Monday, October 28, 2013

A Crack In The Foundation (Part II in a series on families affected by schizophrenia)

I'm sure that many of you might wonder why I'm such a mama bear when it comes to Thomas. Besides the obvious, that he needs protection now that he has schizophrenia, there is so much more to my reasoning.

When Thomas was five, his biological dad and I divorced. It was a very rough time on us because my ex-husband then married my sister. It was hard enough to see my marriage end in such a fashion but for Thomas is was a life changing thing.

From very young, now with 20/20 hindsight, he was exhibiting fledgling symptoms of schizophrenia. They were mild but they were there nonetheless. So losing his bio-dad at such a young age in all likelihood took its toll on him. What hurt most, I think, is that my sister had kids that Thomas knew well and to see his dad go off and become their caregivers was hard. What made it harder was that with that divorce came utter abandonment and as time marched on, his bio-dad lost touch with Thomas leaving him painfully alone and without a dad in his life.

Within a couple of years I was remarried to my now husband and our family grew because he brought with him his 14 year old daughter. I struggled alone with parenting her and Thomas because my husband just wasn't cut out for raising kids and it wasn't long, because he contributed next to nothing, that his daughter left our home to live with her mom. While healing from my divorce I now had my little Thomas to love and care for and my 14 year old stepdaughter struggled in her own pain because she wanted a dad as much as Thomas did but she also didn't need yet another mom and we had a tough time building our relationship. It was made harder because I was left to parent my step daughter who wanted little to do with me and I was left to pick up the pieces of Thomas' broken heart.

Now, I love my husband, I often call him "my one" because he picked up the pieces of my broken heart and put me back together slowly but surely. I looked the other way when it came to his lack of involvement with Thomas because I wanted my marriage to work more than I wanted most things. I thought to myself that I could love Thomas enough for everyone missing from his life, both in distance, in abandonment and now with my husband, with a lack of emotional involvement. It wasn't easy but I managed and I promised Thomas that no matter what happened that he was my first and only choice when it came down to it.

As our life as a little family progressed, we ran into massive hurdles because as Thomas became sicker and sicker the arguments between my husband and I gained strength. He felt Thomas should have behaved, spoken and even played differently than he did. He picked at just about everything leaving wound after wound for me to repair and love away. We all became lost in the burgeoning illness and I watched as Thomas' heart broke over and over again as this new man in his life repeatedly stepped off of the parenting and emotional support box and walked away into his own inner life.

Over time, I became angrier and angrier and my love and protection of Thomas grew to immense strength as I repeatedly promised myself that he would never have to know the pain of not being loved the way he needed. Granted a son needs a dad and I was forever wishing that Thomas had all of that but as he navigated the world with me as his champion I'm fairly certain my husband's lack of involvement took it's toll.

Now here we are in the thick of this illness and Thomas struggles almost daily in one form or another and I lovingly pick up pieces and make things right all in an effort to insure his happiness as much as is possible when you have schizophrenia. The arguments between my husband and I have gotten more frequent lately as Thomas' illness evolves because my husband sees behaviors that I believe strongly he doesn't like because he can't emotionally handle them. After all, though he's been absent in many ways from Thomas' life, he has watched him grow and become the young man he is now and I would like to hope that he feels some of the same loss as I do about the changes that have happened to Thomas. In any case, he has chosen to detach even further as a result and I imagine that in this time when Thomas needs all of the love and support and understanding that he can get, he is again feeling abandoned.

So you see, it has been my life's work to love and protect Thomas. Most days I go it alone trying to heal the past hurts and help him view the future in a healthy way. I fight for him and his sanity with a ferocity that is strengthened by the fact that I truly feel that Thomas and I are in this together. Alone. Some days I'm sure I go overboard with my love and protection but even then I am not deterred from my fight for Thomas. He has seen the acute, painful loss of his biological dad and watched as the man who stepped up in his place abandoned him too. My marriage remains on rocky ground and the future becomes more uncertain as the days and weeks pass but I am working like hell to make sure that Thomas has enough love to fill him up. I can't replace a father figure but I can make sure that he is not left completely alone in this world wondering if there is someone to love and protect him.

I am a mama bear, I love my child and I am angry at anyone who comes to harm him. I am a mama bear who does everything in her power to protect him. I am a mama bear with teeth and claws and tenacity that plans with all of her heart and soul to make sure that her son finds his way in life, even if he and I do it alone.

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