How the Light Gets In: My Journey with Depression by Mary McEvoy

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Memoir
How the Light Gets In

By Grace O’Reilly

The theme for this issue of ‘Wexford Women Writing Undercover’ #3 is, under pressure.  When one is depressed they are feeling under pressure most of, if not all of the time.  Mary McEvoy is best known for her role in the hit Irish RTÉ television programme, called ‘Glenroe’, where she played a character called ‘Biddy Byrne, a farmer’s wife.

Published by Hachette Books Ireland in 2011, How the Light Gets In – My Journey with Depression by Mary McEvoy is a real-life encounter of the actress’s life with depression.  The book is split into 10 sections with mini chapters within each section.  Mary writes about her life through various areas of her life, including her childhood, her adulthood, being famous, religion, sex, love happiness and more.

Many of the different aspects McEvoy shares with her readers, some are relatable to readers as we look at virginity, educations, backgrounds, firsts and lasts.  We all came from parents, whatever they dynamic there is varies, however we still all came from parents biologically.  Your relationship could be close, or non-existent, some may not even know who their parents are, but we all will, if we have not already have to deal with the loss of parents, whatever the nature of that loss is.  Having buried my dad less than three weeks ago, at the start of March 2022, I encountered it for the first time.  Still extremely raw, the pressure that I am under with grief, and questions, and what ifs, or I should or should not had done such and such is like a heavy weight pressed against my chest.  The days just before and after his death were unbearable and I had to take Valium like medication to get me through.  People can be a real support, whether dropping you in towels to take a shower, or out to eat a hot meal or driving you home.  People can be kind buying you flowers, sending you hugs, and most importantly embracing you in a nice big hug, whilst handing you a cup of tea or coffee.  Unfortunately, you see how some people can be cold, and cruel and not reach out, and it can hurt the most when it’s the ones you especially thought would be there and understanding.  However, trying to see the silver lining, some people you didn’t expect to reach out to you can, and it can pep you up, and even make you smile.

The blurb at the back of the book reads:

“Mary McEvoy, one of Ireland’s best-loved actresses, lived for many years with undiagnosed depression.  From the outside looking in, she was successful and confident, living life to the full.  Yet, behind the scenes, there were times when she was so crippled with despair that it was all she could do to make it out of bed.

In ‘How the Light Gets In’, Mary McEvoy shares her story.  By turns moving and funny, always frank and honest, this fascinating blend if autobiography, personal philosophy and guidance for sufferers of depression traces Mary’s condition from a wild, rural childhood, through the wonderful highs of her ‘Glenroe’ days to the panic-stricken lows of her nights, alone, when the cameras were turned off.

As she shares the strategies that have helped her to cope with the condition – including ‘the least you can do on any given day is enough’ – Mary also gives her insights into how a person an actually benefit from what depression has to teach us, and ultimately live life to its full potential.

Bravely recounted and full of down-to -earth wisdom, ‘How the Light Gets In’ is a book that brings hope to dark places.’”

I like the way there are quotes by many different people throughout the book, in the middle of a chapter, or at the start or end of a page, and at the start of each section, under the Section title name.  The photograph on the book is by Ronnie Norton and the cover design id by AMP Visual.com Two examples of quotes:

“You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home so it’s all right” – Maya Angelou

“Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with everything they’ve got” – Anon

The later of the two I reread numerous times, because I never thought like that before.  Just because I like a hug and a kiss and an “I love you”, almost always I feel unloved.  Just I am still learning, some people are not affectionate.  However, that changes when on top of that there are looks, comments and lack of respect or boundaries in my eyes, or rather my heart.  You can love someone and not like them and this for me is very true, as sad and blunt as it is.  This is a constant one that constantly has me under pressure.  How can you love someone yet say and do the evillest of things?  I am still trying to figure that one out.

I get anxious at the thought of seeing and talking to certain people, or that I will do the wrong thing, in their eyes.  I shouldn’t care but I do.  That anxiety is then heightened when people don’t try to understand me and think that they know everything.  Mary writes a piece in the book so bang on that I need to quote it.  It is from page 133, paragraph 3.

“Depression is like a visitor in your house who doesn’t know how to behave properly.  He wanders freely from room to room, going through your private things, rifling through your joy, serenity and rationality.  In the end, you lose the will to show him the door.” 

It is like the exorcist, an imposter who gets joy and satisfaction at mind fucking you constantly.  Even in your sleep it still haunts your dreams.  It makes you feel like you want to die, as the pain and lack of clarity is like a neon lightbulb, flashing though your brain.  The constant pressure to keep fighting and hoping and praying that the light will get in.  Personally, I am still battling with the how part!

How the Light Gets InAn extremely eye-opening and relatable read, that I recommend, not in terms of a self-help book, but in terms of a ‘somebody else gets it’ book.  Life without mental health issues is hard enough pressure wise.  The constant worry can I keep food on the table, oil in the tank, shoes on our feet, remember appointments and birthdays without other stuff piled on top.

(c) Grace O’Reilly

Order your copy online here.

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