cover image The Scar: A Personal History of Depression and Recovery

The Scar: A Personal History of Depression and Recovery

Mary Cregan. Norton, $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-324-00172-0

In her powerful debut memoir, Cregan, a Barnard College English literature lecturer, reflects upon a lifetime of struggle with clinical depression. In 1984, Cregan, then 27, gave birth to a daughter who died within days due to a heart defect. She plummeted into despair, ending up in a psychiatric hospital, where she attempted suicide by slicing her neck with a shard of glass. The experiences took a toll on Cregan’s marriage, and five years after her baby’s death, she and her husband divorced. Cregan eventually realized that her depression had begun much earlier—possibly in adolescence—and was exacerbated by an Irish Catholic upbringing and religious beliefs based on shame and guilt. She weaves into her narrative the history of medical treatment for mental disorders: in her own case this involved electric shock therapy, various medications (Prozac and Lexapro among them), and psychotherapy. In explaining how her illness has “shaped her history,” Cregan uses medical records from her months in the hospital, as well as research on mental illness as she examines the difficult path that led her from hopelessness to wellness, a new marriage, and eventual motherhood. Cregan writes lucidly of her illness and offers hope as well as valuable insights for those living with depression. (Mar.)