Some of you may have “special” sons, daughters, or other family or friends who live with a major mental illness like schizophrenia which takes them away from you and into the frightening world of psychosis.
My name is Catherine Larnon-Trout and I want to tell you about my “special” son. If it were not for BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS), I do not know where I would be today. And I am not sure if my son would still be with me.
Years ago, when I timidly walked through the door of a local Schizophrenia Society office, I was clean out of faith and hope. My eldest son, Paul, was disrupting our whole family and terrifying my other two children. Nothing I did was working and I was very scared because no one had any answers.
That day, as I was stuffing fact sheets and brochures into my bag, a lovely lady asked me if I needed any help. I told her “No… I’m just looking.” But she knew! She brought me a cup of tea and sat me down. She invited me to tell her about my son and three hours later, I left with some faith in humanity and a smidgeon of hope.
(Catherine reveals what she found when she walked through those doors.)
I told her about my beautiful, kind, funny, blonde, blue-eyed, perfect little boy… so full of life and promise. Paul was a bright, well-behaved, organized, and helpful kid. He was a gifted athlete, a smart student, and a caring member of our church and community.
Then one day, when Paul was in Grade 11, there was a phone call from his school. Paul had just punched another student, one who was simply walking towards him in the school hallway. Paul broke the boy’s nose.
I never thought I would be the mom who said “not my kid” when there was trouble. But that was what I immediately said. It was impossible. I couldn’t believe it.
But it was true. Of course, the boy’s parents were very upset and wanted to charge Paul. But because Paul had never been in any trouble and was a model student, he avoided jail and did community service.
What I did not know then, was that Paul did not even see the other student. He saw a monster in front of him and did what he needed to do to protect himself.
Over the next few years, Paul continued to see and hear many more monsters, gods, devils, and other hallucinations. He tried to go to college; he tried to work. But Paul could not succeed because he was becoming increasingly paranoid
I tried everything. I encouraged him to exercise, I fed him special food and vitamins, I yelled, I cried, and so much more… but nothing worked. Paul saw counsellors, psychiatrists, child and youth workers… but no one knew anything. No one gave us a diagnosis.
My fears grew because I never knew when Paul would go into psychosis. My younger kids became so afraid of Paul that I had to ask him to leave our home. To this day, that is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do – choose two of my children over my other child.
Paul continued to sink deeper into psychosis. He threw himself out of cars and even once off of a roof. My beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed boy was gone and I was left with a broken, smashed, and very sick son.
But the worst was yet to come. Paul paid a huge price for committing a minor crime, ending up with a jail sentence of two years less a day.
I was devastated. There is not enough strength in any mother’s reserve to stop her from being crushed as she watches her mentally ill child being taken to jail. I cannot even describe that pain.
My son was locked up, mostly in isolation, for two years. And because he did not have a diagnosis, he received no medication.
Paul came out of jail as a completely different person. It would be another two years before he was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia and received medication. For the next decade, while Paul lived in horrible, unsafe places, I kept trying to find ways to get him food, clothing, and other basic needs. But no matter what I did, my dear son was slowly withering away before my eyes.
When I was nearly at the end of my rope, desperate and in despair – not knowing what more I could do to save Paul – I saw an ad for a free, two-day course offered by BCSS.
That course and other BCSS education and resources taught me how to navigate and rebuild my own life. I was then better able to help and support Paul and my other children. And I learned how to share that essential information with other families.
Paul is in his late forties. He lives in his own apartment and has a part-time job. Paul understands what he needs to do to stay on an even keel. He loves designing clothes – Paul is an expert at making hats out of anything. He watches sports and knows every move made by every team in any sport.
He visits us regularly and particularly likes holidays and big family events. Paul enjoys his nieces and nephews and they love their Uncle Paul. When Paul laughs and jokes, I see my funny little boy and it makes me happy.
Sometimes I cry when I look at him because I am sad at his destroyed life, while other times I cry because I am happy and proud to have him with us, knowing he has gone to hell and back.
Now that I work at BCSS, I see firsthand how families, just like mine, are able to change their lives for the better with the support and education they find through our programs and services.
Recently, my 12-year-old granddaughter took part in one of our courses, Kids in Control. It helped her make sense of her uncle, and anyone else that has a severe mental illness, in a way that did not leave her feeling afraid, that it’s her fault, or that she needs to fix it.
(Catherine tells us more about Kids in Control and how it helped her granddaughter.)
I hope you understand how much education is needed and that it can change the outcome of a family immensely as it did mine. And the programs and services that offer this life-saving information simply cannot exist without the support of generous donors, like you. But there are still far too many families who are in crisis, desperate for our help.
And then there is research. Research helped bring a miracle into our lives. A key to Paul’s continued wellbeing is long-acting injectable medication and his willingness to go every two weeks for his injection of antipsychotic medication. We no longer fight about pills! I am so very grateful for this, as is Paul. He remembers the wild mood swings, the hospitalisations, the restraints, and the long recoveries. And now all that trauma is gone because of a treatment that came from research.
Your generosity can make all the difference for a family like ours. Please consider giving what you can, knowing that your donation truly changes and even saves lives.
P.P.S. Listen to how Catherine learned how to embrace the word “schizophrenia.”