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Editorial Biotech

Schizophrenia Experiences and Suggestions? 1128

Posted by Cliff
from the dealing-with-an-illness-in-the-family dept.
Jagercola asks: "My sister was recently diagnosed with Schizophrenia. It's a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disease that we don't know a lot about. The movie, A Beautiful Mind, paints an accurate picture of how the disease affects someone in a best case scenario. I would like the vast audience here to help me understand the disease through experiences and that it might help me aid my sister. If you know someone how has the disease, how has it affected your and their life? How have you been able to cope with it? What are the long term implications for quality of life?"
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Schizophrenia Experiences and Suggestions?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:12AM (#9216317)
    is if Slashdot posts this again tomorrow. :P
  • Just Remember... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:13AM (#9216332)
    Too many people confuse Schizophrenia with Multiple Personality Disorder. The two are related, but are not the same thing.
    • Re:Just Remember... (Score:5, Informative)

      by kakos (610660) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:39AM (#9216845)
      Actually, they are not related. Multiple Personality Disorder (more accurately known as Dissociative Identity Disorder) is a dissociative mental disorder. Schizophrenia is a very seperate classification of mental disorders. What cause schizophrenia and dissociative disorders is very different and the symptoms are very different.

      Not only are the two not the same thing, they are COMPLETELY unrelated.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:13AM (#9216336)
    no, you don't.
  • k5 (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrZaius (321037) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:14AM (#9216355) Homepage
    Go to Kuro5hin. [kuro5hin.org] There's a number of fascinating, lengthy, relevant articles on the subject there.
  • Find out more (Score:5, Informative)

    by nizo (81281) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:15AM (#9216364) Homepage Journal
    You should certainly read more about it (sorry I have no books to recommend). My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was a kid; he eventually committed suicide when the doctor decided to reduce his medication (a little too quickly apparently). Also since there is a genetic component to schizophrenia, you might want to investigate early symptoms and keep an eye on your kids. This website [narsad.org] would probably be worth taking a look at too.
    • Yes, find out more (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spellraiser (764337) on Friday May 21, 2004 @12:04PM (#9217287) Journal

      Wow, who would have thought I'd see this on slashdot? It makes little sense to post this question here, but yet, it was posted. And I am reading it. Which is ... interesting, since my brother too was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a little over two years ago now. This thread shouts out to me to say something about it, but I find now that it is harder than it seems.

      He's my twin brother, not identical, but still very much a kindred spirit of mine. We got along very well in our youths, and were each other's best friend for many years. But then, slowly, almost unnoticably, we began to grow apart. While I, in my own geekish, unassuming way, started to mature into at least a semblance of adulthood, he seemed to resist it, opting instead to retreat further and further into his own internal world.

      His is truly a Beautiful Mind; he is brilliant in many fields, not least language and lingustics. But more often than not, his mind was incorrecly applied, with sad results. For instance, one long period of his life was mostly spent lamenting the fact that the world does not share a single language. It seemed a little funny to others, including me, of course, but to him it was no joke. He would truly suffer emotionally as a result of this and other obsessions.

      When the 'crash' came, he had deteriorated quite badly. Although he never did drugs or alchohol of any sort, as is common with schizophrenics, he might as well have. He was unemployed and not in school, moping around the house (our parents' house, where the both of us still lived at the time). He would seldom go outside, and would sit inside his room listening to esoteric music and writing furiously on any scrap of paper he could find. This had been a long-time habit of his, and he was (and is) a brilliant writer, but we would soon find out that these latest writings of his were of a rather sinister nature. It was typical schizophrenic musings; his imagined conversations with a supernatural being who was leading him through some sorts of rites of power, through which he would realize his true spiritual potential. If only that had been true.

      Like I said, it has been 2 years now, and the situation isn't much better than it was in the beginning. My brother is still in and out of institutions, heavily medicated, and inactive. He is, frankly, a shell of what he used to be, and we can only hope this will change ... someday. Yes, the film 'A Beautiful Mind' was truly a best-case scenario. Although my brother is probably not a worst-case scenario, he is pretty far from the almost-happy ideal portrayed in the film. He cannot control his fits in any rational manner.

      Schizophrenia is not just seeing imaginary people. More often than not, that doesn't happen at all. Extreme, debilitating bouts of irrational, uncomfortable ideas, thoughts and feelings are more common, often followed by hallucinations of many sorts. Most of the time, it is things you cannot simply block out just by concentrating. The disease is hopelessly irrational, and it hijacks the brain completely. In fact, it becomes your brain, in a manner of speaking. How can you use your brain to supress something when it's your brain itself that needs to be supressed?

      I know this isn't very comforting, but it is the truth. And, perhaps I myself will feel a little better after having shared this with the world.

      • by stry_cat (558859)

        Wow, who would have thought I'd see this on slashdot? It makes little sense to post this question here, but yet, it was posted.

        I think it makes some sense. I imagine most /. readers are male, in their teens & 20's, and are socially isolated weirdos. Aren't most people who are diagnosed with Schizophrenia male in their 20's and socially isolated weirdos?

        Try the Personality Disorder Quiz [4degreez.com]

  • God be with you (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hiawatha (13285) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:15AM (#9216368)
    I'm sorry to hear of your trouble. I offer prayers for you and your sister.
  • A Beautiful Mind... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by david.gilbert (605443) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:16AM (#9216373)
    That was an excellent movie, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it an "accurate picture". I also read the book and I don't know if I'd describe Nash's experience as a "best case scenario" - maybe it is, for that particular disease, but it didn't sound too good to me.
  • by affsol (576807) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:17AM (#9216397)
    Try www.nami.org to start. It is an orginaztion for both family, friends and consumers. Also your local state office of Mental Illness can help get you resources. Mental Illnes is nothing to be embarressed about, it is a physical disease like any other disease.
  • Take the medication (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:17AM (#9216400)
    A friend of mine in college was schizophrenic. He was fine as long as he took his meds and in fact I knew him about 6 months before I even knew he had the disease. Two problems. First, he occasionally liked to smoke pot and that seemed to interfere with his medication. Second, one of his symptoms was paranoia so if he missed a couple of doses (or smoked too much) he would start thinking the medicine was just there to control his mind, and he'd quit taking it - then would begin a weeks-long slide that would end with him becoming homeless and getting arrested for assault or vandalism. He would get violent so they would institutionalize him for a while and he would recover in a few weeks and get released, able to function normally again. If only I could have got him to quit smoking pot he could have held down a job and finished college. Last I heard he had moved back in with his parents and was doing fine because they made sure he took his meds.
    • by Viv (54519) on Friday May 21, 2004 @03:08PM (#9219620)
      The poster above CAN NOT overemphasize the rule: TAKE YOUR MEDS!

