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20871069 tn?1554687022

How do you cope when someone you love has schizophrenia?

My brother, whom I was extremely close to growing up, developed Schizophrenia in his mid- to late-20's.  It started out with uncontrollable rage-he once threatened to beat my husband to death with a baseball bat as a result of an argument that ensured between the two of them when my husband physically stepped between us to prevent my brother from becoming violent with me after being "cut off" from drinking.  Because that type of behavior was (extremely) uncommon for my brother at that time, and only manifested itself when he'd been drinking, we just wrote the incident off to that and started getting him help with a drinking problem.  It was several years later before the schizophrenia manifested itself--in "magnificent" style, when during a failed suicide attempt, he narrowly missed shooting the 90 year old lady across the street in the head. By about half an inch.  
Things progressed -- or should I say DIGRESSED -- very quickly after that, and I have watched my baby brother, who was once incredibly intelligent and possibly a genius, turn into someone I no longer recognize.  He has isolated himself to his entire family through his behaviors, and no glimmer of the former genius boy-wonder has completely vanished.  
He got to a point where he refused to take his medications anymore, which were controlling his symptoms so well that it was almost easy to forget he had them.  His violent behavior returned, although instead of hurting others, he started destroying THINGS, like punching multiple holes in the walls, punching out a window in his bedroom, and breaking apart furniture.  He quit showering - he would bathe, in that he'd sit in a tub full of water several times a day, but not wash his body or his hair.  He also became incredibly introverted and even defiant.  It has finally reached the point that my mother finally felt that she had no choice but to kick him out of her house until he is willing to start taking his medications again.  Because of his paranoia, he refuses to go to a homeless shelter, so he has now completely transformed himself - the boy with the genius IQ and enormous wit is now literally the "crazy homeless man sleeping on a park bench."
Because my husband and I both work from home, we moved back into my parents' house a few years ago, when he first started to develop issues, like "forgetting" that he was cooking and almost burning down the house, so that we could be there to help out during the day, so I have had a front row seat to all of this.  The stress and tension caused by all of this has given me an anxiety issue of my own, and (I am certain), a lot of deep depression.
Because of how intensive mental health laws are, and because he is an adult, there is no venue for myself, stuck between watching this happen and listening to my mother cry herself to sleep at night, or the rest of my family to get any kind of support.  It is LITERALLY easier for the loved ones of an alcoholic or drug addict to find help and support than someone who loves and cares for a mental health patient.
I am at a breaking point - this has very deeply affected my physical AND mental health as well as my relationships with my husband and with my family.  I am looking for someone now, a professional that I can speak with who can help me accept things, but it takes so long to get in and speak with anyone.  I am an extremely empathic person, so I feel my brother's "pain" -- the night he walked through the house sobbing and screaming about how he used to have friends, and be well-read, and be an intellectual person, the only thing that I could do was lie in my bed and cry myself to sleep, because he won't talk to me.
I KNOW that my story isn't special, and that this disease has ripped apart more families than my own.  Hell-my mother's great-uncle was affected, and it led him to murder his father.  What I really DON'T know is how anyone else has ever dealt with it.  Is there anyone who could suggest some coping methods, or could give me ideas on where my family and I can turn to for help.  I'd even be happy for the titles of BOOKS that might give me some insight.
I really want to help him. I can't stand thinking of him living on the street, but once my husband and I move next month, it isn't like my brother can come live with us - I don't trust him around my husband and it's not like I could ever ask anyone who has literally threatened my husband with MURDER to come live in our home.  
What do I do? Can anyone help?
3 Responses
Avatar universal
First of all, if he's in fact a danger to himself or others, as you say he is, the law does allow for forced confinement in a mental institution.  That doesn't mean he'll get good treatment there, it depends on the institution.  The best ones are private and expensive and for the wealthy.  The others are not as helpful to the patient, but if you really believe you or your family are in danger -- or anyone else is -- there are things you can do if you want to.  But that's not your main question, which is how to cope.  Most of us on here are sufferers, not the ones coping with us.  Being mentally ill is very isolating even if it's "just" anxiety or depression because the truth is, most people don't cope, they withdraw if they can.  The exceptions who stay involved we all admire, but I have to admit, there weren't any of those in my family.  So I guess they coped by just staying away from me, and I was nowhere near the level of difficulty your brother is at.  The reality is, those of us who are curse with mental illness are often not easy to be around.  Some of us aren't very nice.  We do tend to be frustrated a lot of the time.  The best thing anyone can do is to try and find help that actually works, but in your brother's case, and he's not alone here, you did find that and he won't do it.  The medications can be a real pain to take for some people, and what your brother has is very different from depressed people and anxious people because we know we're ill and those with psychosis often find the psychotic part of life the part that seems real.  Since you can't cure him, and he won't take the meds that tamp it down, you're stuck having to either force yourself on him, force him into confinement, or just let him go.  As for your own psychology, being empathetic is great.  Being too much so isn't.  Therapy is probably the place for you so you have someone to talk to who might be able to help you.  All the usual suspects apply here -- exercise, eating right, meditation, sleeping, and doing the things you enjoy.  I know someone who has a member of her family who became very troubled both physically and mentally and made herself a very mean person.  Her reaction was to isolate herself.  It works for her.  For others, helping makes them feel better.  It's a decision you've wrestled with, but when someone spirals beyond your help, to the extent you describe, it's better only one suffers than two suffer.  You will be of much more help if you're not allowing it to ruin your life.  Because you are empathetic you probably won't feel great totally isolating yourself either, so find that balance.  I hope you find a therapist who can help you help yourself, but take your brother's life as a guide -- if you give in to the dark side, that will be your life.  Find your light, it will be better for you, your family, and your ability to help your brother if he gets to another point where he's willing to accept it.  Peace.
973741 tn?1342346373
I am so sorry to read this.  Wow, what a difficult situation.  Mental illness is brutal and so very sad.  But it is an illness.  In truth, a vast majority of our homeless population are mentally ill.  They do often refuse treatment especially with schizophrenia.  

