Being in love with a paranoid schizophrenic
The truth and the myths surrounding schizophrenia.
We all hear horror stories in the media relating to mental illness, paranoid schizophrenics even more so. Most people who do not understand the condition are afraid when the word is even mentioned. Furthermore those who know a lot more about the illness can be just as afraid.
I want to try to give some insight to those who have tried to care or are still caring for a person with this condition. You might feel that there are so many questions left unanswered, or maybe you are too afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Maybe you feel completely alone in this and believe that you have to be strong on your own.
It can be just as frightening and mentally destroying for the carer or loved one.I know this because I am in love and care for a paranoid schizophrenic. Our whole lives have changed.
There are ways to help them and yourself.
Know your facts before you judge
Myth 1: People with schizophrenia have a split personality
Myth 2: People with schizophrenia have the same physical health as everyone else
Myth 3: People with schizophrenia can’t recover
Myth 4: People with schizophrenia need to be monitored at all times
Myth 5: People with schizophrenia are dangerous
Support and schizophrenia explained
Some early warning signs
- Social withdrawal
- Hostility or suspiciousness
- Deterioration of personal hygiene
- Flat, expressionless gaze
- Inability to cry or express joy
- Inappropriate laughter or crying
- Oversleeping or insomnia
- Odd or irrational statements
- Forgetful; unable to concentrate
- Extreme reaction to criticism
- Strange use of words or way of speaking
- Helping a Person with Schizophrenia: Overcoming Challenges
Dealing with schizophrenia in the family isn't easy. This guide will help you navigate the challenges.
Don't label a person with a mental health condition as weak - they fight every single day just to keep going
A morning that will haunt me forever
It is known that addiction and schizophrenia go hand in hand. I didn't realise how true this was until January 2013 when my whole life completely changed.
My partner had been battling for years with alcohol and drug misuse, alcohol being his main demon. He had been on over 10 detoxes by the age of 31 and had been given months to live. Although a common perception is that people with addictions are weak and most will fail trying. Although there may be some unfortunate truth in this, the power and determination it takes to keep beating an addiction on a daily basis, says quite the contrary.
Help readily available
There are so many helplines, websites, groups and doctors that can help, but if the person is not committed to changing fully, then sadly these resources are wasted. My partner tried many times and failed, until one day he stopped failing and is now over two years sober. He now regularly uses the fantastic resources and facilities available, but it is always going to be a battle every day for the rest of his life and he now accepts that.
The internet is a powerful tool when it comes to fighting addictions, if you are battling with a demon of your own or someone you love and care about is, then it's so good to know there is help out there.
in January my partner ran in one morning hysterical saying he was hearing voices and they were telling him to drink the spirits in the kitchen. Panic initially set in regarding the alcohol and if he had drank, but then I remembered him saying voices. He then turned to me complete fear overpowering the man I thought I knew and said; 'I'm losing my mind, they are talking to me'
I knew he had not even touched a drop of alcohol, so why was he so scared? Why couldn't I calm him?
The reason I couldn't ease his fears, rationalise things for him, or convince him it was just him and I in our apartment was due to two reasons.
- I had no idea myself what was going on and why he was acting this way.
- He was experiencing his first acute episode of paranoid schizophrenia.
Something I knew nothing about, something I had only watched in horror films or on the news. The media had always labelled paranoid schizophrenics to be dangerous, intimidating and violent. Without the right help, acceptance of the illness and the right medication, it can be dangerous. However my partner has never been violent towards anyone, only himself. This label that has been given to people with mental health problems needs to be stopped. You can not put a label on mental illness.
Every person is different, symptoms may be similar, they might hear voices telling them to do things and can be hard to live with. However without living with it, or fully understanding someone with this illness, no single person can or should be judged by such a broad spectrum. Most schizophrenics who seek medical help go on to live good lives and can have families and be happy. Unfortunately some can't. That doesn't mean that's always due to them having schizophrenia. A lot of people as mentioned before are scared of its label and stay away.
