All the therapists he talked to made no attempts to truly help Matt, with one going so far as to say Matt “would either end up dead or in an orange jumpsuit from murdering his own family” because of the horrors they had put him through. Matt, however, found strength within himself to prove them absolutely and completely wrong. At this point, Matt had no friends, no family, and described himself as just “an incandescent ball of rage” who was angry at everything. As he tried to go back to school and make friends, he could hear his mother’s lingering voice in the back of his head, reinforcing his sense of inferiority and hatred toward himself. Finally, when a teacher asked if he needed help and Matt told her, “yes” he began to see a guidance counsellor at school up to 23 times a week. This particular counsellor wasn’t like the therapists he had met with in the past she actually helped, and believed in Matt’s strength and resilience. Matt found a network of close friends he could fall back on and use as support, and truly began the process of healing and putting his life back together.
His biggest problem, after being thrown out of his home at 16 years old, was that Matt did not have a real sense of self. When he was locked in his room by his stepfather, he read many books. He even read the Bible, despite not being a religious person, but he had no real hobbies or interests as a result of his depleted childhood, no real sense of who “Matt” really was. He was simply a “blank slate of a human being”. Because of this, he became a sort of social chameleon, very impressionable to those around him, changing friend groups on a regular basis. He would take on the traits of the characters he read about in books, their fictional personalities subconsciously bleeding into his own.
A huge issue that Matt faces when revealing his past to people is that they treat him differently. I can assure you, the last thing he wants from people is their pity. His past does not define who he is now, though it has shaped his life and his memories. Matt’s experiences have definitely had an effect on his personal life, as he describes depression as a roller coaster, “you never know when the drops will come, and you never know when or if you will climb back up again.” But, despite the struggle, Matt has showed immense strength and perseverance and has continued fighting to live. He says that a lot of what helps him comes from within himself, that there was and never will be a magical cure, and that he will most likely never be at 100%. But, he says he has an amazing life now that for the most part is great, though he will always have to face hard times and the memories that will be with him his entire life.
Talking to others about his past has helped Matt, as he describes telling his story as a form of distributing the hurt so that he alone does not have to carry the entire heavy weight of the pain. The same goes for happiness, when both happiness and pain are shared, given and taken when needed, the community with which they are shared can stand together and carry each other. Social support from his friends plays a huge role in Matt being able to have the strength to fight everyday. He takes comfort in his beliefs that the world has no real rhyme or reason, bad things happen, good things happen, and there’s nothing we can do but ride them out. Believing there is no higher being punishing Matt by inflicting on him the pain he experienced as a child is comforting, for there is no asking “what did I do to deserve this?” He did not do anything to deserve what he went through, it just happened. Abuse and neglect is never something deserved.
Something Matt would like to share with people on campus who may be struggling that helped him cope is to watch movies “very funny movies” even if you watch them by yourself. He told me that there is nothing wrong with going to the movie theatre by yourself sometimes. There is nothing wrong with relying on your inner strength to keep fighting, and sometimes you need to sit back, relax, turn on your favourite movie, and just laugh. I want to thank Matt for sharing his story with not only me, but with everyone who reads this article. I believe we can all take something away from Matt’s story and from his strength. Matt is well loved on campus and has had a positive impact on the lives of many people here at Concordia. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to hear Matt’s story and to share it with all of you.