Dealing with schizophrenia – Part 4 (My mother’s experience)

Today I want to take off the psychologist cap and connect with you on a more personal level. In this blog, I want to be open and share my personal struggles and experiences. In my first blog I briefly mentioned that I suffered from mental health due to the emotional trauma I faced in childhood. I particularly mentioned the disconnection between myself and my mother. This disconnection came at no fault of her own, it was due to the fact that she suffered from schizophrenia. Now I have been stalling in anticipation of sharing this personal experience for the following reasons:

  • Fear of being fully exposed and vulnerable online– Due to this being a very sensitive issue I felt afraid to speak out. Personally, I have spoken openly and reached out to friends and family. However, I have never attempted anything as big as being fully open online, so the prospect to me felt quite daunting initially. Because of stigma.
  • Fear of judgement– Because of the fact that this goes against the norms, and can often be considered a taboo subject.

Despite my fears I acknowledge the fact that in order for me to be truly in alignment with my vision of promoting a more compassionate and self-aware society; I must become more open and share with you all that lies in my heart. Therefore, it is important to me that you can get to know me and my struggles so that we can begin to brake the barriers between you and I. I want to speak directly to the person reading this right now. I want to convince you who may have had similar circumstances, to never give up.

In the past, I couldn’t imagine the idea of my mother recovering. She had schizophrenia for as long as I could remember. She was in low energy, her behaviour was very unpredictable, and generally she was quite emotionless. It was very difficult to understand why she was the way she was for a while. It was hard to connect with her on a personal level because of this.  I didn’t identify it as schizophrenia back then. I just understood it as her being mentally unwell and needing help. I just was told to accept it, and tolerate it. While her condition got worse it affected the well-being of everyone else around her including myself. Although, ideally I would want to say that I always had hope and I always was patient with her; this does not reflect the reality. Often, when she was suffering I would end up suffering and I was left feeling empty. I felt guilty wishing there was a way we could help but at the same time my depression rendered me feeling powerless. As I grew up it became clearer to me later on, that if i wanted to help her we had to help ourselves and gain a certain level of clarity in our lives. This was not easy at all. I had to endure a lot of emotional pain and frustration before we figured out our solution and became more proactive in helping her. In the meantime her condition got worse and worse to the point where I couldn’t even recognise her. She had become so lost in her thoughts and she stopped taking care of herself. It was hard to instill a sense of drive or motivation in her to change, because it was as if she had lost her sense of desires and needs.

We first looked towards encouraging her to mingle and socialise more with our relatives. However, every attempt we made to integrate her was met with a lot of resistance. We then had no choice to introduce the healthcare professionals. However, even they could not help at the time (this was during a decade ago or even earlier). We were told by doctors or nurses “this is the hardest case we have dealt with, we cannot help you”. Due to this comment, we decided to do the best to take care of her by ourselves at that time.

Many years later she really hit a breakthrough in recovery. This was when she had three different healthcare professionals working with her, and also when she spent a lot of time being around her family in Pakistan. This was during the time I studied psychology at Salford University also. So I think at this point our family was in a position to put our trust in mental healthcare once more.  She was regularly taking medication but also had support from family members, eventually through the regular engagement she had with her siblings she changed a lot. It was unbelievable, I would even say miraculous.  Now I am grateful for how bubbly she is now, and that I get the opportunity to rekindle my relationship with my mother.

In conclusion, what worked for us was a combination of the following factors:

  • Medication
  • Moral support from family
  • Consultancy from a multi-disciplinary team

What I have described in this blog is a brief summary of what happened during her recovery process. I cannot promise the same results will happen in your circumstance if you or your relative suffers from schizophrenia. What I can say though is that through persistence and patience, recovery will surely be guaranteed. So never lose faith.

All the best.