I'm not sure why exactly I am doing this, it probably has something to do with the anonymity that comes with a forum post and the notion of hundreds of miles separating myself and those who will read this. Back in 2005 I suffered the beginnings of a psychotic breakdown leading me down an incredibly dark path and I posted a message here in the hopes that by admitting to myself that there was something magical in the bond which I had formed with my guitar (Fire), my music and the inspiration I received through the compositions of Steve Vai I would somehow be able to emerge victorious over my psyche. It wasn't long after posting a message that I received a message from Steve Vai himself telling me that he had actually read the message and that it actually had an effect on him; it felt impossible: how could the man I had practically turned into idol, the individual who had affected me in such a positive way without saying a single word directed at me, actually find "inspiration" from the words of a 15 year old adolescent bogged down by depression. As far as most onlookers were concerned I was no different than any other 15 year old.
It was December 15th, 2005 when I received his message and believe it or not, I actually remember reading that message and running up stairs to announce to my mother that I actually received a personal message from Steve Vai. Thinking back on it now, it was evident that part of her excitement for me, was just seeing a smile on the face of her child who she had so doubted any genuine happiness still existed within. I remember that on that weekend, when I went to visit my dad, I not only could show off that I had been acknowledged by a man I revered as "great" in every sense of the word, but I actually for once had left my older brother speechless. The impact that message had on me back then made me realize that if my words could be a supposed source of inspiration for a man such as Vai, then maybe I could feel better, maybe I could pull myself out of my depression and do something with my life.
Unfortunately self-realization doesn't come so easily. The doctors called it major depression with psychotic symptoms imitating schizophrenia. Basically, I was so depressed, so broken, that my mind found it easier to create things that didn't exist (and continues to do), to blend dream and reality, than to cope with the real world. I could go on for pages about why that was/is the case, but I'm not trying to use the forums as my own personal shrink. Rather, I am simply looking to build on my post from 2005.
Steve, your words meant something incredible back then and I am ashamed to admit (but proud that I now have the strength to), that I squandered your gift of acknowledgement. This isn't to say that I place you on a pedestal (though, in a way I do), but rather to say that I squandered the fact that you acknowledged a 15 year old boy who was looking for help and he, after experiencing the high, like an addict, failed to realize that the only step forward would be self-realization and self-fulfilment and to be completely honest, I most likely still don't understand this at 23, despite being able to express it. In a sense, I am both grateful for your words, and sorry to disappoint.
By the time I was 17 my depression had gotten so bad that one morning, while looking at the myriad of pills I was taking, I decided enough was enough: I was sick and tired of living in the haze antidepressants and anti-psychotics put you in, I was tired of feeling lesser than society, I was tired of feeling empty, numb and insatiably miserable. I skipped class with my closest friend and got more stoned than I had ever been, I waited for the lull in my medication, that down moment where you remember that the haze is caused by the medication and that, in fact, the depression is still there and nothing is resolving the issues, and I popped a pill of amphetamines. It wasn't the first time I had taken them (maybe the third or fourth time), but I had never taken a drug to escape reality (other than marijuana, which, frankly, I don't consider a narcotic, but that's a tangent I'll avoid here). And that's when it began to happen: I forgot Fire, I lost my drive, my passion and began to plummet, falling into the abyss that was my mind and my masochistic obsession with self-destruction. The more drugs I did, the more depressed I would feel, so I would take more drugs to escape the depression and thus found myself in a vicious cycle that would take me almost 3 years to kick.
I recently asked myself if I regret taking those drugs, which brought about a moment of clarity, where I came to the realization that: if I could turn back time and stop myself from taking the drugs and instead continue with the concoction of medications, I wouldn't take the opportunity. Yes, my decisions ended up causing me to drop out of school, yes they caused my 3 beloved instruments to sit and collect dust for almost 5 years, yes they caused me to make horrible decisions, do horrible things, hurt people and stagnate in a life of mediocrity for so long, but they shaped me into the person I have become today.
That's not to say that I am cured of my depression. The sad reality is that I will most likely never be "cured" of it, which is something I have come to terms with, but instead I can learn how to cope with it a little better. Alas, despite the progress I have made over the past four years, despite being in a stable relationship, rekindling family ties and getting accepted into university, my depression is back and has been gradually creeping back to the surface for the past 2 years. To make matters worse, just last year my father got diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer which is now causing him to wither away.
I am not searching for pity, life has never been easy for anyone, nor should it be; if it were, it would be far too boring. I am saying these things to help illustrate my point, which I will highlight very soon.
Over the past few weeks I have been going back into my music repertoire, something which has been neglected for quite some time. I am ashamed to admit that I had forgotten the power which music once had in my life, more specifically the music of Steve Vai. Most songs have left an imprint in my mind as far as rhythm and melody are concerned, but it's hard to say if I actually remember the entirety of the music which I once played by so many other artists in the past. However, every song I had ever learned or attempted to learn by Vai not only left an imprint in my mind for rhythm and melody, but quite literally every note I ever played was remembered with perfect timing and every single damn note I remembered stirred up all sorts of emotion. My hands felt like they were literally going to jump off my arms if I didn't pick up a guitar soon.
I watched Steve's recent interview with Faceculture tonight and I felt a release I haven't felt in quite some time. To be completely honest, I cried.
The impact someone can have on the life of another is surreal and I think that no matter how experienced in life one becomes, they may never truly understand the extent of such an impact. I doubt that amongst all the people you have come in contact with you can recall the message I posted without searching for it, but that doesn't matter at all. What matters is that you took the time to say something to a depressed 15 year old kid who didn't understand that every life is precious in some way. The important thing is to let the people who have impacted a life know just how powerful of impact they had was. While watching your interview with Faceculture I took a moment to think back on what my login information to your forum was and it didn't take long to remember it all.
So here I am at 2:30 in the morning writing this up, gripped by the uncontrollable urge to express my gratitude. Although I let my guitars collect dust, although I let my music repertoire stagnate, although I still feel as though I float in that same abyss, I realized today that I had given up an immensely important part of myself and I only realized this through listening to your words and your music. The instant I come home tomorrow I will be replacing the strings on my guitar and playing until my fingers cry - the first time in what feels like a life time.
Thank you, Steve. There is so much more I would like to say, but I am losing my ability to focus on the perspicacity of what I'm trying to say as I am now incredibly tired. I think, however, "thank you" is the only thing I can say to express my gratitude; after all, that combination of words, though simple, is powerful and poetic.
And thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read all of this.
With "Warm Regards",