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Reintegration & Recovery >> Family & Friends
Friends and Others
Friendships New and helpful friendships often begin when people have similar interests. Here are a few ideas you may want to consider as you begin to reintegrate your life back into society's mainstream:
If you or someone you know has a computer, you may want to try chatting on one of the on-line services (America Online, Prodigy, CompuServe, local Internet provider, etc.).
- Share your hobbies with others - if you like to play cards, teach someone you know how to play.
- Join a club (art, music, books, etc.).
- Do volunteer work at your church or synagogue.
- Be open to friendship while you're at your group session, class, or work.
- Join a support group to meet others who also deal with schizophrenia - you could support each other.
- Participate in a sport at the YMCA - maybe start with a swimming lesson.
One of the best ways to meet other people is simply to get involved in activities. That way, you'll have a chance to try something new and meet interesting people, as well. But remember to pace yourself - keep your activities balanced. It's just as important for you to rest as it is to keep busy.
Many people want an intimate (and perhaps sexual) relationship with someone they care a lot about. But finding someone you care about deeply may not happen right away. And you certainly have the right to choose not to have an intimate relationship, if that is what you prefer. If you aren't quite ready for an intimate relationship yet, you may find it easier and less stressful now to focus on less intense relationships with friends.
Starting a relationship can be exciting, but it can also make you nervous because you're not sure in the beginning how that relationship will turn out. Meeting new people and developing an intimate relationship can be very stressful, and having schizophrenia symptoms can make things worse. Your illness may make it harder for you to handle problems that occur during your relationship, and it may be hard to decide whether or not to tell others that you have a mental illness as you develop an intimate relationship. You may want to discuss these problems with your therapist first, so that you'll feel more prepared to handle them as you begin a new relationship.
Here are some tips that may help prepare you for an intimate relationship:
If you do decide you want to develop an intimate relationship with someone, keep these points in mind:
- Meeting people and dating can be very stressful. Be aware of your personal stress level - too much stress can increase your symptoms or make your them worse. Talk to your doctor and the other members of your treatment team about things you can do to keep your symptoms under control during this time.
- If you aren't quite ready for an intimate relationship, you may find it easier and less stressful to focus on relationships with your friends. Developing close friendships with others may help you learn how to communicate better and handle disputes. Practicing these skills may then help you feel more comfortable when intimacy begins to develop in a relationship.
- Before dating, it's a good idea to decide whether you will tell the person about your illness, and how you will tell him or her.
- Appearance and hygiene are very important when you're trying to meet new people. Talk to your case manager about things you can do to look your best.
If you do enter into an intimate sexual relationship with someone, it's important to remember the following:
- Try to be sure the person is interested in you.
- Starting a relationship can be exciting - but (as we've said) it can also cause you to feel nervous. This is completely normal. You may feel nervous about doing something wrong, but keep in mind that relationships can end without either person doing anything wrong. Even so, you may have to be prepared to deal with feelings of rejection, and this is never easy.
- It's up to you to decide if and when to have sex with another person. Your decision will depend on many things, such as your values, morals, religious beliefs, and how well you know the other person. You may want to discuss how you feel about these issues with your case manager or therapist before your relationship develops further.
If You Have a Loved One With a Persistent Mental Illness
- Let your relationship develop naturally from a caring, long-term friendship.
- At the beginning of your relationship, you may have trouble with sexual performance (such as getting an erection). This is normal and usually improves as you and your partner become more comfortable with each other.
- It's important to practice safe sex by always using a condom.
- If you and your partner will not use condoms, talk to your doctor about other methods of birth control and protection against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Some medicines can be harmful to the unborn fetus - so if you think you may be pregnant, tell your doctor as soon as possible.
When you find out that someone close to you has schizophrenia, you can expect it to have a profound effect on your life. You are likely to go through all the commonly-accepted stages of grieving regarding that person's illness. You will need lots of help dealing with it - love, support, and understanding from others will be critical.
Because so many people are afraid of, and uninformed about, schizophrenia, they may try to hide their loved one's illness from relatives and friends and deal with it on their own. But family, friends, teachers, and spiritual advisors can all be sources of great help and support. Opening up and talking frankly with these people about your fears and concerns regarding your loved one's illness can help you cope.
In addition, you are likely to make new (and possibly close) friends and to develop meaningful relationships with people you meet through support and self-help groups and organizations dedicated to dealing with the problem you and your loved one are facing.
Above all, remember that there are many sources of information, support, and understanding open to you, whether you (as the caregiver) are a parent, sibling, spouse, or adult child of a person with schizophrenia.