The Choice to Live

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| This is the 388th story of Our Life Logs |


My parents were not ready for another mouth to feed when I was born in the summer of 1995 in Bangladesh. At the time, my father was unemployed and my mother was the teen-mom stereotype. They were already burdened with a daughter before me. One child was enough to handle, but then I came along, and eventually my little brother joined the party. I guess that was what pushed my father to find a job as a building constructor, which helped us get by. Despite our financial limitations, my parents gifted us three kids with so much love and affection that we never knew their hardships until much later.

Zahid-age 4
Me, age four.

I was always the shy, quiet little guy. I mean, I really was the “little” boy, as I looked a lot smaller than my peers. Since age nine, I wore heavy glasses and carried an inhaler. My lips looked like those of a chain smoker. People constantly nicknamed me: “freak,” “zero figured,” “drug addict,” “chain smoker,” and what not. I felt like I was too ugly to look at and was very self-conscious. This led me to overthink. Sometimes even a simple, innocent glance my way would disturb my feelings. I felt as if everyone hated me, and I was too nervous to even talk to anyone. I felt inferior to each and every person that entered my life.

Luckily, my mother was a creative woman and wanted her children to appreciate arts and become more creative than she could ever dream to be. So, on top of the conventional school, we attended an art school where I learned to play harmonium and tabla, a traditional instrument consisting of two hand drums. Through it, I became more confident. I performed on big stages and even won several national competitions in singing. Everything was going good, and I felt better as I grew up. Then I hit puberty.

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I know what you’re thinking, puberty happens to everyone, it’s not that bad. Well, what if you never truly hit puberty? What if everyone around you got taller and grew beards, but you remained the same? February 2009, I took life’s first blow.

I had always been abnormally less healthy than the other kids, but that wasn’t something to visit the doctor for on this side of the world. It’d likely be chalked up to me not eating enough vegetables or fish. But as puberty hit, it seemed beyond that. I seemed a little too unhealthy and my mother wanted me checked out.

The doctor confirmed our suspicions. I was suffering from severe malnutrition. I couldn’t eat too much as the food took more time than usual to get processed in my body. The doctor gave my mother a list of vitamin capsules and suggested a healthy diet to improve my condition. I was furious about the results. I hated taking medicines, and now I needed to take a bunch of them every day. I started throwing my medicines outside out of sheer anger. The burden of needing medication to thrive took a toll on me, and I became depressed.

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When I was 14, I discovered that my condition developed far back when I was in my mother’s womb. The story goes that my mother had just learned about the pregnancy and told the news to my dad, who then said, “I don’t want another child now. Do as you want to do with it. I don’t want another burden.”

My mother was furious. She didn’t know what to do. Feeling helpless and angry, she took around 10 abortion pills to end the pregnancy, but it didn’t stop me from developing inside her. Nine months later, I came into the world alive, but internally broken, heavily damaged from the pills.

I’ll never forget the shock I felt deep in my core the first time I heard the story. The biggest takeaway was that neither of my parents wanted me. At that moment, I forgot how much they’d loved me now. All I could think of was that I was unwanted. I felt broken, disgusted, angry and sad. Imagine unveiling that secret at just 14 years old, at a time when you’re just discovering who you truly are, only to find out you almost weren’t here at all. After that, the same thought played in my young head, day after day, “Maybe it would have been better for everyone if I died inside my mother.”

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Depression was choking me, and I didn’t know how to stop it. I couldn’t stop the dark thoughts. I would sit in front of the computer all day to keep my mind busy because I didn’t have the stamina to play outdoors. My parents expected a lot from me as they knew how creative I was, but I became careless about my studies and started failing. Nothing mattered if I was never meant to be born. I soon failed the Secondary Certificate Test Exam. I felt so ashamed of my condition and how it came to be.

It wasn’t until I saw the sheer hopelessness on my parents’ faces that I knew that things needed to change. So maybe my parents didn’t want me at first, but hadn’t they shown me love and affection in my life? They cared about me now, and that’s what I tried focusing on.

I started fighting my depression with determination and caring more about my studies. I turned back to what always made me happy growing up: music. Whenever I felt down, I’d sing along to my favorite songs and forget about the world, forget about the heartache. I started teaching myself guitar and getting lost in the chords. Music became my escape from the insidious feelings in my head. It calmed my mind and heart. I started practicing singing for at least one hour every day and through the melodies coming from my stereo, I could have a sanctuary, a place where depression couldn’t reach me.

