Living with and Learning about Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia. Saying this term brings to mind the movies: A Beautiful Mind, Donnie Darko, and The Soloist.

I watched ‘A Beautiful Mind’ before my brother was committed and before he had major signs of Schizophrenia. When I watched the movie I felt uncomfortable and uneasy, but I never knew why. Until it was made clear later with JJ’s (WHAT”S THE WORD???).

‘Donnie Darko’ was a movie I loved. Throughout the whole thing. I just loved it. It’s super weird, but I still enjoyed it. One of my favorite songs came from that movie, Mad World.

I have to admit, watching ‘The Soloist’ was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I sobbed and sobbed through the movie. Thank goodness I watched it at home. Imaging what my brother’s reality is and how it’s different then mine is mind-boggling.

If you have a loved one with Schizophrenia, it will be different then my brother’s. There is a guideline that most schizophrenics follow, but they can obsess over different things.

My brother feels as though we had a trail without him and he’s in jail-time. He thinks that he did something and now he’s being held responsible for it. No one knows exactly what it is, but every so often at night he’ll get in your face about it.

I’m not going to lie. It’s scary. I will say JJ never does it when I’m with Peter or Jacob. He only does it to me when I’m alone.

For the most part he’s focused on food too. Putting something in his food, or taking something out of his food (or the nicotine in cigarettes or alcohol in booze). He thinks that my parents control whether or not he gets the nicotine or alcohol. He can go to a random gas station and buy cigarettes, but doesn’t think there is nicotine in them because my parents told them to withhold it from him. It seems unimaginable to me, but it’s his reality.


The first time he did this to me was New Year’s Eve, ’06. I had Jacob over and we were drinking. JJ also had some to drink. I was in the kitchen alone with him and he turned really angrily towards me and demands that I drink his shot. I said I couldn’t drink shots (they make me sick instantly). I think in his head, this conformed what he believed: I put my dog’s poop in his drink. He was drinking straight vodka, clear vodka. I tried to explain there was no way that I could put poop in his drink for a couple reasons: I would never do that, I didn’t think it was funny even as a bad joke, and if I did (which I didn’t) he would be able to see the poop particles floating in the glass.

It didn’t matter what I said, he believed it. Nothing I could do or say would change it. He still believes that to this day.

He once took a picture of the bathroom mirror that said, “Watch Your back” and said that I wrote it. I saw the picture and I was really deeply sadden. It wasn’t my handwriting, but his.

His medication did a good job from the outside. JJ didn’t like the feelings he felt while he was on it and at one time when off of them. After a couple weeks it was clear that he was off his meds. I read somewhere that it was typical for a Schizophrenic to go off their meds and be hospitalized at least three times.

The second time he was committed was bad. (I was already living in Topeka.) While he was in the hospital he had a chair thrown at him by another committed person. It cut his head in his hair so bad that he needed several stitches. They also said that if he went off this meds again they would get a court order to put him on a med that was a shot that lasted a longer period of time. The only problem was the side effects were way worse then the other medicine he was on. He was one of the rare people who had an extreme reaction to it. Part of his body he couldn’t control and he had bad ticks to go along with it (so bad he couldn’t talk). It was worse for the first couple days, but wore off little by little after that. I think that scared him (and all of the family) that he has been taking his meds everyday now.


My brother has a hard time going out in public, but is very lonely. He verbally attacks the people he feels safest around. Since moving back home and living with him we’ve learned that he has issues, even with his meds, during the evening and night. He can’t tolerate whispering at all, because he’s told my mom that he can’t tell the difference between us talking quietly and the voices in his head. If you have your back to him and he’s already having problems that day, he hears you talking about him, even though you never are.

My brother will make farting noises with his mouth when he’s starting to have issues. It’s an indication to us that we need to give him space and quiet. He has a hard time eating with the family and will either eat really fast and first or eat after the rest of the family is done. Thus making sure he can pick the food he eats. He’s told me numerous time (since we’ve moved down the past month) that he doesn’t want to eat the food I make because you can’t trust what I put in it.

I miss the conversations I had with my brother. I know I will probably never be able to talk freely with him again. It’s like that part of him is gone and will never return. I mourn our relationship and how I feel like I always have to measure every word and sound I make around him. He’s my brother, I see him now everyday, but can’t talk to him.

There are times when I can see in his eyes that he’s here, coherent, and like my old brother again. I relish those times. I stop with whatever I’m doing and I talk to him again. I connect and share things. Sometimes it lasts a couple minutes or sometimes it lasts for almost a whole day. I’m now able to see JJ’s face and tell if it’s a good time or not. He’s eyes have a flat mean look to them if it’s a bad time. When it’s a good time I’m almost able to see my brother again. I smile back and talk.

That is what keeps you going. The moments of clarity when you have your brother back.



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