The names in this story have been changed for anonymity.
This is my story, how I see things as a parent and caretaker. Let me introduce you to my son, Kevin. He likes to write poetry, paint, draw, play with his cat, take walks, and watch documentaries. He learns new facts about the things he’s interested in. I grew up eating sliced American cheese and Velveeta. At any given time, Kevin chooses deli wedges of different cheeses. He’s talked about the smooth taste of cheeses or the aroma, color and texture. He knows his cheeses. He was eating aged cheddar one day and told his brother that it’s similar in taste to Gouda. He’s vegetarian and manages his own diet. He likes to eat oysters, crab, salmon and lobster. He’s a food connoisseur.
In the first point, let me tell you characteristics my son has this includes hearing voices, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, unusual movements, highs and lows, isolating behavior, mania, and paranoia.
A little on our experience with Kevin’s mania. Normally he is quiet, stays in his room and doesn’t want to go anywhere other than the grocery store or a drive-through for food. When he has mania, he is a joy. He will sit with me and talk, smile, laugh, dance and tell jokes.
He will compare life with episodes of the Simpsons, Rick and Morty or King of the Hill. We’ll both laugh so hard. We get by by remembering the fun times. One time he said a 6ft elf wanted to teach him to dance.
Another time he said he was married with 8 children and that he lived on another planet.
We were on vacation once when he said the fairies had stolen all his socks. He puts coins in the corners of rooms to keep fairies away.
He tells me these stories when he is in mania. He’s talking more and will talk for a long time. His speech is faster and he wants to be more active.
Sometimes being committed to recovery is being committed to not making things worse. We roll with things that are not dangerous. Several years ago, Kevin was frustrated with his dad and hid his shoes. The next morning, Dennis woke up, got ready for work and couldn’t find his shoes. Kevin laughed and said you’ll never see them again. Dennis finally found them in the trash can on the driveway. I laughed with Kevin and just let it go.
Each time Kevin has psychosis (mean voices and delusions) it hurts his brain. He has been going backwards on knowledge since being diagnosed. He can act 8 or 15 when he is actually 26. I’m working with the psychiatrist to get him the right medicine to stop the psychosis or at least calm the voices. When he’s hearing voices, we don’t confront him. He can get violent. He’s hit his dad and brother, poured coffee on his sister, and tried to cut me with a knife. When he’s a danger to himself or others he is admitted to the mental hospital.
We are fully committed to recovery. In the last 10 years, he been stable a few times. We’re working on lengthening the time he is stable. Because we are committed to recovery, we work on good communication. The third point is communication. I validate what he says because it is real to him. This is a normal conversation with Kevin. He’ll say
-Do you believe in orbs? I would answer
-I’ve heard you talk about the spheres you see floating around.
What do you think of auras?
You’ve told me about the colors that emanate from people that you can see.
It’s like an outline around a person. My aura can fight someone else’s aura. Like on Pokemon.
I had to laugh. He loves to compare to TV shows.
One of his favorite things to talk about is money. He wants to spend money like he sees fit. I don’t want him buying drugs or alcohol. It wreaks havoc on his condition. So I limit any money I put in his account and watch closely what he spends it on. Here’s a conversation with Kevin on money.
It makes me feel like a child when you monitor my money.
-I understand that that would make you feel like a child.
-I’m old enough to spend money where I want to.
-You’re right. You are old enough.
-When will you start letting me control my money.
-When I can trust you.
-I’m sorry you can’t trust me. I’ll try to do better.
In the past I would enter these conversations repeating why I do what I do, but he knows. He just wants to be validated. Instead of the conversations get heated, it ends well.
Moving forward, we concentrate on one step at a time. We don’t look at the top of the staircase because it’s too far away. We look at the step we’re on. Now that is finding the right medicine. He just went back to an injection that lasts a month. With this, I can know he has medicine in his system. I don’t have to rely on him to remember his medicine or give it to him every day.
We do have goals that he will take responsibility of his illness, work and lead a safe, fulfilling life. We believe he can accomplish this. We love to hear him laugh. He tells great stories. We try to get him involved in hobbies that will keep him satisfied and keep his mind in the right place.
I’ve talked to you today first about the characteristics of schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, the voices, paranoia, isolation. 2nd I’ve explained how I’m committed to recovery by working with the psychiatrist, and 3rd, I’ve found the best ways to communicate with him as we move forward from the place he is now.