      Schitzophrenics especially have a BAD habit of going off of their meds -- they'll take their meds, and because they feel better, they'll think they're cured. Then they'll stop taking their meds. Then they'll go batshit insane.

      YOU AND YOUR FAMILY WILL HAVE TO HELP MONITOR THE MEDS. You will almost certainly not be able to trust your sister to stay on them, not for at least TEN years of her taking them, with the associated slides of her going off the meds.

      I have an acquaintance who could not be trusted not to go off of the meds for literally 20 years after starting them.

      Let me repeat: TAKE THE MEDS. DO NOT LET HER SELF-MONITOR. CHECK UP ON HER. TAKE THE MEDS. TAKE THE MEDS. TAKE THE MEDS.

      I do not usually use caps this much, but it is that important. TAKE THE MEDS. MONITOR. TAKE THE MEDS TAKE THE MEDS TAKE THE MEDS.

      Besides that, often times, the illness combined with the medication make it impossible to work. DO NOT EVER MAKE THE MISTAKE OF ASSUMING THIS CAN BE CURED. I know a couple who spent literally millions of dollars trying to avoid their kid having the stigma of having "schitzophrenic" on the record, and they refused to have her put on social security disability, etc. DO NOT PERMIT YOUR PARENTS TO MAKE THAT MISTAKE. If it looks like she's not going to be able to work, IMMEDIATELY start working on getting her on social security disability. It will pay a stipend and medical, which is one less thing your family will have to cover.

      But most important, TAKE THE MEDS.
  • by alen (225700) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:17AM (#9216405)
    He thought everyone was out to get him. In the end he was diagnosed with cancer and refused all treatment because he thought it was a plot against him. He sued several government agencies because he thought they were after him.

    Best treatment is drugs which seemed to help somewhat. As far as coping watch what you say around the person.
  • Kuro5hin (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arvindn (542080) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:17AM (#9216409) Homepage Journal
    There have been many stories on Kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org] by people with mental disorders. Take a look at Living With Schizophrenia [kuro5hin.org]. More recent, but not very relevant to the question is Living with Asperger's Syndrome [kuro5hin.org], also a fascinating read.
  • Meds, Meds, Meds. (Score:5, Informative)

    by dameron (307970) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:18AM (#9216430) Homepage
    All this depends on the severity and type of schizophrenia she has, and this advice only comes second hand, but:

    It may take a long time for your sister's doctors to find the right combination of drugs and dosages to best manage her symptoms, but there is hope that eventually she can live a reasonably normal life.

    However, it is very dangerous and sadly common that once her therapy starts working she'll feel so much better she may stop taking her meds, relapse, get remedicated, feel better, stop taking the meds, relapse and so on.

    Good luck to both of you,

    -dameron
    • by TheMCP (121589) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:24PM (#9218460) Homepage
      My mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when I was 3. She took her meds until I was 5, when she decided she felt so good and symptom free that she didn't need the meds any more, and stopped taking them. Permanently.

      She was an intensive care nurse, she should have known better.

      This began her slide into increasing insanity as the years went by. My father stuck around, knowing that if he left her she'd take me and ruin my life forever, and waited. When I was 12 I figured out she was completely out of control, and told my father "Mom's crazy, I'm leaving so she won't hurt me, are you coming?" and he left with me and divorced her. Getting a legal separation from her ruined my father, and myself, financially. She took him for all he was worth, and took my entire college fund along with it. There are many other lasting problems in our lives that she caused, like that she didn't let me have friends as a child so I still have difficulty socializing, that she destroyed most of the family photos, so my father has practically no pictures of me as a child, or that 20 years later I still have nightmares about her regularly, or that 20 years later I can tell my father still misses the beautiful and loving woman he married, who just disappeared into insanity.

      Over the next 6 years she made at least three, and possibly four attempts to kill me. It's hard to say what to think about the fourth, because while it was unquestionably a murder attempt, she was so delusional by that point that she was trying to kill my father and couldn't tell I wasn't him.

      When I was 18, I moved 350 miles away from her and didn't tell her where I'd gone. My aunts and uncles, not realizing the severity of her illness, told her anyway, and she showed up on my doorstep. I eventually had to move several times, change my phone number several times, and stop telling my family where I lived in order to escape from her. I have not seen her in about 15 years, and pray that I will never see her again.

      When I was 20 or so, she murdered my uncle, and has been institutionalized since.

      I have two bits of advice for people dealing with a loved one with schizophrenia. Firstly, dameron is right, MEDS MEDS MEDS. If they get on their meds early after developing symptoms and take them regularly FOREVER, they can live a relatively normal life. Unfortunately, schizophrenics are notorious for going off their meds. My father took me to several mental health professionals who advised me on how to deal with my mother, and what they all told me was that schizophrenia is cumulative: the meds prevent it from getting worse and reduce the immediate symptoms, but the longer it goes untreated the worse it gets and it will never get better. So, after 17 years of no treatment, my mother was incurably insane, and all meds could do was stop her from getting even worse and make her more controllable.

      The second piece of advice I give you is, if the person goes off their meds and doesn't get on again almost immediately, push them out of your life, get them as far away from you and your family as you can, and if you have to, pack up and move to get away from them. Once they get really bad, nothing will stop them from trying to come interfere with your life. Nothing. Not court orders, not police, they won't care about those things. (Or, if they're paranoid, those things may just agitate them into worse behavior. My mother's reaction to a restraining order was to show up at my house and try to beat down the door in a blind rage.) You'll never be safe again. Escape while you still can. This is what the doctors advised my father, it's why he divorced my mother, and it's why he and I are alive today. Even if they're not violent, they'll just keep showing up and making a severe nuisance of themselves and disrupting your life until they make it into a living hell.
      • My God (Score:5, Insightful)

        by The Tyro (247333) on Friday May 21, 2004 @02:15PM (#9219057)
        what a story... there you have it, folks... straight from the horse's mouth. Tom, my heart goes out to your family; talk about living a nightmare.

