The Scar A Personal History of Depression and Recovery Mary Cregan Book Cover

The Scar

A Personal History of Depression and Recovery

By: Mary Cregan

(7 customer reviews)


In this intimate memoir, Mary Cregan shares deeply personal memories of loss, despair and self-inquiry and links them intelligently and sensitively with a medical and cultural history of depressive illness. In the 1980s, Mary was living in New York City, newly married and working in book design. She fell pregnant, much to the delight of both herself and her husband, and gave birth to a baby girl they named Anna. However, it soon became clear that something was terribly wrong. Anna was just two days old when she died of a heart defect, and her death plunged Mary into a deep depression. After attempting suicide, she received a diagnosis of a ‘major depressive episode, with melancholia.’ Soon after entering a psychiatric hospital she again tried to take her own life, and nearly succeeded. She still bears the scars of this trauma, both literally and figuratively.

Decades later, mining her medical records, her journals, family recollections, and a wide range of other sources, Mary Cregan examines her own experiences in the context of evolving psychiatric practices. Although initially doctors assumed that she was depressed in response to her child’s death, she realized that she had endured periods of depression from the age of 16 that went unrecognised in her Irish culture of ‘self-suppression, stoicism, and silence.’ The Scar is a timely, relevant and riveting memoir as well as an education in the history of melancholia, the asylum, electroconvulsive therapy, anti-depressants, and the experience of those who suffer from the too-often stigmatized illness of depression. It is a book for anyone has known grief, sadness, or despair. Cregan throws off the shackles of silence and stigma, and in doing so, she offers hope to all those still struggling.

‘A searingly honest and riveting book … This is a book that will really matter to anyone who has been through the experiences of depression. What makes the book stand out is the sheer clarity of the writing, the personal fragility and the wrestling with demons emerging here with a kind of grace, a hard-won heroism.”Colm Toibin

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7 reviews for The Scar

  1. Publicity

    Mary Cregan explores depression from multiple perspectives: personal, cultural, medical, and historical. The personal account is honest and engaging, while the less personal (“objective”) account is fair and based on thorough research. What I find most valuable in this book is the multiplicity of perspectives the author has included. Even when she explores her own experiences, we find a multiplicity of (first-person) perspectives: “Eventually you realize that you can and do end up splitting yourself: a part of you can remain detached, watching the thing that is squeezing out any light and vitality within you.” I found the book very interesting, and I will very likely return to it in the near future. – DAVOOD

  2. Publicity

    How moved I was by this beautifully written memoir, which I read in three sittings. Cregan elegantly weaves in her personal story with a cultural and medical history of melancholia and mood disorder, creating a book that is heartbreaking, inspiring, and instructive all at once. This book will take its place next to canonical works like Styron’s Darkness Visible and Solomon’s Noonday Demon. A must-read for anyone who has suffered depression or who loves someone who has. – PENNY

  3. Publicity

    This excellent book is for anyone who lives with depression or knows someone who does, which is likely all of us. Mary Cregan writes beautifully about her own life and intersperses her personal story with a history of the treatment of depression that is both fascinating and immensely readable. I can’t recommend “The Scar” highly enough.

  4. Publicity

    A riveting book that enlightens as it moves you, with a transcendent conclusion that makes one feel all the joy and terrible vulnerability of being human. This beautifully written, deeply researched, personally revealing account of depression will surely become a classic.

  5. Publicity

    ‘In its humanity and resolve, its depth and precision, its scientific rigour and personal candour, this book is deeply moving, riveting and enlightening.’
    – Caoilinn Hughes

  6. Publicity

    ‘Intensely personal, warmly and unflinchingly intimate, yet wide-ranging, informative, even scholarly – beautifully and persuasively written. Unlike any other memoir I have read.’ Joyce Carol Oates

  7. Publicity

    The Scar is a compulsively readable account of one woman’s descent into suicidal despair in the wake of the death of her two day-old daughter. Written matter-of-factly, without recourse to melodrama or a facile assigning of blame, Mary Cregan explores the roots of her own depression and hospitalization with a candor that is all the more effective because it is set against an informed historical overview of the treatment of mental illness. … Cregan offers a story that is both singular and representative of all the sufferers who live with the horror of depression or melancholia. … The Scar will make you think differently about this condition and its debilitating effects, bringing out into the light a disease that has all too often been shrouded in stigma and shame. –Daphne Merkin, author of This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 216 × 136 mm


Publication Date

11 April 2019

Page Count