Husband has schizophrenia, need support.

Tell us a bit about yourself here.
As for your own children, I would say, only speaking personally, that there has to be a balance between 'shielding' and 'hiding' perhaps.

You don't say how old they are, but I do think that if your husband's illness is 'the elephant in the room' (which it was with my mother) it only makes things more difficult for them. I would argue it's best to be upfront, but 'carefully', or perhaps 'selectively'.

Children do tend to normalise whatever goes on in their childhood, even if they are aware that their family is 'different'.

You don't say how old yours are, but how about something along the following maybe????????

'Darlings, we all know that Dad can act strangely sometimes, and this is because something isn't right in his brain. He has a condition called schizophrenia, which means 'split mind'. It's something quite a lot of people have, so Dad is definitely not the only person with it. One of the things schizophrenia does is confuse the 'wiring' of the brain, and maybe upset the biochemical inside the brain - the doctors aren't entirely sure yet, they are still trying to work out what goes on inside the brains of people with schizophrenia.

One of the ways the condition affects the brain is to make some parts of it 'overactive'. For example, with Dad, the part of his mind that is to do with fear, and keeping safe, is overactive. As you probably know, human beings who lived long ago, like the cavemen, had to be on their guard the whole time in case sabre tooth lions and wolves and so on were trying to eat them for lunch. So they had to be very 'wary' the whole time - they had to be alert to noises and potential dangers. The instincts in our brains that we have from our ancestors, about being fearful and wary, is still there, and we still need it. We need it, for example, when we cross a busy road - we have to look for cars whizzing by - it's that sense of fear that actually keeps us safe. We naturally avoid doing dangerous things, and that is good and helpful.

But, with people like our Dad, that part of the brain is 'overactive' - it's like he thinks he's maybe out in the jungle and there are tigers stalking us. Because he's modern man, he doesn't think about tigers, but about, say, baddies, like on the TV/films, are stalking him, and trying to attack him. That part of the brain is over-active, and makes him very agitated.

When he takes the medicine that the doctors give him they 'calm down' that part of his brain that is over-active, and that helps him realise that the 'baddies' are NOT out there, and so that makes him a lot calmer.

The medicine can't cure his schizophrenia, but it can help him be happier, and a lot calmer. But, like all medicines, they have side effects, and sometimes Dad doesn't like the side effects, so wants to stop the medicine. Or sometimes, again like all medicines, they become less effective over time, they 'wear out', and so Dad has to try new ones, or change the dosage.

As I say, schizophrenia is, like lots of things that go wrong with the brain in people, still very mysterious to the doctors. They don't really understand what causes it, what is actually going on in the brain, and, most important of all, how to heal the brain properly. They are still researching all this, and we hope that as time goes by, they will find out the answers to these questions, and come up with medicines that can completely cure what Dad has. Maybe this is something you might help with, when you grow up.

In the meantime, we try and keep Dad as well as possible, but sometimes there are 'relapses' where the schizophrenia comes out in his behaviour. We don't want to be scared of Dad when he's like that, but we do need to behave in ways that don't agitate him, as much as we can do that. We try and 'calm him down' and make him happier.

Dad's schizophrenia is not the 'real Dad', any more than if, say, you broke a leg, your broken leg would be the 'real' leg - no, it's the broken leg. We know the 'real Dad' is somewhere inside his head, and sometimes we see more of it than at others, depending on how bad the schizophrenia is that day.

We know Dad loves us and loves us, but sometimes having the schizophrenia means he can't really remember that, and so can behave very 'wildly' towards us. We try and get through those times together, and if at any time you are worried or scared or upset, you come to me, and we can talk about it, or not talk about it, just as you want. I'm always always always here for you.'

**

What is your husband like towards the children, and you? Does that vary with the mood swings/paranoia? Are there times when he is warm and loving and affectionate, capable of enjoying life with his children. Do you get 'treats' together, eg outings when he is on good form? Are there things he does 'normally', eg, read to them at bedtime, play with them? I do very much hope so.

It isn't easy by any means, but I do think that as long as the children know they can talk about it to you, and to each other as they get older, and that they do have 'some good times' with their dad, and you, and that he is warm and loving to them when he is 'well', that that is THE most important thing.

Kindest wishes - J
What advice is given on the forums and websites for families of those with mental illness/schizophrenia/paranoia? Is it helpful, do you think?
Thanks Jenny,

Kids are 13 & 9.. I've told them similar things to what you suggest but don't want to worry them with too much information.. when they are a bit older I will probably sit them down and explain in more detail. I see it as 'need to know' basis!

Emma x