The question was this:

Do schizophrenics feel really hurt by their family members who won’t acknowledge their illness?

Four years ago I answered with this response:

First of all, I want to ask you to stop using the short hand word, ‘Schizophrenic” as it is demeaning and reduces a person to their diagnosis. As I have said repeatedly, a person who has had a myocardial infarction, or heart attack, is not called by most people (except the medical staff at a hospital when no one else is listening) “that infarct” and similarly a person who has suffered from Meningitis is not called a “meningitic”! Sorry if I sound somehow PC to you, but I have a personal stake in this, having been diagnosed for nearly 40 years with “schizophrenia” and my preference is to be called, first of all, a person…and then if you want to qualify further, you may add, a person “diagnosed with schizophrenia.” I am NOT my diagnosis and the more one qualified me as simply that, a schizophrenic, the more impossible recovery became. It was only when I walked away from the mental illness system and started speaking up about the word, and how I am a person first of all, that I found the road to health and wholeness.

That said, I was rejected by my father first of all, who disowned me for nearly 35 years…and this led to my entire family, including aunts, uncles and cousins dropping all contact with me. I never received a phone call or a letter or a visit from most of them ( except occasionally my siblings) during all that time, and it was only when my father died (and also after I came out with a memoir, published by St Martins Press) and I attended the funeral that they so much as spoke to me.

Hurt? That does not even begin to describe it. My father told lie after lie about why he had no contact with me, even as I tried mightily to establish some connection. Why? Because he was angry with me for leaving medical school, and being hospitalized…and he decided that whatever my diagnosis, I was a failure and no good for anyone, especially him. But to others who knew me, he told them I had left home and any relationship with him out of rage…even though it was in fact his rage that prevented my name from being spoken in his presence. When he met any new people he said he had three children, never acknowledging my existence. This was so extreme that when I read a poem about and for him at his funeral the attendees there, 400 or so, most did not know who I was, sitting among my siblings behind the pulpit.

To this day, I come across people who have never learned that the good doctor S—- had four children, not three. They were never even told that my own twin sister had a twin who was not being spoken to or about or of…

Now, I was very hurt, yes. At one point, in hurt and outrage, I threatened if he ever made the claim again that he only had 3 children, I would immolate myself publicly in front of his window just so that would be the final vision he would have seared on his retina…As he knew I was capable of this, I think he understood how hurt i was. But he nevertheless never did inform anyone about me, or even when we reconciled did he let a soul except my mother and siblings know this.

I am unclear as to the thrust of this question however. How do most people react to being rejected by their families, on any account? People diagnosed with schizophrenia are HUMAN and have normal human emotions, and to expect that they would not get hurt by such behavior is not only inhuman, it is absurd.


  1. Dear Phoebe, your kind words filled my eyes with grateful tears. I just want you to know how much I admire you. Your writings are brilliant, your artwork is amazing, your survival skills are inspiring, and your caring heart is so beautiful. Sending ((HUGS)) and Love. ❤


  2. Hi Michael/ cabrogal

    Oh my that article “I am Adam Lanza mother » made my blood boil! Of course we can’t know the whole story exactly but I felt for that poor boy and I understood entirely his « I’ll kill myself » remark — a junior high schooler taken to a mental hospital because his mother is abusive and controlling?!?!

    I believe all labels are harmful to everyone, yes even supposedly desirable ones like « autistic » or the hugely trendy « bipolar » . As soon as one attaches a label to another person that’s ALL that is seen of the person and everything is viewed thru that lens. I think there are descriptive adjectives but there are also judgement and invalidating adjectives — adjectives which function in fact as labels. I think the more one uses adjectives like autistic etc the more one ceases to describe a person and is only labeling them. But autistic is actually meaningless while intelligent or other adjectives tell us useful information. When you say « So and so is bipolar » what do you mean? You mean whatever that label brings to mind. It’s not a simple descriptive adjective at all.

    Anyhow I’m typing on my tiny phone and it irks me no end so I’ll stop here. Might respond at greater length when I have access to my bigger screen!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My dear Linda,
    How I hear you! It’s disgusting but too often the case they families abandon the offspring who do not live up to expectations. Then again I hear of families who stick by their kin thru stew and gruel so I know abandonment is not always the case or ever necessary. I felt guilty all my younger life because THEY abandoned me. No longer. I have made my friends my family and I love them and am extremely loyal to them, my chosen family!


    Liked by 1 person

  4. I get where you’re coming from with the labeling.

    Unlike many I have no problems with being called autistic, bipolar, whatever, rather than ‘person with autism’ or ‘person with bipolar’. Just like I’ve got no problems being called ‘intelligent’ rather than ‘person with intelligence’.

    But when they change the adjective into a noun it gets my back up. And yeah, it’s the essentialism of it. As if you can say everything there is to say about someone with one word. I’m not even happy about being called an ‘expert’ at something, as if expertise is something I am rather than something I have (and have generally worked hard to get).

    But back to the Quora question, what I find most pig ignorant about it is the notion there’s widespread difficulty in getting families to acknowledge mental illness diagnoses. In my experience it’s the other way around. Families tend to be way too eager to get a DSM label nailed to a non-conforming or unpopular member – at least since the practice of blaming mothers for mental illness went out of fashion.

    For some it enables them to make excuses for an embarrassing relative. “Oh, that’s not her at all. That’s her disease.”

    Others can use biopsychiatric dogma to deflect imagined blame away from them. “We gave him all the love, attention and support in the world, but his neurochemical imbalance messed him up.”

    Worse are the ones who seek to dismiss and delegitimise the views, opinions or aspirations of a family member by claiming they’re not valid because the person holding them is mentally ill.

    But the very worst are the hyper-controllers. The ones who refuse to let their children express dissent, exercise autonomy or live their own lives. The ones who use a DSM label as an excuse to take decision-making out of someone’s hands and use the threat or reality of forced medication or psychiatric detention to control someone’s behaviour. You can see those dynamics at work in the article I am Adam Lanza’s Mother, in which Lisa Long equates his 13 year old son with a mass murderer and uses detention in a mental hospital as a discipline measure when he says things he’s been forbidden from saying.

    I quit Quora due to the authoritarianism and ignorance of the users who have been designated ‘experts’ in mental health.

    The final straw came when I pointed out to one of them that the serotonin theory of depression she was promoting to forum members had been refuted by researchers in the 90s and was no longer believed by psychiatric professionals (I included links to prominent psychiatric journals proving it). The response was to censor my comment and threaten me with banning for spreading dangerous disinformation. So I banned myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, yes. Yes. The total rejection of everyone in my family, after I was given a mental illness diagnosis at the age of 14, is by far the most painful thing that I have ever experienced in my 69 years of living. I have been beaten, I have been raped, I have endured countless extreme traumas. But nothing, in my experience, hurts half as much as being disowned by my entire family, for the unforgivable sin of having a serious mental illness.

    In my case, several therapists and psychiatrists have told me over the years that I was badly misdiagnosed at the age of 14, and that I have PTSD, not schizophrenia. But it does not matter. Only my younger brother has ever reached out to me, and that was just in the past couple of years. To my other siblings, and to my 87 year old mother, and to my father and my grandparents, up to their deaths, I have never been good enough to be part of their lives.

    Nothing, not even being raped and beaten almost to death, hurts like this.


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