Daughter Opens About Living with Mother Diagnosed with Schizophrenia
WESLACO – Mental illness takes a toll on the person who has it and those closest to them – their families.
It’s especially difficult for those caring for a loved one with schizophrenia for years.
Nina Worley was 17 when she experienced what she called her worst nightmare.
“The sheriff’s department taking my mom away… that was horrible,” she said. “She said the food was poisoned. She didn’t want us to eat. She locked all the doors. She didn’t want us to get out because someone was going to hurt us.”
Worley’s mother, Noemi Cazares, was 37 when she had her first episode with schizophrenia.
“It was shocking for us as a family,” Worley said.
Schizophrenia is a chemical imbalance of the brain. People suffering with the mental illness have bouts with paranoia, hear voices and sometimes hallucinate.
Mental health experts said there’s only about two percent of the general population diagnosed with schizophrenia. We also learned those who have the disorder are more likely to pass it on to future generations.
Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Gutierrez, chief medical officer with Tropical Texas Behavioral Center, said symptoms usually start in their late teens to early 20s. He said doctors have attempted to discover all contributing factors of this disease, unsuccessfully.
Worley said she had to grow up fast. The eldest of five girls, she tried to figure out what was happening and felt helpless.
“It was scary in the fact that I knew I had to help my mom,” she said.
Worley started researching. She tried to learn everything she could about schizophrenia. She asked a lot of questions and learned there was no cure. However, it can be managed through medication.
“You can have as normal life as possible, as long as you take your meds,” she said. “When you don’t take meds you regress and go through the pain again.”
Worley said it is tough and challenging.
“It takes a toll on family members; emotionally you go through a lot of feelings. Like me I go through anger then I go through feeling for her,” she said.
Worley said it took years for her to find help for families since little was known about mental illness. A lot has changed over the last 34 years.
She now attends classes with the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI. Families can turn to NAMI for support and to share experiences.
“We educate all family members, we educate the patient, get them in our support groups,” Stephanie Contreras said. “They’re not alone that’s the main message, you’re not alone.”
Contreras is the executive director at NAMI. She mentioned her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia several years ago.
“When one of my four children turned 16, he became a different person… day and night, it was unrecognizable. His character changed, his speech, the way he walked – everything changed,” she said.
Contreras said from that point on, she made it her mission to find help for mental illness patients and their families. NAMI holds educational and support group meetings monthly.
“We’re here, we’re all here together. We’re all in the same boat. We’ve been through it, we know what they’re going through,” she said.
Contreras mentioned people with a mental illness can live a full life, but they do need to seek out help immediately.
Worley said her mom is doing great and taking her medications. Her mother goes to daycare and loves to play bingo.
Anyone with questions about NAMI can contact Stephanie Contreras at (956) 624-4960.
For more information and stories visit Heart of the Valley: Mental Health.
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