“You have a cold honey?”
Linda Gray Sexton is the daughter of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Anne Sexton. Linda didn’t just inherit a love of writing from her mother, she also inherited a love of death. Not intentionally, but with her mother’s mental illness, numerous suicide attempts and one suicide success, Linda’s destiny was written in blood, quite literally. She attempted to carry out that destiny in her adult life, twice in a big way, and many more times, slice by slice, cutting into her own skin, and by extension into her children’s future. That’s what Linda writes about in her second memoir, “Half in Love, Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.” Make no mistake this isn’t a light hearted book. This is about a broken heart, a broken spirit and a broken life that the author had to fight tooth and nail to heal. A fight she recognizes will be with her for her whole life, until her death, (which she is determined now to be from natural causes, when she is old and gray).
This book was extremely difficult to read. I had to do it in very small chunks. I can completely sympathize with Linda. I can also absolutely understand her need to write this book. I believe in therapy, (daughter of a psychotherapist here!). I find writing to be extremely therapeutic. And the research that Linda Gray Sexton had to do to write this book I believe was necessary for her to save her own life, literally. However, I couldn’t get through the whole thing. Well, I probably could have forced myself, but I simply didn’t want her story, (her pain, her torment), in my head anymore than it was after the first 53 pages. So, I skipped ahead to the final section, “Waking”. From page 239 to the end I followed Linda’s footsteps toward the light. Not the final light of eternity, but instead the light of a new day; one filled with hope and promise, through hard work, love, determination, medication and continued therapy…oh and don’t forget a boat.
Just because I skipped ahead doesn’t mean I don’t recommend this book. Quite the opposite. I think it could be a very important read for many people out there who have been touched by abuse, suicide, or mental illness to name a few issues. But in reading to bring yourself into the light, don’t be afraid to resist the darkness in the book and skip ahead when you feel you need to. No matter how many pages you read I am willing to bet you will still gain something simply from peaking around the corner into Linda’s story. I know I did. Such as…
Did you know that every 17 minutes someone commits suicide? There is twice as much suicide in America as homicide. Ninety percent of the people who commit suicide suffer from a mental illness such as bipolar disorder. However, 100% of them are done by people suffering from depression. And depression is as common as the common cold. Fourteen million Americans suffer from a major depressive disorder each year! Linda and her mother may have had a love affair with death, but actually many people who make a suicide attempt aren’t wanting to die, instead they just aren’t wanting to live. There is a difference. Wanting to just stop the World for a few moments because life feels so out of control, or dire, or whatever… is not a ridiculous notion. Instead it’s common. Like a cold. But also like a cold, for most people the congestion will eventually dissipate and a full breathe will be had…again. It just takes time, some TLC, and more than a few tissues. It can get better.
How do I know? Well, the conversation I opened this post with wasn’t an excerpt from the book, it was an excerpt from my life. I have lived with depression in increasing fashion since I was a child victim of sexual abuse. The increase came as I aged, with additional victimizations that occurred both by others, and even more destructively by the situations I allowed myself to be in; the aborent treatment I accepted for myself as normal, typical and deserved. It’s a story for a much longer post…perhaps my own memoir someday. But what I can tell you in brief right now is that I’m living with it, and most importantly through it. And like Linda I sincerely hope that my depression isn’t a legacy that I leave for my children. Instead I hope that I teach them by example that bad days happen to good people, but dawn always comes bringing a new day and a chance to be better. But it takes serious effort, sometimes outside medical help, and always it requires love and support from family and friends.
Sounds simple? Well, it sure as heck isn’t. It’s hard work, and some days I am more successful than others. So, like Linda I work at it. Though my love for my children are a big enough reason to keep me alive and rooted in reality, so is my deep sense of responsibility for their well being and their future, which wasn’t the case for Linda and her mother before her. It’s not that I don’t have days when I desperately want to stop the World. I do, most assuredly. But unlike Linda and Anne I am not suffering from severe mental illness, instead I am living with depression. Yes, even Miss Lori who talks incessantly about SMILES lives with depression. So don’t feel strange or like a failure if you are deep blue. I get it. Just don’t settle, fight. If not for you, fight for your children. Get up, get moving, eat healthy, laugh, smile and then go to bed for a good night’s rest. Sleep is key. Sleep is good, but hidding in bed isn’t. So, if you feel like hidding, reach out and ask for help. Remember, there is no shame in asking for help, just as there is no shame in needing it. Talk. Cry. Talk some more, but do so honestly. Because trust me, people have noticed. Particularly your kids.
“Mommy are you that kind of depressed, (pointing to the Seroquel commercial on the TV), or are you the kind where you have to be wound up like a doll?”
Oh yeah, they notice. Now do something. Make sure they know that it will be okay…eventually…and that they shouldn’t give up, and neither will you.
Do you talk about depression with your kids? What do you tell them? I would love to hear how you handle the subject in your house. Let’s bring depression out of the dark and into the light, together.
Thank you to award-winning author Linda Gray Sexton for sponsoring this series, which is inspired by her memoir Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.
To learn more about Linda Gray Sexton and her writing, please visit her website.
Miss Lori can be found Musing from her Minivan at MissLori.TV , Wearetherealdeal.com , YoungChicagonista , ChicagoMomsBlog , and ChicagoMoms.com. You can also see her Activating to Be Great at Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.