Over 2.4 million people in the US are affected with schizophrenia.

This is her father's story.

So THAT explains a lot.

A few months ago, my dad spent a few weeks in the hospital. While he assured me he "just needed his medicine adjusted," I assumed it has something to do with his bipolar disorder, anxiety, or lung disease. My sister informed me that it was for his paranoid schizophrenia.

Never - not in a million years - would I have expected this. Paranoid schizophrenia. I can't tell friends at work. I can't tell my neighbors. Hell, I don't really want to talk about paranoid schizophrenia with my extended family. I can't talk to my Mom, either. She divorced my dad over 25 years ago. When I told her, she said she didn't recall anything out of the ordinary.

Mental illness and the stigma of mental illness is not something people talk about. I feel like by sharing the truth about my father, people may look at me differently. Most people don't want to hear about BIG problems.

Many weird memories now make some sense.

Like the time he left my sister and I at a grocery store one visitation weekend because he said his new wife "couldn't take it."

Or the time, during one of his manic episodes, we got into this HUGE argument where he called me his "seed," as in the whole Bible-thumping "I'm a man and you, my offspring, are my seed."

At my college graduation, during another manic phase, he showed up, screaming, vigorously shaking everyone's hands and saying, "So glad to see you! I'm gonna live for a LONG time!"

The dark side is so, so dark.

There have been times that his third wife called the police after he threatened to kill himself. Or the time I brought my then three-year-old son to visit at the trailer park. He said he hadn't slept for days. Then he closed his eyes, and passed out. After I half-carried him inside, I saw that his house was trashed. There were no working light bulbs, no food. Just a bunch of unlabeled prescription bottles everywhere. Scared the living shit out of me. After that, I decided it was no longer safe to visit my dad alone. I knew something was wrong, but I assumed it was drug abuse. Not paranoid schizophrenia.

For years I've been frustrated with our phone conversations - he often talks in circles. This means we have a 45 minute conversation about his "faith in God," the war movies he watches, his unsupportive brother - it's all about him. If I try to get a word in edgewise, the conversation quickly turns back to him. Apparently, that's a classic symptom of paranoid schizophrenia.

I've exhausted the Internet looking for more information about schizophrenia. I know that mental illness has a genetic component. It's scary. I've learned that schizophrenia usually develops in early adulthood and may have genetic AND environmental components.

I'm the mother of two young children. It makes me feel badly, guilty that their grandfather has this problem. They will hardly know him, except casually, when we meet out at a coffee shop while I visit my mother.

So much for my dream of happy family gatherings.

I know that my successes in life is largely because I've chosen to deal with my family and their issues without letting it affect my own family. It still hurts to see him like this. To know that I can't help him. Neither can my sister. I've tried to help - I called Adult Protective Services after the incident in his home.

He deeply resented me for that. I've sent him clothes when he asked, only to discover that he sold them at the flea market. I don't want to know what became of the quilt I made for him.

So, Band members, talking to my dad knowing he has paranoid schizophrenia is weird. Now that his medication is adjusted, it's like I'm talking to a shell of a person. He still asks questions. He still doesn't listen to my answers. He wants to tell me all about how he's going to make SO much money at the flea market. I wonder if that is his reality OR is it really true that he goes? How many other lies has he told me?

My dad has paranoid schizophrenia.

I used to say my dad was crazy. Now I know it for a fact - it's a little surreal, weird. Knowing and living my life with that knowledge.

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