My Colour-Coded Life tells Megan Jackson Hall’s story of living with schizoaffective disorder. She writes that she hopes the book will help to destigmatize mental illness.
The book is made up of diary-style entries from 2008 to 2018. It offers a fascinating insight into living with active psychosis on a day to day basis, written at the time that it was experienced.
A theme that runs throughout the book is interpreting things as having special meanings. Colours in particular were a source of meaning for her, hence My Colour-Coded Life as the book’s title. While at first glance that might not be so bad, Megan demonstrates how incapacitating beliefs like that can become; at one point, the messages from colours were so overwhelming that she couldn’t read, watch tv, or decide what to wear.
Besides colours, music was very significant for her in terms of getting messages. In a list of pros and cons of living with her “mental health situation,” the first pro was “The colours and music help me dream of many things.” The first con was “perhaps none of this is real.”
The author also shares the Capgras delusions she experienced. Capgras syndrome isn’t overly common, and involves the belief that people have been replaced by imposters. The book does a really good job of capturing the thought process and confusion around whether or not her (now ex-) husband, for example, was really him.
It was interesting to see insight into the nature of what she was experiencing. She writes that she was “ashamed to record” thinking that someone had tampered with her pills. At times when she was doing better, she shares that it would sometimes cross her mind how differently she’d react to things if she was “sick.” Her descriptions are a great example of how someone can be experiencing psychosis, but still realize there’s something off about what they’re experiencing.
The book includes lists of things she’s curious or concerned about, which give a clear look at how psychosis shapes one’s world. Megan describes various other experiences, like items going missing, and believing that others could control her sensory experiences and access to things like the internet. She writes:
“Everything is rigged. I’m not sure I can trust what I have anymore. I went into Jessica’s memory box I made and realized that the journal, baby book, I wrote look like my writing but the content is wrong and someone has been in my jewelry box and added notes from Jessica that had gone missing and added some keys.”
One line that stood out for me was “I feel fine regarding delusions and everything but my self-confidence has just disappeared.” It’s easy to assume that psychotic symptoms are the most pressing problem for the person experiencing them, but that’s not necessarily true.
Contrary to stereotyped expectations, wanting to go back to work is a theme that comes up repeatedly throughout the book.
Overall, this book offers readers a clear insight into day to day psychotic thought processes. Megan clearly does not fit with the stereotypes about people with psychosis being unpredictable and dangerous. There are no attempts to inflate or to minimize; she’s simply telling her story.
The only thing I struggled with a bit was the length; at over 400 pages, it’s longer than what I typically read. However, it wasn’t a hard read, and it was broken up well with the relatively short diary entries.
I think this book would be particularly good for families or health professional students to get a better understanding of psychotic illnesses like schizoaffective disorder. The fact that it’s written as it’s being experienced gives a different view than reading about events after the fact, giving this book a unique perspective.
My Colour-Coded Life is available on Amazon.
I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
You can find my other book reviews here.
Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis aims to cut through the misunderstanding and stigma, drawing on the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria and guest narratives to present mental illness as it really is. It’s available on Amazon.
For other books by Ashley L. Peterson, visit the Mental Health @ Home Books page.
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