Living with Schizophrenia: Can Empathy Return?

Posted on July 19, 2013 by 

Like a film of cloudiness that filters the sunlight on a hazy day, my son Ben’s schizophrenia obscures some of the qualities that make him so dear.  Withoutschizophrenia treatment, his abilities to connect, care, feel joy and share love seem almost impossible to see.  With treatment, they are closer to the surface – but the 25% of him that is still obscured is sometimes heartbreaking, no matter how grateful we are that he is functional and mostly present. The presence of these clouds is lighter then, more like a haze than the thick formations when he is fully symptomatic. Still, Ben’s best qualities often seem dulled by that haze -and I miss the open, joyful child I used to know.
But sometimes, even the haze breaks – for an amazing moment – and I get a visit from Ben’s best self. Yesterday, I got a glimpse of his empathy, one of the qualities that get obscured as a negative symptom of schizophrenia.
It happened because of a tin of lip balm and it gave me a moment of joy and hope.

Why We Must Keep Developing New Schizophrenia Treatments

lip balm

Evidence of Empathy
After a close call two months ago, Ben is back in treatment and back at work. I drive him to and from his job, but otherwise it’s all on him. Yesterday, on the way home, we were listening to the radio (Ben flipping stations every 30 seconds or so, of course), and I reached for a tin of lip balm I keep in the car. Because of the heat wave, some of the balm had melted and the tin was therefore basically sealed shut. With only one hand, it was impossible to open. So I gave up.
Without a word, Ben reached over and took the tin, opened it, and held it out to me so I could use it.
That simple, helpful action brought tears to my eyes. Click here to read on.