When mental illness comes home
I have been a University professor in Psychology for 6 years now and I still find it difficult to live with my partner’s schizophrenia. I feel awful saying it, but he is terribly difficult to live with. He can be hurtful and, often, very cruel in what he says to me. There has never been a time where he has not apologised to me when he has encountered an ‘episode’, however, I can not help but be upset.
He is 29 years old and told me he has schizophrenia the first time I met him, although I could tell he had it from the bizarre babbling, the reoccurent twitches and the consistent gazes around the room with paranoia.
I have been with him for 4 years & his condition has only recently become severe. His schizophrenia is caused by an excess of dopamine in his system and he takes anti-psychotic drugs to lower this, however, recently it would appear they haven’t worked;
He often tells me he ‘isn’t gay’ and that ‘they’ say he should be. He will often walk out of the house with next to nothing on, shout at the air, (i’m assuming an imaginary person) spend an excessive amount of money, stay awake all the way through the night and sleep all the way through the day + many others. But what hurts me the most is the physical abuse I receive from him + this normally happens when I catch him talking to himself. He will all of a sudden become livid, punching me in the face and chest, whilst crying and shouting hysterically. When I pin him down he will kick me and tell me hates me. Usually, after this happens, he will smash the apartment up. He always apologises to me when he calms down.
I have never become angry with him, as I say, it’s normally devastation and upset which I experience. I have thoroughly researched and learnt his disorder, but I am finding it too difficult to bear at the moment, especially since I discovered my mum had osteonecrosis. I really need some help in how to handle him at the moment. I think my negative mood and attitude at the moment may be contributing to it somewhat, however, I cannot take all of the blame. He regularly takes his medication as I have seen it myself. Please help me in tackling the situation at the moment – I’m desperate and love him very much.
A; You certainly do love him very much to be so committed. Living with someone with chronic mental illness is extremely challenging. For those of us in the mental health professions, it is sometimes even more so because we often have a whole lot of “shoulds” going on. You may feel you should be more understanding, more helpful and more able to handle it because, after all, you’ve been studying it for so long. I hope you know that it’s a whole different thing to live with mental illness day in and day out than to study it, research it, or teach it. Living with it, especially when someone we love is symptomatic, can feel relentless. Not everyone has the inner resources and outer supports to keep on keeping on. Please don’t be hard on yourself for finding it a struggle.
If you were in the U.S., I would refer you to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness). Local chapters provide practical help and support for friends and family members of people who are suffering from mental illness. The Internet gives you the option of participating in NAMI online communities and discussions. Go to www.nami.org. I encourage you to get involved. You deserve the ongoing support and encouragement that only those who have experienced the same kinds of situations can give.
I wish you well.
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). When mental illness comes home. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 6, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/05/24/when-mental-illness-comes-home/