I am a caregiver.

I am also a knitter. The more complicated the pattern the better. The more unusual the yarn, the better. It seems to me that living with someone with schizophrenia is a lot like knitting.

Sometimes, your work is great. Sometimes it unravels. Sometimes it gets knots in it and doesn’t move forward, and sometimes you just want to chuck it.

And then there’s that elephant. Let’s talk about the elephant. You know, the one that we don’t like to talk about…

Do you worry that your son or daughter or sibling or relative or friend is going to commit suicide? I used to. All the time. I know it’s irrational, but it’s there – that deep, dark thought. How do you deal with such thoughts? I put that elephant at the back of my mind, but every now and then, he gets out. And then I put him back. Again.

I know that my son is fine now, but that wasn’t always the case. Those of us who care for someone with a severe mental illness all know the statistics- 15 to 20% of people living with schizophrenia will attempt suicide, and 10 to 15% will succeed (CMHA). 90% of suicide victims have a diagnosable mental illness. Knowing all that doesn’t alleviate the worry.

Suicide isn’t even on your radar until, if like me, you are tossing the rope that he was going to hang himself with down the apartment’s garbage chute, or you’re attending the funeral of a fellow support group member’s child. The one comforting thought for that person – “The voices have stopped.”

My heart goes out to you if you have lost someone to suicide. There are no words are there?

We need to give a voice to the pain our loved ones are suffering.

People with mental illness are “normal human beings with ordinary aspirations and sorrows and extraordinary burdens in living with mental illness” (Julia Thorne, You Are Not Alone). A very lonely experience.

We aren’t doctors or psychologists. We’re not trained in the medical field. We are just people who care. And maybe that is enough. Maybe that’s what our friends, relatives and kids need. Just someone who cares. Stitching lives back together one minute, one hour, one day, one year at a time.

We are caregivers.

About Bonita O'Neill

Bonnie O'Neill is a 67-year-old retired elementary school teacher from Ontario. At the age of 60, she began a seven-year journey - caring for her 26-year-old son who had just been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. This blog documents that journey. She loves to knit and finds that living with someone with schizophrenia is a lot like knitting. Sometimes your work is wonderful, sometimes it unravels, sometimes it gets tangled and sometimes you just want to chuck it.

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