In Through the Withering Storm, author Leif Gregersen bravely describes his descent into mental illness. Takes a lot of courage since as he says in the book, it’s hard to reveal how “I was slipping into a deep cloud of near-desperation and depression. I didn’t want to admit any weaknesses.” Any family that has been touched by mental illness of any kind knows what a difficult time this can be for everyone concerned, but obviously most of all for the sufferer. Books such as this are so incredibly valuable since they are a ray of hope, a reminder that there is light at the end of the long, dark tunnel, and sharing someone else’s experiences helps keep your own in perspective.
Leif Gregersen describes how the bipolar disorder slowly but surely took a firm grip on him and how he behaved as a result. There are touches of humour in the book, and it’s healthy to be able to recognise the fun moments even though they’re the result of a sinister illness. There’s shocking behaviour too. Generally the author has a very robust attitude to the problems he went through in the past, and I think it’s this clear, no-nonsense retrospective view he gives that highlights how confusing and frightening it must have been at the time .
Drink, depression and despair swamp Leif Gregersen’s life, interspersed with miserable stays at an antiquated mental hospital. However, courage wins through and the author finally emerges from the prison his mind has thrown him in and begins to build a healthy, rewarding life.
There is a real need for books like this one given the widespread occurrence of mental illness. There often isn’t much support from the professionals for the families involved – if any frankly – so ‘from the horse’s mouth’ accounts like Through a Withering Storm are invaluable in the insights they give. They boost you with a new lease of energy to continue supporting and loving through the stormy times.
“I grew up somewhat isolated from the harsher forces of the world in St. Albert, a small town just outside of Edmonton, Alberta. Most of my younger years were filled with images of very happy times – trips everywhere from California to Copenhagen, constant school successes and football games in the field near my house that seemed to last forever.
“But all was not okay. There were times when my father would discipline me severely or I would come home to find an ambulance in our backyard taking my mother to the hospital for yet another suicide attempt. Although I knew that depression ran in our family, I had no clue of the fearsome beast that was growing inside me.
“At that time, I was more concerned about my growing collection of comic books, bought with money my sister would give me for doing her dishes or earned as a bean-picker or weed- puller on a farm not far from town. To be able to buy more comics, I even lied about my age to get a paper route and picked up more money by shoveling walks that hadn’t been done on the route.
Somewhere after the end of elementary school, there was a profound shift. It seemed the wind ran out of my sails and the transition to junior high was not a smooth one. I gave up on sports and I began to hate school and the people in it.
The remaining school years became a painful, out-of-control descent into madness. Gripped by mental illness, my thoughts, actions and behaviours became increasingly bizarre. My world became a true life horror movie of growing up mentally ill. Despite delusions, fights, arrests, reprisals and being institutionalized, years were wasted fighting any form of treatment, denying the illness and refusing medications.
Fortunately, for the past 15 years, my life has stabilized. I have accepted treatment and medications. Today, I have steady work and can afford some of the things I only dreamed of before. My computers, my 1994 VW Golf, a decent apartment and, above all, my books. From the age of three, my father exposed me to literature of the highest quality. Today, he is a much kinder, gentler and alcohol-free 72 year-old. I have him to thank for my passion to read and write.
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Find Leif at www.facebook.com/leif.gregersen
Leif has a website at www.valhallabooks.com where you can find out about his other books and read sample chapters.