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"I had lost all control. I was screaming." The phone call that changed Alex Fevola's life forever.

This is an edited extract from Silver Linings: A Journey to Happiness by Alex Fevola, published by Lake Press, RRP $34.99, available in-stores nationally and online, Friday April 1, 2022. 

This post deals with suicide, and could be triggering for some readers.

When I woke up at my sister Zoe's house, I was somewhat disorientated. 

Oh God, what time is it?

Where am I? I leaned over and reached for the clock. 

It was 6am on the dot. The date was February 18, 2000. Mia needed her morning feed. 'Hang on, baby, I’m getting your bottle,' I called out from the kitchen as Mia murmured in her portacot.

As I waited for the kettle to boil, I wondered whether Lonny would have left for work yet. I wondered how long he had kept drinking and what state he would be in. He’s probably got a terrible hangover, I thought as I made Mia’s bottle. I wonder if he regrets last night. 

Is he worried about us and wondering where we are? 

I contemplated packing up and going home right then. I peered through the blinds to see dawn just breaking, the sky deep purple, and the birds were just starting their morning chorus. Too early and too cold for a newborn baby. 

Quietly I slipped back into my sister’s spare bedroom and snuggled up to Mia as she drank her bottle. I must have drifted back off for an hour or so. 

'Al, do you want some toast?' Zoe called out. 'Yes, please. I’m just changing Mia’s nappy and then I will join you,' I replied through a yawn. 

I was exhausted. My eyes were heavy, and I felt generally unwell. People kept reassuring me it was due to hormones, but my instincts had been prodding me late in my pregnancy and continued after the birth. 

I’d hoped the dread would be gone after the birth, but it wasn’t. I had a strong feeling that something was very wrong in my world, that something really bad was going to happen.

It was a feeling that I just couldn’t shake. It had first come over me a couple of months earlier, on New Year’s Eve 1999, just two and a half weeks before the birth. 

Listen to Mia Freedman and Alex Fevola on Mamamia's No Filter. Post continues below.

I had gone to a friend’s place for a barbecue with Lonny. I was nine months pregnant, feeling rather ordinary in many ways, but as I watched everyone drinking and laughing this overwhelming feeling of dread flooded over me. 

It was a dark feeling that I couldn’t explain. I had never felt it before, but I knew that the new millennium was not going to bring happiness for me. 

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Everyone was talking about the Y2K bug and predicting all kinds of problems, computers shutting down by themselves, dates reverting to the previous century, but my fear was closer to home. 

I voiced my concerns about this feeling of dread and those close to me shrugged it off as normal feelings to have before you give birth. All new mums are scared of the unknown, I was told. But I knew that it was something more sinister; it was most definitely a premonition. 

'Your toast is ready,' Zoe called from the kitchen. I shuffled out still in my pyjamas, settled Mia in her rocker and sat on the couch. 

As I took my first sip of tea, the house phone rang and I felt my heart skip a beat as Zoe picked it up. It was 7.45am – a bit early for the phone to be ringing, I thought. 

'Hello,' she said. Her facial expression didn’t change; there was just a slight flush of pink in her cheeks. 'What?' she snapped. 'Right, okay.' She hung up the phone. 

That was the extent of the conversation. Yet I knew something was very wrong. 

She turned to me with a look of horror on her face. 'What?' I yelled in desperation. 'Al, please be calm,' she said as she sat down beside me and took hold of my hands. 'I need you to try and stay calm, okay?' 'What? Tell me, what’s wrong?' I said in a fearful and panicked voice. 

My whole body was shaking, my heart pounding; my premonition was coming true. Before she’d said a word, I knew something truly awful had happened. I felt it. I knew it was Lonny. 

'Lonny has hung himself.' She said it in the calmest voice she could muster. 

At that moment the bottom fell out of my world. It felt like my heart had stopped beating, as if every last bit of air had been sucked out of my lungs. I was winded. I couldn’t catch my breath. It was just like when I’d fallen from a horse in the past: a shock, and then the air is sucked right out of you. 

Then came a blood-curdling scream. 'He’s not dead though, is he? Where is he? Is he in hospital? Tell me he’s not dead!'

I frantically begged. 'Please tell me he’s not dead.' She just looked at me with such sorrow and burst into tears. 'No, no, he’s not dead, please, God, no.'

I shrieked over and over in a voice that seemed to come from the pit of my stomach. It was almost primal, echoing through the house. I had lost all control. I was screaming and moaning. 

Zoe paced up and down in a panic, not knowing what to do. 'Alex, please calm down, you are scaring me.' But there was no controlling my pain, shock, and utter devastation. 

All the while, this little angel sat in her rocker oblivious to the devastation surrounding her. 

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She made not a peep, not even a whimper. She just sat peacefully unaware of her great loss.

Four weeks and four days is all she had with her father, and now she faced a lifetime without him. 

It just didn’t seem real. It was so cruel to take so much from her.

All kinds of thoughts rushed through my head. How would I explain this to her? Because one day I would have to.

Silver Linings by Alex Fevola  

Silver Linings is a story of resilience from an Australian woman who knows more than most about what it takes to bounce back from hardship.

Life has dealt Alex Fevola many lows and highs, not least of which she experienced through her turbulent relationship with AFL football great Brendan Fevola.

Now a successful businesswoman and founder of her own make-up brand, mum to four beautiful daughters and newly reunited with Brendan, Alex Fevola is ready to share her emotional journey. This is a story of triumph over adversity and pain, and making it through to the other side, stronger than before.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature Image: Instagram.

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