“Light Gets In” – Living well with mental illness, by Esme Wang

This is my review of Esme’s book “Light Gets In”. It’s about living with mental illness… But really? It’s about life.


A cosy room. Light streams in, dimmed by a storm outside…

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.

So you sit quietly. And feel the waves of realisation wash over you. This is life, this very moment. Not the great, nor the Hell.
That sacred moment of stillness, presence. When no words are needed.

Esme is an artist, and “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.

She doesn’t cut off the difficult, describing candidly the syndrome of thinking herself dead, or believing everyone she loved was a robot.

Esme does the impossible: she normalises a disorder defined by extremes. Gently weaving together the light and the dark, the sweet and the sour until they lose their differences and become art.



Writing well with mental illness

I long to be able to do what Esme does: open up and describe the darkness, without revelling in it.

To open up to the reader and share her struggles without being defensive, or asking for permission to fall and not be perfect.
You won’t find a trace of self pity, or shame.
Esme’s words flow from grace and honesty.

If, like me, you want to learn how to write about your pain and do it in style, cosy up to Esme’s words.

Beyond Coping

“It’s true that for a time, I stopped wanting anything more than to cope; after a while, I realized that what I truly wanted was to be amazing.”

Esme gives a voice and a vision to that most secret of wishes those of us with mental illness have buried deep in our hearts: the longing to not just cope, but be amazing.

We may be cracked, flawed, broken… but we dream of being amazing just as much as the next person.

This is my wish for you: I hope that you can take strength from Esme’s work and know that your wishes and your dreams are legitimate.

That it’s not only possible but healing to move past “coping” and reach out for “amazing”. That this is your birth right, and it’s not made any less valid because of your mental illness.

I am grateful to Esme for this book

And this is my public declaration of thanks.

Thank you, Esme, for proving my insecurities wrong.

Thank you for showing me that it is possible to talk about mental illness and not end up a social pariah.

Thank you for showing me that it is possible to create beauty, amidst serious challenges. That it is possible to create light… from trauma and pain.

That it is possible to make a life.

In essence, that it is possible to not just cope, but live.

And to reach out for “amazing”.

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Personal Practice

Let the Light Reach You

The challenge facing us right now is this: we must find a way to keep going while we hold the suspicion that everything in our lives will get worse.
We must practice finding the light inside us.

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