Thursday, November 17, 2011

Snow White

For the past year Chris has made leaps and bounds socially. He has joined several choirs and amateur theatrical productions and is busy with these activities every night and increasingly, on the week-ends. It's his days that hold no promise. Other than shopping, cooking for the family, and keeping his appointments with Dr. Stern and the occupational therapist, he has nothing to do to fill them. Ian and I know that Chris is well, but we have deliberately avoided rocking the boat. We tell ourselves to be patient. We hope that Chris will eventually decide for himself that his day situation is intolerable. I've noticed that men who have recovered from the condition called schizophrenia often report that they began to take steps to change their lives beginning around the age of 28 (the first Saturn return).

The other day Ian and I left for work, as usual, and Chris waved us off at the door, as usual. I said to Ian as we drove away, Don't you think Chris being home all day has gone on long enough? Shall I contact the occupational therapist and tell her to get going on helping Chris find a job?
"Go for it, said Ian.

I sent an e-mail to the OT saying that Ian and I felt it was high time Chris became a useful member of society and begin by getting a job. I said we would have preferred that he go back to university or take some intense training course, but he didn't seem ready for that step, because, if he was, he would have initiated the process by now.

I spent the remainder of the day wondering if I had done the right thing by putting pressure on the OT. What if Chris really isn't ready for a job?

I got my answer that evening after I got home from my yoga class. Chris arrived home shortly after I did.

"Chris, wasn't your rehearsal tonight?

I didn't go, he said, his voice sounding tired. I bought the train ticket but I just couldn't go.

Well, why not?

"I was inside all day and I didn't do anything, and I just couldn't muster up the enthusiasm at the end of the day.

Did you spend your day in fantasies?

No. I don't do that anymore. They aren't so interesting.

Well, that was a relief, not that I am worried that Chris will slip back into psychosis, but I still felt I needed to check.

So, we sat down and talked. By now, I was glad that I had contacted the OT.

Chris, I fully understand how bored you must be at home all day. It's draining. I've been there myself when I was unemployed. The less I did, the less I wanted to do, the less I thought I could do. Don't you think it's about time you got a job? You need the stimulus of routine and people during the day because you have got to the point where you are very sociable and need more company. You have made great strides, you are basically "normal" now, you have great potential and there's no reason why you can't make an enormous contribution to the world, but you need to get out and start to be productive.

Chris brightened. Hearing me say this was a huge relief to him.

There's one thing, though, Chris. You are still waiting for life to choose you, you are kind of like apologies for not having a male equivalent a princess in a fairy tale who is waiting for a handsome prince to wake her up out of her dream state. Just because you are intelligent and talented doesn't mean that somebody is going to define you and tell you what you should be doing the rest of your life. Life doesn't work like that. Learn to take chances and not fear failures. In the past you just collapsed when life started putting pressure on you.You're much stronger today than you were then, so now it's time to take action, and not intellectualize too much about whether it's the right action. If you don't mind, I'm going to start getting on your case more about developing a daily schedule and sticking to it. I don't want you missing any more rehearsals because you haven't been busy enough during the day.

End of lecture


  1. Rossa,

    Work moves recovery from an intellectual exercise into a reality.

    There is no better therapy than work.
    And no better way to define recovery.

    If your son is ready to go to work, I hope he goes... So he can fully recover... and thrive.

    My best,


  2. Thanks, Duane. He's definitely living less in his mind now and is getting frustrated about his daily existence, so these are all good signs that a job may be in the future.
    Hope you are well,

  3. Thanks for sharing this...It isn't easy trying to determine how to support and encourage without stressing and being pushy. None of this stuff comes naturally to me---I am constantly needing to examine myself asking if I am offering a suggestion because of what I perceive to be Isaac's best interest to be; or my own selfishness...

    In some ways he is more grown up than most adults; and in other ways he is still very child-like. The fact is he is an adult---who needs support and assistance to achieve his potential: as we all do...I feel truly blessed that he and I both know we are working towards the same goal.

  4. Chris and Isaac sound similar. In some ways more mature than most, and in other ways very childlike. I have see a progression, though, and maybe it's applicable to others in Chris and Isaac's situation. Seemingly very mature as children, crisis happens, regression to a state of complete collapse and dependency, then we moved through the toddler years, the young teen years, the later teen years, and very early adulthood. (Chris is 27). It's been very interesting seeing someone go back through the stages that he probably missed growing up.

  5. I agree with your observations of the growth stages, it is almost as if Andrew is re-inventing himself. I might add he is doing an amazing job, the adult that is unfolding is awesome, a person of insight and integrity.

  6. Hi Rossa

    I found your writing about the therapautic value of work (and Duane's contribution) very interesting since I feel an urgency to take on 'proper' work recently, although I am busy enough already with my family. Maybe it is this sense that paid work equates to complete recovery that is pushing me forward.

