Living with Schizophrenia—Is There Hope?

April 8, 2016

In "Living with Schizophrenia—Is There Hope?", The Grief Girl host Kristi Hugstad speaks to Betsy Bryant, a mother of three children—the oldest of whom has been suffering from schizophrenia for twenty years. Betsy walks us through the start of her son's disease to the present day and how he has learned to live with it. This is an inspirational and educational story of dealing with an illness that doesn't yet have a cure, and how to keep a positive, healthy outlook through it all.

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1:42 - Kristi introduces Betsy Bryant, who tells us about her son Ryan’s battle with bipolar psychotic schizophrenic episode II started at age 19. Betsy explains the initial signs, including lack of sleep and voices he was hearing. Betsy thought he was on hallucinogenic drugs, but after taking her son to the doctor, she discovered that drugs weren’t involved at all….

5:28 - Kristi explains what schizophrenia is, and discusses the symptoms and signs of the disorder. Betsy talks about her son’s symptoms, which included extreme paranoia that forced him to lose his job, and the intricacies of the schizophrenic "episode."

8:20 - Initially, Ryan thought he was Brad Pitt, and then convinced himself that he was the character Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars. The latter delusion pushed him to drive to George Lucas’ home in Northern California and ended up car-less and far from home.

11:38 - Betsy explains that as an adult, Ryan is able to hide his paranoia and live in his own hell privately, and discusses the pain she feels watching him suffer.

13:25 Betsy examines the pattern of Ryan’s episodes and the difficulty in finding the right cocktail of medications twenty years ago. "Our brains are like snowflakes—no two brains are alike." The key is finding the right people on your medical team to provide expertise and help, and continuing to keep your loved one on medication.

15:45 - Kristi asks Betsy to explain what Ryan’s diagnosis as a "high functioning schizophrenic" means. On the surface, he is clean, well-mannered, intelligent, but stressful situations trigger his episodes, thus preventing him from keeping a job. However, he's been able to achieve goals such as obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in just three years. He has also been able to acknowledge that he has the disease, and asks for help when he is having an episode.

17:50 - Kristi and Betsy discuss certain behaviors or "red flags" of episodes.

20:15 - Betsy sheds light on which myths about schizophrenia are accurate.

21:50 - How has Ryan’s schizophrenia impacted Betsy’s life and the lives of his younger siblings?

24:30 - Kristi and Betsy talk about the mental health system, and the quality of help that Ryan has received when hospitalized (which has been nearly twenty times).

27:35 - They discuss the early warning signs of schizophrenia, which include social withdrawal, hostility or paranoia, deterioration of personal hygiene, flat or expressionless gaze, inability to cry or express joy, inappropriate laughter or crying, etc.

29:30 - Betsy explains her son’s conflict between "good and evil" as well as what is delusional or real in his mind.

31:28 - Betsy talks about the time that Ryan had an episode in which he stayed secluded in his room for a week, and how she dealt with it. She explains that there is a lot of submission as a parent of a schizophrenic required to keep an episode from escalating.

35:55 -  Betsy discusses her views on depression and how we don’t always know how to identify or deal with it.

39:42 -  Does Betsy view schizophrenia as hopeless?

40:58 - Betsy talks about a new drug called Latuda as well as the challenges of helping an adult son who has the legal right to check himself out of hospitals during episodes, etc.

45:55 - Betsy explains the financial costs of Ryan’s schizophrenic episodes.

49:00 - Betsy discusses the possible roots of schizophrenia, which may genetic components and traumatic events.

51:15 - Betsy’s message to people about schizophrenia.

52:30 - And as always, we end with the question Kristi always asks her guests, “What has grief taught you?” For Betsy, it’s compassion.

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