Here’s something we can all learn from.
Me: The winner of the first Ask Erik submissions is Marcie. She says, “I hope I am not too late to send a question to Erik. I had written to you a couple of weeks ago about my husband having schizophrenia and that he had almost killed himself in August of 2013. He was completely out of his mind and told ambulance drivers and a nurse in the hospital that he had killed myself and my daughter. You cannot imagine how scary this is. He is medicated and seems to be regressing at times. I am so worried about his future and what will happen to him and I am also equally worried about my own future. I want to move away this year sometime and follow my daughter to wherever she moves to. I am struggling so badly with all my emotions and what is the right thing to do and I love my husband dearly and am so worried about him. I am sorry for the long-winded question above. Any help would be appreciated. I don’t know if I am too late for this submission, I hope not. I also want to quickly tell you how much I loved your book and I hope that you and Erik plan on writing another one soon.”
Robert: The question is?
Me: That’s a tough one. It’s more of a statement.
Erik: I already know what she needs to hear. When it comes to mental illness in general, sometimes it can be rooted in a genetic predisposition, but sometimes we can have emotional experiences in life that rewire our genetics, our DNA, to come down a disease like schizophrenia.
Erik actually told me the same thing when I was doing a session with Jamie and him this morning!
Me: You mean it rewires your brain and neurons?
Erik: Yes, but through the DNA. If they were to map out the DNA of that person, they’d be able to find the specific markers for schizophrenia. Sometimes it’s there from birth, There’s nothing you did to create that, but sometimes it can be created because something happened that destroyed you emotionally so much that through being traumatized and broken, rewires itself to cause those genes to be expressed. This is the case with schizophrenia, with depression, with any other thing. There’s no blame, because you can’t blame the people who created those experiences, and you can’t blame yourself for experiencing things the way that you do: acting or reacting to changes. You have to be compassionate with yourself. Sometimes that’s what the lesson is.
Me: In her case, what do you think the lesson is?
Me: Or any of them: the husband, the daughter, or her—or all of them.
Erik: I was going to add something else, but, for them, the bottom line is this. This is a common dilemma for a lot of people. It’s about being okay with uncertainty. That’s pretty general and expansive, but that’s the root. In just one answer, I can’t tell this person, ‘Get over yourself. Be okay with uncertainty.’ That’s part of a process, part of a lifelong thing.
Robert (to Erik): Yeah. (to me) He’s telling me that one of the ways that this guy, the husband, can learn to be okay with uncertainty is to grasp onto something that is certain. For him that means he needs to be disciplined and take his medicine when they tell him to and not stop it arbitrarily.
Robert to Erik): Okay Erik, you know I’m a stickler for accuracy so please don’t be leading me down the wrong direction!
Erik: That’s my main point with him. This is an example of duality at work. In order to be okay with uncertainty, you have to grasp onto something that’s certain. In his case, that certainty is taking his medicines consistently and sticking up for himself when he feels like things aren’t going the right way, because there are times when he’s taking his medicines, but they don’t work right.
Me: Mm hm.
Erik: They just kinda quit. For her, they were paired together, because they both have that issue, uncertainty. For her, certainty—and this is just an example—might be allowing herself to be okay—
Robert (to Erik): How are you saying that, Erik?
(Long pause as Robert listens to our babbling boy.)
Robert: I’ll just have to paraphrase a little bit. It was basically that, on an emotional level, she sometimes wants to be drawn to do things, and she may feel proud of herself, but her sense of certainty comes in in allowing herself to just flow with the emotions that she feels. Just go with them. So, if she feels like, in the moment, that she needs be to all over him, watching him, and making sure he’s taking his meds and things like a nurse would do, then she needs to do that and not feel bad about it, like she’s smothering him or anything like that. In the same breath, if it becomes too much for her, because this isn’t the only thing going on in her life, but it’s a pretty damn big one, if anything, she needs to recognize that responsibility doesn’t always have to be on her shoulders. There are other people that can help her.
Me: Like family members?
Erik: Family members, friends, anyone—talking to his doctors, if it’s related to her husband, calling on other people when she can’t carry the load anymore, because it’s not fair for one person to take on the responsibility.
