I remember how it came on. Fast. Without warning. Suddenly, I was all fired up, as if I’d just been jump started. I turned on some music, cranked the volume, and then began dancing. I couldn’t help myself. I was overcome with a desire to move. An hour passed before I finally took a rest.

Lounging upright on the couch, my body swayed wildly to the music pumping out of my speakers. I jumped to my feet, turned the volume up a notch, and then headed to the kitchen to brew a cup of coffee. I did a quick jig as I waited for the water to boil. Coffee. It was the dead of night.

I sat down with my coffee and stared out the window. I had so many brilliant ideas swimming inside my head. I grabbed for the nearest pen and tried to jot them all down on a scrap piece of printer paper. My mind raced and my hands moved rapidly.  Every silly spelling error prompted laughter.

And then…

Tears. Overwhelmed by a sudden urge to end my life, I began sobbing. It was an angry depression. Enraged, I threw myself face down on the couch, punched my fist into the cushion and screamed into a pillow.

I went to bed around two or three in the morning, plopped down and practiced my deep breathing. I couldn’t sleep. In fact, I felt cooped up. I threw on some clothes, rushed outside to my vehicle, and then drove, forty kilometers above the speed limit, on icy, snowploughed roads, to the nearest fast food joint.

“I’m sorry sir, your card has been declined,” said the young woman at the drive through window.  She looked at me impatiently. “Sir? How are you paying?”

I laughed, damned if I know, floored it, and then sped off towards the highway.

Looking back on my more erratic days, I often wonder: what the hell was I thinking? What drove me to such extremes? Having struggled with schizoaffective disorder for over a decade, I’m all too familiar with extreme thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.  I’ll admit, learning to balance these extremes has been a long and difficult journey through countless bouts of mania and depression.

Prone to black and white thinking, I’ve spent a great part of my life going from one extreme to the other. It took a hefty toll.  I wasn’t in good condition when I first began seeing a therapist.  But that was then. This is now. It took three years of therapy for me to gain insight into my black and white thinking. I’ve since learned to accept and embrace life as a series of shades of grey.  A spectrum of grey, if you will.  People have a tendency to see greyness as dull, bland and uninteresting. But perhaps, it’s when black and white meet that we truly experience life, and the human condition. Perhaps the most colourful characters in any story are shaded in grey.

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.

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