Or, I could have known sooner, but nobody told me that a schizophrenia diagnosis should not be considered a life sentence.
When Chris was given the diagnosis of doom in Dec. 2003, there was not such a robust on-line community of hardy folk who did not go along with the received wisdom that schizophrenia was a brain disease. Or, if there was such a thriving community, I didn't know about it.
My main point of reference were the doctors whose business it was to believe in the diagnosis. They were a uniformly pessimistic lot. If they actually thought that Chris had a future that didn't involve psychiatric medication, unemployment and sheltered living for the rest of his life, they didn't think to share this information with our family.
My second point of reference were the people who suddenly came out of the woodwork to tell me that their sibling was "schizophrenic," like when you get cancer and suddenly everybody you talk to has had the same cancer. You had no idea these conditions were so prevalent. My acquaintances were all baby boomers, roughly my age, so their sibling was now roughly the same age as us. The conversation usually went something like this:
Me (hopeful): Oh, so your brother has schizophrenia? Will he be flying over here for your third wedding?
They (frightened look, lowered voice): "Oh, no, he doesn't travel very well. He's been living in a group home near my parents for a number of years now. But (trying to be reassuring), I hear that the medications are so much better these days, I'm sure it will make all the difference for Chris."
My third point of reference was the chat group I joined within the first couple of years of the diagnosis of doom. I began to notice how drugged up its members were. They accepted their diagnosis and they seemed to accept five, six or seven drugs to get through the day as a matter of course. Many of them were my age and had been this way for years.
Was I right to panic given the dreadful scenario that was being painted by both doctors and acquaintances? I think so. Unfortunately, my panicking caused me to push Chris into activities for which he wasn't ready. My panicking caused Chris to panic, naturally. This retarded his growth. If someone had reassured me that there was every expectation that Chris would resume a normal life if he was left alone for a few years to figure things out for himself, with no pressure brought to bear on him to do things he wasn't ready to do, then I could have relaxed and learned be more philosophical and patient.
Today it's a different story. Thanks to the Internet and the mounting evidence that puts the diagnosis under scrutiny as never before, there is a shared community of people who know there is a better way. There is becoming a shared understanding of what schizophrenia and how to treat it (needed time out for regrowth).
The stupid diagnosis to begin with, and the fixation of the medical community on using drugs as primary treatment, meant the the good news, which was there all along, was kept from many people who could have benefited from it.