(Picture Credit: panhandleherald.com)
Yesterday Thomas had to work so I took the time in the car with him to talk to him about things. We ended up having quite a heart to heart about how he sees his future. I couldn't help but feel like schizophrenia was winning the battle over his life as the conversation went on but I tried to make what he saw as his future something worth living for.
We got to talking about him and his girlfriend who lives in Oklahoma (We live in Idaho). He mentioned that either she would move out here or he would move back there. I jumped on that revelation because I never thought it could be a possibility that she would move here. I told him that I thought it would be wonderful if she moved here because I could help her out if she ever needed it. You see, she has autism and struggles with a few limitations. I worry a lot about her when Thomas is sick because she worries so much about him. She's very sensitive and loves Thomas a great deal and like everyone, I am sure, she worries about how to help him feel better. I told him that I thought it would be a good idea for her to be living here in case he had an episode. I told him that I felt like she would need my support to help her help him during those times. For so long I've lived in fear that Thomas was going to move away to a family that doesn't have the first clue how to help someone with schizophrenia. I think there are many loving people who care a great deal but they just aren't equipped for the realities of schizophrenia at its worst. Having him here would keep him protected from the chaos of trying to sort out an episode and decide what to do in critical situations.
We also talked about how it would be better for him to stay here where he wouldn't have to give up his doctors and where things were familiar and there would be a little less stress. Not that having his girlfriend out here wouldn't be stressful, all relationships are, but having me here to help out wherever possible would be good. I told him they could move into one of the cute little "pill box" houses (little 2 bedroom, basically square houses) that we have around here and have a nice quiet life together. He smiled at that, I think he liked the pill box house idea, and he really felt like staying here would be better for him.
Then he outlined his girlfriend's skills one of which is the ability to hold down a full time job and the other was that she could drive. I asked him if she minded that he didn't have a full time job and he said she understood why. That is so good but I'm not sure how that would play out in the real world when they're struggling to pay bills. I can't imagine Thomas ever holding down a full time job but perhaps the future will bring something different.
Then as we sat in the drive thru of Dairy Queen to get his dinner, I spotted a mom carrying a baby and I made the comment,
"They're very cute when they're like that."
And he thought I was talking about how little they are. I told him that what I meant was that they're cute when they're smiling but life isn't always that way. I explained to him that I supported if he and his girlfriend, once married, wanted a baby but I wanted him to understand the realities of it. I told him how very hard it is in the middle of the night when they are crying and they want to be fed or changed. I told him that generally the men don't get up to care for the baby so the mom has to. I told him that while he's getting his sleep, his wife is up taking care of the baby and she is tired. Oh how I remember well the nights I was up, dead tired, holding Thomas in my arms and rocking him and, to be honest, hating his dad for not getting up "just this once" to help me out. I told him that his wife would always be tired and that would cause some grief in the house and that grief could cause stress that frankly neither of them, with their afflictions, could deal with. I told him things might be different someday but for now, if they were to get together any time in the next couple of years, that having a baby would be a mistake. I wanted to be so careful about making it clear that he didn't have to worry about possibly passing on his schizophrenia to his child but, to be honest, I have read a lot of research that says that autism and schizophrenia along with bipolar and about 4 other illnesses are genetically linked. With Thomas having schizophrenia and his girlfriend having autism and me having bipolar and his biological dad having issues, I think Thomas and his girlfriend having a baby might be the perfect storm for some unfortunate genetic mixing that might result in a child living with an illness of their own. It's hard enough to be me, for example, trying very hard, and sometimes failing miserably, to take care of Thomas but to have the two of them trying, it seems like it would put a lot of strain on the relationship and on their mental health. I really can't say how it would turn out in the end, if the baby would have any issues at all, but the odds scare me and worry me for both Thomas and his girlfriend.
Thomas heard me out about all of this and seemed to take it in okay. The very worst thing I can be, in my opinion, for Thomas, is a dream destroyer. I don't want to take his potential from him but there is a fine line between keeping a dream alive and facing reality. I tried yesterday to find that balance and I think, for the most part, I did okay. It's such a delicate conversation to have but they need to be had.
So, who can say for sure what the future will bring. Maybe his girlfriend will move out here and maybe she won't. Maybe the relationship won't make it for many different reasons and things will be different for Thomas. All I can do is try not to destroy too many of his dreams, try to give him hope about his future and to encourage what it is possible for him to do within the parameters of his illness. I want him to have everything I have had and more if possible but facing reality is integral.