Authors, Mental Illness, and Suicide

September 25, 2008 at 3:42 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 17 Comments
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I just read an article from Globe and Mail revealing for the first time apparently, that L.M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, committed suicide at the age of 67 through a drug overdose.  The author suffered through a great deal of depression during her life.  Reading this made me very sad.  She created a novel that has been an adolescent staple for close to 100 years now, yet she was unable to fully enjoy her life or her success because of the depression from which she suffered. This news also comes close on the heals of the recent suicide of David Foster Wallace, who has now joined the company of Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Hunter S. Thompson, Richard Brautigan, and Virginia Woolf.

I know that authors are not alone in their connection with mental illness and suicide.  Artists and other highly creative people also seem more likely than the general population to suffer from depression or other forms of mental illness and ultimately commit suicide.  It wonder if it is true that creative people are more likely to have these types of issues or if it only seems that way because of their fame and noteriety?  Is what drove these authors and artists to write or create also responsible for their mental anguish?  Could any of those people have been saved while keeping their talent alive and flourishing?

When I started this blog, I was trying to find some way to fight my way out of the depression and anxiety that was strangling me after my beautiful and beloved daughter Allison was born.  She was two at the time, but everywhere I turned I smacked into the same wall.  I was hoping that making a goal for myself that had nothing to do with being a wife (I love you, Danny!) and a mother (you too, Em -n- Em and Ally McBeal!) could help me.  I decided to read 52 books in 2007.  After I got started, I wanted to document what I read in some way.  That was the beginnings of what is now The Literate Housewife Review.  It has been the combination of reading and the creative outlet of writing my blog that has helped me feel more like myself.  I could not imagine what it would be like if this made no difference or if it made me feel worse.

I have had the wonderful opportunity to correspond with and, in some cases, talk with several authors who have written novels and memoirs that I have really enjoyed.  I am also eagerly anticipating my trip to D.C. this weekend to listen to Neil Gaiman, Philippa Gregory, Salmon Rushdie (great way to kick of Banned Books Week!) and James McBride and hopefully get my books signed.  I do not know any of their personal circumstances, but it would be devestating to me if any one of them were to be in such a situation.

While I know that the appreciation of millions can do nothing if someone is so dark inside, I want to express my appreciation for authors and other artists.  As you reflect the human experience, you enhance it and make it beautiful.  You provide a context through which to speak, discuss and think about that which is without words and I will forever be grateful.


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  1. I had no idea that was how L.M. Montgomery died, how sad!
    It is very sad indeed. Still, I’m glad that the family is now opening up about it.

  2. Excellent, thought provoking post. I hope you have a wonderful time this weekend.
    Thank you so much, Kathy. I cannot wait to leave for D.C. tomorrow morning!

  3. wow, that is so sad that she died that way.

    blogging is a creative outlet for me as well. enjoy your trip to DC 🙂

    My life is so much more fulfilling since I started blogging. I’ve been working as a technical writer and business analyst for the past 11 years. I have been writing everyday, but this is where I can express myself. I didn’t realize how much I needed that until now.

  4. What a beautiful, heartfelt post.
    Thank you so much.

  5. Thanks for sharing such a poignant post and have fun at the Book Festival this weekend!
    I am really excited to meet each and every one of those authors. It’s going to be like going to Hollywood for me. 🙂

  6. Just wonderful and courageous and inspiring of you to write this out. Bravo! Perhaps there is a book in YOU waiting to be written.
    Thank you, Karen! That means a lot to me coming from you. I wrote my first story in the 2nd grade and my mother always thought I would be an author. I’m not terribly disciplined about my writing though… Your comment makes me feel good, though. Very good!

  7. I’m shocked to hear that L.M. Montgomery committed suicide. You never know what internal problems one faces. I would think that it must have been something horrible to push her to that point.

    I really loved the post. Thanks for sharing.

    This was definitely shocking to me. You just never know. Thank you so much for your kind words, Brie.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing your story and reminding us that we can never really know what’s going on with someone unless we ask.

    I’ll be in DC tomorrow, too, (assuming the weather holds), and I can’t wait to see Salman Rushdie. Let’s try to say hi to each other (you and me, not me and Salman, although that would be cool)….I’ll be wearing a mustard yellow cardigan.

    Thanks, Rebecca! I’m so excited you’ll be there tomorrow. Who else are you planning on seeing? I’ll email you about setting up a location to meet at or something. I have no idea what I’ll be wearing. I’m tempted to buy a new outfit, though. 😉

  9. I read about David Foster Wallace – so sad.

    I too suffer from depression and have for as long as I can remember. I’m only 31 and have been on medication for it for the past 10 years or so. It is a debilitating disease. You can’t see it, but it’s there and it’s very painful – mentally and physically. For him to commit suicide the pain must have been great and I like to believe he is in a better place (I don’t believe that suicides go to hell) and out of his pain.

    Say hi to Neil Gaiman for me – he’s the best!!

  10. Not sure who else we’ll be seeing…my hubby and I are going with two of our best friends who live in D.C., so it’s going to be a busy day. I’m so glad you’re getting to go!

  11. Wow, very interesting. I had no idea that’s how she died.

    My book blog is my outlet too, only I just started it not long ago, so it’s still in progress. Glad yours is helping. I enjoy reading it!

  12. Thanks for sharing your honest and open essay. It’s great that you’ve been able to connect with authors and that your blog has been a successful outlet for you.

  13. Hugs to you, my dear! Have fun in DC,

  14. Jennifer, PPD in any way, shape or form sucks.

    I’m glad you’ve found an outlet in reading or writing. It has the same effect on me.

    Girl, have FUN this weekend. I wish I was there with ya!

  15. I never knew that L.M. Montgomery committed suicide and I love Anne of Green Gables. How sad but how true that you just never really know what is going on inside someone.

    I hope you’re having a wonderful time at the Festival!

  16. I never knew that. But I often think that so much of what goes on in people’s lives is hidden away, disguised behind the public face people present. It reminds me a bit of the book I’m just finishing, Recovering Charles. Who knew? About the drug problem, the disconnect between father and son, the “recovery” both physical (the book is set in New Orleans, after Katrina — much recovery needed!) and emotional (a son desperately wants to reconnect with his father). You never know…

  17. […] be known that this was publicized.  Although I’ve not read much of Montgomery’s work, it saddened me that she, like so many other artists, had a mental illness that could not be taken care of in any […]

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