How I Defeated the Legacy of My Mother's Suicide

A daughter breaks the cycle, becoming 'a mother who lived'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2011 10:48 AM CST
Linda Gray Sexton, not pictured, almost gave in to the same suicidal impulses that claimed her mother.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – Linda Gray Sexton’s mom—Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton—killed herself when her daughter was 21, and Sexton promised she’d never do the same. But that was before her life fell apart just before she turned 45, the age her mother was when she died. In her book Half in Love, excerpted on Salon, Sexton recalls how she found herself drawn into a “vortex of depression, desperate for relief” and crying for no reason, just like her mother once had. “For the first time in my life,” she writes, “I envied my mother the solution she had found to quell the pain of her depression.”

So even though she had experienced the agony of abandonment and rejection herself, she put her 13- and 14-year-old sons to sleep one night, got in the bathtub with a martini, a knife, and bottles of Valium and Dalmane, and slit her wrist. After passing out and waking up panicked, she is saved by police—and, after many years of continuing depression, she finally broke “the cycle of self-destruction” on which she was raised, with “strength and determination,” “the help of a family that strived to forgive and accept, the benefit of excellent psychotherapy, and the best of modern medications.” Despite it all, she writes, “I am a mother who lived.” Click for her entire moving essay.

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