First published on Wan Bao Fu Kan on 19 Jan 2020 in Mandarin
Many years ago, whilst I was a trainee, I used to work in the Institute of Mental Health. One night, while I was on duty in the emergency room, an old lady in her 90s brought her 60-year-old daughter to the clinic. With a calm and friendly smile, she told me that her daughter had relapsed. It turned out that her daughter had been suffering from schizophrenia for many years, with frequent relapses that required innumerable hospitalizations. At the age of 16, she started to suffer from hallucinations and paranoid delusions. She became suspicious of others, and her temper became extremely volatile. In the early days, she resisted taking medication, resulting in a rapid deterioration in her condition. Within a few months, she was forced to drop out of school. Subsequently, she did try to work, but was unable to hold on to a job. Without a stable income, she was unable to support herself and was unable to lead an independent life. Moreover, her psychotic symptoms worsened, impacting on her self-care. She had to stay at home near-daily, relying on her mother to care for her.
The old lady was a senior nursing officer in our country before her retirement. She made many important contributions to our country’s healthcare system and she was a pioneering leader in the nursing profession. Unfortunately, her husband passed away early on, and she had to raise all their three children by herself. Her eldest son went abroad to start a business and now has a successful trading company in the United States. Her second child also did well in her studies. After getting her master’s degree, she taught at the university for several years but decided to become a housewife after getting married. The third child was originally the smartest and most sensible amongst the three children. She studied hard since young, and did well academically, with excellent grades every year. She was a filial child, who would always help her mother with housework. In short, she was never a trouble to her parents.
Unfortunately, she fell ill during the first year of junior college, resulting in a dramatic change in her personality and behaviour. Formerly a cheerful, vivacious and enthusiastic young lady, she became irritable and impulsive. Her paranoia resulted in her isolating herself from her friends and loved ones. The old lady took care of her with infinite love and silently accepted this difficult mission. But the eldest brother and the second sister refused to associate with her, and did not welcome their visits even during the Lunar New Year.
The years gradually passed. The old lady is now retired and the frailties of age took a toll on her physical health. In her twilight years, she sincerely begged her two elder children to take care of their sister. But they both adamantly refused to accept this burden. After asking several times, and after having the door literally closed on them on the 2 older children, the old lady finally understood. She courageously continued her lifelong mission and patiently looked after her daughter. By then, she was in her early 90s, and her daughter was in her 60s. That night, she quietly told me: “I’m actually tired, but I cannot die. Because she still needs me.”
That night, I truly understood the greatness and self-sacrificing nature of a mother’s love.
Schizophrenia is a serious, long-term disease. The support of family members is very important to the patient’s recovery. Without the help of family members, even if you take the best medicine and see the best doctor, it will be to no avail.