Living with Schizophrenia

This post is very emotional for me to write. My mother suffers from Severe Depression and Paranoid Schizophrenia and talking about this is complicated. My relationship with my mother is complicated. When I say complicated, I don’t mean that we don’t get along; I mean I just don’t completely understand what she endures on a daily basis. I know very well about dealing with depression and anxiety, but I don’t understand schizophrenia.

My mother never told me much about her past. I don’t know her side of the family very well. I know her older sister and younger brother, but not so much about the rest of her family. All I do know is that her parents were alcoholics, smoked like a chimney, and had a volatile relationship. Her parents fought on a daily basis and there was a lot of violence and abuse that occurred. My mom doesn’t talk much at all about her childhood and I understand that, however, what I don’t know about her family background is scary to me. I don’t know what kind of mental illness her parents had. Again, they abused one another (physically, emotionally, verbally) and her older siblings were violent as well.

I vaguely remember my mother telling me about the times when her father beat her mother up very bad. She had bruises all over her face and body. She told me that her older brothers would fight each other (violently), but that’s all she said. Growing up in a very dysfunctional family, is rough. That kind of environment can have so many adverse effects on anyone. What my mother went through during her childhood must’ve been so awful that she refuses to even speak about it. I tried to get her to open up with her struggles on the blog, but she refused. Again, I understand. However, talking about it actually helps. This blog is to educate and help people suffering from mental health issues.

One of the things that I’ve done to try and get more information about her family’s background, is thru DNA testing. You can go to Ancestry online and get a DNA kit and either choose find out who your ancestors are and even more information on family illnesses that are hereditary. I’m hoping that through this kit, I can at least get a general idea of what runs in the family.

When my mother told me she had Paranoid Schizophrenia, I had no clue as what that was. Basically, schizophrenia is a very common mental illness that peaks around teen years up to age 30. And for people with Paranoid Schizophrenia (1%), it’s very rare. I was tested for schizophrenia and didn’t develop it all.

If you don’t know what this disease, it’s a chronic life-threatening (life long) illness that affects your mind, your thinking and your feelings. Deciphering between real vs fiction is a huge problem for people suffering from this. Schizophrenia is very severe disorder that cause chemical imbalances in the brain and can cause hallucinations, delusions, distorted thinking and even suicide. Wow! I couldn’t believe what she was going through. Many professionals really don’t know what the causes this, but I firmly believe it was hereditary and the environment that my mother grew up in.

I honestly, don’t even know when she was first diagnosed with because she doesn’t talk about it. Typically, mental health experts rely on anti-psychotic medications to help with the disorder. And I remember my mom being on quite a few different anti-psychotics over the years. She does see a psychiatrist on a monthly basis and sometimes more frequently depending on when she exhibits delusional behavior.

I remember many occasions when she had started exhibiting signs of delusional behavior, when she took me to school on a rainy day and thought someone was out to get her. I remember the time that she thought our next door neighbors and an ex-employee were out to get her. I just can’t imagine what that’s like living your life and not knowing what’s real and what’s not. Her suicidal behavior came from her depression but also from her schizophrenia, too. She has tried to commit suicide multiple times throughout her life because she felt like was drowning in pool and couldn’t swim to safety. Watching my mother being hospitalized and trying to take her own life was one of the scariest experiences of my life. I can’t just outright blame her parents for not taking care of their own mental health and passing it onto her; because it’s no one’s fault. Sometimes, bad things are passed down from generation to generation; and it’s really up to you to change history and try to do something about it.

For along time, my mother was on certain anti-psychotics and eventually, her body became immune to the medicine. When she started hallucinating again in 2013, I was scared that she was going to commit suicide. My dad keeps her medications locked in a safe so that she can’t have access to them at all. In August, my dad and I confronted her and said that she needs to go back to the hospital because something was wrong. In the beginning, she denied that there was nothing wrong with her. Her mood became more agitated & irritable, her overall behavior was erratic and she talked very negatively about everything. After she tried breaking into her safe, my dad and I took the pills away from her as fast as possible. She finally admitted to herself that she needed help. We took her to the hospital and they performed an evaluation and she was transferred to the mental hospital the very next day. It was later determined that her medications were not working anymore and she needed help.

My father and I have never seen her violent. She isn’t a violent person, but when she was in the hospital, she started throwing things across the room and using profane language. My dad and I visited her everyday and her mood was different each day. One day, she would be OK and the next day, she would be very depressed. I remember watching her in the hospital and the person staring back at me was my mother, but it was like another entity was taking her place. I spent many nights crying. I’ve been into mental hospitals before and seen other patients struggle with depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, and bipolar; and it’s so sad.

For about 4 months, she stayed locked up in the hospital in her own room because she gets even more depressed when she has to share rooms with other patients. One time she told me that one of her roommates was a cutter. And my mother told the nurse that she can’t take her roommate’s outbursts and requested a room for herself. During this time, her psychiatrist tried different anti-psychotics to help her. They tried one at a time and started it a certain dosage and then gradually increased the medication. They did find one that worked, however, she needed more than just medication. One day during visiting hours, her psychiatrist sat both my father and I down and told us about other alternatives. He recommended that she get ECT treatments to help correct the imbalance in her brain that was causing this delusions and suicidal thoughts. My first reaction was “NO”. ECT treatments have been around for many decades and honestly, gave me the creeps. The doctor told us that it was one of the safest and most effective treatments for people who suffer severe depression and schizophrenia. My dad and I had a long talk about it and even watched a video of the procedure and read the pamphlet that was given to us. My dad said to me: “If she has to have this done, then she’s doing it. Do you want your mother to live or die?” Of course, I wanted my mother to get better. She’s my mom. But it’s not understanding what ECT is that was my biggest concern.

Pretty much when you get ECT treatments, you go to the mental hospital and they put the patient under anesthesia (like taking a quick nap) and attach electrodes to the scalp. The electrodes then send a current through the body that causes a seizure which helps relieve the adverse effects of severe depression. The procedure only lasts about a few minutes and typically, they let her sleep for about 30 minutes before she can go. They have the doctor completely check on her and give her the all clear sign before heading home. Like I stated before, she started getting treatments several times a day, then a few times a week, and now gets one every three months. Every time, one of us takes her there she gets very nervous because she knows how the procedure is done and will get sick the day before the procedure because of nerves. Generally, after her procedure she gets loopy from the anesthesia, but I’ve noticed that her memory has been going lately because of the ECT treatments.¬†Hopefully, this treatment continues to work for her and I fear the day when ECT treatments don’t work for her anymore. I just keep praying and staying positive every day.

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