21st Century Canada

Well, I have never been in a foster home or had a foster parent. I do not know what it is like to have been taken away from my family.

I do know what it is like to be denied my culture and its traditions. When I was 14 years old, I tried to commit suicide. I had a lot of pain inside me. Feelings that I could not deal with. I just wanted the pain to end. At the time, I was taken traditional Aboriginal medicines to help with some of the things I was going through. Medicines which included St. John’s Wart which is used or recommended for people with depression or sleeping problems. It helped somewhat.

I was in the hospital for quite some time. I remember the doctor had asked me about things that I was feeling all the time or things that I thought. Even if I had hear or seen things that weren’t really there. I just wanted the pain to end. I was angry. That’s all I would say. Then he would say I was depressed. And that was when I prescribed my first anti-depressant. My only anti-depressant. I was told that I had to take this medicine, go to counseling once a week and see a psychiatrist for my anti-depressant prescription renewal/monitoring. It sucked but you know what sucked even more than all of this being told that if I didn’t take this medication and stop taking the Aboriginal medicines, or stopped going to counseling, or stopped seeing the psychiatrist that the doctors and counselors were instructed to call CAS and that I would be taken away from my parents.

There was nothing wrong with my parents. They loved me. Me and my sisters got along like normal siblings would. Sure we fought, but that was normal.

When I was told all of this, I was scared, fearful. What’s worse than having intense feelings of pain or anger inside: being threatened to be taken away from your family, the ones that love you unconditionally.

So there at the age of 14, scared, angry, living in fear, threatened by hospitals, doctors, and counselors, and on top of it all being prescribed a drug (as opposed to allowed being able to take my traditional medicine) that is now supposedly only recommend to for people over the age 18 (and still they tell doctors to take caution when prescribing this pill to young adults, thats people who are 18-24).

Then when I was 15 year old, I was in a car accident. I don’t remember what happened. In fact, I don’t remember for about 2 days before the accident and drifting in and out of consciousness, maybe 2 days after the accident (that’s right before I went into a coma, approximately).

I remember being in the hospital, strangely, and I remember a relative helping me take some Aboriginal traditional medicines. Then… I woke up in Sudbury. I don’t really know what happened in between all of then but I remember my mom telling me that the hospital called the police on my parents and family because the hospital felt that my family tried to kill me. Police, detectives, CAS. So I was told. You know what, I believed it. There are 2 reasons why I believed what she told me:

  1. She is my mom and I trust her and love her.
  2. Look at what the hospital did to me only a year before

So, no I don’t know what it is like to be taken away from my family or live in foster homes with foster parents. I do know what it is like to live in fear at the age of 14 and I do know what it feels like to be denied my cultural rights and beliefs and its traditions, all because of institutions that exist right here in 21st Century Canada.

Inspiration for this post is found here:

CAS documentary on Twitter Voices Silenced by Fear

Games we used to play

This post is inspired by a girl I met at school and her blog. Her name is Alysha Li (Ironically, same name as my little sister) and her blog can be seen HERE.

She sent me a message on Facebook telling me about her most recent adventures and that she had started a blog. She is running summer camps for kids on reserves in Northern Ontario with Frontier College. The only thing I have to say is … Cool, and that I wish I could have that opportunity!

I read her blog and it was an interesting read. She wrote a post on the cost of certain items on the reserve. That post on her blog is titled “Day 9 Preparation.” Some of these item in her list included:

Medium block of cheese – $15
2L milk – $9
4 pieces of chicken breasts – $16
Bag of grapes – $10
1 Apple – $1
3 bell peppers – $8
Bottle of shampoo – $12

I thought to myself, “Where’s the klik or the spam?” Yeah, if you are First Nations and you grew up on a reserve you might know what I am talking about. If you don’t know, you are lucky. Trust me, Natives knew about spam before email was ever invented. Joking 😉 It’s not the same kind of spam!

Anyways, there is another post titled “Day 10: Canada Day.” In this post she describes how people are willing to do good things for anyone regardless of who they are and that reminded me of how much I miss home. If you ever want a true sense of community, go to any First Nations community. Yes, some First Nations are more divided than others and some more close-knit than others, but in the end when something needs to be done to help one another–it gets done.

In this same post, she talks about how the one task they were assigned to do. Then when time came to actually complete the activity, she knew the importance of her minute task of blowing up balloons.

Alysha writes

“It was really magical to see how just a few hours of blowing up balloons can bring so much happiness to the whole community.”

It reminded me of my sisters and the games we used to play. Literally, we would make toys out of anything and make entire games from just brown paper bags. I believe we even have pictures of us playing this said-game with brown paper bags–trust me, best game ever and I would still play it today.

