I was thinking recently of the reasons why Schizophrenia is so difficult to accept as a diagnosis.
A local family had suffered much greater trauma than ours, when their son had a terrible motorcycle accident in a foreign country, which left him in a coma. The family had to sell their house to pay thousands of pounds for his medical treatment abroad and his flight back home because he had no accident insurance, and their son, although conscious, now suffers severe brain damage.
The mother of the young man made an appeal for help via radio and television and received both financial and moral support from the public, and he is now in an environment which supports his needs. His situation is not ideal but, in comparison to this, I feel that our family’s problems are, of course, minor.
However, with mental health issues, going public is not really an option. Imagine at a party, slipping the following into the conversation,
“My son’s just developed Schizophrenia, but we’re a bit confused because the psychiatrist said it could be Bipolar Syndrome instead. What do you think?”
Unless you know someone else with such problems you just have to keep your anxieties to yourself. There is still a stigma concerning mental health.
My son, Bob, duly started his college course, but his fellow students were curious and asking questions about his previous school and his qualifications, which were quite different from theirs. He had, of course, gone to a special school in the psychiatric unit of a hospital. We advised him,therefore, not to tell other students his whole story as it was nobody else’s business. Above all, he should keep his diagnosis under wraps too! We had to work quite hard to persuade him not to tell all.
Luckily, he graduated from this course with only a couple of minor incidents of bullying and actual physical assault from local youths, and he was then accepted onto a pre-degree course at the local university.
Throughout these couple of years, his doodles became more comic and light-hearted, worlds away from the horrible doodles of previous dark times.
The medication was still being given, sometimes the prescriptions changed. The more medication he received, the more drowsy he became, but, on the whole, he was doing well, apart from being unwilling to take his pills most of the time. He was not self-medicating, he had to be given the tablets and watched carefully to make sure that he didn’t spit them out again.
One day, I was in his bedroom and looked out onto the small balcony at his window and saw it was littered with small, white pills. This was a massive warning sign!
By this time, Bob had passed the pre-degree or foundation course, and was now on his first year at university, still studying art. He managed to get to the end of the academic year before becoming ill again.
The trigger for this new onset seemed to be garlic bread, for some reason. I remember it made him feel very ill.
We happened to have a table tennis game set up in our front room, so we all took it in turns to play table tennis with him, as this was the only thing we could do to keep him occupied. It was exhausting, but Bob was relentless, and annoyingly, he won every game! Eventually a psychiatric nurse arrived and she took him to be admitted to the local psychiatric unit for adults, once again. This time, being eighteen, he was old enough to stay in the unit for however long it took!