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Anne Sexton: Suicide

Anne Sexton

In 1973, Sexton and her husband Kayo get divorced.

Mental illness ebbs and flows. A mad housewife whose life - and loves - unravel from her fingers. A mordant fear of being alone and losing her mind. Marooned in the Boston suburbs seeking fame among the alcohol and pills. 

To cope with all the loss and her loneliness she escapes into spirituality, writes “Death Notebook” and one year later “The Awful Rowing Toward God.”

On October 4, 1974, Sexton has lunch with Maxine Kumin to make the last changes to the galleys for “The Awful Rowing Toward God.” She had already stopped taking her Thorazine for several weeks. 

On returning home she puts on her dead mother’s fur coat, removes all her rings, pours herself a glass of vodka, locks herself in her garage, and started the engine of her car, ending her life by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Thorazine, generic chlorpromazine, is an antipsychotic medication prescribed for schizophrenia, manic episodes of bipolar disorder, and severe behavioral problems. Thorazine is a drug from the early 1950s era of pharmaceutical discoveries and is the first medication to be named an antipsychotic drug.

Withdrawal effects commonly reported include nausea, vomiting, shaking, tremors, delusions, hallucinations, depression, mania, rage, excitability, aggressive or violent behavior.

‘Suicide is, after all, the opposite of the poem,’ Sexton writes in a memoir of Sylvia Plath.

But in the end, Sexton knows she’s not going to get well.

It’s the work that is the redemptive gesture.

The saving grace.


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