Me: Oh, no. Of course not. Is she safe, she and her daughter?
Erik: When his schizophrenia is acting up, when he’s having delusions and stuff, right now they’re more like verbal expressions like when he said that he killed them. For him, that feels like a nightmare. Have you ever heard of instances where a person has had what they used to call “shell shock”? Now you can call it posttraumatic stress disorder. They end up acting out there dreams. Like you can be a Vietnam vet who thinks they’re in the middle of a war. In the dream, you’re choking the enemy. Well, that can play out in real life, and they’re literally choking their wife or whoever’s in bed with them.
Me: Yeah. I’ve heard of that.
Erik: Yeah. So as long as he remains unstable, that can happen. But if he consistently takes his meds and makes sure that he vocalizes—he and her—when it doesn’t seem like they’re working and he’s starting to hear voices again or having strange thoughts—he needs to vocalize that. There are going to be instances where people who are schizophrenic lose touch with reality, and they can’t vocalize it. That’s where she could come in, or someone else around her who’s watching him.
Me: So, they would help him vocalize?
Erik: Right. It’s a two-way street. It’s a lesson in responsibility. When he is able to vocalize it, he needs to vocalize it, but she and other caregivers, their responsibility is not waiting for him to say it, because there will be times where he can’t. They need to be paying attention to any changes in his behavior. They need to ask him, but there will be times when he’ll deny it, but regardless of what he says, if she suspects something, she needs to take him to the professionals.
Me: Right. Now, she wants to move away this year and follow her daughter, but she just doesn’t know if it’s the right thing to do. I don’t know if that means leaving her husband behind.
Erik: The bottom line answer for that is that this is an opportunity for her to go with what she feels in her heart is right.
Robert: He crosses his arms.
Erik: She knows the answer.
Erik: The reason she would even ask that in the first place, and I don’t mean to make her feel like she’s confronted or anything else, but the reason anyone would ask that question is because they feel uncertain. There’s that uncertainty thing again! The one thing that’s certain for her in this instance is what she feels in her heart that she knows is right.
Me: It seems like uncertainty is more of a conflict between the brain and the heart.
Erik: Right. Right. Uncertainty comes when we let the brain overrule the heart. The brain is where all our doubt comes from, all our second-guessing, our expectations. It’s a very difficult balance for people to learn, using both head and heart so that they work together. You always start with the heart first, and allow the mind to be open to hearing what the heart says. Run it through each one of them. In some cases, the heart, if you don’t run it through the brain, can cause you to take a reckless action. The reason it might play out recklessly is because the heart was instilling a feeling in you, but it was doing that so you would stop and run it through your brain and think, “Okay. This is the feeling I’m having. This is what I want to feel,” and then the brain will go, “Okay. How will we go about acting on that in a way that won’t create more challenges?”
Me: Yeah, you don’t want to take a feeling and act upon it in the wrong way. That’s what happens with crimes of passion!
Erik: Yeah, that’s what blind passion is, but in her case, she knows in her heart what’s right. She needs to run it through her brain to find that certainty, but she’s passing it off on to something external. That’s why she’s asking me this question. She’s uncomfortable with her own inner uncertainty. One option might be that she stays with him a little bit longer so she feels like she’s done all she can. Maybe she does think she has done all that she can. Then, she might say, “Well, okay. Now it’s time for his family or friends to take over, because I’ve reached my limits.”
Me: Yeah, you can run out of emotional resources.
Erik: Right, and it’s up to her to choose between these or choose something else to deal with that lesson in uncertainty.
Me: I know we’re over time, but is there anything else you want to share in this situation, Erik?
Erik: I know, over time, things will work out a lot better than she realizes as long as she listens to what I’m saying. She needs to first lead from the heart, then run it through her head. She second guesses herself and judges herself or starts blaming. This happens when she uses her head first. Remember that certainty can come from creating that balance between head and heart and leading with your heart. Feel first, think second.
That’s something Erik stresses time and time again. Feel first, think second, and emotional honesty is a critical part of the equation.