June 24, 2004

Long time...


It's been a long time. Life got in the way of me posting here, but I learned much, both about myself and Darling's illness. This will be my last blog. Sadly, time will no longer allow me to continue this. But I want to thank you for every message and every e-mail. They have been of huge value to me.

I want to leave you with a small ritual I've devised to help dissolve the limits of my fears. First, this is simply a ritual to help. It's not connected to any religion or occult practice. You can chant or pray as you please, or modify the ritual itself to suit your needs. It will work with any spiritual path you choose.

Step one is to make a list of all the things you find too overwhelming to deal with. It could be related to the illness you're having to deal with, or anything else that you find too hard to even think about.

Step two: fold, cruch, or tear your paper to bits and put it in a heat resistant bowl. If you wish, add a cone of incense and light some candles.

Step three: burn it. Make sure that everything burns to ashes.

Step four: bury the ashes or throw it to the wind.

While doing the ritual you can chant or pray any words that seem appropriate. The idea is to let go of the worry attached to the problems you wrote down. What you're burning is not the problems themselves, but the limitations they impose on you. This helps create some space in your psyche for dealing with your problems in a more effective way.

Try it and see what happens!

So this is it. Thank you so much for listening, or rather for reading. Anyone wishing to contact me directly can do so at : cathastrii@yahoo.co.uk, or you can post a comment. I'll be checking back from time to time.

Be well.

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May 27, 2004

Emotional Health: Focusing on the Good

There are many things to be grateful for.

I can see.

I can hear.

Those are the two senses I would be most lost without. Music and reading are my two favorite passtimes.

When living with a chronic condition such as us spouses have to deal with can drag a person down into negativity. This is evident from my last few blogs, I think. Often, receiving a daily positive thought in my inbox is enough, and sometimes it is not. Those are the times when it is most necessary to focus on the apparently receding goodness of life.

A good way to do this is through making lists.

One web site advises to make a list of 999 things to be grateful for. This will then attract even more goodness, because your attitude is open to being blessed. Spiritual wisdom suggests that negativity perpetuates negativity. I have experienced this myself.

Perhaps 999 is a bit ambitious to start with. The Positive Thought site on the other hand suggests to be grateful for two things daily. This is more managable, especially if you're feeling negative to begin with.

Here's an exercise:

1. Get a small notebook and a beautiful pen. Put these by your bedside.
2. Before getting out of bed in the morning, write down two things you're grateful for. These have to be two different things every morning.
3. Get out of bed and go through your day. When you're feeling negative, think about the two things you wrote down.
4. Carry your notebook with you. Stare at the words you wrote, and think about how you feel about these good things.
5. Do this until you feel better.

May all your sorrows turn to joy!

Posted by cathi at 08:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (136)

May 18, 2004


Things are better! Darling has taken a turn for the better just as I thought things were at their worst. This frequently happens.

Now I have to make very little effort to be happy.

The amount of emotional investment I have in this man is frightening. It gives him a great deal of power over me. Yet I stay. Willingly. I have the means to leave. But I do not.

So am I addicted? I think so.

Addiction is a hard thing to admit. Admitting to the devastating effect this has on your life is even harder. But as any pop-psychologist would say: this is the first step towards healing.

Healing for me does not entail leaving Darling. That is still unthinkable. But I do have to find a way to separate my emotions from his outbursts. Only then can I properly support him.

I think I've said before that I need to be healthy in order to be any use. Well, today I'm healthy again for the first time in very long. I need to look at my emotional health as well.

I'm rather good at giving advice, but not so good at following my own sage wisdom. This day then is a commitment to the new, healthy, emotionally stable me. Only then can I give any thought to a future with a man I'm obviously too hung up on to let go.

The last two blogs have been very personal. Hopefully next week I can dredge something universally useful from this.

Be well, all. Be well, self.

Posted by cathi at 07:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (146)

May 11, 2004

Down again and up again - have some coffee

Again. I must apologize. And thank you for all your kind comments and thoughts. My disasters no longer happen in threes. They have started happening in thousands.

A tad negative, I know. Especially for someone who is supposed to have it all figured out. I mean, that's what I started this for. To help people through my 10+ years of experience living with a person who doesn't always know how to respect me.

And there's the problem. Respect. We've had a very up and down week, Darling and I (hence the title), and I've been in bed three more days with a hearing problem that developed from my flu (this is better now, thank the Force and my doctor). But my problem is the respect, or rather lack thereof, that I have for Darling when he turns bad. This is the one area of our lives together where I still need work.