        While schizophrenics are often characterized as violent and dangerous (and some definitely are), they are usually more dangerous to themselves... about 10% end up committing suicide. Paranoid schizophrenics can commit violence against those around them, particularly if those people are included as a part of their delusions of persecution.

        I'll never forget an older grandmother that a middle-aged daughter brought into my ER... that older family member was schizophrenic, lived with them, and had made dinner for the whole house (BIG family). Thank God the daughter caught the mother as she was stirring the rat poison into the food... a lot of it. (she was convinced the family was trying to kill her, and was going to do them in first).

        It happens, folks... and schizophrenia is a life-long illness. One of relatives has an 20-years-past ex-wife that he STILL gets called about every time she gets arrested or institutionalized. Why? She always gives them my uncle's address and phone number as her "husband." Incidently, she always seems to have his current contact info, despite being unlisted/unpublished, despite moving multiple times, and despite the fact that they haven't spoken in 15 years. Yeah... think about that in the wee hours of the morning...

        It's already been said, but mental illness is sometimes just as hard on the family as it is on the patient.
  • by invid (163714) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:18AM (#9216439) Homepage
    I used to volunteer on at a schizophrenia ward at a psychiatric hospital when I studied psychology. People would be admitted, get put on meds, stay for awhile until the meds took effect, and then go back out on their own. Once on their own many would think they were 'cured' and stop taking their meds. Then they would have another episode and end up back at the hospital. So my advice is to support her in taking meds. The right type and dose of medication is crucial to a good quality of life. It may take awhile for the doctors to get that right, and it is important to support her while they try.
    • by MourningBlade (182180) on Friday May 21, 2004 @12:21PM (#9217554) Homepage

      The problem is balancing helping take medication with harassing her into taking her medicine.

      When I was first diagnosed, my family would bug me all the time "did you take your medication", "it's time for your medication", "what do you mean you forgot? You take it every day!"

      Whenever I had a bad day, or was just thinking about something, it was a "sign that I hadn't been taking the medication."

      After a while, you wonder whom the medication is for? Maybe a sedative for the folks would work out in everyone's best interest.

      With alcoholics, after they sober up for a little while they start having family problems. Of course, they've always had them. The alcoholic's problem enabled the family to ignore their own, concentrating on his/hers. When that problem is no longer there, there is a noted tendency for the family to constantly harp on the problem as a tool in every family fight. After a while, the alcoholic starts wondering that, as long as he's getting blamed for it still, he might as well have a drink now and then....

      If there've been troubles due to a mental disorder, there's usually some of that there. Don't be fooled by how concerned/relieved people seem by the diagnosis. Watch to make sure that they don't use the diagnosis as an excuse. With daughters it's often an excuse to remove their freedom of choice. I've seen it happen more than a few times.

      These are all reasons why people stop taking the medication. Also, they just stop feeling like themselves. Bipolars, such as myself, are well known for getting off medication because they "just don't feel right."

      In addition, don't let the doctors bullshit you: some of the medications have side effects. Most of them do. Besides the physical ones, there's the mental ones. Every bipolar I know of has complained about the medication reducing their creativity, and whether or not it's in their head it does seem to be an effect.

      Many of the anti-psychotic agents these days are far more gentle than before (the older medications were bad shit), but they're still known to change people a bit.

      What I'm saying is that people have very good reasons for mistrusting or disliking the medication. It is important to take it, but don't let the medication be your reasons for interacting. Don't let it be a sword hanging over your relationship.

      • by nettdata (88196) on Friday May 21, 2004 @02:18PM (#9219097) Homepage
        I agree 100%... my wife has had a mental illness for over 20 years, and she's the "sanest crazy person I know". She's been certified, sometimes institutionalized, but overall, she's incredibly smart and got her shit together.

        Over the years, she's learned that she seems to know more about what is going on with her than the doctors do, as they seem to be guessing half the time and usually try to treat her through more of a trial and error routine than accurate diagnosis. Part of the problem is that she isn't 100% bi-polar, or 100% schitsophrenic... she's got some symptoms of each.

        At the end of the day, however, her current Dr. of about 3 years has let her pretty well self-medicate, and it seems to be going very, very well. She's had only one 2-day bout of depression where she had to be institutionalized in that time, and it seemed to have been brought on by an improper filling of the prescription. She's very lucky, though, in that she knows when she has to go to the hospital, and she initiated the institutionalization process.

        More than anything, though, I've learned that she has some days where things don't go well, and she just needs her space, and I don't take her "bad attitude" personally if/when it happens.

        One thing I have found to be incredibly reassuring, however, is that she has a natural ability with helping other people with mental illness deal with their issues... people seek her out for her advice. We were even in the local Chapters book store the other day, and she saw someone checking out "surviving schitsophrenia", and she talked to him for a bit, only to find that his brother had just committed suicide 2 days earlier, and he himself was starting to show the early warning signs of the disease, and was scared. She told me to go grab a Starbuck's and come back in an hour, and she proceeded to talk to the guy for an hour. When I came back, he was no longer the emotional wreck he started out as, and seemed much more confident and way less scared than he'd started out.

  • by Ayaress (662020) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:19AM (#9216452) Journal
    My uncle particularly managed to live with it quite well. He went to special schools when he was growing up. I don't know what they did, but apparantly they have special teaching techniques that could give him employable skills. I remember my psychology professor talking about how experiments have been done like teaching autistic children to perform fairly complex tasks through repetitive conditioning, rather than traditional teaching. It could be something like that. He certainly didn't get a full education (no science or history, minimal math, basically enough English to read the newspaper)

    Between medicine and education, he's managed to make a decent living as an electrician. They recently put him on a new set of medications, and he seems perfectly normal to talk to now.
  • by linzeal (197905) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:20AM (#9216473) Homepage Journal
    I've had a good friend up here who recently turned 21 and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He really is not the same person I knew even a short 2 years ago, and I don't really miss the old person so much as wish I could know the new person better. He is secretive about his hallucinations until he gets messed up on speed or really really drunk than he goes haywire and his parents have had to call the police 2 times to remove him. They changed the locks recently too, because he would come in and just sit there in the middle of the night on the couch while everyone else was asleep listening for the boogie men. He really loves his family and thinks he is protecting himself and them from unseen forces, but in reality he is just freaking everyone out. The amount of speed this poor boy did in his life time has increased the likliehood of schizophrenia and since he is an addict and does not take his psych meds in a regular manner the periods of normalacy in his life are becoming grim caricutures of himself. Like he is reanimating a dead person when he speaks of himself without the diseaese. He does not believe he will ever be well again.

