Concerned About Friend/Ex With Schizophrenia

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

When I’d just turned 15 I started being friends with this boy (hes 1 year 4 months younger then me, so he was 13 about to turn 14 at the time). We were friends for a while and became very comfortable around each other very quickly. After about 6 months we became each others closest friend. I knew at this point that he sometimes got very angry. He said little things could set him off or often there would be no reason. But it wasn’t that bad at the time. I knew he had ADHD and was taking Ritalin.

After we’d been friends almost a year (when I turned 16, in February) he started going out with a girl in his year. This didn’t impact our relationship at all, and things were normal and fine. He said he loved her, but that if she asked him not to see me he would pick me over her, because I was a better friend to him. Our friendship meant a lot to both of us.

After he had been with her for 7 months I think (in September) I was over at his house and we kissed. We both decided not to go there again but did anyway. After a couple of weeks he left his girlfriend, saying that he could never feel about her the way he felt about me. Pretty soon after that he told me he loved me. We started seeing each other, but never made it ‘official’ and kept it a secret. This was partly because I was in the year above him at school/college and we thought people would find it weird, partly because for so long people had been saying that they thought we had a ‘thing’ or something, so to come out and say we were together seemed unappealing. And… well I think we just felt comfortable keeping it private. I’ve never had an official boyfriend, and he has dated other people, so when I asked (later in the relationship) why he personally wanted to keep it a secret when he’d been openly together with other girls, he said because it does something to change you, and that if we are openly together people will comment and expect things, and it makes us more prone to mistakes, and also that he didn’t see me like he saw the other girls, he saw me as a “life-long partner” type thing… even though we new the chances of a teenage relationship being successful long term were slim, we both had intentions of being together, and we always assumed that we would, at least, always be friends.

But then his anger started getting worse, he started feeling pressured from all angles of his life. He was confused about what he felt and thought, and in the end “I don’t know” was his answer to everything. He said he felt unable to make decisions.

This really upset me when his feelings for me started becoming part of what he was confused about, I was unfair to him I think. But at the time I didn’t know he had a problem. We’d argue a lot, and he later told me that he felt all my problems were being put on him, as well as all his problems, and he just couldn’t handle it.
We went up and down in the last 3 months (overall we were together for a year). He said he didn’t love me any more, he went through periods of wanting to end it and then not being sure. Things were bad before he went away for the whole of August, but then the day he left he was texting me, messaging me at least once a day, and telling me that he did miss me, more then he expected to. But then that stopped with no warning and he said he was just “indifferent” and he was sorry. But then the day he got back we spoke and he wanted to see me and I went over to his house and it was all great. And a few days after that he had to go to hospital, hes scared of needles and called me when he had a cannula in his arm. He asked me to come see him and I did, the whole time he was hugging me and keeping me close to him. Afterwards he told me he thought of me to get him through every injection.

By this point though his anger was really bad. He’d started biting himself (his arm, really badly, leaving welds that lasted for days and made him bleed) to let his anger out. Shortly after he was out of hospital we argued over something and he ‘snapped’, he got uncontrollably angry and took his anger out on himself and everything around him. After that he said something inside him had snapped and he just didn’t feel anything for me any more. I was devastated, as I still loved him. He was still angry with me and would hardly talk to me, although after a week or so he started sitting next to me on the bus every day again.

But then, in late September he started seeing someone else. She was new at our College and he wasn’t even speaking to her really when we broke up, so I know he didn’t leave me for her. But still, I’ve never felt more hurt, and seeing them together every day killed me.

For the first 3 months he still really wanted to be friends with me. He’d sit with me and talk every day. He called me up 2 or 3 times, to play me some music on the piano, or just chat. We’d sometimes text, although I initiated a lot of it. I know I did a lot of damage purely from a ‘getting your ex back’ perspective by being desperate and needy and still telling him I loved him. Our relationship after we split was just as up and down. We’d talk all the time but still ague, because he’d think I was ‘getting better’ and wanted to be just friends, and I’d want more and when that surfaced things got ugly. But there were times when we’d talk and get along well and he’d even be a bit flirty without seeming to notice, though when he did he would pull himself back.

By this point his anger had gotten even worse. He said he was angry all the time. He had also started Dissociating, where he wouldn’t care for or about anyone or anything. He wouldn’t feel anything for anyone. This would pass but it still unsettled him.

Then in late December we argued and he ‘snapped’ again. After that he was just angry with me. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew he wanted to be just friends, and I’d been thinking before about telling him that I wanted that too; by this point I could see the pressure he was under and was starting to worry. I thought that at least telling him I only wanted to be friends would be best for us both.

So I told him, but he said he didn’t want to talk to me. That he needed a complete break from me. That he was angry with me and now associated me with his anger.
Sometimes during the last 3 months we have spoken. I’ve almost always initiated it, and he seems fine, until the end when he gets angry and says to leave him alone, that things aren’t fine and that he was only acting polite so we wouldn’t argue.

There has been a couple of times when he messaged me saying he needed someone who understands to talk to. He says I’m the only one who understands him. That he can’t and doesn’t talk to anyone about anything. He says he has to ‘act’ all the time (with everyone, he is still with that girl but she’s included in the ‘everyone’) because hes always either angry or just withdrawn and not feeling anything. He has to act interested, and not just flat and emotionless.

