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The mother of a son with schizophrenia on 'Letting Go'
I learned the previous words on 'letting go' through Alanon. I understood them and practiced them. Then my son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I have been struggling for nine years to apply the principle of letting go to this disease and my life.
How do I apply the principle of letting go to schizophrenia?
Show me the services designed to address his disease. Give him the skills and tools he needs, so I can let go.
Alanon's "LETTING GO"
"Letting go does not mean to stop caring;
it means I can't do it for someone else."
What does doing it for himself mean if he can't fathom the process needed?
"Letting go is not to cut myself off;
it's the realization I can't control another. "
How do I continue to be available when my availability is viewed through the skewed eyes of a disease that often sees me as the enemy through no provocation of my own?
"Letting go is not to enable;
but to allow learning from natural consequences."
What do 'natural' consequences mean to someone who keeps making the same mistakes over and over expecting different results? Forgetting the lessons?
"Letting go is to admit powerlessness;
which means the outcome is not in my hands."
How productive is the acknowledgement of my own powerlessness over a disease that has no cure? It is a feeling we parents are struck with on day one that never, ever leaves.
"Letting go is not to try and change or blame another;
it's to make the most of myself. "
How do I make the most of myself when no one else is willing to recognize the actual need for assistance in his life?
"Letting go it not to care for;
but to care about."
How effective is just caring about my son without caring for him when his disease and the disenfranchised system of care deems my care giving as necessary?
"Letting go is not to fix;
but to be supportive, not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being."
What are the boundaries between letting my son fix his own problems to the extent he is capable and stepping in to teach and teach and teach him how to do it on his own?
"Letting go is not to be in the middle of arranging the outcome; but to allow others to affect their own destinies."
How much can he effectively affect his own destiny? How much of his destiny is in his hands when he is so easily controlled and used up by others?
"Letting go is not to be protective;
it's to permit the another to face reality."
What does reality mean to someone who accuses one of the only people in his life who has never betrayed him of doing just that because paranoia rules his emotions?
"Letting go is not to deny;
but to accept."
How much does lack of insight limit his ability to accept his disease? Who's responsibility is it if he can not? Who's responsibility is it to call 911?
"Letting go is not to nag, scold, or argue;
but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them."
How many times do I have to take an inventory on my own shortcomings, dig back in, revise my behavior, try again to meet only what is NEEDED of me, before I do just give up purely out of a need to survive ?
"Letting go is not to adjust everything to my own desires;
but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it."
How do I cherish myself in my own life, when it is constantly interrupted by yet another crisis in his?
"Letting go is not to criticize and evaluate anybody;
but to try and become what I dream I can be."
How do I avoid criticizing and evaluating him when almost everything I say is perceived as criticism?
"Letting go is to not regret the past;
but to grow and live for the future."
How can I live and grow for my future, if I don't do everything I can to help him do exactly the same? My independence depends on his independence.
"Letting go is to fear less and live more."
How do I learn to fear less with a son who has become one of the most vulnerable people the world knows because of a disease?
October 4th, 2006 is the anniversary of my son's diagnosis. It has been a rough year for me physically. Two trips and falls, torn knee cartillage, surgery, physical therapy, and just when it was safe to come out of the water the second trip and fall resulted in a broken shoulder.
My house is empty now, except for my husband and myself. I have had a lot of time to think and feel:
There can be life after the diagnosis of schizophrenia in a loved one. Things will be normal again one day. You will adjust eventually. It just won't be the same normal you once knew. It will be a new normal. It will be YOUR new normal and no one else's. Efforts to hurry or force the adjustment will only drain you. It will come in it's own time. Each individual's own unique set of circumstances delineates far too much to this end to ever lead any one to believe there is a defined length of time. So try to be easy on yourself. You have more than enough to adjust to.
For some of us it is a roller coaster ride. For others, it feels more like a merry go round that never stops. But you can learn to to hold tight and to tolerate the ride. You can also choose to get off. Everyone has to make their own choice as to what is right for them.
