What to Do When My Mom’s Schizophrenia is Tearing My Life Apart
Q. My son may have it also: My mother has schizoaffective disorder. Her father was diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. I have been diagnosed as bi-polar. She was given depakote and it caused a medicine induced Parkinson’s disease. She quit taking all medications and refuses to get help or medications again. My Dad could not take it. He shot himself with a shot gun but lived. He has gone through a lot of reconstructive surgeries to his face. Nothing affected his brain. He still has all his mental faculties. He does not remember his and my mothers fighting the day of the gunshot and he does not remember shooting himself. I tried to talk to him 2 times about my mother needing help and he denies her being sick and still says he doesn’t remember anything. My mother found out that my husband talked to my sister about my mom needing help and my mother went to my son’s apartment and told him that If me, my husband or my son ever stepped foot on her property again she would blow our brains out.
The last time I spoke to my Dad was just before he was released to go home. He mentioned that my mother was angry with my son. I told him she is always mad at someone and he lost his temper. He screamed and cursed at me that he is tired of my crap and tired of me never having anything good to say about my mother. I told him that I loved him and left and never went back again. My Dad’s primary care physician told me in the beginning of his reconstruction that my mother and my sister were very insane and that it would behoove me to walk away from all of them right then. I just couldn’t do it at that time. I wanted to make sure my Dad was going to be ok. My heart has absolutely broken over the love for my dad, the sadness that my mother isn’t being treated and the profound grief of losing my family. My mother, my Dad and my sister haven’t spoken to me since April 22, 2008.
I have a Dr. A very good doctor. She has been seeing me monthly since this all happened. The grief is still killing me. Now my son, in his early 20’s is showing signs of delusions. He has very far out and negative feelings towards the government, towards religion, etc….he has walked off of 2 jobs giving no notice with very long periods between jobs. He is home now. Not working, doesn’t want to work. He doesn’t comb his hair, doesn’t dress appropriately and is smoking lots of marijuana. To the point that he can not pass an urine analysis test for employment. He told me he thinks he is sick and needs help. However, he also says he is very negative and doesn’t want any Drs. trying to be sneaky and doing things without his knowledge. He also has lots of feelings of grandeur. He is smarter and more intelligent than anyone else. I am going to see my Dr. next week. I am going to discuss all this with her, but I am just so overwhelmed with all of this. I have a feeling the road to recovery for my son is going to be a very long and frustrating one. Do you think my son could be schizophrenic like my mother and grandfather. Do you think I could have been misdiagnosed as bi-polar and may be schizophrenic also? Did I do the right thing leaving my family behind? Thank you for reading. I appreciate the time.
A. You seem to be experiencing a very difficult family situation. All around you is chaos. Your mother is extremely unstable and has threatened to kill you. Your father attempted suicide, lived to forget why he first decided to end his life and blames you for causing the family’s problems, even though it seems as if you’re trying to help. Your son seems to be on the verge of a psychotic breakdown. You have your own issues to face, namely the fact that you may have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. This has to be extremely stressful.
I will attempt to answer each of your questions below. I may not be able to give you specific answers because my information regarding this situation is limited.
Your first question is in reference to whether or not your son has schizophrenia. You said that he is in his early 20’s, is delusional, has very “far out and negative feelings towards the government,” is unable to work, doesn’t groom himself properly, wants help but is too paranoid to accept it and is having delusions of grandeur. While I cannot diagnose an individual over the Internet I can say that these represent some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. You also said that you may have schizophrenia, his grandmother has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and her father also had schizophrenia. Research shows that people who have family members with schizophrenia are more likely to suffer from the disorder themselves. Given the fact that he is currently experiencing some of the symptoms of schizophrenia and he has a strong family history of the disorder means that he is more likely to have it. At the very least, he may be experiencing a psychotic episode. The only way to know his diagnosis is to have him evaluated by a trained mental health professional.
What is also complicating this matter is that he is actively smoking marijuana. It is difficult to know what effect the drugs are having on his mind and what symptoms the drug usage is causing. The marijuana may be helping to produce his symptoms or it might be amplifying them. Because he is currently using drugs it may be difficult to determine what is actually the cause.
There is also the issue of increased stress concerning your son. This stress may be emanating from family members, some of whom you describe as being actively psychotic and out-of-control (your mother in particular). This contact between your mother and your son may be exacerbating the situation. This is an unhealthy situation for everyone involved.
You then asked whether you may have been misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder instead of schizophrenia. Since you did not offer any information in your letter about why you think you may have been misdiagnosed I cannot answer this question.
Your last question was regarding whether you made the correct choice in deciding to stop contact with your family. I am assuming that you are asking this question in reference to your parents primarily and not your son since he still lives with you. As I see it, there are two answers to this question. The first answer is that it seems that you had little choice in deciding whether or not to stop seeing your family. Your mother threatened you and your father refuses to talk to you. Secondly, I am not sure if it’s possible to have a functional relationship with individuals who are as mentally unstable as you describe your parents to be. Even if you wanted to have a relationship with your parents, their behavior and actions seem to make this connection impossible.
Your mother said that if you attempted to visit her she’d try to kill you. What choice did you have in this matter? What else could you have done except to stop interacting with her? She threatened your life. Even if she were not serious about killing you, what type of relationship is possible between you and your mother, the woman who threatened to end your life? The fact that she is currently off of her medication makes this situation even more precarious and potentially dangerous.
You seem to have no other alternative than to end this relationship with your mother, at least for the present time. I suspect you may never have had a good relationship with her and this may be due to her illness.
As for your father, you attempted to connect with him but he may not be “available” for such a relationship. What I mean is that he may not be cognitively able to correctly assess the situation with your mother because of his injury and therefore wrongly blames you for the family’s problems. It could also be that his own psychological problems cloud his judgment. As you said in your letter, he currently will not speak to you nor will your sister. Your mother, father and sister have essentially forced you to end contact with them. It seems that you had no other option but to stop communication with them.
I know that this reality may be difficult to accept. As you said, you feel profound grief associated with not being able to interact with your father. You tried to repair relations with various family members but it seems that they are unable to engage in such a connection. This is probably due to their own psychological issues. It might not always be this way. It is possible that your family’s relationships will improve over time. But at this point, it is important to see this reality and learn how to live with this loss.
From a mental health perspective perhaps this outcome benefits you. The stress associated with their chaotic lives only further complicates your life. You are living with your own life stresses. You may have a bipolar or a schizophrenia disorder to manage, as well as the anxiety that you are facing from your son’s possible serious mental illness. These are very tough challenges.
You said that you have a good doctor that helps you handle your stress associated with your family. This is good but you only see her once a month. Is there a way you can see her more often or add on additional therapeutic support from other mental health professionals? It would be helpful if you had additional assistance dealing with the various family problems. You might also want to consider a support group.
I hope that you will consider writing back and letting me know how you are doing. I wish you luck. Thanks for writing.
Randle, K. (2008). What to Do When My Mom’s Schizophrenia is Tearing My Life Apart. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/07/28/what-to-do-when-moms-schizophrenia-is-tearing-my-life-apart/