Family Support: My Story

  • My mother drove me to the hospital within 24 hours of my breakdown, and I received the medication that worked on the first try. When I relapsed, she drove me again to the hospital-this time against my will. I often tell people if it weren't for her, I wouldn't be alive today. She knew something was wrong, and didn't care how it looked, so she got me help.


    In the early years, it was hard. A creative, sensitive kid, I had nightmares nearly every night. The neighborhood girls taunted and bullied me. Mom couldn't be there for me in the way I needed her to be, because she had her own problems. Try as I might to win her approval, I felt like nothing I did was ever good enough.

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    Years later, I forgave her. She had a role to play, and she played it well. Her act of courage-to drive me to the hospital-was the only thing she needed to do.


    My parents visited me every day when I was in the hospital. When I was released, I returned home to live for a year, and then moved into the halfway house. The only other time I lived at home as an adult was for the four years I was in graduate school, from when I was twenty-nine to thirty-two, before I moved to Brooklyn.


    Family support makes all the difference.


    The residual drama in my family has quieted down.


    Now I want to give you some suggestions as to how to incorporate family support into your recovery, from both sides of the table.


    First, for the mother or father: I've said it here long ago, and I'll say it again: your adult children need to live independently. This is non-negotiable if your son or daughter is using street drugs or abusing alcohol or is violent towards you. Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better. You love your child, and you don't want to see him or her homeless. However, you need to set boundaries. My mother told me last week when I met her in the City that the first thing she was told when she attended the NAMI family support meetings twenty years ago was that a loved one must live on her own.


    The ability to function in the world is the number one goal a person with schizophrenia should strive for. If you're concerned about finances after you die, set up a special needs trust for your son or daughter. Your local NAMI affiliate most likely has the name of an attorney in your town that could set one up. Or call the NAMI national hotline at (800) 950-NAMI (6264). And of course, if you're certain your loved one isn't doing drugs, gifting them with 25 dollars every so often couldn't hurt.


    On the other side, if you have schizophrenia, I'd like you to seriously consider family therapy sessions as an adjunct to your private therapy. Maybe you don't want your family butting in on your personal business, however, keep an open mind if your family expresses an interest in helping you in your recovery. Early on, my mother sat in on a couple of my one-on-one sessions with the therapist. This doesn't have to become a routine. Your mother or father or brother or sister, or even husband or wife may want to help you, but may feel helpless as to how to reach out. I urge you to reach out to them and let them know that you understand where they're coming from, and will let them know how it's going. My goal is to always call my parents once or twice a week. Of course, if I wait five days to call, Mom will worry, and if I call too often, Dad will ask if everything's all right. Yet I feel I'd rather keep in touch.


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    One suggestion I have for you and your parents: sit down and talk about whether they have a will, power of attorney, health care proxy and DNR instructions, and revocable living trust. Even if you have a brother or sister who could be relied on in that time of need, it should put your mind at ease if they go over things with you. It couldn't hurt if you talk in your support group or with your therapist or doctor about how you would handle things when you experience a loss and have to live on your own.


    My father is seventy-three and he doesn't have a will, so I don't know what he's waiting for. My mother isn't in the best of health, either. Most of all, I'm grateful they're alive and doing well and can be there for me now. These truly are their golden years because they are happier now and their struggles, for the most part, are gone.


    One thing I suggest, for both family members and loved ones: mourn, forgive and move on. To hang on to resentments and continue to act out a drama isn't healthy. This sounds preach-y, so I'll stop. However, I can honestly say when I let go of wanting my mother to be someone she couldn't, the relationship changed. Maybe she was the same person, but I had changed, and saw her in a new light. Mom also feels that if she had the chance, she would've done things differently. Today we have a relationship like best friends.


    So this in the end is the single most important thing: tell your son or daughter, often, that you love him or her. Tell your mother or father that you appreciate their concern about wanting to help you in your recovery.


    Love will build a bridge.





    Calling all India residents: Miss S., located near Chennai, seeks to start a support group or join one in the area. If this interests you, e-mail me at Thank you.


Published On: January 30, 2008