Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Curse Of Happiness

I watched a movie called, "Call Me Crazy" on Lifetime Movie Network the other day. For those of you who haven't seen it, they showcase people with different mental illnesses and their families. It's a fiction movie that included two stories, one about a young woman with schizophrenia and then another story was about her sister and what she had lived with all of the years with her sister being sick. It was a movie that hit too close to home with me.

Since Thomas doesn't have any siblings that live at home with us it was more the story about the young woman with schizophrenia that touched me. She is a student studying pre-law and she decides to go off of her meds because she wants to prove to her psychiatrist and to herself, I think, that she isn't sick and consequently she ends up in the hospital. While in the hospital she meets a young man and they begin to care about each other during their stay together in the hospital. It was beautiful because they both were sick and knew each other was sick and they could be free to care about each other without worrying about their respective illnesses and the stigma of having them. In my mind it couldn't be more perfect a love story because in a way, they really understood each other.

The story culminated in a passionate kiss in the garden of the hospital where while she had been pretty stable up to that point, the kiss and the excitement that comes along with it brought her voices back and she ended up backing away from him holding her head and covering her ears. The young man in the story moved towards her and covered her ears for her and held her.

What the scene illustrated was a not much talked about symptom of schizophrenia or rather a trigger for symptoms. What isn't talked about much is the fact that really good things, exciting things, can bring on an episode for someone with schizophrenia. Before seeing the movie the first time months ago, I didn't know that this could happen though once I watched the movie, I looked back over Thomas' life and realized that it very much had been a trigger for him. How is it, in the case of this movie, that love and kisses and the excitement of a new relationship can cause this? How can any exciting event, a trip, a graduation, even a really good day (if you're vulnerable) cause a relapse?

Watching that movie scene made me think about the injustices of this illness. Where you or I might find happiness and excitement, a person living with schizophrenia might see a pitfall that precipitates an episode. It's so unfair but it makes me think twice about what experiences Thomas should face in his life.

The other day he bought himself a new smart phone and I remembered back to when he got his first one. What should have been an exciting purchase and a fun project turned into one of his most stressful times. I tried desperately to help him get it set up but it didn't take away the symptoms he experienced as a result of that gift of a new phone. So when his new phone arrived I braced myself for the storm ahead. I told him when he purchased it that he needed to be ready to face its set up with patience and strength and bravery and he assured me he would be able to do that.

When he got it, it immediately caused him stress and anxiety but he worked to get it up and running. Many times he was completely frozen and shut down though and I came to him with a quiet, patient tone and redirected him either by doing the work myself or teaching him how to find solutions. It's hard to face that something so fun, something he had looked forward to for weeks became its own little monster taunting him and leading him closer to the edge. While he didn't go over, he teetered on the edge and I was brought back to that movie scene with the kiss.

How unfair this illness is. How unfair that it robs our loved ones of lives they should have had had they not gotten sick. How unfair that even joy, in its sometimes intensity can bring about a special kind of pain. It seems like such a cruel fate happens to the best of spirits and tests every ounce of their strength. I see good things for Thomas' future, they're there for sure, but now and for the rest of his life, I will be protective of his well-being during those times. I want joy for him so badly but I want him to be healthy too. I hope we'll find that balance as he moves forward into adulthood.

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