    I drive this cat around town about once to twice a week to the doctor or to pick up his SSI check. Since he has been living on his own in a little rent control apartment he has been doing moderately better, but I think it would be best if he would also go back to college and finish his psychology degree (only has a year left). He knows better than anyone amongst his family and friends what the disease is but still thinks he is special that his demons are real, it is very sad. I wish they could cure things like this, but barring a wholesale revolution in the way we treat mental diseases that will not happen.

  • by Linus Sixpack (709619) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:24AM (#9216545) Journal
    My sympathies for your sisters condition. About the only thing I can think of saying is treasure the best times more than the bad times. Remember that even in outbursts you hate or cant understand she is suffering too.

    I would take any response you get here with a grain of salt and a suit of armor. Some of it will be geeky resentment at the topic not mentioning an operating system and some will be complete lack of empathy or experience.

    Find a newsgroup or a circle of people confronting this illness. Its not well uderstood so its even harder to explain.

    There is a schizophrenia.com that looks to have a bunch of stuff to start.

    http://www.schizophrenia.com/

    ls
  • serious response (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fraccy (780466) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:26AM (#9216586) Homepage
    First of all, anybody with moderating experience, please remove any of the attempts to be funny I've just observed in the comments above here. Schizophrenia is not to be taken lightly. My closest friend was diagnosed with it about 8 years ago. It comes in many different forms of varying severity. For me as his friend and closest support outside his family (who didn't help, they had a similar aversion to the disease as displayed by the FOOLS who have commented above) it was traumatic. Someone who I felt I knew because someone who I didn't feel I knew, even though it was the same person. It did, in the short term, destroy his life. Heavy drugs and intensive therapy (etc) were the run of the mill for a good deal of time, and an element of that remains with him today. His life never returned quite to normal. I don't want to fill you with gloom, like I say every case is different. What I will say is they'll need you every step of the way, and if you hang in there, you will be rewarded - and by that I mean the person you cared about before will still be there and show through, and they won't go away completely - it can feel like that. My sister was diagnosed with a different form of mental illness, and so I fully sympathise with your position. If I can be of any help as a third party in sharing your concerns, feel free to email me at fraccy4@hotmail.com. ps to the purveyors of the foolish comments above, you're ignorant, and if I had you here in person, you'd get a smack in the mouth.
  • Medical facts (Score:3, Informative)

    by drmike0099 (625308) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:29AM (#9216644)

    Reading the original post and the above posts makes it very obvious that schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood diseases. Schizophrenia is actually quite well studied, and there are some great medicines to help treat it. The problem is that schizophrenics are not well-prepared (gross generalization here) to take their medicine consistently, and sometimes need help with that.

    Also (and this is a big pet peeve of everyone who actually knows anything about the disease), schizophrenia does NOT mean you have multiple personalities. That is multiple personality disorder. Schizophrenia literally means "split mind" if you look at the roots of the word, but that means that their mind is split from reality and that they live in their own internally-created world, not that their mind is split into two or more pieces.

    To answer your question, though, it's something that you need to take seriously, and you've done that by asking the right question (although frankly from the wrong people). There are probably a lot of online groups where you could learn more facts about the disease (i.e. schizophrenia.com [schizophrenia.com] seems legit). Educate yourself as much as you can.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:30AM (#9216663)
    My ex-girlfriend is a schizophrenic. When I met her, I could tell she was a very unique person, but I'd honestly never have guessed that she was so seriously ill. When properly medicated (antipsychotics, antianxieties, antidepressants), she was for the most part a normal person.

    For the most part. 6 months couldn't go by without some sort of psychotic lapse. She could always feel it coming on days or weeks prior, and could voice her anxiety about it, but was terrified because she couldn't do anything about it. Doctors would up her doses of medication, but it wouldn't help. Before I knew it, little episodes would become more common...we'd be in the middle of a conversation and she'd be staring off into space, her voice would lower to almost mumbling, and I'd not be able to get her attention for up to a minute or two. She'd have no recollection of it, deny that it happened. She'd spin around to catch people that she 'saw' in the mirror behind her. These were the signs that a real lapse was coming.

    The real psychotic lapses were the dangerous ones. Self mutilation, overdoses on massive amounts of pills, or worse...finding her screaming, clawing at her skin, not able to recognize anyone (myself included) from whatever horrible visions she was in the midst of. I got used to visiting the "behavioral medicine" department at all the general hospitals in the area, as well as the full-blown mental hospitals.

    She turned out to be generally terrible with long-term personal relationships (surprise.), whether with a friend or a boyfriend, and I stuck around much longer than I should have. It's very difficult to fall in love with someone so internally tortured.

    Oh, and the medication they use to dull a schizophrenic's brain with have some horrible side effects. She slept 12 - 15 hours a day, and couldn't enjoy sex because the antipsychotics prevented her from ever having an orgasm.

    Hrmph, posting anonymously for the first time ever because this post actually chokes me up.
  • My friend (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cranx (456394) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:34AM (#9216739)
    A friend of mine went undiagnosed as a schizophrenic, then attacked someone completely at random one day when he was around 19 or 20, got a couple years in the pokey, got diagnosed in there, did pretty well on meds until he got out, then while on probation, did something, cops came to the door, he freaked out and thought they were coming for him, so he grabbed a shotgun, ran out the back door, jumped a couple yard fences into someone else's backyard, then as they started to close in on him, he put the shotgun up under his chin and took his own head off. Apparently, no one checked to see that he was taking his meds, and he started saying "the voices are telling me to kill you, but I know they're not real, so don't worry, I won't listen to them."
  • NAMI (Score:5, Informative)

    by dan_bethe (134253) <slashdot&smuckola,org> on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:35AM (#9216743)
    Get literate and highly community active, and double check all your mental health professionals. You may still have time to contain or reverse the most severe symptoms.

    Don't confuse schizophrenia vs. manic depression with paranoid delusions or other personality disorders. As I understand it, the distinction is that schizophrenics hallucinate (have false senses in realtime, as if something is really seen or heard) whereas that type of manic depressives do not (they may confabulate memories of having seen or heard something).

  • Had some cousins... (Score:3, Informative)

    by jafiwam (310805) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:36AM (#9216786) Homepage Journal
    that had it. I can only sumarize my advice in a few words:

    stay on the meds stay on the meds stay on the meds stay on the fucking meds.