Knowing when to call out for help
I knew I could not do this alone for both of our safety when he started banging his head against the wall to try and stop the voices. All day he was convinced I was 'in on it', I was trying to poison him. I wanted him dead, people were coming to get him. I couldn't even make him have a drink without me sipping it first to prove it wasn't poison. I couldn't even call family when he was around because he thought it was a conspiracy against him.
It was truly and utterly soul destroying to see my best friend, the man I loved and the strong man who had beaten alcohol, to be deteriorating before my eyes. I felt completely helpless, I was in shock and trying to figure out the best resources, who could I tell about this? Was there anyone to talk to about this? Would they understand he was fine only a couple of hours ago? Would they believe me?
Past hospital admissions
Due to his recent alcohol related hospital admissions, they had diagnosed him years ago with a form of alcohol psychosis. This can make a person in that state of mind experiencing alcohol withdrawals hear voices. He had therefore spent some time in mental hospitals and I knew he had hated every second. Although useful at the time for alcohol purposes, he had always begged me to make sure he was never institutionalised again. I used to say to him, 'well that is your incentive to stay away from alcohol.' But now the voices were back and it was more terrifying than I could imagine. Why were they back? He had not drank. It all seemed so unfair.
I didn't want people thinking my partner was 'crazy'. He was the opposite, always so intelligent, loving, caring, outgoing... so if I told people they would judge him, take him away. Maybe it was all my fault for keeping the alcohol in the apartment. My mind raced and I went over and over what to do. I always came back to the same answer. I just don't want to lose him, I can make him better. All he needs is love and support. I will convince him the voices aren't real. That was the wrong decision. I was not a mental health professional and love is not enough when faced with a serious condition such as this.
As days went on and the voices inside his head became more threatening to him and I, I then knew I had a big decision to make. He was no longer responding to me as his partner, he was scared of me, he talked about needing weapons to protect us. I then realised I was way over my head and the promise I had made to him had to be broken.
I contacted the crisis team (now known as the home base treatment team), a fabulous team who talked me through what to do until they got there and what to do if his symptoms worsened and helped put me at some ease. When a man called David arrived I felt so relieved, not so alone and at the same time terrified of my partners fate, our fate.
Early warning signs
Early warning signs are key to helping someone and it is imperative to seek help for yourself or a loved one as soon as you relate to any of these signs/symptoms. The mental health professionals are highly trained and so supportive. It;s not a case of locking you up or labelling you with any mental health disorder. They support, guide, listen and ensure you get the right help and/or treatment.
At 27 years old, no family around and no idea at the time about this illness, I was completely and emotionally drained. I had no idea what to expect and I still don't in some ways. I was eaten up every day that I had not helped him enough, I broke my promise to him, I let them take him to hospital. Was he really alone? Would he forgive me? More importantly, would I ever forgive myself?
Hospital visits were especially hard as theses types of facilities were not places I were familiar with and it was a little frightening to begin with, but if he was in there, then I was going to be there as much as I could to support him. All I know is I have been through a lot with my partner in the last 18 months and everyday is different, I have learnt so much about mental illnesses and the devastation it can cause on friends and loved ones.
I wanted to write this blog weekly to let people know they aren't alone. Help any one I can with websites, organisations, or even just to answer some questions. I am not a doctor but I have learnt a lot and I understand the struggle a loved one faces watching this awful illness take over.
My partner has a new CPN now and by attending these sessions together, research I try do on a daily basis and the honesty and some understanding on my part - we can fight this demon together.
I will be training to be a mental health nurse within the next couple of years, it was always something I wanted to do, more so now since my partner has been diagnosed. If I can make just one person feel as reassured and not so alone as the Home base treatment team made my partner and I feel, then I know I will be helping someone every day and being a bigger support for my partner going forward.
Mental health disorder
Would you know how to help a person suffering with a mental health disorder?
- Always reach out for help if needed
- Don't be afraid to talk to friends or family
- Complete honesty
- Realising it's OK to be scared
- Knowing you might not always know how to act
- You are doing the best you can do for the person
- Doing your research
- Looking out for signs/symptoms