But maybe my problem is one of focus. Having had a negatively inclined disposition nearly since birth, it is very difficult for me to see any good in adversity. But the positive thought site I mentioned last time must have had some influence. Because I find myself thinking this like, well, at least he's not doing some of the other irritating things he used to. At least I'm better. At least I can hear. I can speak. I can write. I can walk. I still am.

And at least sometimes I'm totally in love. Some people never have that.

So I'm going to pour a cup of coffee now, and thank whatever forces rule my reality that I can taste and touch and feel. And that I have the intelligence to figure out how to make this work. The alternative is simply unthinkable.

Posted by cathi at 07:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (360)

April 29, 2004

Better than James Brown

Apologies to all. I've been sick, Darling has been sick, my car is sick. Did I hear someone say these things come in threes? So I've not been able to blog here much.

The last three weeks were pretty horrific to me. First, I came down with a flu bug. When I was still in bed with this, Darling came down with another attack of Schiz, after a little more than two weeks of being just wonderful. And just before our schools started the car broke down completely. Imagine. Of course all of this dragged me down, and I became extremely unproductive.

It was a terrible cycle. The car was broken, I was sick and desperate, so I yelled at my already sick Darling, who then yelled back at me, aggravating my already screwy feelings. And the car did not get fixed. Nor did the house get cleaned. There was so much negativity around me that I was getting dragged down into an increasingly filthy pile of psychic sludge.

And then I found a web site. When you subscribe, this site sends you one positive thought for every week day. It includes the thought, a matching affirmation, and a mediation practice to reinforce the thought. Of course this will not be for everyone. But what it did for me is priceless. It lifted me out of a downward spiralling negativity to bring a more positive state of mind to my problems. If interested, you can look at the web site with samples here: http://ifcl.com/subscribe_fpt.shtml

Thinking from a more positive perspective is a powerful tool you can use to keep yourself healthy while trying to be a helpful partner. Sometimes it is good to admit that you need help. And help comes in many shapes and forms. All you need to do is ask.

Thank you again by the way for everybody's thoughts, comments and prayers. They are deeply appreciated. I feel much better now, although I'm still somewhat slimy in the lung and nasal areas. But at least I can make it through a work day without being completely destroyed.

Also by the way, Darling is on his way back from zany land. This is good.

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April 19, 2004

It's Alive

Thank you everyone for your kind thoughts and words. I'm a little better now. I still have a nagging cough, but at least I can sit up without turning my brain to soup.

The situation at home is currently kind of stressful. Darling has taken a turn into madness again, and it's all we can do to keep from strangling each other.

Living with a schiz partner is an exercise in dashed hopes. Last year, Darling has been committed to an institution twice. We had a doctor who gave us hope and then dashed these hopes by doing none of the follow-up work he said he would.

I'm trying my best to deal. I found it works well when I do not react to whatever he says that upsets me. Anger just escalates anger.

I'm being incoherent, I feel. When sanity and complete health returns, I'll be better.

I don't know if I'll be blogging again this week, but from next week, the schedule should be on track again. I just wanted to indicate that I'm still alive.

Thanks everyone.

Posted by cathi at 07:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (260)

April 10, 2004

I'm sick!

I'm sick sick sick. Flu. I'm sitting here alternately sweating all my bodily fluids away and freezing them all into my shivering skin. If it were a physical possibility, my lungs would have been coughed out by now.

So I'm sorry, but my next blog will happen only next Thursday. I was immobile up till now.

Probably I'll work this in as a theme.


Posted by cathi at 11:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (346)

April 01, 2004

Time for Yourself: find a hobby

Something I read during my search for meaning in my partnership with Darling struck me deeply. It said: be aware that living with a mentally ill person is stressful. Take time for yourself.

Take time for yourself. Everyone hammers that home these days: Dr. Phil, Oprah, and all other pop-psychologists have told us this. Why don't we listen? Because I believe it is a social paradigm to torture ourselves. We believe somehow that martyrdom makes us better persons.

It doesn't. Martyrdom kills. If we do become better in the process, we only get to experience the better "me" after death. Do you know of any martyr (Christian or otherwise) who survived the ordeal?

Another question I had to ask myself was: would I be any good to either Darling, myself or our son if I continued killing my spirit?

The answer of course is a resounding no.

So what to do?

Answer: Something that makes you happy.

We have to get past the idea that happiness is somehow wrong, or that there is no gain without pain. How much more pain should we take?

One way of eliminating the pain is through finding a hobby. I did this by going back to my schoolgirl years. I enjoyed playing the recorder in primary school. So I decided to dust off my ancient little instrument and try playing it.

Something happened: it has become my silent center of the storm. When everything else gets out of hand, playing the recorder provides me with extraordinary peace.