    Problem is, the patients do not like them, and quite often get emotional or physical rushes from not being on the meds. They have to have a good support structure to keep them on the meds.

    It's hard to keep up with it, but if your sister avoids things like self-mutilation and so on it's worthwhile.
  • Schematic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Milo Fungus (232863) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:37AM (#9216806)

    I did a bit of research about schizophrenia a few years ago, and one thing that I read stands out in my memory more than anything else. One very common symptom of schizophrenia is hallucination, and I was a bit surprised (although I immediately realized that I shouldn't have been) when I read that hallucinations can involve any of the five senses, or combinations of them. Tactile hallucinations are quite common.

    Anyway, the thing that stands out in my memory was a schematic diagram of the brain that had two boxes, each with arrows pointing to a third box in the center. The two boxes were labeled "SENSATION" and "THOUGHT" and the third box in the center was labeled "INTEGRATION". The narrative on the opposite page explained that you can think of the brain as an integrator of thoughts and sensations, and that hallucination represents a "crossed wire" in the integration center so that the brain perceives a thought as a sensation. For example, a person may think of spiders crawling on their skin, but the brain interprets that thought as the actual sensation.

    This simplified schematic model made good sense to me, and helped me to understand the phenomenon in a more analytical way, rather than just being scared of the unknown.

    I've never seen the movie, but I have seen a PBS documentary about John Nash called A Beautiful Madness [biomedcentral.com]. It was quite interesting and talked about his condition in some depth.

    Also, check out the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] on the disease. (There's probably a good article about John Nash as well, while you're at it.)

    It's been my experience (I've just been accepted to medical school) that medical conditions or procedures that are initially "scary", "disturbing" or "gross" become easier to cope with after a bit of education. Science can do wonders to calm the soul, if the condition is one that is well understood. You're correct that our current understanding of schizophrenia is relatively incomplete, but it is much better than it was in Nash's day. Where the answers are not available (or are not satisfying), you can always find comfort in some good, old-fashioned prayer or meditation.

  • by TheTXLibra (781128) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:40AM (#9216853) Homepage Journal
    As a diagnosed schizophrenic, I can offer some slices of what's in store, and a little more info:
    • Medication: A lot of the quality of life is going to depend upon her medication. Stelazine, for instance, made me completely numb to life. While it stops the audial/visual hallucenations, it also blocks creativity, sex drive, and emotion. Unfortunately, those are very common side effects to many anti-psychotic medications. I can't tell you the medical reason why, only that it heavily depends upon the individual's brain chemistry. She may end up going through 5-10 different meds before she finds a balance between supression of the illness, and supression of one's emotional life.
    • Paranoia: This is probably the worst effect she will have to deal with. It can be mild (ie. "Did you hear something?") to extreme (ie. "You're trying to poison my food!"), and it can bounce between the two based on stimulus. Two bits of advice. NEVER lie to her. Once you have, you get categorized as someone who has lied. It doesn't matter about the reason. Even if the truth hurts, and she screams that she hates you, as long as you maintain her trust, you have a chance to be her confidant. Secondly, don't dismiss her paranoia. Sometimes, in the throws of "everyone is out to get me", a schizophrenic just needs to vent. Instead of saying "You're just being paranoid", give them rational fact against their feats, and accept the fact that it might do nothing to dissuade them. Illogical fear is simply a fact of Schizophrenia.
    • Nymphomania/Frigidity: Without medication, she might either become a roaring slut, or a frigid ice queen. Or neither, but most likely, expect some sexual tendancies that are deviant from the norm.
    • Hallucinations: There will most likely be audial and/or visual hallucinations. The frequency and intensity will largely depend again on her chemistry, medication, and how severe the illness is. I fortunately have a very light case, and mine have usually been limited to something as mild as a woman leaning against a wall, and whisperings. As long as she can keep aware of what logically should and should not be there, she can dismiss these as "background noise". Sometimes she won't be able to ignore these, and it will cause sleepless nights and agitated working conditions. In this case, I recommend a soporific. With sleep, the symptoms will often die down. However, thanks to paranoia, you might have trouble getting her to take them. Seriously, though, a doctor's opinion is vital on this aspect. She might have them so bad she cannot drive.
    • Severe Mood Swings: Schizophrenics are often ruled by their emotional state. I call my bad days "Black Moods". You would probably do best to steer clear of her on these days, unless she actually seeks you out. Then be there for her, but don't try to be "proactive" in solving whatever sparked the emotional problem. This will usually pass, followed by remorse and apology. Try to be understanding.
    • Barriers: Set barriers as well. If her case is light enough that she can more or less live a normal life on her own, she needs to know what barriers there are going to be, up front. As with many other mental illnesses, there are certain individuals who latch onto someone, much in the way a drowning victim does, and won't let them go, effectively ruining their life. Don't let this happen to you. Fortunately, I've always been of the isolationist variety. It's others that must respect -my- barriers. This might also happen to her. If it does, then respect her wishes as much as is reasonable.
    I hope this helps. If you want to know more detailed information, I would recommend first having her fully diagnosed, and find out the degree and specific symptoms. You can ask me whatever questions you like, and I will try to answer, but the truth is, schizophrenia is different for each person who has it. The best person to ask "what's it like" is her. -TheTXLibra
    "You've got no kids, no wife, no job, and you're not in The Tigger Movie!!!" - my best friend's son, Gabe, at 5 years old. [everything2.com]
  • by YoJ (20860) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:40AM (#9216864) Journal
    At UIUC a while ago in the math department there was an Egyptian guy that was kind of odd. Saying someone in a math department is kind of odd is like saying Slashdot readers kind of don't like software patents; everyone knows it, and no matter how you say it you radically underestimate the true situation. Anyway, this guy fit right in and people saw him around for a year and didn't think much of it. Depending on who he talked to, he either claimed to be a new professor, a new postdoc, or just a grad student. We all figured he was a slightly older grad student with image issues.

    Occassionally people saw him brushing his teeth in the bathroom, but no-one thought that was weird. I think some people knew he spent the night at the department sometimes, but even that is not too weird. Heck, I've done it myself when I had a final exam due at 8am the next morning. But somehow, someone finally checked his ID carefully against official documents and discovered that he was neither a student nor a postdoc, nor a professor. It turns out he was an escaped mental patient that was living in the department, carrying around math books.

