Meet Linda Zlepnig: CBT-p Advocate

Becoming an informed caregiver & family member.

Moving Towards An Improved Quality of Life!

My name is Linda Zlepnig, my son Dylan, has been living with Schizophrenia since 2003.

20 years ago, at the age of 18, Dylan was diagnosed with schizophrenia. In the following years, he lived in and out of hospital and was estranged from his family. In 2014, Dylan invited me back into his life. I felt despair – I was not prepared or equipped for the journey ahead of us. Clinically, he had ‘stabilized’, but as a person, Dylan lacked motivation, was riddled with paralyzing anxiety, and his physical and emotional affect was ‘flat’. The prognosis at that time was considered to be “as good as it can get”. Full stop!

But what about Dylan’s quality of life?

As a parent, I had been out of my son’s life for years; had little knowledge or understanding of the complexity of his illness and unaware of the intense support we both would need to move forward.

So I decided to step up and became an advocate for my son and myself.

I attended a number of family focused mental health training sessions, conferences, and support groups for families. Most importantly, this led to my enrollment in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Psychosis – Informed Caring for Family Members, delivered by Dr. Turkington.

As a family member and caregiver, this program provided insight into my son’s condition and relevant signs and symptoms of schizophrenia and psychosis.
CBT-p Informed Caring training improved my ability to perceive and respond to day-to-day experiences which helped to reduce the risk of relapse. I started working on my approach to normalizing Dylan’s delusions and befriending him by talking about the old times … going skiing with the family.
Dylan was aware that I had attended this program.  One day he said … “Mom, you have really changed …  you’re listening to me “! My son is so proud of me that I cared so much about him. He thanks me all the time and says ‘If it wasn’t for me he would not be where he is today!
Working with his treatment team, my son has learned to reduce anxiety by applying mindfulness and has benefited from supportive listening from close family members.
Today, through Zlepnig Mental Health Institute, I coordinate CBT-p training for professionals and CBT-p Informed Caring for family members.
Take Home Message
To better understand the challenges ahead:
  • Educate yourself on the illness and mental health system
  • Be a strong advocate for yourself and your loved one
    Network with local mental health resources in your community
  • Advocate for psycho-social programs such as CBT-p
  • Self care for the caregiver
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