For us as partners of the mentally ill taking time for ourselves is more important than for most. We have to work at it. We have to make it an ideal. And the rewards are huge not only for ourselves, but for everyone who has to live or work with us.

Posted by cathi at 07:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (495)

March 25, 2004

I think I can: The power list

Last week's blog focused on the wisdom or lack thereof that could be found in the therapeutic profession. It is true that not all of us have the luxury of shopping around for a good therapist who will understand our needs. This week I would again like to address this important issue: what can you do within your means to improve matters?

Too often we feel powerless against the wave of inadequate therapy resulting from state budgets and personal financial shortages. Our therapist for example, while showing initial promise, caused my Darling to fall right back into his denial. At least I'm no longer in denial!

The first important thing to do in the face of this is take away the feeling of helplessness.

Make a list of the things you wish you could do to improve your own or your partner's therapy or overall situation, but can't. Things on this list could for example include a therapist who is not very understanding, drug side-effects, a partner who is unwilling to take the medication, etc. Now put this list aside.

Next, on a separate sheet, make a list of the things you can do. This may require some thought, but you will soon see that you had more power than you thought. An example could be talking as honestly as possible to your partner. Make the sufferer aware that you do not want to play the parent, but rather the partner. Talk to him about the therapist and things that may be bothersome about the particular professional.

Another item on the list could be talking to the therapist, both with and without your partner, about the problems you are experiencing.

Further items may be keeping yourself and your partner as physcially healthy as possible, or even finding a hobby that you can enjoy together or on your own.

Even the smallest thing that you can do is empowering when you see it on paper. If any of the above things are tried and do not work out (especially the talking part), simply cross it from the list, knowing you gave it your best shot.

Try to add at least one item per day to the power list.

When you have made your list of things you can do, burn the other list. Replace an attitude of "I can't" with "I can". Little may change initially, but you'll feel more positive, and be in a position to make more creative choices. Ultimately a more positive attitude is better for both you and your partner.

Posted by cathi at 10:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (334)

March 18, 2004

The Therapist: A Frightening Beast

Last week I talked about chemical support. The week before that I went on about friends and personal support. Today I'd like to address professional support for both the partner and the sufferer of SZ.

It is a frequently unfortunate fact that we are all human. We each have a unique combination of needs and hang-ups. This is what makes mental illness, and especially SZ, so difficult to a) cope with and b) treat. And this is why it is very important to find the right doctor to suit the sufferer's and the partner's particular needs.

So how to do this?

First, let's deal with the SZ sufferer's therapist. The partner of an SZ sufferer is a vital component in treatment. Not all psychiatrists understand this. Therefore it is important to make sure that you at least visit a new therapist together for a couple of sessions. Also make sure that the therapist includes you and recognizes your importance in the scheme of treatment.

If the therapist makes you or your partner unhappy in any way, try talking about it. If the problem cannot be fixed, you need to find someone that can work with the both of you in a positive way.

Secondly, if you feel that you need professional help as a partner, also find somebody who is going to be positive about your choice to be with an SZ sufferer. A therapist who criticizes your life choices, or tries to change them, will only make you negative.

Before seeing a new therapist then, draw up requirements and questions that you have. And again, talk if you have a problem with how the therapist handles you, or find someone new if the problem seems to remain.

In general positive and negative attitudes from others tend to influence SZ sufferers and their partners more strongly than others. It is therefore tragic that therapists who should know better often make the problem worse by their attitude.

So, whether in a social or professional setting, make sure that you as far as possible surround yourself with people who are positive towards both your partner and you. You need to feel that professionals working with you care about both of you and your feelings.

We all need acceptance. Not everybody will be understanding. When you find someone who is, keep that person in your life at all costs.

Posted by cathi at 09:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (357)

March 11, 2004

Avoid and Substitute: Dealing with the inner storm

There are several silent storms in the life of a person who has to live with an SZ sufferer. Basically there are two kinds of storm: the external one in the household, and secondly the storm within. Because the focus of mental health professionals has until recently been mostly on the problems of the ill person, less thought has been given to the problems involved in sharing a household with an SZ sufferer. The greatest problem in my life as partner has been coping with partner-induced depression.

One day I found myself just sitting. I was looking down, and my entire body felt heavy. So did my mind. I did not feel like doing anything but sitting like that. That was the deepest depression I had ever suffered, even counting my years as a teenager. I needed help.

It must be noted here that the depression I'm talking about is fairly mild and completely induced by the circumstances surrounding me. If you went into a relationship with an SZ sufferer with mental problems of your own, please look for professional help.

