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Schizophrenic dad and son relationship - Carers UK Forum

Schizophrenic dad and son relationship

For issues specific to caring for someone with mental ill health.
Not sure what I am really expecting to achieve from this post, but feel I need to get it out there anyway.

My son has been unwell for over a year now. He has expressed quite a wide range of symptoms, been right royally shafted by the system, but we seem to be getting somewhere finally.

He is currently in hospital being assessed and treated for a psychotic illness. The team do not 100% agree on the diagnosis though. The lead clinical psychologist thinks it definitely is the beginning of a true psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, but the consultant psychiatrist believes it may be a personality disorder, exacerbated by stress, bereavement and low self esteem. Any how, for us the diagnosis is not particularly important. We just needed acknowledgement that he is suffering and needed some suggestions for treatment and medication.

On talking with my son, the main issue that has split the diagnosis is whether the absence of his biological dad is a factor. The psychologist and family therapist think not. My son will quite freely discuss their on/off relationship, and also states quite vehemently that my current husband, who I have been with since before he was born, is his "dad", whilst his biological dad is just like an optional extra. To put it in to context, we have quite a large co-joined family, where only the two youngest are biologically mine and my husbands, but they have all been bought up with the same love, attention and boundaries, and we both think of all 5 as being "ours". The second youngest has been the only one to ever have a bit of an issue with it, and that was only when he was younger, as he thought it was unfair that he only had one mum and one dad!!!

Anyway, as the doctors and therapists had been poking around in this area, I thought it may be prudent to contact my son's biological dad again, just in case he decided to contact him again. They haven't spoken in about 4 years, due to my ex being not in a stable enough emotional situation to handle it l. To be fair, I have never expected him to have stable input in to my son's life - we originally split when I found out I was pregnant because his mental health was not very good. It was amicable to the extent that we both knew it was not the right environment to bring a child in to, and I had hoped to keep contact a bit more regularly, but my ex's life spiralled down hill quite quickly, and to protect my son, I distanced us, and only allowed contact when I thought my ex was more under control.

Having had this somewhat patchy and aloof relationship with my ex, details on his life have been a bit sketchy. It consequently turns out that my ex is actually schizophrenic. He is currently stable on meds, holding down a job and living with his parents, although he has become something of a social recluse, as he finds interactions with others too daunting. I had a very lucid and honest conversation with him last night and this evening, and I can quite honestly say he seems to be in the best mental state I have seen him in for years. He quite openly offered himself up to family therapy, even suggesting he would quite happily take one on the chin for being an absent parent, and offered a whole different insight in to what my son is possibly going through.

We have tentatively agreed to resuming contact. Part of me is glad - I am hoping my son will see that even with such a condition, you can live some kind of normal life if you comply with meds and get yourself in to a routine. But another part of me is worried sick that it will all go tits up and just cause more upset.

Feel a bit like this is a Catch 22 situation. I will be damned if I do, and damned if I don't. Only time can tell.

Wondering if anyone else has any experience of relationships between a parent and child who both have mental health conditions? Happy to hear the good, bad and the ugly.
Just wanted to acknowledge your post, as this area of the forum is not much visited it seems. I do understand your need to 'get it out'.

My experience probably isn't helpful I'm afraid. Both my ex and I brought a lot of emotional baggage into our marriage and my psychotic son now has a very difficult relationship with his dad, but I would rather not elaborate on the forum.

Good for you for approaching your ex; he sounds like a decent person.
This is only my own, personal, and highly highly ignorant input - but here goes. Do your son's psych team know about his biological father's MH condition? These days, there seems to be more and more about how MH can be genetically influenced, if not fully determined, and whilst my generation, who was raised on the 'nurture not nature' programme find it repugnant to think that children can 'inherit' their parent's MH problems (and I have a personal interest in this since my own mother had substantial MH problems!), nevertheless in the end, EITHER there is genetic influence/causation or there isn't. But if there 'is', then your son's father's MH profile may help your son's psych team make a more accurate DX for him??

As for bio-father and bio-son getting together again, instinct on my part says 'give it a go' (but cautiously!) as your son has a 'right' to access his bio-dad, but at the same time, I do appreciate it's a risky 'rocking the boat' decision. It's heartening, by the way, that your ex seems to be so relatively stable now - and perhaps, you know, that may reassure your son as well, should he perhaps feel that 'things can only get worse' by showing him, in his own bio-father, that in fact, with care and good management, things can actually get better?

Finally, in respect of your son's DX, does it make a material difference to his treatment? In the end, whatever is 'causing' your son's presenting behaviour and his internal mental state and his emotional balance, providing he gets the right 'treatment' (not necessarily pharmaceutical of course!), and he becomes a happier person with stronger and more positive mental health, then that is, bottom line, all that really matters, isn't it?

Wishing you all the very best, kind regards, Jenny

PS - hope I'm not being insensitive and crass.
Thanks for your replies Starfish and Jenny

I don't think you are being insensitive or crass at all Jenny. As a biochemist, I am also very interested in this "nature vs nurture" thing too. Things have moved quite quickly over the last few days. My son's biological dad met with my son's CPN (I wanted to double check my belief that he was in a stable enough place to resume contact), and the CPN said to me after; "If ever there was a case to support the nature argument, there it is right in front of us!". I thought it was only me that could see how similar they are, and this must be due to genetics, as they have only ever met on 6 occasions through my son's life.

My ex had a 20 minute contact, facilitated by myself and a family therapist, which went rather well. My son did not freak out, listened to his bio-dad's experiences (and clearly identified with them), and was generally quite pleasant. Afterwards, my son, although obviously a little intrigued by this encounter, was quite nonplussed by the whole thing.

Suppose I will just have to play it by ear now. I have had multiple texts from his bio-dad over the weekend, and although I am pleased he is now showing some interest, it seems to be a bit intense all of a sudden. What is it with MH patients throwing themselves into a rolling snowball of an emotional situation?