Drop Out Of Depression

I am a seasoned dropout. At 16, I dropped out of school. I was tired of the institutionalization. I wanted to be a software engineer. I decided I would study for my A Levels through private classes. When the time came to sit for the examinations, I could not get myself into an examination hall.

Later that year, I started an associate’s degree at a money laundromat that promised to send me overseas. I made good friends. I gained confidence in myself. I started off with a 4.0 GPA. Then, I lost focus. The depression that I had been battling since 2002 got the best of me. I dropped out.

I threw myself into spirituality, inspired by Sufism, intrigued by Hinduism. I learnt mantras. I had a dream. I was lying down on the shore. To my right, an archetypal white house with my younger brother standing outside. To my left, a purple sky melting into a purple sea. We watched as a wave climbed the horizon, defying gravity, refusing to crash. My brother called out to me and insisted that we get out of there. I realized I could not move my body. I could only look left, right and right above me. The wave was hanging in the air above me. I did not want to see what would happen next. I closed my eyes. Moments passed. It felt like an eternity. I asked myself, “Is this death? That didn’t hurt.” I opened my eyes and heard the gush of torrential rains rising through me as I rose from the bed into waking life. I took my guitar, missing two strings and out of tune, and strummed away the uneasiness. I stumbled upon a melody. I recorded 18 minutes of spontaneous composition. While editing the piece, I came across the Atma Shatakam, or Song of the Self. I heard a woman recite it as the guitar played. The melodies complemented each other. It was December 31, 2009, a blue moon hung directly above me as I lay down on the rooftop and listened to the completed song.

Not long after, a good friend pulled me into a life saving experience. I spent 10 months back and forth between Colombo and Hikkaduwa. I met over 150 people from all over Europe via webcam. The challenge was to simulate a genuine human connection. To this day, I credit my skill at conducting interviews to this experience. I regained confidence. I moved out of home. I started focusing on my music. I made good friends. We connected over Island In The Sun. I wrote a lot of songs and poems.

Then, I succumbed to my vices. I experienced my first full-on panic attack. I saw a pink line in my palm. I had never seen it before. I doodled. I wrote gibberish. I traveled to Jaffna. I stumbled upon friends from Colombo. I looked like a hobo. I stayed at the YMCA in a ward with 8 strangers. I experienced the first Jaffna Music Festival. I walked passed the school at which my mother studied. I returned to Colombo and to my parents’ home. They took me to our hometown. I lost my taste for meat. I ate only rotti, rice and bread with dhal, bananas and curd. I gained weight. I had chubby cheeks. I looked happy.

A friend of mine asked me to help her with a newspaper article. I got my first job. I lost the respect of the good friend that saved me from despondency. I became a journalist. I met Capt Elmo Jayawardane. He told me of his dream of Annasi & Kadalagotu. I met poets who would start Poetry P’lau. I found a community. I fell in and out of love. I cheated. I earned a scholarship to India. I made great friends. I got good grades. Then, my vices got the best of me. I experienced my second full blown panic attack. I lost my voice. I shaved my head. I thought the world was going to end. I dropped out again.

I found myself back in Colombo. My parents were supportive. I did nothing but sleep all day. I stopped listening to music. Then, I found PennSound, Jacket2 and learnt of ModPo. I signed up. I explored the Beat Generation. I found peace in the phrasings of Jerome Rothenberg, Lorenzo Thomas, Etheridge Knight, Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley. I stumbled upon milo. I wanted to learn to write raps in a whisper. Through his music, I got into the sounds of Busdriver, Nocando, Open Mike Eagle and the L.A. art rap scene. I started writing again. I wrote a rap song to come to terms with my ex-girlfriend not inviting me to her wedding. I started performing at a bourgeois farmer’s market. I regained confidence. I rediscovered an amazing friend. I fell in love. I threw myself into it completely. I felt alive. I lived.

Then, I realized I could not make the other happy. I fell apart. I let down my employer on assignment when so much depended on me. I felt a panic attack coming on. I tried to fight it. I spent two months unemployed. I decided I needed a change. I pushed myself towards a challenge. I found employment. I kept writing. I wrote one hundred love poems. I moved on. I stopped looking for love. I am here, today.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because a comedian is dead and the whole world is waking up to the reality of depression and suicide. I have already died. The “I” you know today is not the kid who wanted to be a software engineer, or the punk who thought he could live on his own terms, or the budding journalist trying to change the world. This “I” is just a blinking cursor on the screen, mocking a blank page, finding zen in the knowledge that all that exists is this present moment, and, when it feels like you have let yourself down, this present moment can be a prison.

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