Nicholas Hughes, 47, hanged himself last week. Forty-six years ago Hughes’ mother, poet Sylvia Plath, placed her head in an oven and turned the gas on while her 2-year-old daughter and 13-month-old son, Nicholas, slept. Six years later Nicholas’ stepmother killed herself the same way.
Plath’s book, The Bell Jar, had a profound affect on me. I had never before identified with a fictional character and I became enamored with Plath. In a sick way, she was my hero. I was 16. In hindsight I should not have read that book when I did. I was too young and too sick. Her depression made her feel as though she was trapped under a bell jar, unable to breathe. Finally, someone felt just like me.
Suicide is not hereditary – at least geneticists have not proved it. However, studies have shown that children whose mothers committed suicide are 7 times more likely to attempt suicide than children whose mothers do not. That statistic is why I am alive. I was suicidal during my last depression. I had tried to kill myself twice before.
My therapist and nurse-practitioner told me that statistic. They asked me to remember it when I had suicidal thoughts. It worked. I could never do that to my daughter. Regardless of how I feel about my own life, I love my daughter more than I imagined I could ever love another person. I would never put her life at risk – ever. Today she is 17. She is happy. She just found a dress for her school’s Junior-Senior Dinner. We are looking at colleges. She framed a picture of us and gave it to me for Christmas.
She is my anchor to life. I am so blessed to be alive. I have a life I never dreamed of and I am finally the mother I always wanted to be. Don’t quit before the miracle.