December 9, 2014

A Mother Watches her son slip into Schizophrenia.

Cherise and Daniel

Sometimes thinking and writing about a deep sadness will help bring it to the light—where we can feel it and accept its reality.

Exposing our deep feelings can be a way to remove the sting, to accept what is and hopefully diminish the most extreme aspects of our sadness and gain a new perspective.

When I made the decision to talk about my son, Daniel, I did so with these hopes and expectations. I was not disappointed and I can report I am glad I took the risk.

Daniel is my sixth child in a line of seven. As a little girl I longed for two things—to become a Registered Nurse and to be a mom to many children.

I accomplished both of these goals, although it didn’t happen in an always sane, linear fashion!

My career had many starts and stops and my childbearing spanned seventeen years.

But this story is about Daniel. How I got him and how I lost him.

He was born 31 years ago, I knew he was a wondrous and special baby. Close to all my children I had an intuition that Daniel would one day pose a life changing challenge to my skills as a mother.

I named him Daniel after the Elton John song “Daniel.” I remember thinking the lyrics “your eyes have died but you see more than I” were especially prophetic but with no idea why.

Daniel was a gentle stubborn little boy, loving but often fearful, sometimes clinging to me, as though the world was not a comfortable place and he was afraid of losing me. By kindergarten, I realized Daniel was quietly dealing with a world I could not see, a place where I did not exist. As he got older, grew bigger, so this world got bigger too.

School was not a happy experience and in his later teen years Daniel sometimes soothed himself with drugs. I put him in treatment which helped some but nothing slowed his tendency to disappear into a hidden land, one I was not allowed to visit. I could do nothing but watch as he struggled in the grip and midst of this “strange land.”

He graduated high school and worked a labor job, but his real job, his real labor was his ongoing struggle to remain in the “real” world.

Witnessing this was devastating to me.

We tried medication, he tried drinking.

And then! He seemed to stabilize, he got a job in a bank. He wore a suit and tie, he bought a Lexus! But, a man emerged, a man who didn’t resemble the boy I had raised.

I thought, maybe this is okay. It wasn’t.

I soon witnessed the disintegration of my son, my baby. And then I knew. I knew what this was. I watched as he danced to songs I couldn’t hear, listened as he sang to people I couldn’t see. I took him to the doctors, to the hospitals.

At twenty six Daniel left my reality as surely as he left my body at his birth.

I miss him so much, left behind as he lives out his life in the world of Schizophrenia. I love you Daniel John.

Although advances have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of Schizophrenia, it remains a devastating illness that robs the lives of many young people. Daniel was diagnosed as a young adult but younger children can also develop Schizophrenia and be diagnosed. The average age for development is the early twenties and seems to be more prevalent in males.

As for me, I still grieve but life goes on and the decision to write about Daniel has afforded me a measure of peace.




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Author: Tommi McLaughlin

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of the author, flickr

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Tommi McLaughlin