I ran into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in years. We are both the same age and have sons in the schizophrenia spectrum. After catching up with the requisite “How are you,” “How’s your son,” and the identical answers of “Not so great,” she said, “What did we do to deserve this?” My immediate reaction: “We didn’t do a thing.” Just like an unexpected car accident, our sons’ ultimate fate was not in our hands or even theirs.
Both of our kids became ill in their early twenties, the most common time for this disorder to strike young men. Barring the inevitable exception, in women it usually begins a few years later, late twenties or even early thirties. That curious fact leads me to question the biology behind the illness. Generally women mature before men (physically speaking), but in this case those extra years give them time to finish college, learn useful job, life, and social skills so that the course of the illness is less severe. Whereas females with schizophrenia often marry, males seldom do. Isolation is also common in males, just as it is with our sons.
But to get back to her original question of what we did to deserve this, I can only reflect how life has no guarantees and, furthermore, how the mystery of what causes this life-altering, common disaster is still down the yellow-brick road. Maybe the answer will come in my lifetime, maybe not, but I hope for the sake of future victims and their families (also victims), that it comes sooner rather than later because it’s an affliction no one, in his right mind—or otherwise—deserves.