Sign Up for the SARDAA e-Newsletter: Excerpt

Family and Friends Leader Message

Schizophrenia affects not only the person afflicted but also the entire family, especially the siblings. Here is a glimpse of my 17 year-old who is about to embark on his next phase of life: college.

“If you don’t leave I’m going to call 911.” I heard my mother frantically scream those desperate words. I was eight years old the first time I heard that fear in her voice. I was hiding behind the locked door of my parents’ bedroom with my older brother at my side. This became a recurring event during my childhood. I remember my brother, Lance, as normal, cool, and athletic; I always saw him surrounded by friends. Extremely popular and the star of the basketball team, he was my idol. My “idol” was also the reason for the 911 calls.

Lance, my eldest brother, treated me well. The trigger to the roller coaster that my family rides to this very day seemed to be the sudden and tragic death of my eighteen year-old cousin. In his grief, Lance started experimenting with pot, which later progressed to harder drugs. At first we didn’t realize that Lance had a major problem that would later lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia, but I could tell that the person I looked up to the most in the world was entering his own orbit and would no longer be my star. My lasting image of Lance, after seeing him shipped from rehab to rehab facility, is of him in a hospital walking around, talking to himself as if there were no one else in the world.

My brother’s life, since the onset of his illness has been chaotic, lacking in structure or purpose. Although I had lost my role model, I was determined to take the wheel of my life and transform my loss into something positive. I became involved in a leadership program through the guidance of my high school principal. The program provided a framework for me to take control of my life and the tools to become a leader who will help others and effect change.

Although the roles have reversed with my brother Lance, today our bond is growing stronger and stronger and we now have a warm, loving relationship.”

I spent many years worrying about the turbulent relationships between my children due to Lance’s illness. Today, with the help of my program and friends in FFS, I have learned to let go and allow them to work things out on their own. Fortunately, as I let go of the outcome they have all seemed to find their way back to warm, loving, brotherly relationships.

“The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”

Until next month,
Susan Sheena, FFS Leader