There are many stories of liberation that we create just by living – true stories of overcoming a cold and heartless system. Where does the overcoming power reside within us? Somewhere beyond the guts and the will… maybe we’ll say it’s the heart, or even the higher knowing.
With Matthew, life’s cruelty was great enough that he needed some help in overcoming: a touch of understanding, soft guidance, love and patience, and a peaceful place to be where he could do good things for others.
I knew about Matt and his troubles from conversations with his brother. He had been deemed a ‘behavior problem’ from the time that he was very young. In kindergarten he was given Ritalin, and as time went on he continued to be ‘trouble’: bored with school, ready to fight, rebellious against authority until the authorities decided he had bigger problems.
He was eventually put on heavier psychotropic medication while the system worked on persuading him that he was mentally ill. As might be expected, Matt started to become self-destructive. So the system gave him more pills. By the time he came to us, he had spent time in four different psychiatric hospitals and in jail, all the while being given up to five different psych medications at one time. The pill of last resort, which the system said he needed in order to be sane, was 200 mg of Seroquel.
My husband and I took him in because we knew that there was much more to the story. Both Matt and his brother had been severely abused by alcoholic fathers. From long conversations with his brother, we knew that Matt never had a chance. Their mother was abused too, and unable to break free.
When Matt moved in, at age 20, my husband was enduring the last few months of a long terminal illness. Matt stayed home with us during the day, and it didn’t even take a week to start seeing his tender heart. He would sit with my husband and watch a movie, help with the heavy lifting, help clean up… he was obviously very caring.
After a while, with some encouragement, Matt began to ease himself off the Seroquel. I believe that deep inside he knew he wasn’t mentally ill, and he just needed to hear it… “To me you seem perfectly fine.” He did suffer headaches and other side effects when clearing the drugs out of his system, but he stuck with it.
By his 21st birthday Matt had made tremendous progress: he was drug free, he had helped us through the grief of my husband’s passing, he had earned his GED and he was nearing the end of his probation. Now he needed a job… he was very tired of asking for money and being dependent.
In a previous article, I told the story and stopped at the point where Matt was beginning to look for work. Now we know what happened next.
While the drugging of an abused child is indeed an indictment of the system, Matt’s job search brought the catch 22 of discrimination and rigid policies and procedures into sharp focus. The system has no compassion… and yet… there are human beings who still do. And we can’t forget to factor in the power of Matt’s heart and higher knowing.
The first place Matt tried to get a job was Goodwill. It’s their mission to put people to work, they say. He was very tense during the interview, visibly trembling. Still, they were considering hiring him… until… they did a background check. We would soon find out that Matt had two killer strikes against him – a criminal record and no job experience.
Okay – how to overcome this! Well, you have to get dirtied up a little bit. Lie on the job application about the criminal record, and find a friend who will say, “He worked for me in my store.” It’s what I advised him to do. Sure I know it’s underhanded and a person who loves the spiritual way of things tells the truth. But, sometimes you have to level the playing field that should have been level all along.
Matthew took on the new tactic and kept applying for jobs until finally his spirit started to weaken. Then one day he came back home and said a guy at the gas station had told him about a landscaping job. He got on it! Landscaping is what he always wanted… he wanted to be outdoors and he wanted to work hard. You guessed it… Matt got the job, and he called it into existence all by himself.
You should have seen him with his first paycheck. It was the most money he ever had in his life. He helped plan menus for the week and bought the food, bought some better quality boots, went shopping for mother’s day gifts for his mom, and the rest was saved. Turns out his handling of money is very mature for a 21 year old.
After four weeks on the job he did experience an incident related to his traumatic past. It was a windy day, and grass clippings and leaves were blowing around. Matt’s job was extra difficult and the supervisor was in a hurry. When the pressure got too great and he couldn’t fulfill what he was asked to do, Matt thought he was going to be fired. He suffered a panic attack.
Here’s where we give applause to the supervisor: “You’re not going to die man, just breathe… see… you’re still breathing.” Well, Matt didn’t get fired – he got complimented both by his supervisor and his manager. No issues with the job – they like him – no beat down: just grown men with kind hearts who like him.
It gives me such joy to write this. Matthew gets to meet himself now, and he is going to love the man he is. I think we can close the book and hand it over to him. He has his wings!