I’ll admit, I’m prone to being impulsive. I tend to get caught cycling between my own maladaptive emotions, thoughts and behaviours. Often, I’ll repeat a certain behaviour, even if it’s gotten me into trouble before. It was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. I suppose we can’t all be born sane.
Just over two years ago, my quick-to-act and emotionally charged nature nearly cost me my life. I’d lost my way and in the midst of a gathering desperation, I attempted suicide.
My actions can never be undone. I made a decision, and it is a decision I have come to regret. And yet, oddly enough, though I did stumble, I did not fall. Perhaps I have learned from the lessons that mark my past. An incident that normally would have had me hospitalized for months was effectively treated in the community over the span of a few weeks. Something has changed over the course of my recovery. I have grown, there is new resilience, perseverance and new hope.
My suicide attempt was the result of an overwhelming and spontaneous hopelessness. But what often goes unrecognized, is that hopelessness is a state of mind. As a mindset, it can be subject to change. So often, when faced with raw emotions, we become entrapped in a vicious cycle – negative emotions feeding maladaptive thoughts and behaviours, and vice versa.
I’ve learned, we are not prisoners to our emotions. We are free to act above the chaos and uncertainty of our most distressing feelings. The key to fulfillment is challenging what’s not working in our lives. “Change your mind, change your life”, they say.
CBT, or, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, is the practice of understanding the link between our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. CBT is often used to build personalized toolkits for coping with both daily, and unordinary stressors. I’ve a long history with CBT, having first learned it over a decade ago.
It’s taken me the greater part of my late teens and 20’s to get to a point of wellness, both mentally and physically. Indeed, CBT has made all the difference in recovering from mental illness and substance abuse. Conquering the demons, while taxing, was worth every effort I put into learning and applying my CBT skills.
“Be mindful,” my psychologist taught me, “rise above your emotions, and create hope in the face of hopelessness.” I continue to heal. Every few steps forward are punctuated by a setback or two, but I’ve learned recovery is achieved one step at a time. We all stumble, but it is our determination to rise again that exemplifies the spirit of what it means to be human – resolved to overcome life’s challenges, and to live life to its fullest.
About Andrew Woods
Having been diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder and OCD at the age of seventeen (while attending the University of Victoria), my struggle with mental illness has been a full spectrum experience. I have made much progress since my last hospitalization (three and a half years ago). I returned to university, eventually earning a degree in Economics and a diploma in Business Administration. Today, I have aspirations of following a career in writing and communications. Currently, I spend my time as a mental health volunteer, working as a mental health navigator, exhibitor and communications support volunteer.