Tuesday, June 10, 2014

More on Lucy Maud Montgomery (Updated)

* This piece was updated at 10 AM to include one more article on the end of Lucy's life, placed at the end of this blog post.

Below is a repost of a Guardian article revealing Lucy Maud Montgomery's suicide, which the family kept a secret until 2008. Lucy's granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, reveals the suicide in a long article for Canada's Globe and Mail.

Below the Guardian article, I post the "suicide" note itself. It doesn't look like a suicide note to me. She was an isolated person, and I don't know how well her family--her husband and her two sons--knew her on the inside. Would they have known definitively that it was a suicide note? I do know that her husband's condition had deteriorated terribly, and that her oldest son was living in her basement at the time, so things were not good at all. She was greatly burdened, after having covered for her husband in the ministry for years. I imagine he had retired for some years though.

I didn't emphasize before that Lucy achieved international success as a writer. Almost immediately, Anne of Green Gables became a bestseller. She had an active fan club, which she participated in readily for years, until her breakdown in 1940. Many famous writers are not appreciated until after their death, but Montgomery was well aware of the affect her work had on young women and girls. She did have some bright spots in her life, to be sure. How many women achieve such fame? Her fame is even greater now, of course, as her heroines have endured and surpassed 100 years.

Lucy was a Presbyterian so she may or may not have been an evangelical Christian. Perhaps there wasn't a saving relationship that could have brought her hope no matter her circumstances. We can never know without reading her personal journals, and even then, still perhaps not. Depression can come from a brain glitch, and if hers did, a suicide can result from it regardless of faith...especially in an isolated person. A very sad fact.

If you ever feel depression, either because you inherited it, or because of hormones, don't isolate yourself. That makes it too easy to wrap yourself around your own thoughts, which are toxic to you. If you can't talk about it, write about it and send your writings to someone. Don't compare your life to anyone else's. Stop that thought process immediately. It's sin and it's toxic. Keep a running gratitude list, and watch your sleep habits. Sleep neither too little nor too much. Read the Psalms, read inspirational biographies, read good stories. Trying to live a routine life will help you fight the depression.

The granddaughter of Anne of Green Gables' author Lucy Maud Montgomery has revealed that her grandmother killed herself with a drugs overdose at the age of 67. LM Montgomery, who died in 1942, is one of Canada's best-loved authors, and wrote 19 other novels as well as the hugely popular children's classic.

Kate Macdonald Butler, daughter of Montgomery's youngest son Stuart Macdonald, made the long-kept family secret public in an article for Canada's Globe and Mail. "I have come to feel very strongly that the stigma surrounding mental illness will be forever upon us as a society until we sweep away the misconception that depression happens to other people, not us – and most certainly not to our heroes and icons," she wrote.

Macdonald Butler was also prompted to break the family's silence by the heightened focus on Montgomery this year, which marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables.

"Despite her great success, it is known that she suffered from depression, that she was isolated, sad and filled with worry and dread for much of her life," Macdonald Butler wrote. She said that Montgomery had to cope both with "her husband's mental illness and the restrictions of her life as a clergyman's wife and mother in an era when women's roles were highly defined".

The family, which was consulted before Macdonald Butler wrote her article, has never spoken publicly about the extent of Montgomery's illness before. Hiterto, it was generally understood that she had died from heart failure. "What has never been revealed is that LM Montgomery took her own life at the age of 67 through a drug overdose. I wasn't told the details of what happened, and I never saw the note she left, but I do know that it asked for forgiveness," Macdonald Butler wrote.

Montgomery's most famous literary creation was the redheaded orphan Anne Shirley, who is sent by mistake to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert on Prince Edward Island, where she declares: "My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes." Macdonald Butler said the lament had always been especially poignant to her, as she imagined her grandmother must have felt the same sadness at times in her life.

"The fictional Anne went on to happiness and a life full of love and fulfilment. My grandmother's reality was not so positive, although she continues to inspire generations of readers with her books, which reveal her understanding of nature – both in matters of the heart and the world," she wrote. "I hope that by writing about my grandmother now there might be less secrecy and more awareness that will ease the unnecessary suffering so many people experience as a result of such depressions."

An article on the front page of the Globe and Mail Lucy suffered unbearable psychological pain reproduces the following scrap of paper found on Montgomery’s bedside the afternoon she died:
This copy is unfinished and never will be. It is in a terrible state because I made it when I had begun to suffer my terrible breakdown of 1940. It must end here. If any publishers wish to publish extracts from it under the terms of my will they must stop here. The tenth volume can never be copied and must not be made public during my lifetime. Parts of it are too terrible and would hurt people. I have lost my mind by spells and I do not dare think what I may do in those spells. May God forgive me and I hope everyone else will forgive me even if they cannot understand. My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it. What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best.
Here is one more entry about the end of Lucy's life, which gives some insight about her "suicide" note and why it may have just been directions for her family in regard to her personal journal, specifically journal number ten.


multicolouredsmartypants.com said...

I have been meaning to comment for a while but I have been inundated with studying and before that I was on a self-imposed internet 'fast' (I didn't stop using the internet altogether, but I took the time between Easter and Pentecost to significantly reduce my internet 'habit').
I used to love Montgomery's books as a child and young woman - partly because they were simple stories about simple people living simple lives in a loving community. I adored The Story Girl TV series - it was wonderful!
In some ways I'm glad to find out that the author was writing fiction, because I used to wonder what I had done wrong to have a life so different - I desperately wanted the 'ordinary' life that she portrayed in her stories. Of course I'm not glad she suffered so much, but maybe her stories were, in part, her escape. How sad :-(
I am thankful for the influence her writing has had on so many. I am also inexpressibly thankful for the invention of anti-depressants. I refuse to be pushed to the sidelines any more because I have mental health problems. We must end the stigma - it is so very destructive (and 'destructive' can't be from God).
Sandy x

Christine said...

Yes, she needed meds for depression for sure, but the meds she was given were making her worse, probably. Bromides and barbituates, I think it said. Not sure what those do to you, but it can't be good if they are addictive. How sad!