    All the best


  7. Hi Rossa,

    I've been drawn to your blog the past few days. I feel like I want to read the whole thing. My son and I have been through many changes, and I guess, I've come to a place, it seems, very much like where you are. My son just turned 28, and I wasn't sure if this time of Saturn returning applies to men, but it sure seems like it does, and change is occurring, but dare I put confidence in it? It is so scary.

    We are working with a holistic practitioner, who is helping my son with nutritional support and education, along with using several other modalities for treatment. My son is doing much better. (He was committed to a hospital not long ago, b/c he got depressed and they watched him become obese and develop metabolic syndrome), so aside from being outraged, I've changed my views about how to approach a mental health crisis.

    I've been doodling, (sketching and coming up with words) with an idea I've had for many years. I want to build a residential healing community. There is one in my state called CooperRiis. So, I just doddle, b/c it would take lots of money and resources.

    The idea is to provide a recovery community for people who struggle or live with mental health issues. You know, I don't work at a paying job either, and it's been a long time now. I had to take time away from society and I'm not sure if I'll ever make it completely back. I'm not sure I want to. Nonetheless, I think we all want to work, it's just that work doesn't always work for us.

    I may not be able to create a healing community, at least not right away, but I am seriously thinking of getting a small group of young men together who would like to start a small service business and ideally, would like to live in a holistic recovery house where they grow some food, learn to cook with whole foods and help each other live a healthy life free of street drugs.

    A man in my town started a peer work group. Within two weeks, they had a waiting list of people who want to join their team. They make picture frames and each person decides how many hours a week they can commit to working. I think this is a great way to go about finding work for people who don't fit the mold in mainstream society.

    I wish it had not taken so much grief and misfortune, for me to come full circle, back to my truth, but it did. I am so sorry to my son for believing what didn't make any sense to me, but from now on, I will do all I can to support him in his human rights and to allow him the time he needs.

    Perhaps there is something your son enjoys doing, and you guys could get a small group of people to start a business.

    Wishing you many, many blessings and Peace,

  8. As a "schizophrenic", I have two comments.
    1) Dont expect an eight hour day , five days a week job can be performed. Ease into it. Too much work stress may bring back "psychosis".
    2) Whats he working for? Most people hate their jobs and work to earn money, as we all need money to pay the rent and food bills.
    If someone is working just to get money, when they already have money (you/they do) like a new romance , the job will quickly lose its appeal. whats the motivation?

  9. Thanks to all of you for your thoughts. When I urge work on my son, I am mindful that it can't be rushed and that full time work right away may be demotivating. But, the motivation for Chris might be more money than his parenting are doling out, perhaps a girlfriend (without money, that's almost a non-starter) and if he finds out that just working for the sake of work isn't so exciting, maybe he will decide that he must work at something he loves to do, then it won't seem like work at all.

  10. Michelle, I am so glad to hear that you son is coming around to a place of hope for all. It's a learning process, isn't it? I also believe that if I had thought more like a "hippie" in the beginning, more holistic and open to the varied possibilities of the universe, I could have saved myself a lot of grief. Your idea of starting a small service business and perhaps a residential healing community is a good one.

  11. Louise, Dr. Abram Hoffer always said that the paying income tax was one of the four cornerstones of recovery. He may have added "ability to pay" which would recognize that many people are recovered but choose not to work, (e.g. raising a family) or prefer to do volunteer work, or whatever.

  12. Liz - I'm so glad to hear that you continue to support Andrew in the way you do.

  13. Rossa,

    I did not mean to imply that your son "should" go to work at this phase in his life... I meant to say that my hope is that when he is ready, he will.

    A note on "recovery" -

    Both of my brothers are aircraft mechanics (although one has retired from that field, and is now involved in other work)...
    In any event, one of them told me something once that I will never forget: "When a piece of metal (steel, cast iron, etc) breaks... and is welded back-together, the weld is stronger than the original metal."

    I think this holds true on the spiritual plane as well... In other words, I have come to believe that when someone (such as your son) has a "break" (or "breakdown"), it is as much as spiritual "opportunity" as a spiritual "crisis."

    In other words, he (and others in similar position) have the opportunity to become stronger than they were initially...

    I saw an interesting show the other night on cable television about "purgatory" (a pretty controversial subject for non-Catholics), but an area I find fascinating....

    How the soul is put under "fire" until it is ready to move forward into another realm.

    I believe that every human being who "breaks" has the opportunity to have their mind ("soul" in the secular sense) transformed... And more importantly, the opportunity to become something more... MORE than they may have ever imagined!

    Those are my thoughts.

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, filled with joy beyond measure.

    With gratitude (and "thanksgiving"),


  14. Duane, I was actually responding to Mark's comment and did not in any way take it that either you or Mark were implying that he shouldn't work. Actually, I'm getting frustrated with this Post a Comment feature, because it would be much better if it could reply to specific comments. Does this mean I have to switch to Wordpress, or is there a way I can get this feature on blogspot? Anyone out there who can help? Thanks for your good thoughts.


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