• La Shawn Splane-Wilburn, Founder of HOMAGI

Whose Chumming The Water? – Negative Symptoms Of Mental Illness Triggered By External Forces or Peop


'Sabotage' was a work for hire. It wasn't my original idea or script or anything. David Ayer


Have you ever watched a National Geographic episode about fishing or shark research? There is this lovely boat and everyones excited about how great the weather is and the water is blue and all is well. The crew drops a camera in the water and takes a look around and there is nothing but crystal blue water and beautiful fish and serenity all around. As a viewer, or at least for me I could rewind that part over and over again because the only reason I watch is for the soothing water sounds and the ocean environment. Then someone decides there are not enough shark around and they decide to “chum” the water.


Chum is

“cut or ground bait dumped into the water to attract fish to the area where one is fishing.”


I was sitting down one day and talking with another caregiver and I said, “…I know right? Like sometimes we sit down and ask who is chumming the waters…” we both laughed so hard because that analogy was so point on for when all is going well and then out of the clear blue there is this explosion of “crisis” one after another. Most caregivers don’t mind admitting to being caught off guard and wondering what in the world is happening and why?


Not sure if you have had a chumming moment ? Here are some examples:


Chumming – Loved one

A loved one is most aware of what their triggers are after diagnosis and some treatment and therapy, but it takes time. Knowing what can cause a negative symptom to trigger is important knowledge for a loved one to have because it can help to prepare for them and, as time goes on, reduce the impact it has or shorten the length of time the symptom lasts. There is something about being able to identify and work hard at the “bounce back” that empowers a loved one and gives a measure of control back to them. So many times the fear of the negative symptom increases its affect and caused more anxiety.


When a loved one receives the support they need from their professional psych team like helping them to identify what it was that caused the negative symptom or how to alleviate some of the severity of the symptom they are empowered. Fear is the biggest enemy for a survivor of a mental disorder. Fear of the symptom showing up when they are in a social situation, an intimate relationship or at work can cause depression and actually trigger the symptom to come up.


As a Mental Health Family Caregiver we can help our loved one to identify when they are on the road to a negative symptom once we ourselves recognize it, which is why keeping a journal or a binder of when a loved one haves an episode or crisis. That information is very valuable especially for you in the beginning of your journey with them. It will be terrifying and you will not always remember what is the most important, but write down the things you remember regardless to how random they are. Write down everything you can remember…including your reaction to what is happening.


Sometimes our loved one is unaware they are “chumming” the waters by their behavior or by failing to look after their sleep and diet. Sometimes we are able to help them to identify it when they are “stable” or not “symptomatic” and other times it may require a modification of the way the family lives in the home with the loved one. Understand that sometimes getting better at caregiving and increasing the likelihood that a loved one will again be able to live on their own independently may require some temporary modifications on behalf of the family including the type of food or alcoholic drinks kept in the home. Do your research on the effects some foods have on those with a mental health disorder.


Not sleeping, not eating a balanced meal to keep the blood sugar leveled, not taking medications or supplements which help to keep the symptoms reduced or alleviated are all ways a loved one can “chum” the waters of recovery and cause not just the suffering of themselves but for the family that is desperately seeking to help them through rough times. Sometimes it’s easy for a loved one to see they are causing their family unnecessary struggle with “negative behavior” or behavior that can trigger symptoms and other times there is a tendency to be selfish and not care at all, at times I have believed the therapist when told “it’s not a symptom of the illness” and other times I wonder how much of an impact the illness has on irrational thinking and behavior without regard to those around you.


Chumming - The Caregiver

One day a Mental Health Family Caregiver sat holding the phone in wonderment as their loved one hung up in their face after being told “I’m not going to pay another (insert your choice here)…” is a story being told around the world by Mental Health Family Caregivers of a loved one who is out of control, non-compliant and calling to be rescued from a decision made in haste or under duress from a negative symptom or addiction.


Having that experience is on the richter scale of max for caregiver stress. Caregivers go through experiences they may never share with friends or families because they are so ashamed of what they have done in the name of “a moment of peace”. There was a caregiver who paid for their son to live in a hotel because the son caused so much havoc in the home that they just wanted to keep them in their own place for the sake of having peace in their home. I as well as other caregivers I have spoke with said at the beginning of my journey in caregiving I would not fall victim to such acts or fall into complaining about my loved one when they couldn’t help themselves because of their illness. Once you are in the journey and you experience the extended times under negative symptoms with your loved one you start to understand the reasoning of a caregiver who is at their last hope and just wanting it to go away for a moment so that they could just rest, and they make the decision to give in to a loved one just so everything will stop for a minute.


I have read a many of blog posts about caregivers who were overwhelmed by their responsibilities and their loved ones struggle with negative symptoms. I have watched YouTube channels where people speak candidly about their experience with a loved one struggling with finding the better treatment plan or struggling with addiction. I watched one who spoke about a daughter who threw her family into bankruptcy because of her stealing and the families overextending themselves for treatment plans, bail money and money for attorneys. Many times as caregivers we are looking for temporary relief from the crisis and so we give in or appease a loved one in hopes of creating a moment of peace.



Chumming – Professional Psych Team

This is one of the worst forms of “monkey wrenching” recovery I feel because the Psych professional has extensive knowledge…most times, of how the illness works and what is effective and what isn’t yet they allow personal feelings to become involved and use medicine as a weapon instead of using it to heal. I have heard many horror stories of a Psych professional retaliating against a family because they didn’t want to take a medication the doctor said was “new” and their sessions were cancelled at the last minute for an “emergency” or a prescription could not be verified when the pharmacist called in which delayed having it filled.


