Love the Person, Hate the Illness


We invited our son, who has a mental illness, to a birthday dinner. I knew it would be difficult–even if everything went well–because being with him sometimes exacerbates my own illness of depression. When I look at him, I see the type of person I probably would have avoided on the street in years past. Now I am forced, trying every which way, to cope with a situation I find beyond my limited capacity.

There was a time, even after he became ill, when I held out hope that he could have a future; maybe not the one I envisioned when he was a child, but still a worthwhile one, with a job and possibly even a family. After last year’s debacle, I have lost that last remaining golden bubble. Making it worse, I also realize that a large part of the problem lies with me; I can’t let go of what was, who he was.

I still see a bright child than the handsome young adult he became until tragedy struck. I want that person back, the one so smart he could answer a question before it was asked. He tells me he is happy, and I am glad for him, but I miss the old version so much.

Many years ago, before I even had children, I read an autobiographical book titled This Stranger, My Son. It was about a family with two sons, the oldest of whom had schizophrenia. Ha! Some joke. If I only knew …

Recently, I mentioned to a parent, also dealing with a similar situation, that I could envision abandoning my son. Her reaction, while not horror, was concern. You see Sam does not accept that he needs medication, and two times I had to go through the court system to get him help. This is something I cannot do again even though I believe I saved him from being hit by a truck. No, not a real truck, but something comparable, such as jail or death. For the sake of our relationship, however, I swore to him that I wouldn’t repeat what he considers an intrusion into his life.

Over dinner he told me that he will stop his meds at some point, and I even understand his reasoning since they come with serious side effects. On the other hand, I have seen him when he is off his meds, and it is not a pretty sight. He becomes unrecognizable, a person who can barely put a sentence together and talks to “God” on the phone. He becomes angry, furious even, over issues which he normally would find of little consequence. I know I cannot survive that scenario again, so my choices are suicide or abandonment. He still has another two years until his court-ordered treatment ends so I have time to prepare for whatever may come.

I know other parents who have abandoned their kids; I understand. Everyone has a breaking point, and sometimes what life throws our way is too much to bear. I am not at that place yet, and if I’m lucky providence will intervene before I ever get there. But hope is not a part of the picture anymore, and I haven’t found a substitute.


About waywardweed

I am a consumer and parent of two sons, one with a mental illness and the other a third-year law student.
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7 Responses to Love the Person, Hate the Illness

  1. Oh my…I just felt some of my own feeliings in your post–the revulsion I sometmes feel toward my husband, even though his llness hasn’t progressed very long. I was so fearful when he stopped his ant-psychotic meds last year, and wth good reason. His most recent psychotc break was frightening, and his hospitalization a little longer than the first time. I am afraid for our future, because I have heard that this illness tends to grow worse over time, and meds must be adjusted. I feel the same desre to flee, and then shame for even allowing such a though to cross my mind.

  2. waywardweed says:

    We are on the same page, but don’t give up hope. What’s most inportant is that he not stop his meds. There is a term–anosognosia. (Maybe you’ve already heard it.) In case you didn’t it means that many people with serious MI do not recognize they are sick. That’s why many stop their meds. My son stopped last year and lied about it. After seven weeks in the state hosp, he is doing better. As with any illness, there is a continuum; some people do very well, others not so well. Hopefully, your husband will be in the former category, but don’t forget to take care of yourself.

  3. Tim Lundmark says:

    I often times wish I had a mother like you. My mom had a complete breakdown when I was thirteen and ever since that point she is like a robot. Now I have put my mother through some rough times, so maybe this is why she is so cold and distant when I reach out my hand to her for motherly comfort. I have actually had to call her and ask her to tell me it will all be alright. I suffer from schizoaffective disorder, and I worry I may pass that down to my children. I often wonder how much I will be able to deal with if they become ill. The medication aspect is a tough one. I learned young that no matter how bad I want to stop taking my meds I have learned that I always end up in the hospital and psyche wards suck!!

  4. I find your feelings/thoughts completely justified. I’m sure you know this-as it seems-you have to just step back. I respect your honesty and unlike my mother I don’t think she ever learned to step back until it all started effecting her stability. I was in a relationship with a woman a year ago who suffered from manic depression. Her and I both having a “MI” and being in a relationship together was a riot, one that I treasure a lot. Unfortunately, it did not work b/c my problems would effect hers and vice versa. So we had to part ways so we both could maintain some better stability.

    • waywardweed says:

      I only stepped back because my son gave me no choice. We don’t see each other often–his choice–but we do talk on the phone with some regularity. It’s a very sad situation and I have chronic depression as a result.

      • I’m not familiar with the situation. I can understand perhaps some of the delusions/paranoia, bitterness to forced help but I’m glad you both have some contact even if its just on the phone. My hope is for him to over come the challenges he faces and will continue with medications. It’s a hard and difficult road to be on. The altered mind from our disease keeps ordinary thinking not what it truly is and something totally different. And I hope my above comment didn’t come off offensive/or insensitive towards you.

  5. waywardweed says:

    To Lessthanzero1013, I appreciate your comments.

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