Hes been diagnosed with more things now; first it was Dissociation Disorder and Paranoia (He gets paranoid that someone will kidnap and torture him, like in the Hostel and Saw films. He first mentioned this to me last April, but it didn’t seem serious then. Now he sleeps with a jujitsu weapon in his bed and wont close his eyes in the shower or put his head under the water in the bath, but he says he can usually overcome the fears by thinking logically), as well as Autism. He stopped biting himself to release his anger and started cutting. He cut himself 50 times up his arm when he ‘snapped’ (this time for no reason, but the worst so far). He says he can’t release his anger any more without cutting.

He started talking to me on MSN saying he needed someone who understood, but then he went offline. The next day I spoke to him and he said he had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia (not the type with hearing voices and delusions). Then I started asking him (which I think was a mistake) if he missed me, if he wanted to talk to me, etc…. he said he didn’t know to everything… I asked if he cared and he said he didn’t think so. He said that he would probably start talking to me now, and when I asked why he said because he had started so he may as well continue. I don’t know if he was just saying this as his way of making sense of things, but at the time I didn’t think it was good enough. I asked him not to just use me and he started getting a bit angry and that was the end of our conversation.

After that I decided to try and be friends with him, and to not bring up my feelings or concerns, because I thought he needed someone. I was nice to him when I saw him, and we chatted a few times, he leant me a book and gave me a stress ball he’d been given by a university stall, but I still felt like I was making all the effort. I said this to him and he started getting angry and told me not to. He said he didn’t want to talk to me, that he had nothing to say to me, and that he didn’t want to be friends. He told me that he didn’t even like me any more and that he hadn’t since December. He said that yes, I was the only one who understood him, and that he HATES that because he doesn’t like me and doesn’t want to talk to me. He said that I was always putting all my problems on him and that we always argue. He was getting really angry and said that he hadn’t been able to release his anger in months because his parents have hidden every sharp object (his parents know all about this and have him in psychotherapy). He said that all the bad feeling towards me was magnified because he couldn’t take his anger out on anyone else. He told me that he ‘knew’ I didn’t want to be just friends because of the way I looked at him when he was with her (which yeah I am very guilty of) and that he didn’t like me because I was so persistent and wouldn’t let go. He said that there was nothing between us at all and nothing to salvage.

He was being really cruel and harsh and at the time this devastated me. I took everything he said to heart and when I got home I fell to pieces, and it took me a day to recover from it. But now I don’t know how much of that he meant. I don’t know what effect Schizophrenia is having on him. And I don’t know if he only said those things out of anger and didn’t mean them, or if I just wish that were the case.

At the end of that conversation with him I think I managed to convince him that I only want to be friends (which is partly true, I still love him but I don’t really like him right now, because of how hes acting and how hes treated me. I don’t know if I’m ‘in love’ with him right now, but I do love him. I do want to get on the path to rebuilding our relationship, but right now the most I could handle would be friendship) and he said he’d think about it over the 2 and 1/2 week break we have from college and get back to me.

What should I do about all this? And what’s going on with him? Does he mean what he says or even know what he feels?

A. Your friend is not well. He is not stable and needs help. He may be unable to engage in a healthy relationship at this time because of his problems. My biggest concern is your friend’s uncontrolled anger. He has been engaged in self-harm until recently, when his weapons of self-destruction were removed by his parents. This has intensified and redirected his anger towards you. He has become so angry at times that he has “snapped” and taken out his anger on “everything and everyone around him.” Other concerning aspects of this situation include paranoia, to the point where he sleeps with a weapon under his pillow. His symptoms are not well controlled. Your safety may be at stake.

He has been diagnosed with several psychiatric conditions, the latest one being schizophrenia. Having schizophrenia does not mean that an individual is dangerous. In fact, research shows that individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violence but under certain circumstances, the risk for violence increases. When? Risk factors of violence include:

  • Active and uncontrolled psychotic symptoms (i.e. paranoia, delusions, etc)
  • Not taking medication or not taking it consistently or as prescribed
  • Under the influence of drugs and alcohol
  • Uncontrolled anger outbursts
  • Has a history of violence

Past violence is the best predictor of future violence. Your friend has a history of violence toward himself and not others but as I pointed out, you may have become a convenient target of his anger. His mood is unstable and when he becomes upset, his behavior is unpredictable. This puts you at risk.

You should encourage your friend to remain in treatment. Do his parents know how angry he can become? If not, you should inform them. He may require more intensive treatment than he is currently receiving. His symptoms do not seem well controlled. He needs time to stabilize his mood and symptoms before you should pursue a relationship with him.

To answer your specific question, it may be difficult for him to know how he feels. That might remain the case until he is stabilized.

I also believe that you should consider therapy. A therapist could advise you about how to handle this situation. You could benefit from guidance with regard to this relationship. It is difficult and challenging.

I hope this answers your question. If you have any followup questions, please do not hesitate to write.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Apr 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Concerned About Friend/Ex With Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/04/17/concerned-about-friendex-with-schizophrenia/

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