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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Reasons for Writing by Leif Gregersen, author of 'Through the Withering Storm'



Through the Withering Storm

Mental illness is something that is a great deal more common than many think. Statistics show that 1 in 5 North Americans will require treatment for a major disorder at some point in their lives. This means either you or a family member or friend close to you are very likely to be stricken down by a failure of our most essential and complicated organ in our bodies. When I was first treated for a mental health issue there was so much stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness that I completely denied I had a problem. Despite that mental health issues ran in my family, no one talked about them, everyone shunned those who were different, and as a result I wasted years of my life not understanding that there was help available and that I didn’t just have to ‘tough things out’. My denial and pain was so bad at one point I tried to join the military during the first Gulf War just to find a way out of life, I thought I would either gain the discipline needed to overcome my illness or die trying. I needed neither. Some find my story funny, some find it sad, but it is a story that is being played out among more people than you may think right now, right around all of us. Depression, Schizophrenia, Anxiety, Addiction. It‘s something we can no longer avoid, especially with America now deploying and redeploying troops en masse to combat zones where even the strongest among us can succumb to the pressure of such a situation. It is my hope that those who read this book can walk away from it having had a look inside the mind of someone who lost his mind and one day regained it, but not without first going through incredible pain and suffering. This suffering doesn‘t have to happen. What has to happen is that attitudes and knowledge have to improve.

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My Reasons for writing: 

When I look back now at when I started writing, it is a bit hard to nail down the exact thoughts I had in my head about why I wanted to write. I think a big reason for me was that I had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and was very sensitive about getting ‘stressed’ at a regular job and thus it was very hard for me to find ways to either make money or occupy my time. My first desires towards being a writer came from a very young age. When I was young, my parents exposed us to classical literature and that to me was almost a religion. I can remember being very young and my Dad gathering the family in the living room to read "Robinson Crusoe” and Faulkner’s “The Kite”. I quickly learned to read even before I was old enough for school. I pushed myself because I was the youngest and felt I was getting behind my siblings. Early on in school I was set apart as a gifted child and put into special classes along with the regular workload of the grades I was in. I loved elementary school and all the yearly events and being able to play football after school every day with friends. When I got to junior high either my mental illness had begun to take its’ toll on me or I simply stopped caring because of the dramatic change in how my schooling was done. Soon after getting into junior high (or middle school) my parents bought a laser disc player and we would watch movie after movie every night of the week. I marvelled at the people who wrote the stories sometimes more than the actors who played them out. In junior high I was put into Air Cadets (civil air patrol in the US as far as I understand) and I felt that would be my career-become a military pilot or officer. When high school came, many of my ideas changed, but a love of literature and writing stayed. I took typing and academic English (which I failed later) and read all I could. By the end of high school I completed the hardest academic English course and got University entrance level marks, but needed other courses to get my diploma. That summer I spent many nights after work staying up reading everything from Julius Ceaser to Les Miserables. I could hardly wait to get to University and get the challenge of more English courses. But sadly I became extremely mentally ill and had to be put in a mental hospital twice. My family relationships broke down and seeking some anchor from my past I tried to join the military, which was impossible with my mental health record. I travelled out to the West Coast and lived in a traveller’s Hostel for some time and though I hadn’t started writing I often thought about and talked about becoming a writer. It took a few years, but I eventually returned to Edmonton and got my hands on a book called “The Writer’s Handbook” and tried to teach myself to write stories and poems. My reasons at first were to impress friends and family members, but then I found that there were many rewards to writing. One of the big ones was self-understanding and self-expression. I wrote and wrote and then one day I learned by accident that a letter I had sent to a newspaper had been chosen as the ‘letter of the week’. I was elated, but my life wasn’t going all that well. I would soon end up back in the hospital and I was put on medications that made me incredibly restless. All I had at this point was a few poems and some short stories and no ability to sit down at all to write any more. I pushed myself hard and would read all the shortest short stories from a book I had bought just to feel in some way I was working towards bettering my situation. After some months, a new Doctor put me on a better medication and I struggled back to normalcy. I remember meeting a young woman at a church event and asking her if she was single and she said, “I have a boyfriend, he’s going to be a Doctor.” It kind of offended me in the way she said it and I said, “Well what if I become a great writer some day?” It was kind of silly, but I have known a few women that I had interest in who married Doctors and felt defensive about it. The truth of the matter is though, that a Doctor really would provide a more stable emotional and financial situations for a young woman, I just didn’t like the idea of being dismissed because of my career choices. Back to why I write, I think that parts of me want to think that one day I will make a lot of money from my writing, but in the past few years that has changed dramatically. I now see writing as an incredible form of communicating with anyone with the ability to pick up a book and start reading. There are times when this is disturbing, like when people you don’t know at all have read your book and they come up to you grinning like idiots not realizing that though they may know my work, they don’t know me and I know absolutely nothing about them. Sometimes it is disturbing, but most of the time it feels kind of good. People read my work, they like it and they feel that I have certain talents and abilities that have eluded them. There are many rewards to writing something, but mainly writing is its’ own reward. Some people I have met are deathly afraid of dying, of not accomplishing anything, having nothing to leave the world. If I were to die at my age I would have dozens of short stories, a number of books and articles and all kinds of newspaper interviews. I will pass away with the feeling that I haven’t wasted this incredible gift of life we have all been given, and with my book “Through The Withering Storm” I have the extra hope that I have done something to ease the stigma and suffering of people like myself who are afflicted with mental illness.

ABOUT LEIF GREGERSEN

From a young age I showed promise in writing and poetry, and did well in school. Even in grade five I used to draw and write stories for my own comic books and post them on the bulletin board in class. When I got to high school, I began to read voraciously, and though I failed my first academic English course, I took continually more advanced courses and got higher and higher grades in them. I was hopeful to attend University and study English, but before I finished school I was stricken with a severe breakdown and had to be hospitalized where I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. From that point, family and friend relationships broke down and I ended up sort of drifting until I signed up for Flying School in Vancouver, BC. In the middle of this training, I took off for the US with a friend and tried to join the US Army as a helicopter pilot. All of these adventures are detailed in my memoir, which covers my life from the age of 13 to 21 which was the point at which I decided I had to stay in one place (I had returned to Edmonton near my home town and where my parents lived) and I took treatment for my disorder and began to write seriously. I spent some years just studying and writing poetry and then moved on to short stories, and my book, “Through The Withering Storm” is actually partially short stories I wrote and collected at that time. Now, since I turned 30 I have been living in an assisted-living house for males with Psychiatric Disorders and life has gone quite well. I landed a great job doing labour work/stage hand/security work for the stage and screen Union, IATSE. I have seen many concerts, worked closely with some big stars, and made enough money to continue writing and self-publishing my books, which have already paid for themselves in sales for the most part.

Check out my author central page where my books can be previewed and videos watched. http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00DK44DAG Also, I have set up a website with free chapters of my book, "Through The Withering Storm", plus short stories, blog entries and even podcasts at: http://www.valhallabooks.com/ Finally, I have a YouTube Channel with tons of free videos at: https://www.youtube.com/user/viking3082000
 

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Pump Up Your Book and Leif Gregersen are teaming up to give you a chance to win a Kobo Mini E-Reader!

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Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one Kobo Mini E-Reader
  • This giveaway begins October 7 and ends December 13, 2013.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Saturday, December 14, 2013.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

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