    So the point is, if an escaped mental patient can live in a big math department for a YEAR before being found out, that tells you something about how close real mathematicians are to mental patients, and how tolerant they are of mental "quirks" in their colleagues. It's no accident that John Nash (of A Beautiful Mind) was a mathematician.

    My advice to all schizophrenics: become mathematicians (or artists).

    • by mbkennel (97636) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:27PM (#9218494)

      Unlike how it was implied in the movie "A Beautiful Mind", John Nash was a successful mathemetician, without illness, for quite a number of years.

      He graduated with PhD from Princeton at a very young age (given his talent), and had at least 10 years of a very promising career until his illness hit. It was apparently atypically late for schizophrenics which also may account for his later ability to control it.

      Once his illness struck he was useless professionally.

      Many years later with his discipline and partial remission he can now function in society but he can't produce research mathematics any more.
  • Here is the scoop (Score:3, Informative)

    by CrayzyJ (222675) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:41AM (#9216888) Homepage Journal
    First and foremost, I am sorry to hear about your sister. Be prepared for everyone to mix up schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. Until a handful of years ago, they were thought to be the same thing. We now know they are not. Much IS known about the disorder, so spend some time googling around.

    To be 100% clear, the disorder is MUCH harder on the family than it is on the afflicted. Since family members freak out and do not know how to cope, most people with the disorder live in isolation which agrrevates the problem.

    "how has it affected your and their life?"
    If you truly love your sister, this should have NO impact on your life. She is still a person and still your sister. She may act differently than the rest of the world at times. Who cares what a world full of idiots think anyway?

    "How have you been able to cope with it?"
    You cope by coming to terms with it. Don't "freak out" by abnormal behavior.

    What are the long term implications for quality of life?
    For whom? You or her. If you are asking about yourself, then all is lost. I assume you are asking about her. In this case, it depends on the severity of the illness and the reaction to medication. In mild forms and/or with medication people with this disorder can lead normal regular lives (YMMV). As I stated before, the worst thing that can happen is all of her family and friends abondon her - that, is the tragedy of the disorder.

    Good luck. Post any other questions under this thread. I have a ton of information.

  • by pherris (314792) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:44AM (#9216926) Homepage Journal
    Last year Michael Crawford, a talented programmer, wrote a three part series about his experiences with schizophrenia. Great and scary stuff.

    Living with Schizoaffective Disorder (Part I) [kuro5hin.org]

    Living with Schizoaffective Disorder (Part II) [kuro5hin.org]

    Living with Schizoaffective Disorder (Part III) [kuro5hin.org]

  • It's tough (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:48AM (#9216998) Homepage
    My best friend and roommate became schizophrenic while I lived with him. I left the medical stuff to the doctors and just tried to calm him down so he could sleep (which is a big problem when you hear voices). Don't try to argue with them, just make them feel better.
    I learned that the mental health care system in this country sucks. Unless someone is an imminent danger to themselves or others nobody will see you for several weeks. I made dozens of phone calls saying "my friend is hearing voices". Half of the people were like "suuuure...your friend".
    The new medications they have are better than the old stuff. The problem with all mental health medications are that people feel "fine" and decide they don't need the medicine anymore. With schizophrenia, that can have disastrous results (my uncle's friend killed his gf that way). This is sad, but don't expect the person to have the same personality that you remember. They're going to be different and you have to deal with that.

    I know it's a goofy Ask Slashdot. But considering that Schizophrenia mostly affects males 18-30, I'm sure several Slashdotters out there are dealing with something similar in some way.

    -B
  • Schizophrenia (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mad_Rain (674268) on Friday May 21, 2004 @11:55AM (#9217115) Journal
    I want to start by agreeing with many other slashdot posters - You came to the wrong place in general to ask questions about medical health and/or mental health.

    That said, I am a not a doctor, yet. (I'm finishing my PhD in Clinical Psychology) I've worked on a locked inpatient unit with people who have had schizophrenia, and in an outpatient community clinic with a variety of people. So here is my starting advice: You may want to investigate The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill [nami.org], for further information [iseekhealth.com] regarding support groups for mental illness, and make sure that you get supported [mentalwellness.com] while you go through this process of learning and working with family and relatives who have a serious mental illness.

    The bad news is: There is not a cure for schizophrenia. The good news is: It's a chronic illness that can be treated using medication (Some people understand better if they draw comparisons to diabetes, or other chronic physical illnesses). The bad news again is: Medications are still in need of improvement, because a lot of side effects (weight gain, lowered energy and libido) can certainly drive a person away from treatment. The best things that you can do are to provide a stable and caring environment for your relative, encourage them to stay on their medication (even when they're doing well).

    For others of you interested, the "usual" symptoms of schizophrenia are hallucinations (a person sees or hears things that other people do not, usually hearing voices, but it can be anything), delusions (a person believes something illogical or bizarre, like they are under surveillance of the police), and disorganized thinking or behavior. Medications help mostly with the hallucinations, and sometimes with a persons mood; new medications can also help clear their thinking. Psychotherapy with schizophrenic patients can really range, from simple problem-solving and health management (which could cover taking medication or even just taking a shower), to learning how to interpret the emotions and gestures of other people so they get along better with family and friends.

    Again, schizophrenia is a chronic illness, but it is treatable. When a person recieves proper treatment, a person can lead a happy and fulfilling life.
  • by Pedrito (94783) on Friday May 21, 2004 @12:01PM (#9217219) Homepage
    I think one of the most important issues in dealing with schizophrenia is medication. I'll be totally honest in that I don't trust doctors much when it comes to medication. All too often, doctors act like automatons when it comes to prescribing medication. They prescribe the medication, declare they have done their job, and go home.

    In reality, particularly when it comes to mental disorders, finding the right medication or combination of medications should be a long-term exercise in trial-and-error. Some drugs are partially effective, completely ineffective, or have intolerable side-effects. It's almost completely specific to the individual in question.

    For example, I used to suffer from panic attacks and still suffer from some generalized anxiety. Typical treatment is a seratonin-specific reuptake inhibitor (or SSRI, a family of antidepressent). But every drug in this family is slightly different, and while one may work for one person, it may not work for someone else. In my case, Paxil was 100% effective for panic but completely ineffective for generalized anxiety. And don't even get me started on the 3 month withdrawal I went through (while withdrawal from Paxil isn't all that uncommon, 3 months of it is). I was tried other drugs in the SSRI family as well as other anti-depressants in other families.

