Cameron is a 20-year-old university student majoring in business administration with a minor in psychology at Stanford University in Connecticut. He is very active in on-campus organizations and works part-time as an assistant in the Registrar’s Department. He was recently inducted into the psychology honor society, Psi Chi. When not preoccupied with school, he enjoys spending time with his parents, Richard and Helen, and his older brother, Jamie. He also enjoys playing soccer and hiking with friends.
It’s been two weeks since the beginning of the spring semester of his junior year. Tim, a friend who is in almost all the classes Cameron takes, has noticed changes in Cam’s behavior. They usually meet up after his shift at the Registrar’s to go get food or complete assignments at the library. But lately, Cameron’s been heading home earlier than usual. Tim followed up with a text to make sure he was alright. He received a reply that he’s just dealing with some things. Tim didn’t worry about it since everyone’s schedule gets busier than usual on some days. So he didn’t bother him about it. Cameron continued to show up to class and go to work but would leave soon after.
A few weeks later, Cameron’s mom saw that he was home early. She asked him about it and by his response believed he was not well. It was a new pattern where he would come home and just lay on his bed. He wouldn’t shower and wouldn’t come downstairs to join them for dinner. He wasn’t eating as much and wasn’t talking as much either. If he was hungry and wanted something specific, he’d ask his mom to make it for him but that was once in a while. His parents did their best to get him out of this funk: they would go into his room to encourage him to eat, that they’d cook his favorite dishes; they’d ask questions to engage him in conversation but that didn’t go as planned because they rarely got a response. Soon, Cameron stopped leaving the house…he couldn’t muster up the energy or motivation to do anything.
A few months have passed by and his parents and brother have been doing their best to support Cameron. They have taken him for check-ups at his primary care physician and his physical exam and lab results came back normal. They kept going to the doctors and even began looking for answers outside of medicine. The family is puzzled about what is causing Cameron’s condition. They asked him if something happened at school; was someone harassing him or is the coursework too difficult? They assured him that no matter what it is, he has their support and they will resolve the issue. But Cameron still did not have any answers for them.
One fall evening in October, Jamie came back from work and was about to join his parents at the dinner table. He however wanted to check on Cameron. There wasn’t a minute Jamie didn’t worry about how his younger brother was feeling, what was causing these alterations, and if and when his brother would go back to his old self. He thought long and hard if there was anything he should do to save his baby brother from what he was going through.
The evenings were getting darker earlier and when he opened the door to Cameron’s bedroom, he wasn’t on the bed. Half the room was black from darkness, the other half was illuminated by a tiny night light. He was disturbed at what he saw. Cameron was on the floor in a dark corner with his knees to his chest and hands on his head. He was rocking back and forth, repeatedly crying “Leave me alone. Leave me alone. Stop talking to me!” This was sadly not the first time Cameron had had such an episode. Nonetheless, every time Jamie saw Cameron like that, it shocked him. He caught Cameron doing the same thing in the past few months. The first time it happened, Cameron was on the bed and seemed to snap out of it immediately when he was aware of Jamie’s presence. As time progressed, his younger brother’s condition worsened.
Cameron was thereafter diagnosed with schizophrenia; known as a disorder that steals the souls of those it inflicts and leaves its victims to endure a false and altered sense of reality. It affects the way they think, feel and perceive their surroundings. Fortunately, there is pharmacological treatment available. The first line is atypical antipsychotics but it’s important to be aware of side effects and noted that it should be taken promptly for its benefits to come into effect.
If you are a family member and/or caregiver of a person with schizophrenia, remember that this disorder is not easy to live with or around; the patient’s everyday reality has taken a major turn and it is frightening, as it would be for you, too. Please be patient when it becomes overwhelming and do your best to stay calm. Research is underway to learn more about schizophrenia in the hopes of procuring more effective treatment and management.
If you are a parent, guardian and/or caregiver of someone with schizophrenia (or other disability) in the Northern Virginia area and need guidance, please contact RPSV; however, if it is an emergency, please contact the proper authorities by dialing 911. At RPSV, we will gladly make the appropriate referral! You can visit www.rpsva.org, call (800) 374-4198 or join us on our Warm Line at 703-817-6124 (we also have an online Zoom chat option). We have staff and volunteers who are here for you and will find the best solution for you and your family no matter what adversity you are going through. At RPSV, our purpose is to make sure you know your options and find the aid and support you deserve.
By Guest Blogger Almira Mohammed