When my son is doing well I do not blog about it. I should. I should be bragging to the world. I should be celebrating. The thing about Schizophrenia is it is still there. I guess when he is well it could be compared to a remission. Unfortunately, there is no cure. I know he will get bad again. I just don't know when. I look for signs. Was he talking to himself or the TV? Is he eating enough? Is he taking his medicine? He is staying awake most of the night. Is that a sign or is it because he is a night owl like his father. It never goes away.
I worry but I enjoy my time with Joel. When Joel is in his remission, we spend more time together. He likes to watch TV with me. He really likes it if I let him watch what he wants on my TV. He likes to talk. He goes to watch The Kid play basketball. He tries to wrestle with The Kid when he is here. What it meant at Christmas was a great family celebration. He did not get sad. He did not start a fight because he was sad. He enjoyed the day. When he is happy, everyone can have more fun.
Last night someone posted on Facebook about Zac and Laura Pogliano. Zac suffered from schizophrenia. Laura is his Mother. They lived in Morris but relocated to Maryland. Last year USA Today did an article on Laura and Zac. She is an advocate for the mentally ill. She has started a petition on We the People calling on reforms to change the mental health system. One of the things is to consider it a medical illness. I say that all the time. It is medical, not mental. I read the article in USA Today. I signed the petition.
Sadly, Zac passed away in his sleep last week. They do not know the cause of death at this time. The death certificate will not say schizophrenia. It is not something a person can die from. The medications for schizophrenia can cause damage to major organs and cause death. In some cases the schizophrenia or the fact a person cannot live with it any longer causes suicide to happen. It is still death by schizophrenia. I read Laura's message. She talks about Zac being at peace. That is a relief. I know what it is like to pray for peace for my son. Not to have him taken away. I want to be honest. There have been times when Joel is so sick he does not know who he is, I have prayed for God to take him. It is so painful to watch. Imagine watching your child writhing in pain from a terrible illness that will never be cured. Imagine that same child is in such a state of confusion they cannot be calmed. Imagine them having such an anger they cannot be hugged. That is a tragedy of mental illness.
Laura talked in her USA Today interview that schizophrenia is a disease that does not get casseroles. She said if Zac had cancer and was in the hospital, her friends and neighbors would be there to offer help and bring meals. Zac had been hospitalized 13 times in 6 years. She never received a casserole. I am sure there are people who will be shocked and upset about the comparison. It is a great way to help people understand the stigma and pain.
Zac was once a healthy child. He was 17 when the schizophrenia showed itself. He went from being an athletic, good looking, popular teen-ager to someone that suffered from delusions, paranoia. He turned to drugs. His behavior was erratic. Reading that made me feel better. I understand bad parenting did not cause Joel's illness. I know we did everything we could do at the time to try to get him help. That said, there is always the feeling inside that I failed as his Mother. When I read a story so similar to ours, I can tell myself, it was not me.
One other thing Laura mentioned in the article is that each time Zac got sick, "his brain loses something." It is not something that is written about. Here is a haunting description by Laura of the illness:
"Despite her relative good fortune, Laura says she can never move forward because her son never stops dying. "Twice a year right in front of me, he disappears into psychosis, and there is very little left of who he is. Then medicine resurrects him for a few months, I have much of my child back, then he dies again.
She mourns the life Zac has lost - sports, pals, girlfriend, college, she also wonders, What happened to my life."
I know from experience Laura has been mourning the loss of her son for years. Now she can mourn and know his pain and suffering are over. Rest in Peace Zac!! To Laura, May Peace Be With You.