Light Gets In: The Book
According to the National Institute of Health, serious mental illness is characterized by, among other things, “serious functional impairment,” which “substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.”
4.1 percent of all adults live with serious mental illness in the United States.
I’m one of them. (Among other things.) Perhaps you are, too.
Perhaps you’re also a person who’s spent time searching through the books made available to people living with mental health issues — books that describe symptoms and make recommendations for treatment — but are frustratingly clinical, and remarkably cold.
Light Gets In was specifically written to be the antidote to that genre.
I wrote the content for Light Gets In over several years. I then spent a month editing the collection while, during a writers’ residency, living in a tiny cottage in the woods. I awoke at 4 am every morning, climbed down the ladder from my lofted bedroom, and brewed fresh coffee while thinking about how this book was to be become, for myself and for those who’d read it, something that’s both more than a handbook and less than a rah-rah and insincere tract — because my life with schizoaffective disorder is neither purely sunshine nor a dark dead-end.
We traverse the journey from light to dark and back again.
This elegant volume of mini-essays invites you to identify with, and bear witness to, a human experience of psychiatric illness, whether you share that experience or not. It asks how we can be compassionate while in pain, while faced with the pain of others, and while struggling to be compassionate with ourselves. Inspired by my popular writings about mental health and illness, this 52-paged e-book speaks to the good days and the bad ones; to the sweetness of community coming together and the sorrow of a poorly-chosen phrase; to the possibility of something like hope, and of a life that does more than ache.
Light Gets In, available as both an e-book and an audiobook, is created to become something you can return to again and again to dip into for a boost, or to provide a soothing balm.
I’ve lived with mental illness for approximately two decades. I’ve written about it for publications such as Jezebel and The Toast; the New Yorker Online called my essay about Cotard’s delusion “clear and detailed in [its] examination of… psychosis,” and selected it as Weekend Reading in July 2014. What makes Light Gets In unique, however, is the way in which it’s evoked hope in others.
A review from Widdershins: “Reading Esme’s book feels like sitting next to her in that room, cup of tea held in both hands, comfortably in silence. Being present in that very real, very complex moment where things aren’t great, but they aren’t Hell either. That moment when you realise that this ‘in between’ is what life is made of… Light Gets In could be described as an artist’s account of making art out of the matter we are all given: our own imperfect lives.”
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Snapshot of Illness
Nonexistent, Beautiful Photographs
Letter to the Man My Husband Bumped Into at Whole Foods
There’s more to life with mental illness than being mentally ill.
Here, then, is my reminder for you.
Order Light Gets In (PDF + .zip with .mp3 and .m4a files, at 1 hr 16 min) in ebook and audiobook form here. ($25)
“I try to think about all of the people that I’ve bumped into, lately, and didn’t notice. My memory’s been shot, lately, clinically speaking, and so I am sure that I’ve done this, even though I try to pay attention.
“And you — I don’t know you, or how you are. Perhaps you’re going through your own difficult time, and having a stranger bump into you at Whole Foods was just one more affront, one more sadness; perhaps you’re feeling worn and world-weary from the holiday cheer and the good spirit of everyone around you (so it seems), and going to Whole Foods was your sanctuary; perhaps you never actually buy anything, but think about what you would buy if you did have more money, or didn’t have to spend money on various other things that you’ve prioritized over Morbier cheese, which is probably only appealing because of the sandy ash-line running through the middle.” — from “Letter to the Man My Husband Bumped Into at Whole Foods”
For a sample, download an excerpt of Light Gets In here.
For a sample of the audiobook, listen to the excerpt below:
“So inspired by your beautiful voice. Thank you for sharing your truth. I am deeply moved.” — Kim Klassen, Photographer, on the audiobook
“Light Gets In is required reading. No, not just for someone faced with mental illness. Nor for someone whose loved one has a mental illness. I mean that Light Gets In is required reading for anyone who is ready to have their heart cracked open by truth and meaning. Who finds grace and beauty intoxicating. Who revels in exquisite writing. Who knows that there is another way to live: with more compassion, empathy and understanding.” — Tanya Geisler, Coach and Catalyst
“In this stunning collection of essays, Esmé reveals how she moves about her days, living with schizoaffective disorder. It is a must-read for anyone, as this beautiful book ultimately speaks to humanity and hope. I recently watched a talk from artist Lisa Congdon, where she noted that while people will appreciate and love your art, they’ll connect to your humanity. Esmé’s book will stay with me precisely because of its — and her — tenderness, compassion, courage and sincerity.” — Margarita Tartakovsky, Associate Editor at PsychCentral, writer at Weightless
A review by Reina Fleet: “Chapters range from striving and healing, to fashion as armor… Details are woven throughout with diligent and careful effort that becomes clear when one has understood the importance of the elements which have come before. Like one carefully peeled layer after another, you are driven by the overpowering urge to keep going. Light Gets In is woven through with imagery and metaphor, painful lucidity, and one of the strongest voices I’ve ever read.”
Esmé Weijun Wang is a writer, speaker, and editor-for-hire; her site, at esmewang.com, is where mental health advocacy meets meaningful work. A graduate of the top-ranked MFA program at the University of Michigan, she has been awarded grants and fellowships for her writing; she has also been seen in Salon, Jezebel, The New York Times, the New Yorker Online, and Clementine Daily. She is currently writing a book about schizophrenia.