Thursday, December 15, 2011

Half in Love: surviving the legacy of suicide

Life is precious so why would someone want to end committing an act of murder/suicide and take his or her own life? Some people cannot deal with rejection others with the loss of a parent. Many have illnesses that cause them to feel depressed, sad, despondent and alone. Others take pills; inflict bodily injuries and harm in order to end what they feel is insurmountable suffering caused by others, themselves or mental illness. Anne Sexton died because she wanted to. Anne was the mother of two children and felt parenthood was too overwhelming and life too difficult. A famous and well renowned poet and writer whose work expressed her life and which had meaning to those who read her work, decided to take her own life when things became too much. Doing some research into her life and reading her poems the theme of suicide was evident and paramount in her work. Years combating and trying to battle severe depression and detailing the events of her private life in her writing it is evident that she was crying for help. On October 4, 1974 her life ended. Putting her as the author relates her mother’s worn fur coat took off her rings and poured herself a class of vodka. Next, she locked herself in the garage and turned on the engine of her car. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Not original but definitely effective. But this book, Half in Love is not just about Anne it is about Linda her daughter who tried to follow in mother’s path of destruction. Denial, acceptance, hurt, fear and depression played a strong role in the author’s life and first attempt to join her mother in heaven.

Linda Sexton Gray spent most her early years emulating her mother’s movements, wanting to become a carbon copy of her and losing sight of who and what she was. At the age of 17 going into therapy she was told to divorce or distance herself from her mother who had become too controlling, depended on her totally for care and made her a pawn in her own life. Pawns have no control over their movements or actions as you know they are the one piece in a chess game that never seem to survive and have the least value and moves, but Linda allowed herself to emulate her poet mother in her writing, actions and even in her attempt to find peace but not in the real world.
Losing a parent is difficult and the reasons behind her mother’s death are still her own. No note, no explanation, no real meaning to what she finally decided to do. Family members blaming each other for her death and two parents whose lives never really blended. Two sisters, one mother yet one, Joy was private and kept her thoughts to herself. Linda, our author was more open and honest when expressing them.

Take a hot air balloon ride or go hang gliding and try to stay balanced and not fall over. Did you ever see someone freefall in the Olympics? Imagine someone’s life like a freefall in a skiing event and think about how this woman’s life became equally as dangerous as she seemed to slip down that dangerous slope more times than not and finally did not get up.

Family dynamics are different for every family. Usually the father is at the head. In this family the disease ruled not the people. So consumed with her mother, what she wanted and trying to please her the author lost sight of herself by trying to become Her Mother or at least a carbon copy but not for the right reasons. Parenthood was difficult for Anne and it spilled over for Linda. Depression knows no boundaries and Linda suffered after her son was born. So, just why did she try to take her life after promising her sons she would never copy her mother?

Alcohol and pills mask the problems, hide the truth and dull your vision. Listening and recalling her mother’s stay in many institutions did not dissuade her thinking it seemed to make it more glamorous. Replacing a parent with someone else was her answer. Rachel was older and more stable and gave her the support she needed for many years but was that going to be enough? Marriage, motherhood, converting to Judaism and trying to live a normal life seemed was not in the picture. Losing a child is difficult and before they have to chance to live equally as hard. Trying her best to be a great mother and hoping that she would be successful but depression won her over and so did anxiety.

In 1994 her first memoir came out titled Searching for Mercy Street wanting to share her life and insights with her family but her sister Joy did not share her feelings about what she wrote stating she thought they came from different families and never really saw the real Linda at least the lines of communication were open.

Take the journey forward as we revisit Linda after her first attempt to commit suicide and winding up in a locked ward. The description of the treatment, the nurses, the questions and the indignities alone should have been enough to deter her from doing it ever again. Convincing herself and Jim that she was capable of handling things at home she is released after the three-day minimum confinement to the care of her family and friends. Being bipolar would trigger these mood and behavior swings but drinking and using drugs to hide behind the real issues and trying to take your own life definitely not the answer to her problems. Masking the illnesses and using drugs and drinking as a veil, mask or camouflage to hide from life will definitely provide a cure. The author relates incidents with her father, mother and grandmother, which helps bring to light a deeper understanding of how she wound up in trouble.

Distance in this case was much more than the mileage you travel in a car. Winding up in the hospital was not as difficult as the cold treatment she received at home. Counseling, discussions and more the end result was a separation between Linda and Jim as he did not want to remain with her and felt that their life together was not what he wanted. Moving out and having a relationship with someone else, Linda knew that her life was once again taking on a downward spiral and what would she do next?

Her life was a mirror of her mother’s and she did not seem to be able to pull herself out of the abyss that she created for herself. Jim moved on and her children seemed okay at first but not really. A second attempt at suicide distant not only her therapists but her family too. Reaching out to her sister proved futile, her father did not offer to help and the support of her family was not there and then Nathaniel, her older son was rarely home as she even missed Gabe’s school presentations and lacrosse games. Rationalizing different reasons and excuses, going into therapy but never really getting to the root of anything with no permanent solution in sight. Deserted by everyone except Barbara her new therapist, trying to start to write and finally a reason for her behavior. She was finally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and only the right amount medication and therapy would save her from herself and destruction. Her road to life is heartbreaking, heart wrenching, uplifting and hopeful. Dating again but then she tried one more time. Jim remarried and Linda met someone else hoping to turn in the right direction. But will she?  Finally asking to meet Jim’s wife and getting some type of closure.
Read the final chapters and learn the end result and hear her sister’s voice and learn what how they tried to bond. Nathaniel and Gabe never gave up on their mother and Linda unknowingly had an illness that rocked her world but her inner strength and fortitude and desire to live is what got her through.

This is a difficult memoir to read but one that will bring to light what happens when a young girl cannot forgive her mother for her actions, deserted by those she loved and counted on and finally received the redemption and forgiveness of those who matter. Linda Gray Sexton you are not your mother you are who you are and have written a memoir that stands for more than you know. Legacy of suicide no longer exists and from here on the world needs to hear your voice in your writing and you smile will make the sunshine. Mental illness is not always the fault of the person is they are not aware of what is wrong with them.

Great memoir. Very important book and a definite must read. Hope and Love: Powerful
This Book Gets Five Golden Stars

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

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