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Posted January 8, 2007
The Peaceful Warrior: Memoirs of a Damaged Mind and Soul is not a conventional book. Neither is the author. Patrick J. Schnerch is an advocate of the mentally ill in his native Canada and the author of the crime novel, Adrian. He is also living with bipolar disorder and alcoholism. In his memoir, Schnerch opens the door to his life and beacons the reader to view his struggle in the raw. It is the opportunity to see mental illness from the inside that most people, outside of mental health workers, are not privy to. It is also an act of courage. ¿Alone, I would weep for death to come and take me. For over thirty years, death was very much welcome in my heart. Even today, the wish has not gone away.¿ This book begins with the author recounting the events of his early life that lead to the manifestation of mental illness and the development of his dance with alcohol. After spending the first twelve years of his life living with the people he believed to be his parents, Schnerch is introduced to his biological father and mother. While his birth mother is not able to care for him as she suffers from mental illness herself, the author¿s biological father regains custody from the aunt and uncle who raised Schnerch from six months old and brings him to live with him after marrying. It is during this traumatic transition that the first signs of mental illness appear. Schnerch becomes isolated in a home where very little affection is shown and he begins a lifelong habit of self-mutilation in the form of cutting. From there he describes lengthy hospitalizations, foster care, a brief military stint, marriage, and submission to his illness. The author¿s journey follows the same path as many who struggle with dual diagnosis: Symptoms emerge and a variety of diagnoses and hospitalizations with medication mixed in follow then self-medication with alcohol and/or some illicit drug ensues. As the book continues, the easily followed recollection of life events is abandoned for journal writings that have been produced during psychotic or drunken episodes. In these passages, the author reveals delusions of grandeur and religious fixations. He also discusses the toll his illness and alcoholism has taken on his twenty-three year marriage. In Schnerch¿s disclosure, the denial that seems to go hand in hand with substance dependency is also apparent. Even though the author appears quite knowledgeable about his illness and the events that trigger his symptoms, he struggles with accepting the impact of alcohol in the cycle of wellness and decompensation. The Peaceful Warrior: Memoirs of a Damaged Mind and Soul is not an easy read, particularly the passages that allow entry into the confusion and delusions associated with the author¿s bipolar disorder. While the audience for this book may not be the average recreational reader, for those who work with and provide daily care of the mentally ill and substance dependant, this book provides some insight into what the dually diagnosed are dealing with and why becoming well is a battle that must be fought on-going. Melissa Levine for Independent Professional Book ReviewersWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.