April 27, 2004

It's Not My Fault

Dear Average American Citizen,

In telling you and informing you that schizophrenia is a disease, I ask you to use this knowledge somehow to stop the stigma. I ask you to stop blaming not only the sufferer, but the parent too. The last statistic I read regarding the general public's view on the cause of schizophrenia stated that up to 70% still believe it is the result of faulty parenting. Our children are not the only ones who suffer from the stigma, the myths, and the ignorance. Thank you very much Dr. Freud.

Although few could argue that no one suffers more than they do from the discrimination that stems from stigma, believe me I suffer too.

As a parent, whose child has become sick, the first question is always 'why?'. It is impossible not to ask. There are those who outwardly shame us for even asking that question by querying us with "How will knowing the answer to that question help? Let it go!" But I believe that inwardly, my 'why' is ressurrecting something they simply can not cope with. I see comments like this as just another form of denial. A request so to speak. Such as, "Please don't ask me to go there with you!" After all, it is a most insufferable place to be when there are no concrete answers. And we need an answer.

Often, we are confronted by well meaning friends and supporters who remind us "It is a disease. It's not your fault."

We hear the comforting words "Stop blaming yourself. You didn't cause this."

And it helps. For a while any way.

We read books, search the web, contact researchers, question doctors, they all say the same thing. "It's a disease. Please stop blaming your self. It's not your fault!" I once had a doctor say this to me. But in that precise moment, it was finally clear to me he had no idea what he was actually saying. I had heard it so many times before, only to end up with the same doubts again. And I was so tired of the bandaid it offered to the wound that kept opening back up. The one that would not heal. The one that needed surgery.

My response? "Do you really think logic and reasoning can ever once and for all, completely stop a parent from blaming themselves for a disease that can not be explained yet?"

We know it in our heads. It's our hearts we're having trouble with. If we could point to a specific virus, a specific bacteria, a specific physical trauma and know for certain this is what caused schizophrenia to rear it's ugly head in the brains of our sons or daughters, it would be painlessly easy to stop blaming ourselves. Absolutely and positively painless.

If I hadn't spent the first 40 years of my life, saturated with Freudian conditioning, perhaps I could completely "let go". Perhaps I could heal that wound. End this arm of my suffering. But it is far more difficult to unlearn the old than it is to learn the new.

But in my quiet, desperate hours, when I am alone with my own thoughts, my mind instinctively wanders back through his life searching for the moment that made this happen. Searching for a cause for this effect.

I think about the playground......... when he was 8........the fall........ the concussion. I wonder about the auto accident......... the stitches in his head. I think about the cruelty of peers, his father's workaholism, my paying too much attention to his brother's dyslexia, the complications of his delivery, the numerous viruses, his best friend dying of cancer when he was only 7 yr.s old, the english teacher who seemed to despise him for no real reason at all........... and on and on and on.

Somehow, I find a way to stop. I get busy. I remind myself it is a disease. It's not my fault. Apply my own bandaid. Or ask God, 'Please! I just want to know 'why' before I die."

Sometimes, I just can't help but cry some more.

I want to be able to find it. I yearn to be able to know. And when I do, I want to be able to scream from the top of my lungs, don't let this happen, or that happen to your child ............. to my grandchild......... to my great grandchild. I want what all parents of schizophrenics want; to be able to prevent this disease. It is where the urgent need to ask why comes from. We just want to understand this nightmare. Because if we can prevent it, we can also cure it!

So, please the next time you hear someone blaming a parent for causing this disease to manifest in their child, take a moment and remind them "It's a disease. It's not their fault. Besides, despite knowing this themselves, they are already blaming themselves more than you could ever know. They are parents. That's just where they go!'

Posted by Doe at April 27, 2004 04:16 AM | TrackBack



You've said it all so beautifully. All that you have written I have felt. Thank you for clarifying it for me and writing it all down. I also felt validated reading your writings. It helps me to know that I'm not the only parent who is constantly asking why. Why did this happen to my beautiful Cassie? Why God? I hope someday we will have a concrete answer. Thank you for your passion and caring enough to write it down.


Posted by: Moeder at April 28, 2004 06:01 PM

Finally, someone who gets it! I'm 37 and the mother of three children. My brother is schizophenic and it started to show when my first child was very young. My father died when my brother was 13 and my mother had a hard time seeing the illness at first. Now, our mother daughter relationship is better but there was a cost to pay. Everyone lost when this disease came into our family. My children lost an uncle, the only one they have, for a while and I lost my mom and brother until we all got on the same page. I worry about my children. When I see my brother struggle, I become obsessed with preventing the disease. My oldest is starting adolescence and it scares me that schizophenia will start along with it and THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO!!!It's like having your children tied on the railroad tracks and you don't know when or if the train will hit them before they can get away...I put my hope in all the research being done, but I think like cancer, schizophenia will take alot of research and energy..God bless you and yours,

Posted by: barb at May 24, 2004 04:23 PM

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