‘Your aunt jumped through the window this morning.’
I’m seven years old and my father has just picked me up from school.
My dad was always half stoic and half excited when something awful happened. I didn’t fully realize it then, but my dad was so traumatized, his inner world was such a mess, that when the outside world was also a mess, he suddenly seemed to relax. Awful shit happening was his idea of normalcy.
But this isn’t a post about my dad, it’s about aunt Karine.
The moment my dad said she jumped out of the window, I asked myself:
‘That’s odd. Why would anyone do that? Was she goofing around?’
Because for half a minute or so I get the image in my head that she’s jumped through the window of the living room. Ground level.
Of course, it soon dawns on me that she’s jumped from much higher than that.
She’s alive, but her back, ankles, knees, neck are all badly hurt.
It also finally dawns on the rest of the family that my aunt is not well and is urgently in need of psychiatric help.
You would assume that would have been clear to everyone much sooner. As I will find out much later my dad was the first to notice that she was off, but nobody reacted. She is his sister in law, and his inlaws are good at ignoring problems that stare them in the face.
This is her third suicide attempt.
She’s tried to take all the meds she could get her hands on. She’s tried to cut her wrists.
My dad proudly says that my grandfather, his father in law, couldn’t handle the situation, and he stayed with her when the doctors were treating her. He says something I will never forget: ‘They were rough with her, because when you try to kill yourself, they don’t care either. They just shoved a drain in her and pumped everything out of her stomach. No gentle touch there.’ I believe the medical field has come a long way since 1990. People in need of psychiatric help are treated with far more respect than some decades ago.
Her jumping out of the window comes about a year after my mum found her in a church talking to the saints on the glass windows.
My mum will for the rest of her life point to different triggers that caused her sister’s schizophrenia. ‘Her husband couldn’t have children and she was considering sleeping with a friend of his, but then she felt so guilty that she had religious visions.’ Or: ‘She got obsessed with losing weight.’ Or: ‘She binge watched horror movies and slept too little and the horror became real.’
These are, of course, not the real reasons someone becomes schizophrenic. It’s generally assumed there needs to be a genetic disposition plus severe stress, the weight of too much responsibility. It’s not uncommon for the disease to start in college.
Perhaps my aunt couldn’t handle the stress of living on her own, of marriage, of adult life. She got the disease about the same time people go to college.
She finally got psychiatric help after all her suicide attempts. She’s never tried a fourth time, even though there have been lots of suicides in her close environment. My dad’s for example. Two of her boyfriends. And many more in our village. She leads a balanced life because of the meds. The meds can’t cure her, but they suppress her symptoms.
My aunt is still what you would call weird. You could say she’s autistic. Schizophrenic patients usually show signs of autism.
She likes to be on her own. She gets up at 3 am in the night and lies that she gets up at 4.30 am. She smokes a lot. 90 percent of schizophrenic patients smoke, as nicotine seems to alleviate their symptoms. She talks to herself when she’s alone, which is very common in schizophrenic patients. She also talks to certain objects. She avoids any sort of responsibility and gets very stressed when something is expected of her. Even small tasks are an issue. Yet she is very sweet if she can live her daily routine, doesn’t need to do too much, takes good care of herself, takes her medicine very regularly, she exercises, and if you don’t criticize her she will never bother you. She’s not very intelligent – which has nothing to do with her illness – but from time to time she can surprise. Although she never studied we’ve noticed that she can understand several foreign languages tolerably well.
She has no permanent damage from her first two suicicde attempts, but the third one, the jump through the window, did permanently incapacitate her to some degree. With the right treatment this could have been avoided.
It’s so important for people who are struggling to find the right help as fast as possible.
Thanks to the internet this should go more smoothly than 30 years ago.
For more information you can check out this link: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/reasons-to-choose-an-online-psychiatrist/