Some examples of “poor Psych professional help” are:


  • Psych professional uses “technical terms” and doesn’t explain what they are even when asked to give a laymen’s term or explain so that the loved one or caregiver can understand.

  • Psych professional talks about their personal issues to your loved one or to you.

  • Psych professional is flirtatious or makes sexual advances toward you or your loved one.

  • Psych professional does all of the talking or doesn’t talk at all ( some of the caregivers I have worked with have told me about a loved one complaining that the psych professional just sat and stared and didn’t answer questions when the loved one inquired about treatment directing them to the nurse only)

  • Psych professional is condescending or treats your loved one like they are inferior

  • Psych professional focuses more on diagnosis than on the treatment, i.e.: expressing over and over again what is normal for what you have been diagnosed for versus telling you how to alleviate the negative symptom or suggesting new therapies to modify or stop the symptoms.

  • Psych professional makes guarantees

  • Psych professional doesn’t give your loved one the necessary “patients rights” documentation

Understand those are grounds for that professional to lose their license and if you have an instance of a Psych professional being abusive you should do the following:

  • Speak directly to the Psych professional about your concern

  • Speak to the office manager if it’s a private practice, if there isn’t an office manager then report it to the medical board directly. If it’s a hospital you can speak to the “patient advocate” if there isn’t one speak to the hospital administrator.

  • Contact the Board of Psychology

  • Seek the advice of an attorney


This journey is a very difficult one and the Psych professional sometimes gets a raw rap because families want a “get well quick” solution and that isn’t always possible and for the times that it does happen that is a miracle at best. Mental health recovery can take years to find the right combination of therapy and medication and there are so many variables that must be factored in, for example:

  1. Your loved one accepting the diagnosis

  2. Any addictions must be addressed first and your loved one must want to address them and participate in the drug recovery program.

  3. Willingness of your loved one to cooperate with the Professional Psych team

  4. Willingness of your loved one to accept help from you the caregiver and your “care support” team

  5. Your loved ones ability to accept they may need help until they are stronger

  6. Your loved one staying compliant and modifying their lives to accommodate their new life with a mental health diagnosis.

If your love one is not on board to seek treatment and accept treatment you can do all of the assembling of the best psych team and care team as you like, nothing will work until your loved one is ready to do the work.


Chumming - Family & Friends

Caregivers who have experienced this form of "interference" all have the same reaction, "...why would someone want to see another person suffer especially those who love they love..." I have had this experience personally and I have helped others to find comfort in knowing they are not alone once they tell me of their experiences. A loved one can wind up in an abusive relationship because of their sometimes inability to see when others are not being genuine. They can wind up being taken advantage of because of "self-esteem" issue as a result of negative thinking or other negative symptoms of their illness. What I have found is a great way to help a loved one is to ask them how they feel about what they are experiencing. If they are not feeling they are being taken advantage of then nothing you say to them will help them to identify it most times. Mentioning your concern to the Psych professional team gives them information they can help to address during therapy, but most importantly as a caregiver we must remember the best solution for changing behavior for our loved one is to let them live. Experience is sometimes the best teacher.


We can ensure they are in no physical danger but otherwise it is purely their decision how they handle their personal affairs. Speaking directly to the individual may cause conflict and if they want to they could use the caregiver approaching them as a wedge between the caregiver and loved one causing alienation which affords them more control. It's best to maintain a watchful eye from the sidelines, and using discretion ask questions your loved one is comfortable with, without being to intrusive. As a caregiver we know how far we can go.


When it comes to family who are "picking" or "instigating" if your loved one lives with you, limit their visits or decline them altogether. There was a caregiver who had a son who lived with her and she and the father were never married, she was single and the father, here ex used every opportunity to come to her home and see the son who was well into his 20's. When the caregiver resisted his advances he would appeal to the son to have the caregiver allow him to spend the night in order to be there if he needed the support of his father. Needless to say the caregiver was under a great amount of stress because when she declined having the dad to spend the night he would tell the son his mother didn't want him to come around and therefore would disappear and not answer phone calls from the son until the mother called and asked for the dad to come over and sit with them.


There are many ways to handle a situation such as that one and enlisting the help of a professional counselor is one of the ways. Sometimes as a caregiver we must make a choice for our loved one to move in with the other parent who is insisting on being more involved in the recovery process and the loved one insists on the caregiver modifying their lives to accommodate. As a caregiver we can make adjustments in our lives to assists our loved ones but they should never include manipulation or subjecting ourselves to uncomfortable situations.


When you find yourself on the short end of recovery and your loved one is refusing to accept the diagnosis and choosing to forgo treatment or stay compliant it is important that you seek therapy so that you can accept their position and you don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the role of the “enabler” which is easy for us caregivers because we don’t want our loved ones to suffer and we can fall victim to being manipulated into accepting poor behavior and excusing it as a symptom of the illness. Always seek mental health treatment and counseling for yourself it is the best investment you will make during this journey.


Keep your mental health a priority and your self care a priority. If you don’t have a support system, build one and don’t delay getting one. You can start a support group and post when you are meeting at a behavioral health clinic or in the town newspaper but you need to build a healthy support system to sustain you during this process because whether your loved one accepts the diagnosis and gets help or not you will take the ride with them either way, and you should empower yourself with the right to choose which “trips” you will take and which you will sit out.


Hopefully you found something informative here. Keep praying and believing God for deliverance and keep doing the work and all will work out for you, trust me. This is not an easy course but is possible. May God bless us all with peace and may God bless us all real good!




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