I've been doing all right when it comes to being a supportive mom of an adult son with a schizophrenia diagnosis. I am his life coach, his cheerleader, and his 24/7 shrink. Outside of the home, I try to put a positive face on schizophrenia because I
believe it needs an image make-over and also because I do see a lot of positives in a condition when the world all around me often doesn't.
I regularly remind myself that in order for someone to gain this label they've got to be a pretty thoughtful and generous person to begin with, okay, maybe a tad too thoughtful and a tad too generous to survive in sales, probably too religiously obsessed to even qualify as a preacher, too philosophical and/or poetic to ever work at being a philosopher or a poet, and too generous with their possessions to ever accumulate much in the way of worldly goods. What a wonderful human being my son with all of these traits is.
There's another aging side of me that increasingly lacked the energy to keep up this degree of cheerful commitment to my son. He'd been living at home so long that we were bickering like an old married couple. When it finally got to the tipping point, I knew I had to act to preserve our collective goodwill. In March of this year out went Chris into a supported living arrangement just in time before my husband retired. I no longer had the stamina to nag two men. I chose wisely.
My husband, bless him, is like a lot of fathers, and he can be rather, how shall I say, unappreciative of having a grown son hanging around who doesn't seem to be as focused on earning a living as he'd like him to be. My husband is pretty invested in facts and logic, an expectation he places on his sons. His style doesn't "pair" well with Chris's meandering logic. I've called my husband on this and he has improved a lot, but there is no point testing this skill on a daily basis. We are all tired. Chris needs to be away from us in order for him to continue to grow and for his parents to grow old gracefully.
On Christmas day I received a gift from someone I've been in brief correspondence with regarding her son. She wrote to express her thanks for my thoughts on family relationships which I shared with her over several e-mails. I wrote about the concept of "radical acceptance" and how especially difficult it seems to be (from my experience) for fathers of sons to learn to dial back on the criticism and become more patient in accepting our sons where they are now, not where they'd like them to be now.
She wrote (shared with her permission):
"I wanted to let you know that my son is better. After almost 2 years, he is back to himself. These last few months have been a miracle. It turned out that creating my own plan of care using the best practices I learned from my research and communication with people like you...got us thru it. I know this will be my life's work...but like you, I will never give up on my son knowing he can have a full life.
I have shared your insight with other moms I've met along the way. Your advice on "radical acceptance" has worked miracles.
Also, the insight you shared on why dads/husbands have difficulty understanding their son's illness has improved our relationship, family dynamics and his interaction with our son. A very valuable suggestion as families struggle thru how the illness affects everyone. I've shared this with others because it is a common problem wit Dads. My husband is a criminal lawyer. Unfortunately, many of his clients suffered from untreated mental illnesses when they broke the law. Because of our personal experience, we have helped the patient get help, be more compassionate with their families and oftentimes, achieve a more favorable outcome. This is particularly true with young clients. Incarceration is not the solution."
Sometimes gifts like this mother gave me arrive from the observations of others who help us to see the sun shining through where we may be seeing only clouds.
On Friday my husband and I together with Chris and met with the neurofeedback
specialist to go over Chris's final brain mapping results. He was pleased with the changes in Chris's brain waves and noted that Chris became much easier to talk to over the course of the sessions, more conversational, less mechanical and less anxious. He felt that Chris would continue to improve in these areas and more. My husband and I came away from the meeting with a more relaxed and hopeful attitude just because Someone Else saw something going on with Chris that signaled hope.
This guest post was submitted by author and parent, Rossa Forbes.