On the other hand, if you went into the relationship as far as you know in perfect mental health, I would suggest a number of alternatives before getting onto heavy medication such as Prozac. The next few weeks this blog will then look at strategies to help cope with the inevitable depression of having to deal with our inner storms.

The first strategy is at all costs to avoid harming yourself.

When depressed, it is a great temptation to succumb to "crutches" such as drinking, harmful drugs, smoking and over-eating. These again could be conducive to even more harmful effects such as physically harming yourself or even suicide. Ironically, many of the crutches people tend to lean on only make the depression worse.

My drinking for example seemed to magnify every negative emotion I was feeling to gigantic proportions. My control would then slip away and the inner silent storm would burst out noisily.

Another good strategy to compliment avoidance is substitution. You could substitute any harmful crutch your attracted to with something less harmful such as herbal or homeopathic remedies. These have less serious side effects than clinical depression drugs.

There are many natural supplements that could help for the worst of silent depression storms. I have found St. John's Wort to be an excellent picker upper. Naturelle makes an extra strength version that has carried me through many a storm. Other available supplements that can help you feel better include Vitamin B12. Both of these are available over the counter at your local pharmacy. You could also see a professional herbalist or homeopath to help you with your specific problem. A good homeopathy site is ABC Homeopathy (www.abchomeopathy.com), which includes an online remedy finder and shop.

When you're feeling even only slightly better as a result of healthier choices, you can begin to take further action to increase general well-being. When you keep yourself healthy both emotionally and physically, you are also better able to provide your partner with a healthier environment.

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March 04, 2004

It's All My Fault: the guilt complex

First, thank you all for your wonderful comments. It is great to hear from all of you, and also to know that I am not alone in this.

A note: to simplify typing (and reading!) I abbreviated "schizophrenia" to "SZ".

Today, we'll address the issue of guilt. Many people in today's world, especially those growing up in extremely religious homes, are riddled with guilt complexes of various kinds. Of course I don't want to malign any religion. Religion can be a wonderful and beneficial thing. It is however unfortunate that guilt often plays such a large part in religion and child rearing. I was no exception. I've been weaned and raised on guilt.

And this translates to my relationship. In the beginning of my relationship with Darling I was bewildered by a variety of things, not least of which was the fact that my marriage seemed to be crashing. And the bad turns of SZ didn't help. When having a relapse for example, Darling would become excessively religious and lay on the guilt trips. He would for example get into my not so rosy past and make me feel lower than as he would put it "shark shit" (an expression he picked up in the Navy).

Maybe the guilt was a good thing. I did a fair amount of as-honest-as-possible soul searching. Was all this really my fault? Why was he having relapses? What could I do to change this? This is the kind of guilt that many partners of SZ sufferers live with on a daily basis. Since we want so much to help, we tend to take the blame for everything, even adding to the guilt already caused by the situation itself.

The good news and the bad news is that nothing is anyone's fault. The great sinner is the illness; over which neither the SZ sufferer nor the partner has any control. So we can absolve ourselves. And we can do our best. And we can try to understand.

The manifestations of the illness is no more the partner's fault than the consequences of cancer or heart disease.

On the other hand, there are steps we can take to ensure stability, which is crucial to a mentally ill person's life. We can work on ourselves to be loving and secure instead of angry and afraid. We can help our partners to realize the importance of taking their meds regularly and keeping their stress levels low. We can find out everything possible about the illness in order to understand and to help. Feeling guilty, while it could lead to better self-knowledge, is hardly helpful to the situation.

So rather than guiltily trying to establish what it is we could have done to trigger the latest relapse, let's try to keep our partners' lives as stable as possible, and ourselves as happy as possible.

Posted by cathi at 09:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (288)

February 27, 2004

Support Group - Unquiet Minds

Regarding yesterday's blog, I have had some inquiries about the online support group that was of such help to me. It is entitled "Unquiet Minds" and you may find it here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/unquiet-minds

The group is for sufferers and families who suffer along with the mentally ill. The Schizophrenia.com site itself also has a support group section where you can make friends.

There is nothing like friendship to make you feel less lonely, guilty, afraid, or sad. To soothe your soul, find a friend. Friendship like this could save your life.

Posted by cathi at 06:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (318)

February 26, 2004

Friends will be Friends

Nobody can truly know what you're going through unless they go through it themselves. And nobody can struggle with mental illness in the family without support. This, in my opinion, is the fundamental flaw with the psychiatry system.

