As we walked together, she was laughing and telling me stories about her childhood. The races with my dad, the pranks she played in school, meeting her husband, playing in the park with her son- then her face fell, her husband left in the middle of the night,
and took her son. Her eyes began welling up with tears, and she started screaming. Then, in a matter of seconds, she was smiling again- laughing about stories of my grandmother.
My dad's sister has schizophrenia.
Trauma from my aunt's past manifested as delusions and hallucinations. She would wake up crying, rambling about the history. Watching these breakdowns, I felt this mixture of confusion, fear, and love. It hurt to see her like this, mainly because I couldn't understand. When she cried, I wanted to as well. I wanted so badly to help her snap back to reality- but I couldn't. I had to be strong for her. I tried to find the bubbly, happy aunt I once knew.
It was so strangely fascinating, the human mind and how volatile reality can be. When my aunt was diagnosed, I dove into the depths of the human mind, reading and researching abnormal psychology and mental disorders. I read everything- from medical journals to blogs about dealing with a schizophrenic family member. It was then that I could understand her better.
I realized she needed a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to about what she was going through. So I made her promise to confide in me. She started relying on me so much that even when I was away from home, she would call me and tell me how she felt. I started taking notes of what I observed and what she said and studied them later. Sometimes she believed her schizophrenic medicines were sleeping pills, and other days, she thought they were testing elephant tranquilizers. As absurd as it would sound to anyone healthy listening to this, it was intriguing to see how real it was for her. I wanted to study this and learn more about these atypical thoughts and behavior patterns.
After unburdening herself to me every day, I could see a change in her! She wanted to spend more time going outside, being more active. She would rely on me. I made her feel safe. She was eating better, and The medication reduced her episodes. But I knew I alone wasn't enough. Though she was reluctant, I convinced her that she would benefit from professional therapy. After a lot of coaxing, she agreed to go, but only if I accompanied her. Though this was time-consuming, especially during my final year of high school, I couldn't leave her alone. I was there by her side for the first few sessions, but soon she was confident enough to go herself.
Now she sees in me her lost child, and we've grown so much closer. She has her moments- but my hand in hers brings her back.
A new me evolved through this experience. The research about abnormal psychology was captivating, and knowing that I played a part was such a beautiful feeling. The love I grew for psychology awakened a whole new avenue for my future. This field is who I wanted to be and why I want to explore the field of psychology. So I can help more people like my aunt and more families grapple with the same questions as I did, trying to piece together the puzzle of the human psyche.