A Personal History of Depression and Recovery
By: Mary Cregan
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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