From a Walk in the Shadows, a Dead Soul Rises
By: Eiahn Matthews | : 1038
“I once fell into darkness, never again I've seen the light. I became blind 'cause of the sadness, even the moon was no more bright. I lost my faith in the world around, no more believe in human kind. Sick of all the pain I've got, just for trying to hang around.”
Growing up in this world, Eiahn always felt like he was different than the other kids. Like an alien in a room full of humans, his presence tolerated but always denied the right to truly be himself. As time went on, Eiahn wondered what would happen to him, once the weight became too much to bear. It was difficult for him to foresee if his journey would ever become easier.
You see, Eiahn was born a girl. He was the 2nd of 3 children, growing up in a loving household, where family was a very close knit group. Eiahn always felt loved and accepted but could never stop feeling like he was not like the rest of his family. Something was different about him, but his young mind just couldn’t put into words what he felt deep inside his heart.
Growing up, Eiahn was a very approachable kid and did not have one ounce of aggressivity within him. He was more of a creative thinker, an eternal optimistic and a hopeless dreamer, having his head in the clouds more often than not.
During all his years of schooling, Eiahn was often bullied. Other kids took advantage of his good nature to pick on him. In many cases, it went too far, like when Eiahn was sent to the emergency room after he got thrown a softball size rock to the back of the head. Or this other time when a schoolmate stole his shoes from his locker, to set them on fire in the recreation yard dumpster.
None of the kids ever got in trouble for the misery they put him through and Eiahn grew up to believe that it must have been normal for him to be treated this way.
The bullying carried over to other spheres of Eiahn’s life as well. Being part of the softball team for a few years, it was a constant struggle for Eiahn, as he was picked on by the whole team. There was even one kid that started one year to slap him in the face every time they crossed paths for no apparent reason. This went on for a whole summer, often in front of his teammates, as well as the coaches, but no one ever said or did anything to stop it. It made them all laugh more than once too.
Years went by and none of it changed much. Eiahn divided his time between school, scouts and karate. He had started Shotokan Karate when he was in his last years of high school and it quickly became the one place where he truly felt like he belonged. He ended up getting involved in helping his Sensei with the younger kids classes. His years in the scouts gave him plenty of experience and know-how when it came to put together activities of all kind. It turned out to be quite handy when helping his Senseï prepare, organize and animate the kids summer and winter camps. The Dojo turned out to be a place where he could channel all of his negative energy into something positive that he truly enjoyed, and it wound up being a very good thing for him.
Years went by and he graduated high school, getting accepted in a Montreal College to study his field of choice, Special Care Counselling.
The first year of college, Eiahn made a few good friends. He spent most of his time with them, when he wasn’t taking the long bus ride back home to participate in a few classes at his dojo. The year went alright, academically and socially, even though Eiahn still felt like somewhat of an outsider, like he was different than his peers.
At the end of his first year of college, Eiahn’s father had unexpectedly lost his job. The family was going through some stressful times and Eiahn’s supervisor was aware of it. During a meeting, he looked at Eiahn and told him: “It is a tough situation you are dealing with, isn’t it?” For some reasons, this resonated in Eiahn’s mind in a way he could not have anticipated. It opened, without warning, floodgates to his deepest and darkest feelings and thoughts. Like everything he had bottled up throughout those years decided to come out all at once. This display of genuine care and concern for Eiahn was what triggered all of it. At least that is his theory about it, years later.
It is during his 2nd year of college that Eiahn started to turn toward self-injury as a mean to relieve the constant pain he was feeling inside. It became almost a need, to see himself bleed, simply to know that he was still alive. He started abusing drugs on a regular basis, developed an eating disorder and proceeded to isolate himself more and more as time went by. Fortunately, Eiahn still managed to complete his 2nd year with success, but the burden of all he had kept hidden inside for so long, had started to weigh heavier on him every day.
In his 3rd year, Eiahn moved into an apartment with 2 of his friends. Eiahn had hoped that he would be able to put all this darkness behind him, but things took a turn for the worse. The year was filled with a few personal triumphs, as Eiahn was able to pass all of his classes and practical studies except one. It unfortunately also was filled with pain, sadness and an ever growing hatred toward himself. A few of Eiahn’s teachers had picked up on his distress and offered him all the support they could during that year. At one point, things got so intense that two of his teachers took upon themselves to ensure Eiahn would get admitted to a crisis center after he had overdosed on medication. They even drove him to it, to help reduce the immense anxiety and distress he was feeling.