I am going to be frank.  In life, once we are adults, we are to create our own living situation that is healthy. This isn't healthy for you.  You and your husband may want to consider moving out.  I understand that this may present an issue of conscious at this point leaving your mom(parents) to deal with it but your first and main priority in life is creating a healthy life for yourself.   You can be supportive of your mom while living at your own residence by listening and having somewhere she can go to 'get away' for some respite time. Checking on him when she needs you to sometimes.  I would make moving out your priority.  You're a married woman and describe a situation that you shouldn't subject your husband to or yourself.  You can still be a loving sister and daughter but with some 'space' between you and this so you aren't living it everyday.

Your mom may have to make the hard decision of reporting all of this.  And honestly, she should. In light of school shootings and other types of tragedies, how many times does a helpless family member of the person who does it have known that their loved one needed help?  I fully understand though that the system isn't exactly supportive of this.  in my city, there is a psychiatric unit that tracks adults with severe mental illness, most living on the streets or in group homes.  Their team finds them daily, attempts to provide medication, attempts to provide food. I am just throwing it out there that there ARE people who care when they have very uncooperative patients.  I am not sure though why no one has stepped in with your brother when he has almost shot a neighbor even if unintentional. Make sure no one is protecting your brother.  It's a difficult situation.

There are really no natural remedies for schizophrenia.  A treatment team is usually involved (different people doing different things for your brother) and medication is very important. The side effects of these medications are uncomfortable and this is why your brother probably doesn't want to take them.  It's a trade off.  Today's medications are better and no longer do patients drool or have very little affect which is a major change from past decades.  I don't know what meds your brother has taken. Newer generations are more expensive but much better.  Much better---  so make sure he is on atypical antipsychotics if he medicates again which are second generation.  Hospitalization is often needed during severe periods of the disorder.  Here's a read on it https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354449

Here is an article for family of someone with schizophrenia. https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/features/families-cope-schizophrenia#1

I'm wondering if there might not be a support group for you and your family as well.

I really feel for you. This is such a difficult mental health disorder to live with.
Avatar universal
There's a book: Xavier Amador
I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help! How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment

Ultimately though, no simple solution. One approach is to take care of yourself and your needs, . One trick is to notice you actually have 2 problems: thete's the original problem, which you may or may not have control over; and there's your emotional reaction to the problem, which you do have some control over. People go to support groups they enjoy, it helps them decouple the emptional reaction.
You always have such great advice!!  
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