I have been a daddy's girl through and through.
Every family member would say so. They would even say that I look just like him and have mannerisms just like him.
Since I was about 10, I remember my father was in and out of hospital; in wheelchairs, used canes, had crutches and was on various test medications at the prime of his life. He was born with rheumatoid arthritis; that meant constant pain since he could remember. He would hold me some nights crying, asking me to tell my mom to leave him because he wasn't strong enough to support her, my younger sister and me.
He would say “I need you to take care of them, you need to be strong for me.” I agreed not knowing what was in store for me…
As I got older, my father became my best friend. I learned everything and anything I could from him. How to have self-respect, how to treat others and street & book smarts.
Because of him, I knew exactly what I wanted in a life partner based on how he treated my mother, our family and his parents - the respect, honour and love he had for us was everything to me. He was everything I ever wanted to be.
As my life flourished as a young adult so did my father's health. He had found medication that helped him. It was quite costly, but we, as a family, were prepared to contribute to his health. Things were looking up, even as a family we were so involved and fed off of each other’s energy to maintain great health because my father was getting his under HIS control.
Everything was great!
The night before Thanksgiving 2010 (4 days before my 25th birthday) we had family over to celebrate, as usual. Holidays and dinner parties were always at our house with my dad and I cooking. It was always a great time for everyone.
The next morning, I had woken up suddenly to my father leaving for work. I asked him why he was working on a holiday. He told me that he was on call and got called in. Something compelled me to ask him if he was going to be safe. He said, “yes, don’t worry about me, I’ll be safe.” I didn't believe him but I took his word, told him I loved him and saw him out. Although something didn't sit right with me, I let it go- something I wish I never diid. My father never came home that night.
Later that day, the police came to my house and informed me my father had died by suicide. I sunk to the floor and was in complete shock. I looked for a note that he may have left behind and desperately tried to figure out if there were any signs that I may have missed.
I kept telling myself – “I could have stopped him before he left!”
I remember in that moment asking myself “Why would he do this? Doesn’t he love me? Doesn’t he love our family enough to stay?” I questioned our close father-daughter relationship, I questioned my first love and respect for a man. I was so angry with him , God, life, EVERYTHING!
I even hated him for leaving me, especially 4 days before my birthday. I was resentful that he left me to be the one to take care of my mom and sister. I pretty much died when my father died, but didn’t know it then.
I spiraled into depression, began having suicidal thoughts and took several attempts.
I didn’t know what to do. I watched our family struggle financially, I quit my job and I started self-medicating, abusing drugs and alcohol to suppress the pain. I grew angrier and angrier with my dad and missed him so much at the same time. I felt like I was going crazy.
It was so hard that I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror because I look so much like him.
Not knowing where to make enough money to survive, I turned to selling drugs. At the time, I felt as though it was the only logical choice for me. I blamed my dad for my actions and would often ask him how he could put me in this situation at just 25 years old. I justified what I was doing because I felt I had to, at the effect of his death.
I got caught and charged with trafficking level 2 drugs. I was jailed for 2 days and I didn’t care, didn’t cry and when asked by the police if I had realized what I had done, that I was facing up to 10 years in jail, I just said that I didn’t care, so long as my mom and sister would be ok. I had no feelings and no emotion, but I knew something was wrong.
I remember staring at the blank wall in my holding cell wondering why I wasn’t feeling anything, why I had no reaction to what was happening to me. It was then, in that moment, that I realized how dead I was inside.
I was ready to go to prison because I had in my mind that my life was over anyways and that I wasn’t responsible for my life being the way it was- that it was my father’s fault.
I spent a year in court and my lawyer got me off all charges. The only thing that was on my record was having to go through extra screening for security when crossing the border for 7 years - which was just lifted last year! I couldn’t believe it! My lawyer asked me “you have a second chance at life Jamie, are you going to live it now?” And from that simple question, the flood gates crashed open and everything I buried deep down came up like vomit. I was determined to get my life back.
In September 2012, I registered for a personal growth and development program. It was there that I freed myself from the guilt and resentment of my father’s suicide. I prayed and asked him to forgive me, I asked my family to forgive me.
I stopped doing drugs.
I stopped selling drugs,.
I stopped drinking in excess.
I stopped having suicidal thoughts.
And above all, I forgave myself.
I truly realized that what my father did had nothing to do with me or my family. It was his choice. And I saw how powerful and big my father was- even more than I did when I was a little girl.
I used to think I should be living for my dad, but I understood I should be living for me- a life by my design regardless of what happened in the past. I propelled into action.
I found myself in college sharing my story with a professor who was training students who wanted to be police officers in seeing the signs people at risk of suicide.
I was pleading with her to allow me to sit in her class room so I could get the same training. Considering my history with trafficking, you can only imagine how terrified and “backwards” this was- sitting in a room full of police!! Literally a 180! None-the-less, I completed the course.
To this day, I am so grateful to that professor because she gave me a chance to embark on an incredible journey that has led me to become an instructor who trains others in being able to disengage anyone- in the moment- if they choose to take possible action on their suicidal thoughts.
Now, I light up when I think about my future. I live fully. I express myself, i am full of love, I practice forgiveness and I can honestly say that I strive to be in service of others. I feel free.
I now speak to organizations, students and anyone who is willing to listen to my story in order to create suicide awareness. Although the stigma is worldwide, I truly believe that it will be erased in my lifetime. We will accomplish this by opening up conversations; providing education on being aware of the signs, knowing how to help and providing support to the ones who were left feeling like I did when my father died-how to handle it, what to expect and where to find help.
This is my father’s legacy.