Some of the games we used to play didn’t even require us to gather anything or make anything–just pick a color and wait for that color of car to drive.

These memories made miss home and reading what this one person had to write about while working on these summer camps for kids on reserves just made me realize that much more how lucky I am to have had the childhood I did and the memories I am able to remember–especially the ones with my family.

How did I do it?

The title for this post is a question that I have been asked on repeated occasions, especially within the past two weeks.

The question is relating to me having a desire to live, and not wanting to party anymore (and by not party anymore, I mean days on end partying and essentially doing this on the daily), and not wanting to do drugs and to just essentially get better. Of course my desire to change came well before this post and well before going into university, but real change and its progress happened with these key events.

I wouldn’t say that there is only one thing that made me want to change, or that there is a magic pill or potion out there. There was an array of factors, events, happenings in my life that made me want to change. And by change, I don’t mean over night and I don’t mean the easiest change either.

Part of this change started when I was at the hospital, after a suicide attempt, and I saw an old friend there. I tried to avoid her because I felt embarrassed. A week later, I found out she was there for the same thing, attempted suicide, but I only found out after she hung herself and her funeral was being arranged. It hurt me because I didn’t say “Hi” and it scared me because I thought, “That could have been me.” I decided right then and there, I wanted to live.

I still struggled with thoughts of not wanting to die, but wanting to escape pain. That’s what strange about me and my attempts, I never really wanted to die; I just wanted my pain to stop. Someone might consider me weak for taking that route, but I don’t think I am weak given my experiences and the fact that I am still here.

I then went onto to really look at the people I chose to let into my life. I began to change my friends completely. I literally changed my number, and stopped talking to people I didn’t think were necessarily good for the changes I wanted to make. And someone might think “well, that is rude thing to do.” No, it’s not rude, especially when certain types of people are toxic. (ugh, toxic… what an ugly word to use).

But even that, wasn’t all. I had an academic counsellor ask me “What do you want to do when you are done school.” My answer literally was nothing. I got into university, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with it when I was done. So I started setting goals for myself, and I started telling people about them when they asked me, “So what is it that you want to do when you are done school?” I proudly tell them what my dreams are. Trust me, the most inexpensive way to make yourself feel better about life is to have dreams and share your dreams with others (And also let others share their own dreams with you too!)

I also decided I wanted to eat healthy and start exercising again. Two things that naturally can make anyone feel good.

But that is not even everything that contributes to my desire to live. The number one major change in my life is this little fella.

Now, I am not saying go out and ask your sister or brother or someone else close to you to go and have a baby. I am just saying, find someone who you love dearly, and just think for a second, what their life would be like if they didn’t have you. I thought about my nephew many times, especially when I thought about how much I wanted my pain to end. I thought about how I wouldn’t see him walk, or how I wouldn’t hear him say my name (or his attempts to say my name…Auntie Momi, Auntie Nomi, Auntie Noni) or thought how he wouldn’t be able to make me smile by just being him.

I thought about how if I wasn’t there, he would only hear stories about me doing silly things and he would only see pictures of me doing even sillier things. I wouldn’t be able to be silly for him, or I wouldn’t be able to make him smile and laugh.

We wouldn’t be able to make our own memories of each other together.

So in a nutshell, I decided who I wanted to keep in my life (people who weren’t “toxic”); decided to have dreams and share those dreams whenever I can (and let other people share their own dreams with me, and really listen to what they are saying); decided I wanted to live healthy and be healthy; and most importantly, decided I wanted to be there in the future of my new nephew.

Some advice to people who want to change their lives: Find people who are good for you and your life; dream and dream big; and find someone you love and think about what his/her future would be like without the good person that you want to be, then ask yourself: How do you want to be remembered?

April Fool’s Day

So I am the worst for jokes… Last to get the joke and the worst joke teller! Anytime I make someone laugh, it is usually only because I usually fall or trip myself. Trip myself? How you ask? Don’t ask me, I don’t know how it happens either…

But today I am just remembered of how much I miss my family and all the jokes they used to play on me (and the jokes we used to play on each other).

The biggest jokers? I would say Aboriginal people. I know, I know sometimes some Aboriginals look so serious, never smile… That kind of reminds me of my dad: so serious. Yet, my dad was always the first one to play jokes on us, my mom, or his sisters. Yes I have met some pretty funny non-Aboriginals, but seriously… No matter our situation, we are always laughing. I always remember elders telling me, laugh, smile.. laughter is medicine!

I love hearing the stories my Aunties would tell us about my dad when he was younger. Those are some good stories.

I can’t wait until my nephew is older and get to tell him about the stories about his mom and his aunties (including me)!