Try to process your fear with the same compassion you would for any one else. You will be dealing with a lot of it. Yours, theirs, your family's. Remember it rears it's head in many forms: anxiety, panic, paranoia, anger, fight, flight, freeze or feign. Remember to 'act as if'' when you find yourself wanting to surrender to self sabotaging behavior. Get yourself through those moments somehow with as much grace and dignity as you can muster. Remember that fear is the underlying emotion of so many of the emotional states you and your loved ones will find yourselves in. Fear is always the underlying form of anger. The definition of guilt is fear over past events that did or did not happen. The definition of worry is fear over future events that may or may not happen. Whenever you are feeling guilt or worry, you are either in yesterday or tomorrow. You are not in today. Take some deep breaths, in slow and deep, out slow and full. One day at a time. One moment at a time. One breath at a time if that is all you can handle.
Don't fall prey to using this as a license to only focus on today. Plan for tomorrow. Inventory yesterday. Don't ignore the past or the future. Just don't let yesterday and tomorrow eat up all of your todays. Schizophrenia takes planning, forethought, goals, and education. Learn as much as you can about the disease, the treatments, and the services available in your area. Plan things with your son or daughter. Give them the gift of knowing they have a future. Honor their past.
The system of care itself can feel more like a revolving door. You will discover far more of the responsibility falls on your shoulders than you ever imagined in the beginning. But you can grow shoulders broad and wide and learn that you are also much stronger than you ever knew. Wisdom can come in droves, with moments of clarity and "Ah Ha's!", only to be interrupted with periods of total confusion, frustration and stress. But you can learn to become a pro at finding needles in haystacks. Never stop demanding the system do it's job!
This disease can mop the floor with you if you let it. But don't. Remember to take care of yourself. It may feel as though you have nothing more than brief stolen moments left to yourself. But steal them any way. Never give up trying to find time for you. Ask for help. Get those time out's. They are necessary. Take a hot bath, listen to soothing music, or rock the house till you feel like dancing. Whatever works for you. Find some way to put the focus on your needs.
It will feel difficult and uncomfortable to socialize at first. But socialize any way. In many ways this disease is a jumping off point in your life. Many beliefs, perspectives, priorities and even friends will re-arrange and shift guided by the awareness you now have. Schizophrenia changes everything, including us. You'll feel like the new kid on the block a lot of the time. You will find yourself gravitating in new directions in many areas of your life. You will discover there are people with hearts of gold who have been waiting to find you. Friends who will listen, understand, support, and help you. Friends who know how you feel. And you will discover others still who are just waking up to the journey you are already traveling. Bring them a covered dish.
Take the time to grieve. I can not stress this enough. It can paralyze you with depression if you don't. Cry, sock a pillow, kick the couch, say it out loud, make someone listen, beg and pray for your miracle, whatever it takes and as many times as it takes. Refuse to be ashamed of grieving your losses. See a therapist if that is the tool that carves out enough time for you. If you can, take medication if the depression or sleepless nights don't lift. Schizophrenia hurts.
Remember to catch your loved one succeeding, no matter how small and insignificant the progress seems by comparison to their former achievements. Any forward movement is big and takes gargantuan effort on their part. Any break throughs are cause for celebration and fortifies hope.
Don't blame yourself. This really is a disease. Although it seems impossible at times not to, get yourself out of this stinking thinking by reassuring yourself it is not your fault any more than diabetes, a brain tumor or any other disease is. Don't buy into it when someone else implies it. Recognize ignorance for what it is. Part of the human condition. Walk away, shake it off, give it back, or .... if you're up to it ..... take the time to educate and raise their consciousness.
Find a hero. Mine is my son. My losses, fears, lessons, successes and failures, and roller coaster rides all pale in comparison to his. He is the strongest person I have ever known.
Never give up. Never, ever give up. And if you do, remember .... you can always change your mind and start over. You still have choices. No decision we ever make is carved in stone. Everything can look better in the morning. All it takes is someone who knows how you feel. Someone who gets it. Someone who can offer you hope. Who knows what lies in store? None of us do. A cure, or a better medication could be just around the corner.
And if you succumb to the devastating loss of your loved one through suicide or victimization, remember we all know how valiantly they fought to live with this wretched disease. Find some measure of comfort in knowing you are not alone in this regard. They will always be with you in spirit throughout the daily makings of your survival until it is time for you to leave. Honor their lives and try to make your own difference in a world that can seem so detached from people who suffer.
Always remember, no matter how lonely this journey can feel, even when the people you count on the most let you down and disappoint you, YOU are NOT ALONE!