Responding to a Mother’s Schizophrenia

 Schizophrenia — A mental disorder characterized by indifference, withdrawal, hallucinations, and delusions of persecution and omnipotence, often with impaired intelligence.[1]

Why would God inflict schizophrenia on anyone? If this pain is reasonable, please explain to me why it exists.

My mother is schizophrenic. During her moments of irrationality, I am tempted to curse God for inflicting her with such an illness. Year after year, day after day, she struggles, our family helpless as we watch her suffer. If God truly loves me, why doesn’t He heal my mother?

From the world’s viewpoint, there is no hope for those with schizophrenia. Although it may be admirable to love the schizophrenic, engaging in a relationship is draining on time and energy. In the economics of risk vs. reward, maintaining a friendship with a schizophrenic is not a cost-​​effective use of time.

I do not speak in vague generalities when I say that loving those affected with schizophrenia is hard. I know this personally from observing the social barrier surrounding my mother. When our family first moved to the town where we currently reside, we joined a social circle of international families. Initially, we were treated very warmly. My mother, who is a hospitable person, enjoyed hosting and attending parties, and we developed close friendships with several of these families. Yet as soon as the group got wind of my mother’s “problem,” all of these friendships evaporated. Apparently, the risk of having to deal with mental illness was not worth their time investment.

Yet my family was not always blameless when it came to maintaining relationships. When my brother and I were in elementary school, we were close friends with a family who had two sons our age. We all attended the same church and almost every Sunday afternoon, my brother and I could be found playing soccer at their house. Moreover, this family loved us despite our problems: when my mother’s illness occasionally manifested itself in painful, unfounded, and destructive remarks towards them, they still persisted in opening their house to us. But after years of close friendship, her suspicions toward that family began to fester and create a rift between us. What started as occasional conflict over seemingly minor actions (choosing pizza over macaroni for lunch, for example) became constant paranoia of this family’s ethnicity and lifestyle. When my mother finally refused to allow us to visit this family, our contact was limited to pained greetings at church and at school.

Given such interfamilial experiences, it is no wonder that our relationships within the family are strained at times. My father struggles to maintain our family’s daily and monthly fiscal and emotional stability. The bounds of respect are not as clear to my siblings and me since we can’t always rely on our mother’s social and occupational ability. Even more perniciously, there is always the temptation to pass blame for personal problems or inadequacies to my mother.

And yet, my mother, the mother who exists beyond the schizophrenia, the mother who is made perfect in Christ, still loves God. As one who can understand the depth of Job’s suffering, my mother identifies with the temptation to curse God. However, as I look to the left of the computer screen where I am typing, I can see a placard placed there by her, inscribed with the following words:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.”[2]

Human thoughts and emotions fail us sometimes and our body and mind are evidence of the brokenness of this world. However, as both my mother and father trust, God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).3 This does not mean that we should underachieve; rather, fortified by the knowledge that God is both wise and loving, we can strive to seek to understand and love each other as God understood and loved us through becoming human. Truly, in the presence of Jesus Christ’s divine love, love consumes every selfish ambition.

When I see my mother now, I am no longer tempted to think that selfish accomplishment or even the journey to such results in eternal gratification. When I see my mother, I see faith, hope, and love. She knows that, in the eyes of many, she has fallen to where few others have fallen. But she knows that the Lord holds tomorrow in his hands, that all things will be redeemed in Christ, and that someday she will be resurrected to an imperishable body and mind, united to Christ in love and joy.

  1. Schizophrenia.” Webster’s Deluxe Unabridged Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1979.
  2. Proverbs 3:5–6.
  3. All Scripture references taken from New International Version

 

This article was originally published in the Spring ’09 issue of Revisions, Christ and Mental Illness.

Photo credit: greenfinger from morguefile.com.

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