Darling and I are now involved with a psychiatrist who is #1) young, #2) inexperienced, and #3) temperamental - a bad thing to be when you're working with unstable people! Parents on the other hand, although they do try to help, cannot hope to understand unless they themselves have been involved in the same thing. My parents have been particularly unhelpful of late, and especially so when there's a relapse. They simply fail to understand why I would want to stay with a mentally unstable man - for which I don't really feel I can blame them.

So who do you turn to for the emotional support and encouragement you need? There is nothing better than a friend who's going through the exact things you do. The advantage of such a friend is that the person will never give you advice that is condescending or non-relevant.

Of course those who do give such advice (including parents and doctors) do so with the best intentions in the world. And sometimes support from these people is absolutely invaluable.

What I am saying is that it is necessary to supplement family and professional support with friendship.

To know you're not alone is perhaps the most vital knowledge in any struggle - whether for life or for sanity. I found a friend in an Internet support group focusing on mental illness. If it were not for her, I can honestly not say that I would be here, and relatively sane, and able to help Darling.

No person supports, understands and helps like a friend.

Posted by cathi at 08:08 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack (346)

February 19, 2004

He Loves Me Not...

Or does he? One of the things that is hardest on the loved ones of a person suffering from schizophrenia is the sufferer's apparent emotional distance. The illness messes with a person's ability to show emotion in an appropriate way. And this often makes loved ones feel unloved and unappreciated.

The closer you therefore are to a mentally ill person, the more you suffer emotionally. Such suffering is especially hard to deal with because the illness is not constant. Suffering is therefore also not constant. At one moment the ill person could be love and light itself, while the very next day thunder looms on the horizon. And the silent storm begins.

How do you make him (or indeed her) see what this is doing to you? The sad answer is that you can't. The very nature of the illness disables the afflicted to truly understand what this is doing to those around them. No amount of talking or arguing can make much difference. Indeed, talking or arguing often makes things worse.

I have often thought that living with my ill husband and his child is like having to deal with two children in my house. But at least the kid will grow up!

Hard though it is, it is possible to find a safe haven within these silences and storms. One important thing to remember is that those with schizophrenia are not stable, and therefore no emotion attached to them will be stable. If you want stability, you'll have to find it somewhere else. And where better to look than within yourself? Below are a couple of suggestions for using your own spirit to create safety within the storm:

* Find things apart from the ill person to make you happy. If you don't have one, find a hobby you can be absorbed in. Make some friends, or get a pet, or read uplifting books.

* Connect with your spirituality. This can take any form from the traditional to the occult. You could go to church, meditate, pray, or find a spiritual leader whose ideals are meaningful to you. The purpose is to find a stable spiritual basis to keep you safe in the storm.

* Find simple things in every day life to feel positive about. The beauty of sunshine, the freshness of rain, or a child's smile could be examples. Concentrate on enjoying what your physical senses bring to you.

Doing things that make you happy without having to depend on your mentally ill loved one for this happiness will help you deal better with the pain when there is a relapse. If you're more stable, you can better provide your loved one with the environment that is needed for optimal mental health. So take the responsibility for making yourself feel good.

He does love me, even if it is hard for him to show. And I love him. But more importantly, I love myself.

Posted by cathi at 08:08 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (342)

February 12, 2004

Acceptance: the Key

My denial grew from his. For ten years, Daniel was unable to accept or even believe what doctors told him. Not that I blame him. Who would want to believe there's an illness eating your brain? And I loved him. So I didn't want to believe it either.

The denial didn't help matters. He didn't take his medication. We both suffered from his episodes.

Things weren't all bad. Daniel would have good and bad episodes intermittently. The good times were really fabulous.

But accepting a problem is the key to dealing with it. The first part of this key was accepting myself. You can't fix something that you think isn't broken. I had been broken for ten years before acknowledging it. When I did I began working on my denial. I accepted that I was a wreck, and I accepted that Daniel was ill. This made things easier for both of us. Being able to keep my own emotions intact helped a great deal towards getting him better sooner, and getting him to accept help.

I think he is still working on his denial issues. I'm trying to help where I can.

As part of the key, I had to learn to accept Daniel unconditionally. I'm accepting him now without trying to work on his problems for him. I am his partner; not his mother. Accepting him with his illness also translates to dealing with my other emotional issues better.

So my no turns to yes. And my broken, frozen heart has begun to thaw. It is a struggle every day to keep this up. But it is also strangely enough easier than trying to deny what is so obvious.

Because I accept myself, the problem and Daniel, I am able to deal fearlessly with whatever is tossed our way in this stormy sea. Acceptance is the key that unlocks the door to true joy and ultimate success.

The silent storm rages on, but sunshine seeps in on occasion. And that is good.

Posted by cathi at 09:02 AM | Comments (2)