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Reflections of a Mom on Paranoid Schizophrenia

Personality Destroyed

     I ended my last post (The Beginning) with a description of schizophrenia as an “awful life sucking brain disease”—however, it would have been more accurate to describe it as an awful personality sucking brain disease.  Although it does destroy a person’s life if left untreated, the more heinous thing schizophrenia does is destroy who and what a person is—when medication is refused. 

     This doesn’t happen all at once- but slowly and gradually, at different rates for different traits.  It took longer for some things to disappear in my son, while others were destroyed much earlier in the disease.  For N (my son) one of the first things to go was his sense of humor (a close second was any display of affection); while his demonstration of common courtesy (such as saying “thank you” and “please”) along with his sense of responsibility, and willingness and desire to help others was one of the last things to disappear.

    Who and what N once was is now gone.  His personality no longer exists (at least outwardly, but I’m hopeful that it’s still a part of his brain and not chemically destroyed).   His individual spark has been doused. He now bears no resemblance to who he was before this awful disease started. 

     Schizophrenia has eliminated any sign of the original personality and temperament that made him N.

     And the worse thing: N doesn’t even realize that this drastic change has occurred.

The Beginning

    My son (I’ll refer to him as N throughout this blog) began exhibiting signs of paranoid schizophrenia a while before I realized something was wrong.
     Our world was turned inside out and upside down when N began to think that people were following him.  First it was only occasionally, but it eventually became every time he went out.  He told me our neighbors were in on it and that they were also listening in on him somehow.  He began hearing the neighbors talk about him—even though he was inside and they were outside in their yard, and sometimes in their homes!  It didn’t matter that this would be impossible, even for his great hearing.  (His first delusion and auditory hallucination had occurred.)
     I didn’t think that anyone would have the time, or be inclined, to follow him.   But N was sure of it. 
     These thoughts affected his behavior in various ways.  He started talking in whispers much of the time.  He became apprehensive, fearful, upset much of the time, and angry with me because I would not confront the neighbors.    
     About six months after the delusion had begun, N met with a doctor who told him he probably had paranoid schizophrenia.  He came home very upset.  He said the doctor didn’t know anything.  People were conspiring against him, following him, listening in on his conversations, etc.  He got more upset when I told him I thought it was possible.  N thought I had turned against him and that I didn’t believe him. 
     I was proud of N during this life changing time.  It took strength of character and persistence to do his normal activities in spite of thinking he was being followed wherever he went and spied on in his home.  He was determined to continue with his routine and would not consider my offer to take over some of his responsibilities.  N was courageous!
     The awful life sucking brain disease (paranoid schizophrenia) had started.

     I am broken hearted. 

     I have an adult son who has a disease. 

     It is not an illness, such as a cold or the flu, that someone recovers from.  It is a disease--one which is chronic and disabling.  It takes over and destroys.

     My son has what is commonly called a mental illness.  I consider it a brain disease.  A chemical imbalance (one of several theories) cause the brain to misfire and messages in the brain get mixed up.  He has a type (one of four) of schizophrenia (which means broken mind). 

     Schizophrenia reminds me of epilepsy.  Both are caused by the brain misfiring.  With epilepsy there is a loss of control over one's body.  With schizophrenia there is a loss or disintegration of one's thought processes. Both are devastating.

     What makes my heart sick is that while there is no cure for schizophrenia, there is medication that is effective in managing the delusions (beliefs or ideas that are false) and hallucinations (the most common is hearing voices) that are symptoms of schizophrenia.  But my son refuses to take this medication. 

     My son has paranoid schizophrenia.  So in addition to his mind functions being robbed and his ability to have rational thought destroyed, he is also suspicious and paranoid.  His personality has slowing disappeared, and is now replaced by a world of delusions, voices, and paranoia.