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A Doctor Who’s Thankful for Mom with Schizophrenia

Anyone who’s experienced a loved one — whether a family member or friend — who has schizophrenia knows it is often an unpredictable and sometimes-scary relationship. Scary because you’re never quite sure what’s coming next, or how a particular hallucination might manifest itself in the person’s behavior or decisions.

But schizophrenia, like all mental illness, can also be a teacher. Albeit often a hard one.

Dr. Anne Aspler, writing in the Globe and Mail earlier this week, recounts her experiences in what she’s learned in growing up with a mother who suffers from schizophrenia, and the fear she lived in during her early adulthood that she, too, might suffer from this disorder.

9 Comments to
A Doctor Who’s Thankful for Mom with Schizophrenia

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  1. I think he was not trying to say mental illness isn’t in the category of “them. He was saying there is no “them” in mental illness, we are all part of the human experience, which implies there is not a “them”. It’s all us.

  2. My schizophrenic mother was very different. She was very open about wishing she’d never had me and I don’t recall her ever touching me. Most of the time she stayed in her bedroom talking to herself. Fortunately my father was warm and loving but he was out of town on business a great deal of time. When I was 11 it was decided that I should live with my grandmother and aunt in another state, which gave me the foster care experience to deal with.

    My childhood was horrific.

    • My childhood was equally terrifying. The only way to keep my mother from destroying me was to agree with everything she said and do whatever she told me, no matter how bizarre it was. She perceived any disagreement as a threat to her existence and responded accordingly. At times, even obedience wasn’t enough. She accused me of things I couldn’t even have imagined doing and did her best to convince me I was a worthless piece of crap. She also lied about my relatives in order to keep me from going to them for help. And finally, when I was a middle aged woman, lied to my future daughter-in-law about how ugly and violent I was toward her as a teenager (when, in fact I was terrified of her and did everything I could to keep out of her way.) She died six years ago. If I cried, it was only because she never did understand what she had done to me.

      • I found this article hard to relate to, and a pretty rosy picture of growing up around mental illness.

        What I learned from my schizophrenic dad was:

        How to be wary of people and not trust their motives, from both how unpredictable he was, and how he told us everyone was out to get us and we couldn’t talk to them any more.

        How to over-analyse all interpersonal situations because I was always looking for some kind of clue to what might happen next.

        How to provoke rage, as it was the only predictable course of action, as anger when you know its coming is much better that when you are trying to be nice.

        How to close off from people emotionally to avoid being hurt and manipulated daily.

        How to lie and talk my way around the situation because of the intense stigma and shame.

        So yeah, thanks dad.

  3. I read both your blog and Dr. Aspler’s essay with great interest. My e-novel, Playing the Genetic Lottery is about a woman who grew up with two schizophrenic parents. Along with trying to educate people about the illness, the main point I tried to convey in my novel was that schizophrenics are real people, with families that love them. People worth knowing and respecting, not feared because they had the horrible luck to come down with a disease.

  4. A good reminder that we,each and every one of us, have our issues. My son suffered from severe OCD and I see that as no different than if he had asthma or diabetes…….it’s just the luck (or lack thereof) of the draw as to what illnesses and challenges we may face.

  5. It’s complicated….as someone with depression, which even the psychiatrists I’ve seen avoided writing because of possible stigma, I realize that there really is no normal, no us and them. BUT I’ve met schizophrenic women who were able to parent their children “acceptably,” but others who were completely unable to discern their child’s needs – as separate from their own – or to empathize. There’s a spectrum, but it’s important that no one romanticize or minimize the problems of parenting while seriously mentally ill – especially as they impact the child. A child needs someone who can create stability and give love consistently – especially when the seriously ill person cannot. That, too, is on a spectrum – and many of us might have been on the short end – but if very young children/infants do not get closeness and caring, they are being deprived of a future.

  6. Personally, I look at this post from the other angle.
    I was diagnosed with bipolar type 1 back in 1982. At that stage I had a wife who was adversely affected by my disorder. I had some very extreme bipolar episodes. The marriage ended shortly after one of these.
    About seven years ago I remarried. My new wife is very caring and understanding of the disorder. I have not had an episode since my remarriage.
    Friends and loved ones do have a very big part in looking after anyone with a mental disorder.



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