What It's Like to Be Married With Schizophrenia
Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s perspective. The Mighty consists of a team of various religious beliefs and faiths. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.
I have schizophrenia and I have been married for 13 years. I also have two wonderful children, ages 11 and 4. I am living proof that someone with a severe mental illness can be married and raise children effectively. I will say, having a wife and kids has been a huge challenge. I take a high number of antipsychotics. To avoid being severely delusional I need to take my meds every day, no breaks. I get terrible fatigue and I experience a ton of negative side effects. A lack of pleasure in any activity hurts the worst. I rely on my belief in God and on creative projects to renew my mind. These activities shake the cobwebs from my numb mind and body, allowing me to be emotionally available for my family.
I nearly got divorced around seven years ago. I tried to quit taking my meds, as I couldn’t stand the punishment anymore. Bad idea. I survived that terrible season and my wife and I worked things out. My wife has endured an incredible roller coaster. When we were engaged, she visited me in a holding tank facility. I was locked up in a cell, awaiting admission to a locked psych ward facility. I was dangerous and completely “insane.” That didn’t stop her. Her courage and love are amazing. Over the years she has learned how to love someone with schizophrenia. It takes a unique perspective and support. She has always admired my loving heart. Through all the drama created by mental illness, she recognized my heart and chose to love that when schizophrenia showed its face. Overall, our life together is defined by love and a mutual respect. No relationship is free of challenges.
We published a book together titled, “Marriage and Schizophrenia: Eyes on the Prize.” It was great therapy for us and helped us spend quality time together and talk through the incredible journey we have both survived. It may help you learn what it’s like to have a long term relationship with someone with schizophrenia. Hopefully, you will decide mental illness shouldn’t stop you from being in a relationship that has mental health challenges. Don’t let worries define your heart.
If there is one recent character trait that has helped my family life more than anything else, it is the art of surrender. My illness has forced me to be more submissive. Surrender came hard for me. I played semi-professional hockey for a year before schizophrenia changed my life. Surrender saved my marriage though. It also gave me a strong relationship to my children. A hardcore work ethic and rigorous practice plan did not help me overcome schizophrenia, or be a great husband and father. Finding a new healthy life with severe mental health issues required me to stop taking everything into my own hands. I felt I needed God’s strength and the help of others to reach my goals.
When I finally truly accepted the permanent nature of my “broken” brain, healing began. I committed myself to taking the full dose of medications and living a life that made me a great family man. I still make mistakes but I am willing to admit those mistakes now. I am also willing to admit that I don’t always have a good grip on reality. I live with a more humble attitude. I am not as ashamed to have schizophrenia either.
At the breaking point of my marriage, I began accepting other people’s view of reality as more trustworthy than my own. I worked on not being as defensive. At first, I was devastated. It’s not easy to pass the reigns of your life to other people. Since those beginning stages of surrender, I matured and gained the keys back to my life… in some ways. I also feel I had life-changing experiences with God. In some ways, I feel lucky for developing schizophrenia and learning to surrender. I wouldn’t be married, or have children. And without being forced to surrender to God and healthy people. I would’ve missed out on the spiritual revelations and experiences that birthed a constant stream of joy, peace and stability I now enjoy. I can see Heaven within reach these days. I can see the light and freedom even now. Schizophrenia can no longer rule my mind with cruelty, in the presence of this light.
Starting the process of surrender crushed me, but I now get to look back and smile as I enjoy my new life. I am truly grateful to just be alive. If you could know all I’ve been through with severe schizophrenia, and all the horrible choices I made, you would know it is a miracle I am still alive, let alone happily married with two children.
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