Yesterday's therapy session was one of the toughest I've been in on in a while. Leave it to the therapist, Dr. K., to get to the truth of the matter. In doing so I learned a great deal about how much Thomas struggled on Monday and how much he's still struggling. I know I told you yesterday that he says he's doing fine but when Dr. K. dug into everything we discovered that "fine" is not really what he is right now.
I picked Thomas up from a friend's to go to therapy yesterday and I handed him his "schizophrenic thought" card that he and I together had filled out on Monday. I talked to him about how I felt I had put words in his mouth about what his paranoia might have been about. I wanted him to find his own voice about it before he went into therapy so I gave him a pen and we talked a little more. It turns out that instead of feeling judged by people he actually felt that there were government agents in the store who were coming for him. That was more in line with what I know about Thomas and his paranoid thoughts. Judgment from people really isn't an issue of his and frankly it had been the words I used when we did the card. It's really a guessing game, though, when all I get from him is "I don't know" when he's asked how he's feeling or what he's thinking. Now knowing we were back to thinking government agents were around, it seemed to open a Pandora's box of issues.
Dr. K. asked Thomas to rate the believability that government agents were in the crowds at his work when he was working. 100 means he completely believed it and, of course, 0 meant he didn't believe it at all. Thomas came in at 85. This illness and it's manipulative quality is so frustrating. We can sit there in therapy and Dr. K. and I can say that it isn't the case that government agents are there and yet, still, Thomas holds onto his belief. I really wish I knew what goes on exactly when it comes to these thoughts. Why, when someone you trust, reassures you that you are safe do you still believe you aren't? I mean, I get it to some degree because I haven't felt safe in the past (for more rational reasons though) and it's been a feat to convince me otherwise. My feelings of vulnerability have been centered around things like a murder happening in my town on a trail I love to walk and afterwards I didn't feel safe to go walking at all and eventually just gave up on walking the trail alone altogether. I understand that the chances of a murder happening again are slim but no one can really convince me I'm safe. But a real life murder is rational reasoning for not feeling safe. Government agents in a crowd at a big box store are a whole other story. This illness never ceases to frustrate me and in a way, amaze me. How it twists our loved one's minds is just so unfair.
During therapy I could sense Thomas becoming more and more anxious. I felt horrible for him. Clearly talking about government agents, even now after days have passed, still upset him. When asked to rate the believability that they are out there at this point in time after he's gotten away from the store and had a few days, he came in at a 40. Still, the thoughts are there. Still, he's taken in by schizophrenia.
Then Dr. K. told Thomas he had some good new and some bad news and he asked Thomas what he wanted to hear first. Thomas chose the bad news (a brave move on his part) and Dr. K. proceeded to tell him that these thoughts will most likely be around for a while. The good news? They will eventually go away, we just need to get through this period of time until they do. Yes, they will go away but...but they are here now and they're not going anywhere anytime soon. This is what kills me about this illness. Thomas was fine and one day and night of intense stress and he's back in the thick of it, battling government agents all around him. Not even 24 hours of stress and we are back almost at square one.
We left therapy and stepped out into the sunshine and Thomas stopped in the middle of the parking lot and looked up. He said,
"It's such a beautiful day. We should go sit at the park."
That's a good idea, right? I mean, isn't that what people do on a nice day? For me, though, this was a warning bell. Time and again when Thomas has been stressed he has asked me to take him for a drive up into the hills around town or down the river to throw rocks from the banks. Getting away in some form or another, for him, is an escape from the stress he's feeling. One such trip culminated in a major psychotic break and a one week stay in the hospital. These trips scare me and put me on edge. Just exactly where are we headed here?
When we got in the car Thomas asked if we could stop by the house and get his paycheck and go to the bank before we went to the park so I took him home, all the while trying to figure out what we could do to calm him. As he got his check I was reminded about a time in the last few months that we had driven by the duck pond and he had wistfully said how much he missed going and feeding the ducks. So, as a surprise for him, I gathered up some bread from the house and told him we were going to go feed the ducks. He was so happy!
When we got to the pond we had to walk down a steep path to the pond and from there down a staircase made of big rocks to reach the water. I was wearing high heels so I was teetering my way down the path and Thomas lovingly stopped and offered me his hand to help me down the rocks. It couldn't have been a sweeter offer from my stressed out kid. As we stood there in the sun and threw crumbs of bread into the pond, we talked about the different ducks, marveled at the sounds of the birds all around us and laughed about the ducks that would harass each other for a crumb of bread. We spent a good half hour there in the middle of nature and our visit proved to be a calming influence on Thomas.
With the band aid on now, with the anticipation of his airsoft war on Saturday, he is leaning on some shaky ground in order to get him through work tonight. He believes that the imminent trip to the next town for Airsoft wars is going to be the thing that gets him through tonight's shift. I, on the other hand, am not so optimistic. It's Friday at his store, the sales are on and the crowds will most likely be there. If he's strong, he'll make it okay but if not, we will be looking at another shift cut short. I will happily go get him, though, and rescue him from the "government agents" because he's had enough for a while. We need more duck ponds and less big box stores for now.
(Friday's With Tom is today. I'll post it at 9 a.m.. Thomas very kindly has shared with all of you his personal story about Monday and how he coped. He has opened his mind, the schizophrenic thoughts, and opened his heart for all of you so that you can better understand the experience of schizophrenia from his point of view in the hopes that it will help you all with your loved ones. He offered me a hand at the duck pond and now, he is offering you the same.)
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