My Daughter Has Schizophrenia, and I'm Glad to Be Her Mom
Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from the author’s daughter.
My daughter Amber has schizophrenia, and I’m glad I’m her mom.
“She’s lucky to have you for parents.”
“She’s doing well because of you.”
I’ve heard this often. I usually answer them: “I’m glad I’m her mom.”
Amber’s brain bombarded her with symptoms after she graduated from college and headed into the world to follow her dreams. Paranoia, delusions, visual and auditory hallucinations, distorted thinking and confusion overpowered her for many harrowing months.
Through treatment, things changed. She entered the recovery stage and manages her symptoms through medication and self-care. She works full-time, lives on her own, manages her own affairs and leads a social life that makes me tired.
My husband, Roy and I have an amazing daughter. And I feel that I gained a confidant and friend. As Mother’s Day approaches, I look back and see how our relationship evolved from mother/daughter through caregiver/patient, back to mother/daughter and now — friend.
Amber and I call each other almost daily. We talk about our day, the latest book we’ve read or movie that we’ve watched. We share our thoughts about faith, situations around us and giggle over silly stories. I ask her for advice and vice versa. But beyond my conversation partner, I look at where we’ve been and I am grateful.
I would not have chosen this off-road course of life for her, or for our family. But life throws things at us that we can’t avoid. In spite of the struggles, the stress and the heartache we had, I found joy. I leaned on my faith to help me cope until I saw a glimmer of hope again.
Things I wish I knew at the beginning of our journey:
— There’s nothing embarrassing about mental illness or the symptoms of schizophrenia.
— “It’s not your fault” became part of my daily phrases I said to Amber. She didn’t choose this for herself. She didn’t understand why her world turned against her. I repeated, “I love you, I’m here for you,” often. Once our family accepted her brain disorder, we moved forward. I became her advocate, caregiver and support.
— Early treatment. Once I realized that Amber was struggling, Roy and I took action. Early treatment made a huge difference in how her brain reacted to treatment. Once the doctors found the right medication, she improved. Now, 13 years later, she understands her illness and wants to stay in recovery.
— Support can help a loved one succeed. In our family, we moved Amber home during her recovery. After a lengthy hospital stay, we went easy on her. I let her choose the level of activity she could handle. I didn’t ask for her help with household chores. I helped manage her medications and appointments. As she healed, she regained the stamina and wanted to do things for herself. With this came confidence in her abilities.
— Support for the family whose loved one faces mental illness makes a huge difference. Our families and friends sent cards, letters, small gifts and visited Amber in the hospital. We received the same treatment, a friend even delivered a casserole! Now, support to other families ranks high on my list of priorities.
— Educate yourself. Education played a key role for me understanding mental illness. I learned what Amber faced by reading books on the subject. I also attended the Family to Family class through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) where I learned about the brain, symptoms, treatments and how to care for myself. I gained the tools I needed to cope.
— Be open. Once I shared my experience with others, I felt empowered and no longer isolated. My honesty allowed people to share their own journeys with me and we could support each other.
— Fight for them. I turned into a mama bear for her. Roy and I sought the best treatment for her, switching providers if necessary. I filled out paperwork for her until she could do it for herself. Now, I get to stand to the side and root for her as she lives her life in a way that is similar to other women her age.
— Pray. I prayed daily for her and for me. For her to understand her illness. For the doctors to find the correct medicine to help her. And wisdom and strength for me to do the right things to help her recover.
Yes, I’m grateful Amber is my daughter. I’m grateful that if Amber is one 1 of 100 people to have schizophrenia, that she was born into our family. I’m glad we found the help she needed and that she recaptured a life of independence packed with work, friends, faith and family.
Happy Mother’s Day to me and to every mom who loves someone with a mental illness. We do the best we can!
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Thinkstock photo via Soul