How the light gets in
We now know that the incidence of depression following a cancer diagnosis is high. While most people will understand that dealing with a chronic illness like cancer causes depression, not everyone understands that depression can go on for many months and even years after cancer treatment has ended (one of the most frequent searches that comes up on my blog analytics is “depression following cancer”). What is even less well understood is the depression that seemingly comes out of nowhere for no apparent reason and there is less support and understanding for this.
Depression is an isolating and lonely place and people are reluctant to talk about it for fear of being stigmatised or just plain misunderstood – which of course adds to the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Like Eleanor Rigby (with a face that we keep in a jar) we put on a mask to face the world, because it isn’t socially acceptable to wear any other face. This is particularly true of those in the public eye and that is why it is so powerful when they speak out about their struggles with depression and mental illness.
Irish readers will be familiar with actress Mary McEvoy, who will forever be synonymous with her character, Biddy from Glenroe; but what many viewers of the rural soap didn’t know was the actress has struggled all her life with crippling anxiety and depression.
In May this year, McEvoy released a memoir How the Light Gets In, detailing her experience of depression and the personal philosophies she formed to help her cope. I have read a lot of books about depression over the years, and this frank and highly personal book resonated with me in way that none of the others have. It’s not a book about how to cure depression; it’s about how to live with it. McEvoy doesn’t believe you can “cure” depression, but she does believe that you can find ways to live a full and meaningful life with it.
Apart from tracing the roots of her depression to her childhood, McEvoy also looks to the modern obsession with perfection and youth as a possible reason for the seemingly increasing depression among women.
I just felt there had got to be some way of making people like me feel alright. Forget perfect, with or without depression, we all just muddle through.
As a down-to-earth, unflinchingly honest and true to life account of dealing with depression, this is the best book I have read on the subject and I highly recommend it to anyone – whether dealing with depression, or loving someone who is – as an insight into this illness.