Emily Robinson’s mother has schizophrenia. She’s 63-years-old and needs regular care.
After Emily moved away from their home in Texas, USA, her brother Seth has been their mother’s primary carer, and in an honest and unembellished video, Emily hopes to honour them both by showing what it means to live with mental illness.
In the clip, you can see her mother’s house is a mess. There are clothes scattered across the floor and an endless pile of cigarette butts stacked on the bed and the couch.
She shakes, a permanent side effect of her medication, Emily says, and while she talks lovingly about her grandchildren one moment, she gets overwhelmed the next and seems on the verge of tears.
This is the reality of daily life for Emily and Seth and the experience can be an isolating one. In an accompanying blog post, Emily explains, “It can be difficult to speak about the burden of caring for a person with mental illness. We love them too much to complain very often in public.
“We know the stigma they carry in addition to their illness is already terrible enough. As a result, the weight of caring for them can often become very isolating.”
Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder where the causes are not fully known. It results in the people affected experiencing a distorted sense of reality and delusions as it disrupts normal thinking and emotions.
In Australia, one in 100 people have schizophrenia, with some experiencing brief episodes, while for others it’s a chronic condition.
As Emily describes it, “You are in a committed, abusive relationship when you love your mother with schizophrenia. But the abuser is the disease. It corrodes her mind and makes her into someone she wishes she was not. When she says she’s sorry, and she often does, she really means it.”
But her mother is much more than her illness. She’s full of unconditional love, has an infectious laugh and “never really ask[s] for anything”.
In one post addressed to her mother Emily says, “I called tonight to say good night, you said ‘Just hearing your voice is making my face smile non-stop.’”
You can follow their journey here.