With Thomas now securely in his new job I thought I'd turn, for a moment, to a different aspect of loving someone living with schizophrenia. The foundation of the family is something that doesn't get written about a lot (at least not that I could find in my travels across the internet) so I'm going to write about my little family and schizophrenia's effect on it.
As people in my support group affiliated with this page can attest to, Thomas being sick has taken its toll on my marriage too. There are many other relationships that can be affected but my family is just our tiny little family made up of myself, Thomas and my husband. My parents are also affected but let me cover that another time.
My marriage has always been on a little bit of rocky ground because of the fact that my husband married me but took Thomas on because he was a part of me. Thomas was not a choice, more an obligation than anything and that was clear almost from the very start. I always held on to the hope that my husband would see how wonderful Thomas was and he would make the decision to step up as his dad. It didn't happen. He loves me and I believe in his own way he loves Thomas too but it's never been a steady, strong, parental love. Through the years of raising Thomas, my husband and I fought quite a bit about Thomas because he thought Thomas' behavior needed to change. He saw Thomas as a defiant child who didn't do much to contribute to the family and any odd behavior was met with frustration on his part. I know that part of it was because he didn't understand what was going on with Thomas in those early years, heck I didn't understand it, but with 2 parents struggling to understand and keep their marriage healthy in the midst of it was nearly impossible for us.
Fast forward to the last year since Thomas was diagnosed. Over and over I have tried to explain to my husband what it means for Thomas to have schizophrenia but he could never quite grasp it. He still can't. He'll have moments where he'll understand, or appear to, but with time we would return to our old arguments about Thomas' behavior and emotions and we'd find ourselves fighting again. You see, he sees Thomas now as an 18 year old kid who should be out of the house and on his own. My husband was independent by the age of 15 so all he knows is being a young man no longer dependent on his parents. How my husband came to be on his own so young is a story of terrible, absent parenting that left him no place to run but away from the hell he was in. He became gainfully employed as a teenager and supported himself and later a family pretty decently. It is that model that he expects Thomas to follow and me, knowing the truth of this illness, doesn't see where Thomas will find a similar place for himself anytime soon. As a result we are in a state of locked horns where I'm pushing hard to protect Thomas and he's pushing back in an attempt to get Thomas out of the house as soon as possible.
So, needless to say, we fight a lot lately. I had made the decision long ago that I would walk by Thomas' side through his journey with schizophrenia and my husband has trailed along behind grumbling and moody and sometimes growling and lashing out at both Thomas and I. He wants the life he had always looked forward to and that was one of the two of us child-free on a beach somewhere with not a care in the world. Once Thomas was diagnosed I put that dream away myself and began my new life with Thomas included along the way. My husband did not. I am Thomas' mom and will do whatever I need to do to secure him a safe place in his world and that is a sacrifice I don't think much about because to me, that's just what you do as a mom. To my husband though, what he knows is forcing children from the home regardless of their circumstances. As you can see, that is a recipe for a disaster and our hurricane has hit and is currently wreaking havoc in our marriage.
I know that some of you have told me to take a vacation alone with my husband, that that will solve some of the problems, but the fact is, when we come back from that beach, we will find ourselves right back where we began and that is an epic struggle over what's best for Thomas and how we should handle it.
I am creating a series here about schizophrenia's effect on a family and will write more about it at later times. I do this because I know a lot of you out there are in crumbling marriages and familial relationships and I want you to know that you are not alone. I believe schizophrenia tests the very best of relationships so for those relationships on thin ice, like mine, there isn't much time and there is a lot of work to be done before we go crashing through the ice to the dark, cold depths below.