Paranoid Schizophrenia – A Mother’s Story

Schizophrenia is a very serious mental illness that causes psychosis, a difficulty interpreting reality. It can cause hallucinations, paranoia, disordered thinking, and troubling changes in mood, behavior, and thinking. Schizophrenia often first shows signs in young adulthood, and in some cases it includes paranoid delusions. This condition is always challenging to live with, but paranoia and distrust adds another element of difficulty. Individuals living with paranoid schizophrenia can benefit from treatment and family support. Family can benefit from hearing the experiences of others in a similar situation.

Schizophrenia has played a big role in my life. When my son began to experience delusions, became paranoid, and showed other signs of having a mental illness, it turned my life upside down. I had always hoped for the best health for my child, but mental health was never something I worried about.

The diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia changed our lives. While we have both struggled, we have come through this situation stronger. Thanks to good treatment and medication, therapy for me, and support from other family, my son and I are both living better and managing his condition.

The Warning Signs I Didn’t See

Schizophrenia is not common, and no mother expects her teenage son to have this serious condition. So when my son started exhibiting early signs of psychosis, I ignored them for too long. His grades started dropping in his junior year. Looking back now, I realize this was probably the first sign. He had always been a good student, but the change was subtle at first.

He started spending less time with his friends and more time alone in his room. I first considered this to be a type of normal teenage behavior, but it did start to worry me. I thought he might be depressed. Around the rest of the family he seemed so emotionless, not like our usual boy who always had an opinion and something to say.

I look back now and understand why these signs didn’t immediately register as schizophrenia or psychosis, but I still feel guilty that it wasn’t until he got really paranoid that I actually did something about it. I’ll never forget the day my son came to me to confess that he thought the CIA was following him and that this was why he had stopped leaving the house and didn’t want to go to school.

Getting a Diagnosis

I was so scared at this point that I considered going to the emergency room. But he was remarkably calm. I made an appointment for the doctor the next day. I had to tell him we were going to see his dad, someone he trusts. I felt terrible about it, but he wouldn’t leave the house otherwise.

Our doctor knew right away that my son was paranoid, delusional, and in a state of psychosis. She suggested schizophrenia and my heart dropped. We decided to put him into residential treatment right away, and they diagnosed schizophrenia with paranoia.

Treatment and Life After

Residential treatment felt like abandonment, but I recognized that I knew nothing about schizophrenia or how to help my son. Putting him in a residence meant he would get expert care, and thankfully I was able to participate as well. I learned more about the condition while he stabilized on medications and went through his own therapy.

We both came out of the experience understanding schizophrenia and what this would mean for my son’s future. He learned important strategies for questioning his paranoid thoughts and learning to trust certain people, like me and his dad, when we tell him that his beliefs are flawed.

Treatment was so helpful, but every day since he came back home has been challenging. It’s just me and him in the home, which makes it especially difficult when I feel lost as to how to help him. Sticking with therapy and monitoring his medication have been important. Each day, we learn more about the challenges of this condition and how to make it better.

I Have to Manage My Own Depression

One of my challenges has been personal. Anything you read about being a caregiver will tell you to also take care of yourself. But when you’re a mother and your son is struggling, it’s hard to take time away. It feels like abandonment, like being a bad parent. But the advice is valid. Since my son first got his diagnosis, my own mental health has deteriorated.

It began with a sense of hopelessness. I felt as if I just couldn’t do right for my son. I struggled to get out of bed and was doing the bare minimum to get by each day. My sister was the first to notice that something was wrong, something beyond the normal difficulties of caring for a child with schizophrenia. She encouraged me to see her therapist, and he diagnosed me with major depression.

He told me that depression was actually pretty common for someone in my position. So, on top of caring for my son I need to take time out to get my own treatment. But it’s proven to be well worth the time. With therapy, I learned how to manage my stress better, how to cope with the challenges of my caregiving position, and to minimize depression symptoms.

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Extra Help Is a Necessity

Before my own diagnosis, I really struggled to ask for help. I felt like it was my job to care for my son and that no one else could do it. That guilt and feeling like I was abandoning my kid was tough to overcome. My therapist really helped me see that, without taking care of myself, I really wasn’t doing my best job as a mom.

Especially with a child who has paranoid delusions, having more than one person available to help has proven to be a necessity. Sometimes this is because I simply need a break. But it’s also helpful to have other people he trusts around to keep him calm and provide reassurance. My son’s father is in his life more now, and my sister stays with us sometimes in order to help out. This has made a huge difference in our lives.

Facing an Uncertain Future With Hope

This has been the biggest challenge of my life. Any parent wants their child to be healthy and happy, and for a long time I thought this diagnosis would mean that my son couldn’t possibly have the life I dreamed for him. The reality is that, while our vision of the future has changed, it isn’t terrible. We have hope.

Every day, my son works on managing symptoms and learning to be independent. He makes decisions for himself, and I let him do things his own way most of the time. He is back in school and spends most of his time in regular education classes. He’s planning to stay at home and try community college for a year or two before we decide what his next steps will be.

Treatment, both for my son and me, has been the best thing for both of us. The future looks different, but it looks good. With a solid foundation of medical care, therapy, and family support my son has a great future ahead of him.

If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with schizoaffective disorders, schizophrenia, and severe bipolar as well as co-occurring substance use disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.