Monday, September 08, 2008

Ah, for blissful ignorance!

“Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then…”

I often think of that line from Bob Seger’s song “Against the Wind.” How well it expresses a sense of lost innocence…a feeling I’ve frequently experienced over the years, as I dealt with situations that I would rather never have even known about. The harsh reality of schizophrenia definitely falls into that category.

I wish I never knew the heartbreak of watching someone you love become a stranger. I wish I didn’t know about how this disorder can rob someone of emotion and of cognitive abilities. I wish I didn’t know about having to choose between madness and medication that makes a person sleep ¾ of their life away, gain weight, develop diabetes. I wish I didn’t know about the frustration of seeing someone not receive the services they need to get better. I wish I didn’t know the pain of seeing someone have such a small semblance of normal life: no friends, no job, no particular reason to get out of bed.

And now I’m learning even more about what I don’t want to know. I’ve never really lived with Gabriel when he’s been actively psychotic. I mean, for many years, he had the diagnosis, but the symptoms were minimal…mainly just some skewed thinking. When he had his first major psychotic episode, it came on very suddenly. Over the course of a weekend, he was somewhat moody and withdrawn, and then in one fell swoop, he was in a full-blown psychotic state: delusional, paranoid, hallucinating. I took him to the ER and he was in the hospital for 7 months, with only one 24 hour period when they made the mistake of furloughing him home. So I’ve never really dealt with him at home in this state, until now.

He stopped taking his medication about a month ago and is progressively getting worse every day. He sits in front of the TV while he’s awake, only getting up to eat when I directly tell him to eat and I put his food on the table for him. He rarely responds to me when I say something to him. He is obviously hallucinating, staring and watching unseen things constantly. He stays awake for 48 hours at a time. On Saturday, I thought it might be good for him to get out of the house, so I asked the boys if they wanted to go out to eat. It took 15 minutes for Gabriel to put his shoes on…he rummaged through the laundry basket, stared into space, looked out the window, muttered “I’m looking for, I’m looking for, I’m looking for…” Even after I handed him his shoes and socks, with a direct order to put them on, it took about 5 minutes for him to do it. At the restaurant, he couldn’t keep his mind on things long enough to decide what he wanted…I finally ordered for him. And the day before yesterday he started that constant maniacal laughing that was one of his symptoms during his last episode…we endured about 24 hours of it before he finally fell asleep last night.

Reading this, you may be wondering why I haven’t taken him to the hospital. I figure there’s no point right now. They will only admit him if he’s considered to be a “danger to himself or others.” So if I took him now, all they would do would be to tell him to take his medication and send him home. So I have to wait until the overt paranoia kicks in. Meanwhile I’m on pins and needles, not knowing quite what to expect.