Tuesday, December 23, 2014

For The Struggling Caregivers

Today I write for the caregivers of someone with schizophrenia who are struggling while they watch their loved ones battle with this illness and some with co-occurring drug and alcohol addictions.

I do not pretend to know what all of these caregivers are going through except enough to put myself in their positions and try to imagine what it would be like if Thomas struggled with a lot of these issues. This illness is so difficult just dealing with the illness alone but when you add in other complicating factors the illness becomes nothing short of a nightmare. All of these caregivers, though, that are struggling as the ones they love struggle are, as always, fighting for their loved ones and many are communicating with others in order to better understand what their loved ones are going through. It is those people that I think are on the right track even though they feel such anguish about their loved one with schizophrenia. For the caregivers out there that are fighting this alone, who feel alone, who feel like no one else could possibly understand their pain and that of their loved ones, I want to say to you that, in fact, you are not alone. Certainly this illness manifests differently in people but the running theme is the same. There are complicated delusions, cruel hallucinations, the belief that the one caring for them is the enemy and so much more. There are many caregivers who have, this holiday season, had to see their loved one hospitalized, some going voluntarily, some not. They cry tears of desperation as they realize that their loved ones won't be with them this holiday season but they also know that their loved ones are in the best place they can be for the time being, getting stabilized on meds and are being protected from themselves and the world outside the walls of the hospital.

I have been in the place of these caregivers with loved ones in the hospital and I know what they're going through. The times that Thomas was hospitalized were some of the worst of my life because while Thomas was hospitalized and getting proper care, he was angry, sullen, drugged, anxious, scared, hallucinating and often hating me with a passion. I have sat outside of the doors of the hospital crying after having visited Thomas or have found myself in my car in the parking lot with the music turned up so loud I've almost blown out the speakers crying anguished tears that wracked my body as I searched the sky outside my windshield and asked God, "Why? Why? Why?" I know what these caregivers with loved ones in the hospital are going through and my love, thoughts and prayers are with you.

To the caregivers dealing with their loved ones with a co-occurring issue like drugs and alcohol, my heart goes out to you the most. You are fighting a demon that is out of your control, one that sucks your loved one in and convinces them that what they are doing is right and is helpful somehow. As a way to offer my understanding and support, I know that for me, a couple of years ago when my bipolar was out of control, I was drinking pretty heavily to manage the pain of the illness, the mania, the mixed episodes and the stress that it all caused me. Every night I found myself in my kitchen, shot glass in hand, convincing myself that I would just feel better if I could drink myself into unconsciousness. The truth of the matter was, it only compounded my problems and in the end I ended up sicker than I would have been had I not started drinking. But alcohol convinced me it was my cure-all and I let it take over my life. In the end, by the grace of God, it was Thomas who got through to me. When he would find me drunk and on the verge of passing out he would look at me with THOSE EYES and I could see the worry and fear in them. Only after slowing down a little, he confided in me that he feared I would die and then and only then did I make the choice to stop drinking.

I tell you that story because I want you to try to find some hope in it. It is my hope for you that your loved one sees the pain you are going through as you walk beside them through their addictions and they come to see what their addictions are doing to the people around them. I realize that their addiction is fueled by a very formidable illness but my bipolar ruled my life at the point that I was drinking and I did eventually see what I was doing to my loved ones with my drinking. My hope is that for those of you with loved ones with schizophrenia who have a co-occurring addiction, that they will accept help, accept your love and desire to help them get past their problem and eventually see their way past what is tearing them down right now.

I write today for the caregivers who are struggling right now with any number of issues that their loved ones with schizophrenia are fighting. I know that life is not easy right now, I know the pain is especially difficult during the holiday season, a time when we are supposed to have hope. If I could choose a gift to give to all of you at this time, I would pull from under my Christmas tree an exquisitely wrapped gift with a sparkling bow where inside sits hope, strength, resolve, promise that things will get better, love and compassion and for those of you with a faith in a higher power, I would put inside unending prayers for you and your loved one for better health and a happier life.

I am here and I am paying attention. I see your struggles and my heart goes out to you right now. If I can impart anything to you right now, it is the understanding that you are not alone. Reach out to those you love and trust who can offer something to you at this time, even if it's just a hug and a shoulder to cry on. Reach out to support groups (I have a couple affiliated with this page and if you'd like to join them, please send me a private message to this page using the message button at the top right of the page and I will see about getting you into one that suits your needs). Just don't do this alone because you are not alone. There is always someone who cares and can offer support and understanding.

Please, take care of yourselves.

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