RAY, Doris

Author Tags: Health

Doris Ray began writing The Ghosts Behind Him in 1994 shortly after her son's trial on a charge of second degree murder from which he was acquitted because of his chronic mental disorder (schizophrenia.) Her son Bruce was detained for 4 1/2 years at the Forensic Psychiatric Institute in Port Coquitlam until he was deemed well enough to be released on a conditional discharge by the BC Review Board. "I equated the task of writing the book to that of having a long, painful surgery but am proud of the impact it has had on many of those who have read it. I believe it is important, for young people especially, to acquaint themselves with the symptoms of mental illness and learn how it can affect family members and in fact entire communities."

Doris Ray is a mother of four and a grandmother of five who lives in Fraser Lake in west-central British Columbia. She is an active member in the Historical Society, the Writing Group and Library Board. She has published articles on mental health, travel and local history. In 1974 she began writing a humour column entitled "Sense and Nonsense" in a local newspaper. Some of the poems from these columns were included in The Pumpkin Eaters. As a member of The Fraser Lake and District Historical Society she helped research and compile archival information, photographs and recollections for our local history book entitled Deeper Roots and Greener Valleys. The book was published in 1984. As a member of Fraser Lake Writers Group she assisted with the publications of Seasonings, a volume of poetry by local writers, and "Laugh Lines" which included humourous submissions from all over the B.C. Interior. Her short fiction in The Boy on the Road and a poetry collection entitled In Search of Wild Onions express her affection for the pioneer spirit of the people and wilderness of the B.C. Central Interior. "Upon reaching my retirement age I am presently in the throes of researching the secret life of my grandmother who immigrated to Vancouver from England in 1911 and one year later married a gentleman from China. The marriage broke up after the third daughter was born and no one knows what happened to the husband. My grandmother managed to erase from her past all connections to her first marriage and-after securing them in a Victoria orphanage--even to her children."

CITY/TOWN: Fraser Lake, B.C.

DATE OF BIRTH: June 26, 1938

PLACE OF BIRTH: New Westminster, B.C.

ANCESTRAL BACKGROUND: Father: Dutch Mother: English/Chinese

AWARDS: BC 2000 Award for "The Ghosts Behind Him"


Common Threads (Libros Libertad, 2010)

The Boy on the Road and other stories (Self-published, 2003)

In Search of Wild Onions (Self-published, 1998. Revised version 2003)

The Ghosts Behind Him (Caitlin Press, 1999)

The Pumpkins Eaters (Self-published with son Bruce in 1982)

[BCBW 2010] "Health"

The Ghosts Behind Him (Caitlin $16.95)

At 21, Bruce Ray attempted to jump through a window of his upstairs apartment. His landlady and other tenants found him wearing only a t-shirt. “You are all going to die,” he told them. “By spontaneous combustion.”

Doris Ray’s The Ghosts Behind Him (Caitlin $16.95) is a mother’s memoir of her son’s subsequent battle with schizophrenia from 1984 to the present. It is a story of heartbreak and hope, but mostly the former.

Hospitalization. Group homes. Multi-vitamin therapy. Delusions. Anti-psychotic drugs. Paranoia. And a horrible descent into violence. It’s the stuff of a family nightmare that is all too real for many of the 40,000 British Columbians whose lives are directly affected by the disease.

“You are damned,” said the bad voices in Bruce Ray’s head in 1993, “We will make you kill someone whether you want to or not.” When he alerted a caregiver to his rising panic, he was given an anti-anxiety pill (chlorpromazine) that made him feel worse. Bruce got himself sent to Nanaimo General Hospital.

The psychiatrist at the hospital was prepared to admit him but there were no empty beds in the psychiatric ward. The caretaker from the Christian group home arrived at the hospital and returned Bruce to the Nanaimo Care Unit where Bruce tried to slash his wrist in the bathroom.

“The knives, the sharp knives,” the voices called. Forty minutes after being discharged from the hospital, Bruce Ray stealthily approached a young man sitting watching television. He leaned forward and plunged a knife into the man’s upper abdomen. The victim of the attack died later that evening.

Doris Ray is a home-support worker in Fraser Lake who also writes a humour column for her local paper. Her wrenching tale of confusion and compassion is an attempt to dispel some of society’s bafflement with schizophrenia. 0-920576-77-X


Common Threads

In the fall of 1998, Doris Ray received a phone call relaying some previously unknown and intriguing information concerning her mother's history. Her book Common Threads (Libros Libertad, 2010) is based upon bits and pieces of archival data and personal reminiscences, combined with conjecture on the part of the author.

According to promotional material: In the fall of 1911 twenty-year-old Nell Baines, her sister Madeline, and brothers Bert and George Junior board a passenger liner leaving Southhampton, England, for the far-off colony of the British Empire that was Canada. Madeline's Canadian fiancé, Hugh Maclean, had recently obtained employment as "Assistant to the Superintendent of Chinese Immigration" - a government bureaucracy set up in the city of Vancouver to curtail the number of Chinese immigrants. A 500-dollar Head Tax had been imposed on every applicant from China. But in the minds of many Canadian citizens, including politicians, there should be nothing less than a total ban on all Chinese immigration.

Nell soon learns that the "Land of Opportunity" is not as gainfully promising as had been acclaimed. The lonely, unemployed Englishwoman becomes acquainted with a handsome, charismatic man, originally from Hoi Ping, China. Unforeseen circumstances evolve, causing the budding friendship to develop into a romance - with Stanley Park being the wilderness backdrop. Nell is five months pregnant when she marries the father of her baby. But her husband becomes mentally unstable and the marriage breaks up after the birth of their third daughter. During the war years (WW1) Nell suffers from espousal abuse, racial bigotry, a younger brother's death on the battlefield and her own near fatal battle with influenza. Her mother in England refuses to receive her and her children back into the family. Nell eventually finds it necessary to erase from her past, all connections to her biracial marriage.