Disclaimer: I have to write this fast or I won’t write it at all. This is predominantly a stream of consciousness. there will be mistakes. This is raw. I want to give my rawness on this matter.
17 years ago today, I got a phone call in the black of the early morning in Rosetown, Saskatchewan. I was in a residential treatment program for disordered eating. I was in recovery from an eating disorder that didn’t have its own category yet. After being assaulted in the Elaho by 20 loggers in late 1999, every terrible thing that had ever happened before the assault, came crashing through the surface of my hardened shell and nearly destroyed me. There were a lot of terrible things piled up that I wasn’t aware of. Even after the assault, I didn’t connect what was happening to me, with the past of my life experiences. I attributed the troubles I was having to being assaulted in the woods on September 15, 1999. For me, it was all that. Not the violence of my father against my mother and younger siblings when we were growing up. Not the violence of my mother against me for my entire life. Not the sexual abuse of various adults in my childhood. Not the abuse of certain grade school teachers. Not the abuse of boys and other kids in school who did disgusting things to me…. Nope, I thought all my problems were all because of the assault in the Elaho. Until I was assessed by a forensics layer who was examining me as a part of the discovery of the legal battle I was in, against the logging companies who were responsible for assaulting and nearly killing me. The funny thing is that the lawyer was not on my side.
After hours of interviewing and testing, it was determined right there in that tiny room, that I had complex post traumatic stress. It was 2001 and the diagnoses was still new. So, there wasn’t a lot of information about this disorder available yet.
17 years ago today, I got a phone call in the black of the early morning in Rosetown, Saskatchewan. I was in a residential treatment program for disordered eating. I was in recovery from an eating disorder that didn’t have its own category yet. It was January 29, 2002. I was asleep in my shared room with a girl who was also trying to recover from what ever her version of disordered eating was. Luckily, my room mate had already gotten up and was in the shower when one of the counsellors brought the cordless phone into my room and woke me up to answer the call.
It was weird that they brought the phone to me. We weren’t allowed to make or receive unscheduled phone calls. In my sleepy haze I took the phone and put it to my ear.
“Hi Sharai, it’s Ebony.” My sister was on the other end of the call.
I started to sense something was wrong. I had been feeling uneasy for two days. It was a combination of some of the psychological exercises we were doing in group, on top of seeing a snowy owl perched on a sign post in the middle of a highway outside of Rosetown, during one of our rare group outings away from the treatment centre. When I saw the Owl, something crashed deeply within me. I was afraid of who was going to be dead soon.
“Yes, are you okay?” I was still lying on my side, in bed, in the darkness of my room with the phone pressed hard against my ear.
“Daddy’s dead.” She told me flat out like if she didn’t just get it out, she never would.
“NO!” I screamed a long howl into the black space that surrounded me.
I screamed the word “no” until I had no breath left inside of my body. All I could see was the crack of light beneath my residential room door and shadows of the feet of the people who were standing there, listening to me on the inside.
I had the phone pressed into the mattress of the bed. As though somehow that would make it all untrue.
“He can’t be dead! How? What happened?” I kept thinking about the time my dad told me he was planning to kill himself, in 1998.
But I wondered if he was murdered or in a car accident or anything but suicide because he promised he would call me if he was going to do that.
My sister and I spoke only for a few minutes because what were we supposed to say? What more could we talk about? There were no answeres yet but only that his death involved his car. She didn’t give any more detail than that. I suppose she was worried about how his death was going to affect my treatment program. I had been doing so well. To get into the program, I had to be sober and fully detoxed before they would let me participate. I built my support team for the full year before I finally made it to Rosetown, all the way from Vancouver. I was set to be in the program for three full weeks, with all kinds of rules of conduct and behaviour. I had only been there for one full week before my dad killed himself.
There is a lot more to this story but I am saving it for another piece of writing. I just want to say that he couldn’t have picked a better time to do himself in. I was safe in a treatment program, surrounded by therapists and professionals who were there to help us deal with these exact sorts of traumas. That is not to say I am glad he killed himself. Never. I will never be okay that he killed himself. I loved my dad and he loved me. We were tight. Though we hadn’t seen each other in a long time because he disappeared like I tend to do. He would vanish for months on end and everyone would wonder… I am pretty sure I get that behaviour from him. It is a protection mechanism.
My dad loved a woman who was not my mother. This woman had died and he was devastated. When he talked to me in 1998 about killing himself, he told me why. It was because he missed this woman and the pain was too much for him to bear. I begged him not to kill himself. I told him that I needed him to be alive. I needed him.
There are so many stories in this one tiny story. There always is. I can’t tell it all right now because I am writing it elsewhere and in more detail. The kind of detail it deserves and needs, to be told right.
For right now though I just need to say that it has been 17 years since I got that call on January 29, 2002. It was a full moon. I will never forget how crisp and cold that morning was as I stood out back of the treatment centre in the freezing cold. In my pajammas, as the prairie skie went from black to blue to pink to orange to raging sunlight of the day. It was a beautiful winter’s day and I had to try to grasp that my father was dead. How could a day be so beautiful when someone you loved was gone?
With all the sturuggles I have had to get through in life, I am sometimes in awe of how I am doing now. I am okay. I am alive and thriving and continuing on the upward trajectory. A place I used to believe was not for people like me. People with deep and life long trauma. I miss my dad and I miss that he doesn’t get to see me this way I am now. He would be so proud of me.
and all I have left for this piece of writing right now is to say that if you are planning on killing yourself, please don’t. If you do, you will leave behind a lot of pain. I believe my dad was in a lot of pain when he killed himself but what he didn’t consider was the pain he would leave behind. I am not angry at him because on one hand, I fully understand what it feels like to have so much pain that I want to die. I have tried unsuccessfully to kill myself. I know pain. But I took a risk and I reached out and I got help. Hell, I am still getting help. Every day of my life it takes allowing others to help. And believe me, once we find the right helpers, life just gets so much less painful all the time. And I still have pain but the difference is that I don’t have to carry it alone anymore. I have people who help me carry that burden. There aren’t a lot of people but there are enough who I can trust with my pain and grief. Because there has to be trust that people aren’t going to pity you and treat you like a victim but who will lift you up and treat you like the Hero that we are, for just staying alive and living.
This is where I am going to leave it.
I love you.
please call for help if you need someone to talk to. You can reach out to me, here, and I will write you back. just please don’t choose suicide.
This is the organization that helped me after my dad completed suicide S.A.F.E.R: https://crisiscentre.bc.ca/mental-health-and-suicide-services-2/
Other services in the world:
https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/ The World