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From Gutter to Psych Ward
I was born on October 30th 1989, in Jaffna Sri Lanka. My parents, sister and I immigrated to Canada in 1994 when I was 4 years old, taking up residence in every rundown apartment that Montreal had to offer.
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I was born on October 30th 1989, in Jaffna Sri Lanka. My parents, sister and I immigrated to Canada in 1994 when I was 4 years old, taking up residence in every rundown apartment that Montreal had to offer.  

My father's role of choice was to not be much of a father. Instead, he lived his life either being absent or drunk. Never choosing to do the honorable thing and be there for us emotionally or financially. His relationship with my mom was precarious, with them breaking up and getting back together more times than I could count.

Our living style mirrored our family life, as we moved around a lot due to my mom’s incessant hoarding which led to quite a few eviction notices posted on our doors. This hardship was felt even more during the unforgiving winter seasons which felt much worse as poverty continued to encroach in our lives.

At the persuasion of my mother’s brother, we moved to Vancouver in 1998. We lived in a one bedroom apartment facing the beautiful mountains of British Colombia. However, the beauty of what was out the window couldn’t change the fact that the space was too cramped for the four of us to share. The discomfort of the four people sleeping in one bed was a despairing reminder of our bleak reality. Making the situation worse, my father continued to view parties and alcohol as more important than the well-being of his family. Eventually, he left for good. From then on, until 2013 we moved from one dilapidated apartment to the next at least ten times. My mother, never having worked a day in her life in Canada, decided to instead spend all her time living off welfare.

It didn’t become better as my sister and I got older. Any desire for normalcy was quickly dissuaded with the constant physical and verbal abuse we received from our mother. We weren’t allowed to socialize outside of our home and the word ‘friends’ was only limited to the popular sitcom. On the surface, I tried to make my life a big comedy show, making a joke out everything. It was my way of coping and it worked as I tried to deal with the stress I felt at home.

I didn’t care much for college. I didn’t want to be in college. In 2012 I was living at home and I felt empty inside. I never got to experience life further than screams and beatings from my mother. I was still a virgin and still had never kissed a girl or gone on a date. Instead, I was left with the nagging voices of my mom and sister forcing me to graduate college. I knew they wanted a better life for me as my mother, to my dismay and protests, sold her wedding bangles for a mere $1,000 to help pay for my tuition.  It was too much pressure for me and as much as I tried I couldn’t muster up much motivation.

I dropped out of school, unable to finish the semester. The guilt of my mother selling her wedding bangles pressed against my chest as I told her of my decision.

She told me and I quote, "If I didn't know you were going to be such a failure at life, I would have just kept the bracelets."  She buried me when I was down, an act which I was all too familiar with and despite it, a part of me always longed for her to just tell me it was going to be okay. But that approval never came, instead I was left feeling like I was never good enough.  It was as if I gave up and from then on I refused to eat or sleep. Instead, I barricaded myself in the room and wanted to die. All I could repeat to myself is that I should die, this is not worth it anymore.


My mom eventually called the ambulance and they hauled me to the psych ward. The psych ward was in Vancouver General hospital, and the rooms were dark and isolated, feeling more like a prison. I was extremely depressed and suicidal at this point and had no idea where I was or why I was there. Since I refused to make eye contact with anyone, or engage with any of the patients in the psych ward, the doctors were convinced I was depressed and put me on anti-depressants right away. It didn’t seem to have much effect and after 10 days they moved me to UBC hospital. While I was at UBC they experimented with every anti-depressant and eventually it triggered my hypomania/mania where I felt extremely happy for no reason. At this point, the doctors were able to figure out what was happening to me, they diagnosed me with bipolar disorder type 1 and put me on a mood stabilizer. After a few weeks, I felt my mind at ease I was no longer anxious like I used to be. They released me on the condition that I would take my meds every day without fail.

Once I left the psych ward, I went home and continued my life as if I hadn't gone to the psych ward. I poured out my medication and pretended those 60 days hadn't happened. Instead of using the medication that helped stabilize me, I turned to partying, weed and alcohol as a form of self-medication. I stopped listening to the people around me. For the next three years, my life became like my moods, a series of roller-coaster rides with no clear end in sight. There was a constant battle in my head, but I fought against it because I felt I could get away with anything. These years were stressful and I eventually came to the conclusion that I needed to change something so my life wouldn't stay the same as it had all of these years. 

In August 2015, my mom, sister, and I found out from our landlord we were being evicted again. At this point, I had been fired from 2 separate jobs because my mood disorder kept me from functioning normally.  The moment I found out we were moving again everything made sense to me. I had to take my meds every day for my life to change. With that action, my life changed and I moved out on October 2015.

I was able to take full control of my life.  I went back to Stand-up Comedy and finished third place.  I found a full-time job that paid well and helped me become independent.  I met my girlfriend Courtney as well, and to this day I am extremely happy. As hard as it was to accept the diagnosis, it was something I needed to do to regain control of my life and my future. It was that diagnosis that pulled me out of the life that once was, to the life that now is.

My name is Nish, and that was my story.

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