The Power of Sylvia Plath

By Stevie Knight

I had just turned 19, and I was looking for a new book to buy with my new Barnes & Noble gift card. I looked around and saw a giant poster on the back wall that caught my attention. It was a dark, dusty blue with a woman’s feet, but you could only see up to her knees. In pink letters it read, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I had recently seen that title on a list of must read literature. I made my way to the customer service desk to find the book, and thus began my infatuation with Sylvia Plath.

Everything about Esther Green, the main character, I saw in myself. She was 20 years old, in the midst of a mental breakdown. And so was I. The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical account of Plath’s own life. At 20, she attempted suicide for the first time, which is something I also dealt with as a young woman. I learned everything I could about Plath after this. I saw so much of myself in her, and she became my literary idol.

Plath was diagnosed with Manic Depression, which is now known as Bipolar Disorder. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder about a year after I discovered The Bell Jar. Seeing the struggles that Plath went through, and still managed to be successful, gave me hope that I could do that too, despite my mental illness.

A few months after my diagnosis, I was having a tough time dealing with my mental illness and felt like I was never going to get better. One night, I had a dream that Plath came to visit me, and she said to me, “Do not let this disease take you like it took me. You have so much talent, you have to stay alive in order to keep writing and make a difference.” That’s when I decided I wanted my third tattoo to be dedicated to the woman who inspired me to become the writer I am today. In a way, Plath saved my life.

My tattoo is a flower that Plath drew in one of her journals, inside of a bell jar, with a quote from the novel in her handwriting. The quote is “And I listen to the old brag of my heart. I am. I am. I am.” These words help me remember that I am still alive, my heart is still beating, and I am okay. The flower reminds me that even though I feel confined by my mental illness at times, I still have the power to bloom.

One thought on “The Power of Sylvia Plath

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