Although my mother was never officially diagnosed — the idea of seeking a medical intervention added to her feelings of failure and shame — it’s clear that she suffered from some form of depression. Other women of her generation, including the poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, had also killed themselves, leaving behind their children. As a young woman studying to be a writer in the decades after their deaths, I feared that someday I might find myself sitting in a dark kitchen going over all the ways in which I had wasted my life and become a failure. I didn’t think any of these women had been killed by their writing, but the introspection required to compose poems — or diary entries in my mother’s case — was difficult and dangerous work. You couldn’t write anything true, complex, or beautiful unless you were willing to examine the unsettling thoughts in your own head; you had to force yourself to contemplate the random nature of the world and the limitations of human goodness. Getting depressed might be an occupational hazard. I wondered how I could be like these smart, creative women — my actual mother and my literary mothers — without inheriting their fate.

—Kyoko Mori One Man’s Poison

September 2, 2019


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