    The same issues apply to medication for treating schizophrenia. Often you'll want to go through various different medications until you find the one(s) with a combination of efficacy and tolerable or no side-effects. Some of the drugs take weeks to a few months to determine if it works or not, so you really have to hang in there and just ride it out. It can take a long time to find the right medication. Be patient.

    The only other piece of advice I'd give, and it seems like you're already following it (though Slashdot probably isn't the best source), is educate yourself about the condition.

    I wouldn't be surprised if there are peer support web sites around for this. I would try to locate them and get involved. In the case of panic and anxiety, I found the online peer support groups to be a much better source of knowledge than doctors. Largely because, unless the doctor has suffered from the condition, they don't really understand it. Somone who has lived with a schizophrenic relative for 10 years is going to be able to give you a lot more sound advice than a doctor who's only exposure to schizophrenics has been in his office. He hasn't had to manage their lives.

    There's no doubt you're in for a really rough ride. Schizophrenia is a really difficult condition to deal with both for the person who suffers from it and those around them. I wish you the best of luck.
  • My Story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by perljon (530156) on Friday May 21, 2004 @12:08PM (#9217355) Homepage
    I had a family friend whose college buddies/boyfriend where in a tragic car reck and they all died. It was a horrible horrible experience for her...

    She started saying that her friends were talking to her and kept telling her that they were coming for her. She also called up her dad (divorced parents) and asked him why he never told her about her other siblings (besides the one she knew about). It was really weird. They diagnosed her with schiz. and she started to get help.

    She was doing a lot better. It was about a year later. A man was driving down a country road looking out into the field for deer. He wasn't paying attention and he hit her head on. She died. She died a year later in the same way as her friends who she claimed were coming to get here from the other side. It's a true story, but you got to ask yourself, was it delussion or a super natural awareness?
  • by DynaSoar (714234) * on Friday May 21, 2004 @12:11PM (#9217410) Journal
    Sorry, I don't have contact with schizophrenia in my personal life. All mine is in the lab. I do basic perceptual and cognitive psychology experiments on all sorts of people to figure out how the brain works, and fails to work. Schizophrenics is one group I work with.

    Understand that a diagnosis is not the same as a disease. Schizophrenia is a result. It probably has many different causes. The fact that there are several successful yet different lines of research supports that. Hence, any advice may not help, because it may help someone with a different condition that's resulting in schizophrenia, or it may help someone who's trying to cope with someone who has a different cause/kind.

    Outcomes and quality of life are extremely variable. I've done experiments with people I didn't realize were schizophrenic until I read their charts afterward.

    How someone has coped in a position such as yours may or may not help you, but the fact that they did certainly can. Take it as it comes, knowing it might not be easy, but it's possible.
  • by 4of12 (97621) on Friday May 21, 2004 @12:35PM (#9217798) Homepage Journal

    I mean this in all seriousness and without trying to slam mud on the people you love, but

    very often mental illness like schizophrenia is not an individual illness, something that some unlucky person just gets like the clap.

    Rather, it can be the product of years of upbringing in a particular family environment. And, if you've grown up in a particular family, no matter how out-of-norm the behavior patters happen to be, you will be likely to see yourself and your family as "not too far away from normal".

    More than a few case studies have shown how much the family environment has to do with various mental illness.

    My advice?

    Find a competent family counselor and make some appointments with them so you can start to see the bigger picture, where you might be harboring some misconceptions, ways of thinking that might be doing harm both to your sister and to yourself.

    It takes a little courage, but it's worthwhile and you and your sister will feel a lot better in the future.

    If you don't seek help, then you condemn yourself to living in the same old behavior patterns that make you and the ones around you sick.

    • Find a competent family counselor and make some appointments with them so you can start to see the bigger picture, where you might be harboring some misconceptions, ways of thinking that might be doing harm both to your sister and to yourself.

      This is good advice, but I do want to offer a couple of caveats.

      1. Be aware that a "competent" family counselor is going to charge by the hour at a rate that will make you believe you've been consulting with a neurosurgeon. And there's no way to tell a "competent" co
  • My sister was diagnosed as schitzo-affective, a combination of schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder (manic depression), about ten years ago.

    At the time she was diagnosed I was about 16-17, doing exams, growing up, and being a general teenage boy; she was in the middle of a PhD in physics so was at the other end of the country most of the time. As a result, I only saw here at holidays, and even then I was busy revising and stuff, but I still realised that something wasn't right (I knew she was i'll, but she had also been diagnosed as epileptic around the same time so everything kind of blurred). The most striking thing is that the personality can change quite dramatically, there were times when she seemed like a genuinly different person. This can be as a result of the medication, and the disease.

    I personally found this quite hard to deal with, it is very strange seeing someone you thought you knew turn into someone else. I'm not trying to scare you, but it is something that you may need to be prepared for.

    As pointed out by another poster, it will take a long time for the doctors to figure out medication levels; mental illness of all kinds is very person specific, there are no drugs or treatments that work for everyone. Electric shock treatment is considered barbaric and horrific by some, while others report that it worked miracles. There are a wide array of anti-psychotics out there, and even the anti-side-effect meds can have a big effect. It is all about finding the balance, and that takes time.

    The most important thing that you, and the rest of your family can do is be honest and open. My family are not that close, we don't really talk about personal stuff much, and that caused problems, not just for my sister, but also for me. Remember, mental illness in the family can be quite stressfull, and can affect you. You can only help your sister if you look after yourself. Be open and honest, talk to each other. It is important that you create a supportive environment where there is no stigma, and no secrets about what is going on.

    You will need to find a balance between providing support for your sister, and smothering her. She will have to live with her mental illness for the rest of her life, and the best you can do is help her adapt to that reality, and provide support and help when and where she needs it. While medication will help, ultimatly it is down to the individual.

    To give you some hope, my sister is now married, has just had a baby, and is starting a part-time course in medical physics. Up untill last year she had held down a high stress job and performed brilliantly, unfortunatly the firm laid off a large proportion of its workforce, closing down her division in the process. She is stable and living life to the full because she took control of her illness, became pro-active in dealing with the doctors (being a born scientist helps :-> ) and took an active role in monitoring and controlling her condition. Doctors can prescribe her drugs, but she is the only one who can tell them if they are working.

