Non-fiction, paperback, 182 pages
Contact Leif Gregersen
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In the book “Inching Back to Sane: Second Edition”, the story of Leif Gregersen’s journey towards recovery from a severe mental illness is chronicled. While “Through the Withering Storm” mostly deals with Leif when he was a teenager and in denial of his illness, this book deals with Leif’s adult years when he faces up to his illness and accepts treatment.
The book begins with a description of Leif having the time of his life living in Vancouver while his illness is all but forgotten. Leif has an inkling that the dark spectre of illness lurks in the background. He sometimes finds himself talking far too much, staying up all night and unable to keep a steady residence, job or friends. Then, just as he is turning 20, the progression of his illness accelerates and Leif soon finds himself in the hospital in North Vancouver again.
Leif is treated well at the Lion’s Gate Hospital, but he feels he is getting the wrong treatment and after being released, he returns to Edmonton, a broken, broke young man with no one to help him and no money. “Please help me. I think if I don’t get help I’m really going to die.” He tells his sister’s boyfriend who then demands that in exchange for help, which amounts to getting someone he knew to give Leif a ride to the hospital, that Leif never ask him for another thing for as long as he lives.
Leif goes on medications and his condition soon improves. He moves out, starts to attend 12-step meetings and makes plans to return to school, enter university and for a while all his dreams seem possible again. He finds a young woman who he becomes close to at school and when she drops out of school, he drops out as well. They have a brief relationship but Leif, having stopped taking Lithium due to a bad case of shaking hands, becomes ill again.
The next years slip past with Leif rarely going a full year without a hospital admission. His diagnosis reads “schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.” None of these are enough for Leif to stop dreaming big. Leif moves into a tiny 10 by 15 foot apartment to save money, works hard at first a janitorial job and then a cooking job and in his spare time reads all he can about investment and retirement planning. He even wins a radio contest which gives him a subscription to a stock picks newsletter.
As the story progresses, Leif decides since he has not seen his doctor in months that his illness has improved and he decides to lower his dose of the mood stabilizer Depekane. His condition rapidly deteriorates again and eventually he is taken to the psychiatric hospital, this time more delusional and defiant than ever before. The hardest thing for him to deal with is that everyone around him seems to see plainly that he is mentally ill but he can’t tell at all. After nearly 6 months he is released, with new and more helpful medications but a loss of everything from control of his own finances to any modicum of self-respect.
Leif eventually is placed in a group home and with the support of his father who takes him out for walks each day and supports all his efforts and time and lack of stress, things improve greatly. He gets a well-paid job as a stage hand for major concerts, he completes a draft of his first book and has money to get it edited and printed up. He becomes a part of his community, takes part in activities and even gets his own radio show on public access. He literally becomes a poster boy for mental health recovery. Through the love of his father, the nurturing of the organization that runs his group home and a top-level team of psychiatric support, Leif achieves miracles.
Not everything is perfect. He is injured on the job a number of times, the unbelievable happens, his mother dies while in his care. Doing what he can do each day, finding a counsellor and forging ahead, Leif overcomes all and truly finds recovery from his mental illness.