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Sometimes I feel as if the burden of my past is too much to bear. I have a tendency to get caught up in the minor details of my most excruciating memories.

If I could go back in time, would I do things differently? I’ve never been asked that question. Most, I assume, would expect an unambiguous “yes”. But the answer isn’t as evident as one might think.  If I were to amend my past and rectify my mistakes, I would be parting ways with the man I am today. Who, then, would I be?

Losing my sense of identity is my greatest fear. I’ve been lost before. But my grasp on who I am has strengthened, instilling within me a sense of purpose. I am driven, motivated and moving forward. While I may be running from certain memories, at least I am running in the right direction. Those memories are my demons, and to quote Tennessee Williams, “If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels.”  So maybe my past is what makes me decent.

Not long after my last hospitalization, I read a novel by author Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Given my history of mental illness and substance abuse, I found inspiration in the depiction of a young woman coming to terms with her own troubled past. Captivated by Cheryl’s determined pursuit of self-acceptance, I concluded that there was hope for me yet. This marked a turning point in my recovery.

True acceptance.  I haven’t found it. I mean, really found it… yet.  It’s a journey. In fact, the very process of writing this post has been a journey, a healing journey.  I have been reminded of the importance of living in the moment. I have been reminded of the importance of letting go of the past. To paraphrase Cheryl, how wild it is, to let it be.

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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