    So, don't dispair, keep it real, keep it normal (when she is stable she needs to be in the real world), and keep supporting her. Most importantly, be prepared to just be there and be someone to talk to, or go to when she needs help. Feel free to e-mail me if you need someone to let off steam. Sorry for rambling, I don't have time to make it more concise. Paul
  • Sympathy and advice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Simon Brooke (45012) * <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Friday May 21, 2004 @12:40PM (#9217872) Homepage Journal
    I worked for a long time with people diagnosed as schizophrenics and still have many friends with the diagnosis (and I've had psychotic episodes myself so I may well be 'schizophrenic' although, thankfully, I've never been diagnosed with that label). And that experience has left me with very mixed feelings about the psychiatric services offered to people who have the diagnosis.

    Be aware that the anti-psychotic drugs given to control schizophrenia, while they do help to keep the more peculiar symptoms under control, are highly toxic in themselves and cause spacticity and brain damage. When you see someone twitching and drooling in the street, they aren't twitching and drooling because they've got schizophrenia, they're twitching and drooling because they're taking drugs to control schizophrenia. Some people who have the diagnosis 'schizophrenia' also have problems sustaining relationships, but again I think this is related to medication. And finally at least some of the medication offered for schizophrenia causes progressive and permanent brain damage.

    Don't worry about the popular perception that schizophrenics are 'dangerous', 'violent', or 'out of control'. It just isn't true. A very tiny group of people who have very severe paranoia are dangerous, but on the whole people of the type who get diagnosed as 'schizophrenic' are quiet and gentle and are dangerous only to themselves.

    Most of the time, for most people who have schizophrenia, schizophrenia isn't a problem. Occasionally it will be a problem. They will experience things the people around them don't experience, and consequently there's a severe dissonance between reality as they experience it and reality as the people around them experience it. And this is very distressing - for everyone, but most of all for the person who is out of step. It is possible for people diagnosed as 'schizophrenic' to live successfully in the community without medication, but this requires a good deal of committment from the people around them to support them and stay with them through the difficult times. Schizophrenic episodes seem in my experience to be at least partly related to stress, so trying to keep stress levels low is a good strategy. Finally, with the best will in the world, if you are dealing with someone who has severe psychotic episodes there will be times when you can't cope and may have to call in the psychiatric services.

    But do bear in mind that however concerned and professional they are the psychiatric profession really do not know what schizophrenia is. They don't know your sister as a person, only as a 'case'; and they don't love her. Their committment to her is is professional, not personal. If you and your family are prepared to put the committment in to supporting her through the difficult patches, there's no reason why your sister shouldn't live a mostly normal life, hold down a job provided it isn't too stressful, and form her own relationships.

  • Delusions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Smallpond (221300) on Friday May 21, 2004 @12:47PM (#9217961) Homepage Journal
    I have a neighbor who gets delusional. It is always an odd experience talking to her in that state. One thing I've often wondered is whether its better to go along or to try and talk her out of the delusions.

    If I start down the path of "I don't think that's true" she will immediately incorporate me into some paranoid belief about them-vs.-her. But if I go along with her delusion, it seems like a cop-out. What do other people do?
  • by jd (1658) <imipakNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:09PM (#9218238) Homepage Journal
    There is an entire spectrum of Schizo-effective disorders. Being at either extreme is never good, but it is important to consider that virtually everyone is on the spectrum somewhere.
  • by plus10db (765395) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:16PM (#9218343)
    Don't be afraid to speak out when you think the person is losing touch, they often appreciate the reality check themselves, but be compassionate. There's a lot of fear based reasoning to contend with but it's a rollercoaster ride that doen't always leave them incapable of seeing themselves, or you, as constants. Be a constant and may you have many pleasant days with your sister.
  • by Gary Destruction (683101) * on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:25PM (#9218470) Journal
    I have some Schizophrenic Writings [silentchaos.com] you can look at. They're were written when I was having schizophrenic episodes back in college. From my own experience, schizophrenia is both bizarre and terrifying. From thinking that I was a knight of Satan to thinking my own doctor was conspiring against me to believing that I was SKYNET wanting humans dead, I've had some off the wall experiences. I've gotten better at catching delusions before they've amounted to much. I just have to make sure that I avoid excessive stress, don't do drugs and get enough sleep. Otherwise, the voices, delusions and hallucinations start.
  • by cnk_coleman (693937) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:57PM (#9218856)
    He was first diagnosed at 15 and he has gone downhill from there. We have had him hospitalized twice and both times he did better as long as he was on his meds. Once he was released he quit taking them and he detiroiated and was back to "normal" (his normal or what we call baseline) in 6 months. We could force him to take meds till he was 18 and now we have to get a court order. Since he is not a danger to himself or others the liberal courts want to protect his rights. Well this is how he expresses his rights. He steps out in front of cars becasue he cannot be hurt or killed. He eats jars of peanut butter for breakfast. lunch and dinner. He stays up for 80 hours at a time and then sleeps for 4 hours and does another 48 hours before catching another nap. He lives with my wife and and has his own room. We used to give him things like clothes and Walkman's because he loves music. But he cuts up the clothers and gives away his stereo, TV, computer and everything else. Now he uses the family computer and gets angry when he asks why he can't have his own and I tell him becasue he gives them away. Some advice. Go to NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) meetings to meet others that have relatives in the same boat. Lower your expectations. Your sister will not recover and will not be successful in the normal sense of the word. Having lower expectations will not put you in a position of being dissappointed. If she does better than you expect you will be surprised rather than dissappointed. Don't be ashamed of her. Mental illness strikes lots of people in every socioeconomic group. While there are some of those that will look down on you by association they are small people with small minds. Not being ashamed will show the world that mental illness is real and needs attention. My wife just told me that her favorite Schizophrenia book is Surviving Schizophrenia by Fuller E Torry. She manages the mental health phone room in a major city and is well respected by her peers. I am a Paramedic and also know how to deal with mental illness in my patients. One comment that my son said when he first got sick was very telling. He told me that if my wife or I wanted a quite time we just turned off the stereo and went into the bedroom. For him the voices were always there and no matter what he did they kept talking to him. He gets no rest. My heart goes out to you. It is a life long struggle but eventually you will get comfortable with it. Realize there is little you can do for her except love her and supprt her. If you try to struggle against it you will only wear yourself down and then you won't be any good at supporting her. Chuck

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