Schizophrenia is something I’ve never had to deal with, but my older brother Ryan does. He deals with it everyday. It is amazing when I think about it. Really amazing. My older brother has struggled with this illness since he was 7 years old. He has been hospitalized 5 times. Three of those times he was inpatient and the other two were outpatient. For those of you not familiar with exactly what that means, inpatient is when you stay at the hospital for as long as necessary. Could be days, weeks, or months. Outpatient is when you go throughout the day, and it’s like going to school almost, you do group and other stuff like that though. We saw him whenever possible, and to be honest, it was horrible. It sounds bad when I put it like that, but seeing him in the mental hospital was one of the most miserable experiences I’ve ever had. He sat there miserable, hating everything and everyone most of the time, especially me. I saw an empty shell of the brother I knew, like he was never really there. He refused to talk to me, threw me glares that showed only intense loathing for me. I’ll be honest when I say that it hurt, really hurt, to know that the brother who used to play with me, and try and cheer me up when I was down, had only one feeling towards me. Hatred, pure and simple. I was so hurt and angry, not really at him, more at myself than anyone, but that’s how I showed my pain. I lashed out at him, said things I could never mean and knew would not make a difference to him until later on when I saw what I really wanted him to feel, or I thought I did.
I hear people talk about mental hospitals like it’s a joke. They say loony bin, and crazy asylums, and I get so angry with them for that. These people are human beings just like you, they are just struggling with stuff you couldn’t imagine dealing with. They wake up getting ready for the new fight today that no one sees. Every. Single. Day. They get up and face whatever comes their way, and that is one of the most courageous things I have ever witnessed. The mental hospitals my brother stayed at look just like hospital, just without as much medical equipment. Mental hospitals now don’t look like those scary places you see in horror movies.
Back to Ryan… It was at the age of 10 when things got really bad. I remember he was getting bullied pretty badly in 5th grade when he went to school for the first time. (He was homeschooled up till then, like I was.) One time he came home really angry, I saw him from the window. The moment he walked in, he lost it, I mean completely lost it. I never knew how badly Ryan had been bullied until that day. He started balling his eyes out when he walked in. Turns out some kids at school kicked the crap out of his bike. I remember very few times when I got that angry or felt that much hatred towards others at the age of 8. I wanted to punch someone for doing that to Ryan, like he hadn’t been through enough, but I doubt anyone would be scared of a small 8 year old girl. He has been bullied a couple times now, and every time he has, I want to punch that person, make them feel the same pain he is in, but that’s not the right way to deal with things.
Another time, he came home from school, threw down his backpack, went up to his room without saying a word and slammed his door. Then all of a sudden, we heard, boom boom boom. He has taken one of my dad’s hammers and bashed a hole in his wall. He never did something like that though, because he never wanted to let any of his friends see something like that. He’s very smart though, and bashed a hole behind his door, so no one would see it. A little while later, he attempted suicide. I remember watching my mom try and calm him down after I had helped settle my little brothers upstairs. I don’t know what I thought, like if it did happen somehow, at least I was there and could try and help. I stayed invisible as always though, up on the top of the stairs, waiting without making a sound.That was one of the worst times in my life. He attempted suicide again at the age of 13, and again at the age of 16.
Ryan experienced a lot during those bad times, and he went through some bad episodes. He experienced psychosis and hallucinations. I remember him sitting on the couch for hours staring at a wall, never moving, just staring at nothing. His eyes were completely empty, not with a far off look, just empty. He heard voices and you could always tell when he heard them… he would stop whatever he was doing and be completely still with a look in his eyes that I can’t quite explain, but it was like someone hearing their name called in the distance… like someone straining to hear what a person was saying, trying to decipher their words.
My advice for anyone who knows someone with Schizophrenia is to remember that what ever is going on with that person has nothing to do with you. They may take out their problems on you, and they may blame you for things, but it has nothing to do with you. I can also say that as hard as it is not to get angry with them, try not to….. they don’t mean to hurt you, they just can’t help it. That doesn’t mean you should excuse their behavior because they have Schizophrenia, it just means that they do need you to be a little extra patient with them. You are just as big a priority as they are, and it’s really hard caring for someone with a mental illness, so take some breaks and separate yourself from all the stress and negative feelings. Relax. People who care for someone with a mental illness often need more breaks than other people. I know that life is extremely difficult when you have a mental illness or just caring for someone with a mental illness, both are extremely hard, and it’s more than fine to ask for help. But even in the hardest times, just remember… “Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.”-Winnie the Pooh. Things will always get better, even when it seems like life is against you, stay strong, it will get better.
Click here to watch a video about a boy named Jacob Bowman who is Schizophrenic. (Warning: He does swear quite often, but he really shows what it’s like to have Schizophrenia.)
Thanks for reading,