A local woman whose childhood was marked by trauma and upheaval, followed by an adulthood of substance use and emotional turbulence has written a book she hopes will break the secrecy around trauma and perceptions of mental health.
At the age of eight years old, Connie Greshner’s father shot and killed her mother in an Alberta bar and set her on a trajectory of shame, rebellion depression and addiction.
But she has overcome her struggles and believes she can help others do the same. That’s the message that she hopes arises from her book Borderline Shine: A Memoir.
“You can still create a life that is beautiful,” Greshner says.
Greshner will be launching her book at the Crooked Spoon Restaurant on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 1 p.m.
The book is a memoir written from Greshner’s perspective and she hopes it will serve to inspire people to come forward with their mental health struggles and find ways to build a life like she did. She also wants to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.
“There is still pervasive stigma about mental health challenges,” Greshner says. “A lot of people criticize addictive people who have substance use issues.
“Yet, there is so much hope and there is effective treatment for them.”
Although it is a singularly dramatic moment in Greshner’s life, her mother’s murder at the hands of her alcoholic and violent father isn’t the focus of the book but, rather, it’s the aftermath. After all, Greshner wasn’t there when the murder happened.
“I was asleep at home,” Greshner says.
After the incident, Greshener was sent to live with an aunt and was enrolled in a traditional Roman Catholic boarding school in Kansas. On her website, Greshner says her identity “was formed in this strange world, shame manifesting as rebellion, until I returned to Canada and my brother’s care.”
She coped with the complex trauma and her abandonment with rebellion and substance use while struggling with depression and symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder.
The incident was never talked about in the family and Greshner and her siblings – two sisters and two brothers – were never provided with any counselling.
“We all flailed and floundered and tried to find our own way,” she said.
Her later forays into the mental health system were “not helpful,” Greshner says.
She ended up pursuing a career in psychology, earning a Bachelor of Science and a Master’s Degrees, so she could help others, even though she continued to battle depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
Along the way was more heartbreaking loss but also exceptional friends, a love of books and a connection to nature. She eventually married and had two children and “achieved peace in the beauty of the West Coast of British Columbia.”
Greshner now works as a therapist and believes her experiences “support her ability to relate to clients, teach them ways to manage emotions and sometimes witness their healing.”
Borderline Shine: A Memoir is published by Dundurn Press and the book launch at The Crooked Spoon Cafe, 970 Shopper’s Row, from 1-3 p.m. is held in collaboration with Coho Books. The launch is open to the public with free admission.
Borderline Shine is available from Amazon and Chapters/Indigo or, after Feb. 15, directly from Dundurn Press at dundurn.com/books/Borderline-Shine.