Eventually, my grades went up and I even got the highest GPA in both the Secondary and Higher Secondary exam. That helped me land a spot at the top university in the country to study engineering in 2018.

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Moving to a hostel on campus was a big change for me, because I’d never stayed anywhere but my home. I lived in a room with 18 other students who were all trying to do the same as me, adjusting to the new living space. It was crowded, but we learned to live around each other, and I started gaining traction as a musician. People enjoyed my songs, and I’d sometimes play for hours. I was getting the hang of everything—school was going well, I made friends, and I was keeping my depression at bay. But unfortunately, happiness can never be permanent, can it?

To my utter sorrow, I fell in love. Sorrow, because she didn’t love me back. I was so madly in love that I couldn’t even see that she was obviously using me as a cover to see someone else. I saw the walls of my life closing in and I could feel my inferiority complex from childhood slink back into my psyche. There were friends around me yet I felt so alone. I wanted to end my life again, and I was looking for a way to make the feelings stop. Normally, I’d turn to music, but I was too depressed to even pick up my guitar. That’s when drugs came into my life.

I tried all kinds of drugs to cope with my depression. I didn’t have the physical ability to take drugs safely, but I didn’t care. I wanted the pain to stop. I blacked out many times and while the pain receded, it always returned. I was too far gone.

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Then, I had a really bad night. I don’t remember much except that I blacked out early in. I woke up the next morning in a hospital. My eyes widened in fear. I could feel death all around me. I rushed to the washroom and looked at my reflection. I saw a man who looked like me, but it wasn’t someone who I could recognize anymore. The man staring back at me wasn’t me. When had I become the person who woke up in a hospital after a wild night out? When did I become a person who relied on drugs to exist? I couldn’t let myself be like that. Not anymore. I realized then I had gone too far, and it was time to get my life back on track. From that day, I decided that I would change.

I made a vow to turn my life around, and I stopped using. Yet, my depression remained—not as strong as before, but still there, haunting me. It felt like every door was locked for me and I’d never just be myself and be happy.

That’s when I remembered my old friend, music. The friend I never should have abandoned.

I started writing my emotions down and giving tunes to them. I wrote songs, poems, stories and anything that my heart wanted to say. Writing about my feelings eased the insecurities inside me. I started a band and joined two more as a bass guitarist. I wrote hundreds of poems saying the things I couldn’t say to anyone. I composed many songs, solo and band. On top of that, I started maintaining a tough academic schedule to redesign my career.

Zahid-performing 2018
Performing at rag concert, 2018.

In my healing, I found a girl who truly loved me for me and helped me keep away from the darkness inside me. We got married on May 24, 2018, and with her and music by my side, I became confident that I could face any darkness headed my way.

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I love words so much that I’ve decided to pursue a career in writing. I now write for companies and websites as a freelance writer and also do game reviews, thanks to my knowledge from my earlier days of endless gaming. I am learning new things every day to make myself better and stronger, and I no longer feel bad about my beginning. A bad beginning doesn’t equal a bad life. We all have a choice.

I believe whining about the unfortunate things that have happened to you won’t do any good. Hardship is not forever, so ride the wave and you’ll end up on the other side. I don’t have everything under control, but when I no longer let the horrors of my past hold me back, a new world full of possibilities opened. I am ready for anything that comes my way. Because, after all, to find happiness you must learn to live first.

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This is the story of Zahid Hasan

Zahid currently lives in Chittagong, Bangladesh, working on his college degree. Through sheer determination and some luck, he turned difficult realizations in his life around despite the urge to give in to his depression. His passion of music pulled him through life’s ups and downs even when he fell off his path to success. Zahid is not sure if his future is bright or not, but he’s not scared anymore. He’s prepared for the worst as he has faced many difficult things in his past. Now he focuses on learning to live and be grateful for what he has. Zahid continues to play music and is happily married. You can listen to Zahid’s latest tracks on his YouTube channel.

Zahid Poem
A poem written by Zahid, 2017.

 

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This story first touched our hearts on June 28, 2019.

| Writer: Zahid Hasan | Editor: Kristen Petronio |

 

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To protect the privacy of the storyteller and those involved in this retelling, some of the names may have been changed. (1)

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