My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Did you see it coming?

I’ve been asked this question quite often:

  1. Looking back, did you see anything in her childhood that would indicate she could develop schizophrenia?

No, I didn’t see anything that I feel would indicate a predisposition to schizophrenia. As a toddler and young girl, she liked things neat and orderly. I think of her then as “particular about things.” She kept her room neat and tidy. She paid attention to details. I remember one incident when she was gone overnight and we let a guest use her room for the night. When he left, I thought I had put everything back in the exact place. But she noticed the tissue box had been moved. The day she turned thirteen, I think she changed overnight. She went from “always neat” to “her clothes carpeted her bedroom floor.”

Did I see anything else? Perhaps, one comment from her sixth-grade music teacher gave a slight indication. “Watch her,” she mentioned to me one day as I volunteered in the school library. “I see similarities in her that I see in my daughter who battles anorexia nervosa.” I remember feeling bewildered. I’m guessing I said that I’d watch her, but I didn’t see anything that alarmed me and quickly forgot. That comment was probably the only thing that I would call an indication of something looming, but dit it point to schizophrenia – no.  I didn’t remember it until years after she became ill with schizophrenia and I began to write about our journey. Basically, Amber seemed like any other teenager – busy with school, extra-curricular activities, and she enjoyed time with friends.

2. Do you have schizophrenia in your family history?

Yes, my husband’s aunt and my first cousin. But, if I look at statistics alone, it makes sense. One in one hundred people battle this illness. I have more than one hundred relatives, including aunts, uncles and cousins. My husband comes from a large family, too. For each of us to have a relative with schizophrenia follows the law of average. Amber developed it when medications and treatments had advanced beyond the treatment available to the aunt and cousin. As a result, she recovered and went on to resume a life similar to other women her age. Our other relatives – the aunt spent her life in an institution, and the cousin lives in a group home.

 

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