Envisioning Positive Outcomes: Hope - and Preparation
Today is my son Ben’s 30th birthday. Whoa. How did this happen? I know every parent feels this same sense of disbelief as their children celebrate milestones; still, when your child has dealt with serious illness, that sense of wonder is enhanced by the fear you have felt in the past.
I remember asking myself: will Ben even live to be 30?
I know there are many parents who share these fears for many different reasons – even with perfectly healthy children, fear of losing your child is part of the beautiful package of love. No, Ben has not been diagnosed with cancer or heart disease. He has not been deployed to a war zone.
Ben has schizophrenia, a physical illness of the brain. Yes, it has changed our family forever. But is it life-threatening?
You bet it is.
Ben’s illness – especially when not balanced with medication -has placed him in serious situations with symptoms that interfere with his reason and ability to protect himself.
- He once wandered homeless in Idaho for five months.
- One relapse, about five years ago, sent him walking miles through our state, looking for a house he had pictured in his mind. He was reported missing for 40 hours before the police located him inside a local 24-hour drugstore – dazed, confused and seeking Doritos.
- He has been mugged – twice – while heading to a group meeting, lost in his music and unaware.
- He has come close, via misunderstandings, to being arrested at least twice. (Read about mental illness myths re crime) Without family input, he might have spent time in jail, like too many others with untreated mental illness.
So it with great gratitude that we celebrate his 30th birthday together. He has not only made it this far, but is growing up in so many ways. Employed for over a year. Close to an Associate’s Degree in college. Even some friends to do things with.
These ordinary miracles will never lose their glow, since we are always so close to losing it all. Families dealing with mental illness – or, indeed, any illness whose symptoms can return – must always keep their eye on the other shoe waiting to fall, especially if med compliance slips.
We must be prepared, yes – but once preparations are in place, we must choose to hope.
Not necessarily to expect – but to know that, with the pieces in place, things can get better.
When Ben was in the early stages of his schizophrenia onset, I used to wish for a crystal ball. I thought we could get through anything – all the chaos, mood swings, crisis, doctor visits, shocks – if only someone could tell me that it would all, eventually, be alright. That we would survive this as a family. That Ben would live – and have a life.
Then I realized that I had to create my own crystal ball – and envision the positive outcome myself. Then work for it – doing everything possible – and then wait for it.
Recovery in mental illness takes a lot of things: medical treatment, community, opportunities, purpose, support, structure – and also time and patience. There is a huge difference between hope and expectation. With hope, we can be comforted and inspired – and spurred to helpful action. Expectation, however, can lead to disappointment – not helpful for anyone.
So it’s good to live each day remembering that “anything can happen” – the other shoe-drop, perhaps (so stay alert and prepared) – but also wonderful, ordinary miracles. And if not today, then perhaps tomorrow. It helps.
Happy Birthday, Ben!
Kaye, R. (2012, April 30). Envisioning Positive Outcomes: Hope - and Preparation, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalillnessinthefamily/2012/04/envisioning-positive-outcomes-hope-and-preparation
Author: Randye Kaye
Happy Birthday and Congrats to your son and his achievements. Being in a positive environment along with medicine can help the person suffering turn the cloudy days of despair into sunny days. I take care of my uncle who is manic and bipolar as well as going into fugue states. He has not taken his medicine and gone into deep depression or high manic states. I started taking care of him after my Grammy died (she was his main caretaker). After doing research I found out that it makes it harder to treat when the patient stops taking medicine and then starts again. We also had to change the way that he took his medicine. He would take either too much or too little so I took over doling it out daily. He also had to abstain from alcohol because I noticed that it affected his mood. And talking to his doctor and nurse Schmidt I confirmed what I knew. If a person has a genetic risk for alcohol problems that does not mean that they are necessarily going to be a alcoholic. If they stay clear of drugs they will not have the dependency disease on alcohol. So we keep all the alcoholic drinks out of our house. We do not allow them because he is more important than a drink. I realized that this will always be a battle that we are being proactive in fighting, but you don't leave family high and dry. You stick together and take care of them. I wish you and your family the best of luck.
Wow, Sheri - you have learned so much (and it's all so true) and I applaud you for being there for your uncle. Each family member I've met confirms that they were empowered by education - though some of that education came from the school of trial-and-error, there are also lots of helpful resources like NAMI and Healthy Place. Thanks for writing!
Happy birthday, Ben. and congratulations to you, Randye for being such a great mom.
thanks from both of us!!