In order to understand schizophrenia, you have to not only learn about the illness itself but you need to learn about the experiences of people who have it or who love someone with it. I chose the theme of today to be about delusions. The reason being is because they have been front and center in Thomas' and my life in the last week. What I hope to illustrate now is how BEARING WITNESS TO these affects me and in all likelihood those of you with loved ones with schizophrenia.
I went into Thomas' session last week to fill his therapist in on what has transpired during Thomas' medication appointment. I had only been in on part of that meds meeting because his doc wanted to speak with Thomas without me. I walked out of the meds appointment with a note given to me by Thomas that his meds doc had written that said,
"Talk to therapist about thoughts and fears."
HA! That couldn't have been more cryptic and I came to discover in the therapy appointment that it was unhelpful to Thomas too because c'mon, where do you start with that when you have schizophrenia?!?
We sat down, all of us, and I handed the note to Thomas and he looked at it and handed it back to me and asked me if I could remember what he had said. I had some clue and shared that and then it began.
Thomas' therapist started asking Thomas about these things and began to be able to break them down into smaller bites and the more information he and I got from Thomas, the quieter the room got. Now, in the last year or so I have become quite adept at slowing my breathing and heart rate and monitoring my behaviors by looking at myself from the outside all in an effort to leave the room wide open but safe for Thomas to express himself. The experience is one of really just being out of your body. You know you have to sit in non-judgment and be unreactive because just like a bird sitting on a branch just in your reach, you have to let that bird just be a bird for a little while.
Now imagine a story being told that is far beyond comprehension. The themes are familiar but somehow you just can't quite get it to fit into your world view. Then mix in that the storyteller is your loved one and they are sitting there talking with complete and utter conviction. It is, at least in my experience, the MOST SURREAL and HEARTBREAKING moment. For me, I actually feel like Thomas is swirling around in a big whirlpool and our fingertips are touching and the only way to get him out is to jump into the water with him and all of this while wanting to launch into a full-on panic attack complete with passing out cold but not being able to because I know I need to keep it together for him.
As I write this I am holding my breath. It's that ethereal. I feel it all around me and laced through my being even as I sit here now. It's scary and it's sad and it's everything you don't want for your loved one but it's EVERYTHING to them. It's real and it's unshakable.
So, from my eyes, from my body, from my soul, that is my "outsider's view" of what it's like to love someone with schizophrenia.
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