Parents have to deal with the imagination of their children on a daily basis; animals, fairy tales, TV characters.
But what exactly prepares a parent for an imagination that makes their child dangerous and borderline suicidal?
This is the tragic story of Jani, who had over 200 imaginary friends disrupting her reasoning and telling her what to do. This story is a warning to parents out there.
Imaginary friends can be linked to schizophrenia, so parents should inquire more into the their children's imaginary friends.
Michael and Susan Schofield have had to deal with their daughter’s extremely violent behavior. Jani has been diagnosed with one of the most severe cases of childhood schizophrenia her doctors claim to have ever seen.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a serious mind and brain disorder, but it is also highly treatable. Childhood-onset schizophrenia (COS) is a rare chronic mental illness that is diagnosed in children prior to the age of 13.
Although there is no known cure for schizophrenia, the treatment success rate with antipsychotic medications and psycho-social therapies can be high. This does not mean that hearing about the diagnosis is any less devastating for the patient's family and loved ones.
A young girl with over 200 imaginary friends in her head, Jani lives her life in constant confusion and disruption.
Some of her imaginary friends include a little girl called ‘24 hours’, a cat named ‘400’ and a rat named ‘Wednesday’, who all tell her to do very bad things.
What is really going on in Jani's head?
Jani’s parents have been painstakingly raising her and trying to teach her to cope with her condition. It is not easy for them.
As a baby, Jani only slept for two hours at a time and, as a young child, she was found to be brilliant, with an IQ of 146. Her parents originally thought she only had a vivid imagination until the violence started.
Her army of imaginary friends ordered her to hurt her pet dog, Honey, throw herself out of a window and even chop off her own head. Michael says that
“It was heartbreaking to watch and very hard to cope with,”
Jani's parents tried their very best to cope with their daughter's violence.
It all became all the more frustrating when they had a second baby, who was also heartbreakingly diagnosed with autism and possible schizophrenia.
How many tribulations can one family go through?
And then Jani's voices came again: Three days after Bodhi was born, she lobbed a TV remote at him, lunged at him and then at her parents, going absolutely crazy trying to kill him. She claimed her rat friends did not like Bodhi and wanted him dead.
Jani's parents did not know what to do. The situation was taking a toll on their marriage and things were falling apart.
Michael and Susan had to move to separate apartments with the children and were even on the verge of getting a divorce. In his despair, Michael almost took his own life, but Jani saved him.
At this point, he decided to work hard to on his marriage and family life, and to find a way pull through this tribulation.
Jani, too, in a rare moment of clarity begged to go to a hospital saying:
“I want to hit Bodhi all the time, I can't help it”.
Jani was taken to a psychiatric hospital, where she spent a few weeks before she began to accept Bodhi.
Things were finally starting to look up for the Schofields.
The family has moved back together, though Jani is now constantly under heavy medications and watchful eyes.
Michael and Susan have taken necessary measures to keep the children safe, removing all dangerous objects and safeguarding the house.
Jani also goes to school now. She attends a special needs class. Susan says that:
“3 years ago we lived with violence and fear but now things are much better,”
They shower Jani and Bodhi with love and care as much as possible, hoping for the best in life for both of them, no matter how hard it may be. Susan explains:
“ I'm not taking care of a schizophrenic, I'm raising my daughter”.
Jani's family has set up a website and they gain strength and support from other families who have children with similar mental issues. They also serve as an inspiration to other parents out there to be on guard for schizophrenic symptoms and tendencies in their children.
How do I know?
The behavioral changes caused by schizophrenia can be difficult to identify in the earliest stages of the disease. Symptoms may emerge slowly, develop over time or occur suddenly, as though “out of the blue.”
Parents should note that many children go through phases of having an “imaginary friend” or occasionally talking to themselves. Children with possible early-onset schizophrenia spend the majority of their time conversing and laughing with themselves while shutting out real people and surroundings, though.
Other symptoms include increased sensitivity to light, constant repetition of a particular behavior, and a high sense of fear of events, people or objects.
A tragic story indeed. We wish Michael and Susan success with their children and urge people to offer all the support they can to families dealing with similar issues.