Hey guys! I’m Matt Budzak. I’m turning 30 this year and live in my hometown of Puyallup, Washington where my adoptive parents raised me since I was a baby. As you may know from my social media posts and videos, I was born with Multiple Ptrygien Syndrome and Scoliosis.
I spent most of my childhood in and out of hospitals, always trying to make the best of things. I did not have use of my legs, and by the at age of 12, I knew that having them removed was going to give me the best possible option for a better quality of life.
School was also a struggle for me. but movies and video games got me though the hard times. It was especially hard to fit in and be accepted socially, and that’s probably why I still rely on my favorite celebrities for inspiration, sometimes making videos talking about them.
Jr. High really was the worst. Learning disabilities made math and other subjects difficult. I spent a lot of time arguing with my special ed teacher and being disciplined, never feeling like I was being treated as an equal, and receiving little to no positive feedback. In 9th grade, it came to a head being blamed for an accidental mishap, and only one person – a friend to this day – stuck up for me. I was sent home and after that, decided I would lock myself in my room, and never come out again.
Fortunately, my parents weren’t going to let me do that. They made sure I wasn’t failed, and with their prodding, I made it all the way through high school. It was still a case management learning situation, and I was sent to the office once in a while, but things gradually better. I made more friends – sometimes even with the security guards that were called to bring me to the office. Ironically, those security guards treated me with respect and helped get me through the tough times.
It’s not like I woke up and was all of a sudden a trouble maker – a lot happened that made me the way I was – sad and angry. But with time, I learned some living skills. To this day, people don’t know how much those school experiences affected me, eventually leading me to using pain meds, and turning to alcohol after turning 21. I’ll share more about that journey in blog post next month, but it’s important to remember how school trauma still affects me today even after a couple of years in recovery.
My low point was a night I stayed up drinking late. I remember it was about 3 a.m., and I got the worst pain I ever felt – which says a lot – centered in my lower back. I ended up calling 911 while my parents were asleep upstairs in the house. The paramedics didn’t want to take me to the hospital, but I insisted that I needed a doctor, so my mom took me into the E.R. It turns out I had a kidney infection. They put in an I.V. and had to drain all the alcohol from my system. I felt like a sponge being squeezed, and I was in shock – couldn’t talk or think straight, just messed up – and ended up stayed in the hospital for a week. I was released with a lecture about how I couldn’t drink anymore, but I had already come to that conclusion through self-reflection over the course of the week, the longest time I’d been sober in years.
I remember going outside and seeing a beautiful, clear blue day. I looked up into the sky and felt good, so clear-headed, with a presence of mind like nothing I’d ever experienced. I knew had to make a decision. Was I going to stay awake like this, or go back to how I dealt with grief and depression in the past? What things could I keep, and what would I have to eliminate from my life? I was broke, had no one around other than my parents, and they were frustrated with me. I had no clue about a meaning for life, no purpose, and I knew that if I didn’t try doing something productive, I wouldn’t make it.
Not long afterwards, the pandemic hit, and like many people, I knew I needed a pet to make it through. I had tried getting a rescue dog in the past, but was turned down – maybe for the same reasons I get rejected when applying for jobs. But Max came to my rescue. It was a bit rough at first with his past behavior issues, but as soon as we understood one another, we really hit it off. I realized what he liked doing, and he realized what I liked. We had nothing but time together, so we went to the park and played a lot. Needless to say, we bonded, and really, he saved me.
Then someone suggested I start. a YouTube Channel. I can’t remember who, but I do remember them noticing how much I got a lot out of the online world myself, and joking that “I love to talk.” So I did it, and the video posted above was the very first one I made. To my surprise, I got a lot of positive feedback. I hadn’t heard anything positive or encouraging in a long time, so I kept it up. I did quit for a while after receiving my first negative feedback – being called a freak. It hit me hard and pushed those old buttons from school. I thought about going down to the nearest bar again, but I just couldn’t let that troll control me and my feelings. So I made another video.
Now, even with positive social media feedback, life can be rough at times – like right now when we’re snowed in and I can’t even get my wheelchair onto my driveway. At times like these, I need to collect myself every few days, so I take a break from making videos and my social media sites, and just go listen to music on the couch, maybe play some video games and watch a movie or two. I find I have to step “in and out” of reality, eventually returning to face the world. Counseling has helped with that, too. I talk with someone every week. It’s another way I’m building skills to cope, and all these things are working. I keep coming back, making videos, getting out there to speak, and hopefully, inspiring others to realize their dreams as well.
Now I’m launching my website, putting it out there that I’m available to speak, consult and schedule educational activities on living a good life despite obstacles. Something that happened on a recent shopping trip with my mom that inspired me to take this step. A lady recognized me from Facebook and said she loved what I was doing. She had a homebound son, and she said that watching my videos together was great for them. Listening to her made both me and my mom emotional, and if I can be that for them and any others in life, it makes everything worth it. In the end, I want to be remembered for doing something constructive, or at least for making it through a lot and never giving up – instead getting up, and keeping on.
My goal now is to have a series of good experiences in life, memories of having fulfilled a “bucket list” dreams like traveling, and knowing that the commitment I made when I left the hospital a couple years ago made it happen with help from family and friends along the way. Now for me, the sky is the limit, chasing my dreams and succeeding at times, staying healthy, and living my life the best I can. My new perspective seems to be paying off, and I’ve never been happier.