Fortunately, our understanding of mental illness has progressed over the past thirty years.  Treatments are more effective and less toxic, although side effects still remain a huge hindrance in maintaining the treatment protocol.  We’re afraid, disgraced, and confused when a loved one is in a psychiatric hospital, but seem to be okay if the problem is physically based…why is that?  How much of our own prejudices create the veil of disbelief?  I want to be very clear, this is not about blame, but of consciousness.  As Oprah say, “When we know better we do better”; just look at the loved ones in the PSA, you’ll see the transformation from disbelief to consciousness and acceptance!

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One thought on “Disbelief

  1. Hi,
    Thank you for writing!
    My son has schizophrenia. I always put the person first. I never use the word schizophrenic. Personally, I find it outdated, but mostly I believe it is important for those of us who have a, “mental illness,” to remember and be reminded that we are not only our illness; that we are whole human beings — who have an illness.
    Putting the person before the diagnosis is a good way to help reduce the stigma when we talk about mental illness and I think is more respectful to the person who suffers. I have several illnesses and I’m glad people don’t call me a depressive or a fibromyalgic. I want to be a human first.
    I would also like to mention that brain disorders are very difficult to recognize unless you are a person who has already learned about a certain disorder or mental illnesses before a loved one is struck with one.
    I, like many parents I have known, who have sons with schizophrenia, discovered it so to speak. We didn’t just one day go oh hey, I think my son has schizophrenia. For most of us a crisis happened, very often bringing law enforcement into the scenario, that revealed to us what was really going on, (a brain disorder).
    Most young men get schizophrenia around age 19. Many of the early warning signs are too much like teenage rebellion. If there are drugs involved then the picture is even more cloudy. And what if it doesn’t run in the family? I have always been in therapy for depression (since I learned I had it in my twenties,) have read many books about mental illness and considered myself educated in this area.
    Alas… I was not! As six years have passed since my son was diagnosed, I honestly cannot say that if I had been more educated about schizophrenia in particular, I would have been able to recognize it as early as I wish I could had.
    I wanted answers so badly. I had nightmares. I read books. I talked to teachers, counselors and other parents and none of us thought: schizophrenia.
    I wish I had known what the symptoms were earlier on and then I could have tried to get my son help sooner. He was very sick for a year before he got any treatment. I knew in my heart something was wrong but nobody believed me and like I said, I didn’t know what schizophrenia was so how could I have recognized this?
    People kept saying I was being overprotective or worrying too much or blaming on drugs, the latter of which he wasn’t even doing by the time he was evaluated.
    It was an attorney who informed me that my son needed a psychiatric evaluation and his secretary who told me what schizophrenia is.
    I really have enjoyed what I have read on your site. I read where you said you did not want to place blame on Mothers. Then I beg you to please try very hard not to do this.
    Mothers already blame themselves, that is for sure. Society blames us indirectly all the time. Family blames us. I agree that some of us have a better understanding about mental illness than others do, but I believe that is mostly those of us dealing with it. As far as our society recognizing brain disorders as true physical illnesses, I don’t think we have come very far from about 75 years ago.
    Regarding blind spots, well, there needs to be more education about brain disorders in schools and handouts given to parents so they may recognize symptoms.
    Most of us simply had no clue what was happening to our son’s who were experiencing the beginnings of schizophrenia.

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