Review: Comes the Darkness, Comes the Light
> 7/17/2007 10:01:03 AM

We recently had the chance to speak with Vanessa Vega, whose memoir of recovery appeared this past May. Today, we present our review of Ms. Vega's book, Comes the Darkness, Comes the Light. For more information about Ms. Vega or her book, please visit her website.

In her memoir, Comes the Darkness Comes the Light, writer and educator Vanessa Vega bravely shares her struggle with self-harm and anorexia. The writing style, while sometimes lacking clarity, is well designed to convey the convolutions of a life in turmoil. Comes the Darkness consists of two structural elements: a detailed group-therapy narrative and chaotic voices, both of which combine to facilitate understanding of Vega’s experience. The vivid narrative at group sessions makes the reader feel as if they are sitting in on the meeting. The incessant invasion of voices—Vega’s, the therapist’s, her father’s—recreates the maelstrom of Vega’s mind. These different voices often mix together in somewhat confusing ways, but this blurry division helps us understand the difficulty Vega had finding herself.

Throughout the book, Vega recounts the painful memories of her childhood and pieces together their relation to her adult ritual of cutting in order to ease negative emotions. At times though, this discovered correlation between past pain and current problem seems too clear-cut. Vega recounts a large number of eureka breakthroughs, wherein she sees the simple reason behind a behavior. This may be somewhat unrealistic given the unfathomable complexity of every life, but even if the drama has been artificially heightened or simplified, each revelation does teach us something about the possible causes of self-harm. Those suffering from self-harm cycles, as well as family and friends desperate to help them, can learn a lot from this one tale of recovery.

One warning-- this book is not about scientific facts. There is no reference to clinical studies or statistics. But then, the author never claims to have written a wide survey of a medical field. By sticking to one experience, Vega successfully presents a story with universal value without stretching to make generalizations about all self-harmers. General themes can certainly be extracted, but Vega leaves this task up to the reader instead of forcing it upon them.

By the end of her group therapy program, Vega does seem to understand herself, and the reader is left feeling that they know her as intimately as a good friend. If she, with all of her guilt and trepidation, could share her story with the world then perhaps other self-harmers will find the strength to come forward and seek help. Self-harmers often worry that their actions will be viewed with disgust and fear, but Vega shows that it is possible to both overcome stigma and change misapprehensions.

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