Eiahn came out of his last year of college, a mere shadow of himself. During that last year, his drug abuse had increased tremendously and the self-injurious behaviors had gotten worse as well. He was so bruised and battered inside that he had to move back with his parents, unable to hold regular employment. It was only at that point, that Eiahn opened up to his family about the depression and struggles he had been dealing with in the past two years.
Coming back to his hometown, Eiahn did not have access to the drugs he did when in the big city. Although they were available somewhere, Eiahn was not comfortable seeking them out and instead turned to over-the-counter sleeping pills as his drug of choice. Within a very short time, self-abuse got to an all time high for Eiahn. This resulted into multiple trips to the emergency room for stitches, 2nd/3rd degree burn treatment and repetitive charcoal treatments for having overdosed on sleeping pills. This also resulted in a few stays in the psychiatric unit of the hospital and prompted his doctors to enroll him in different day programs for people battling mental health issues. At that time, Eiahn started being followed by a psychiatrist, that put him on several medications in an attempt to control the situation better. It took a while to find something that was at least a little bit effective in settling his moods and dampening the dark thoughts he was harboring.
At that time, the one thing that seemed to have a constant positive impact on him, was his martial arts teacher/sensei. When Eiahn finished college and moved back home, his Sensei had put him in charge of the saturday kids classes, along with a younger black belt. When Eiahn would manage to fight the procrastination and depression demons enough to go to class, it would have a definite calming effect on him. He was truly in his element during these times. His Sensei had never stopped encouraging him and would not shy away from being blunt with him when he thought Eiahn was messing up (whether with his responsibilities toward the martial arts school or in his personal life). Although his Sensei was aware that Eiahn was going through quite some difficult times, he never hesitated to put his trust in Eiahn’s martial arts abilities and in him as a person. He knew him capable to pass on his knowledge of Shotokan Karate techniques to the younger students. He also trusted in his capacity to coordinate and assist in the organisation of the school activities, such as summer and winter camps, belt exams and other activities.
For Eiahn, through all his turmoils, his Sensei felt like an angel watching over him, saving his life by virtue of his actions, spoken words and his presence that never faded away throughout those years.
Eiahn would spend a lot of time, especially at night, writing poems, songs or simply spilling his thoughts and feelings onto paper. He also found some relief into playing guitar, something he had started when he was sixteen years old.
Eventually, Eiahn also ended up spending many hours on the internet, connecting to total strangers through websites and communication platforms like IRC. He had slowly made his own circle of friends online, with whom he would spend lots of time talking. Perhaps the invisible wall separating them somehow made it easier for him to express his feelings openly. Eiahn grew particularly close to a young man from Africa, with whom he had connected through irc channels. They would talk every night, both sharing their darkest feelings but yet, always finding a way to lift each other up when the going got tough. To be honest, that young man probably saved Eiahn a few occasions, from committing suicide, and Eiahn had often managed to do the same for him.
One night though, Eiahn did not see his friend log onto the chat program. And another day after that. On the third day, another one of his online contacts spoke to Eiahn, asking him if he knew Dq (his online nickname) because his sister had been looking for Eiahn. She proceeded to inform him that he had committed suicide a few days ago and his sister wanted to get in contact with Eiahn because Dq had left a letter in his name. Eiahn felt multiple pieces of his world crumble before his eyes that day. He could not believe his friend was gone, and he started feeling responsible for his death. He had that irrational belief that after all the times they had been there for each other, preventing such irreparable acts, that he should have been there for him when he needed it the most. But he had not been… and now his friend was gone.
Eiahn dealt with his ill feelings in many ways, not all of which were healthy. Fortunately, he also started to write a lot, on a daily basis. Putting his emotions and thoughts on paper using mediums from diary entries, short rants or stories, poems and even songs all seemed to somehow help him to channel a portion of his negative emotions and thoughts toward a more positive outlet. He ended up putting in a song, the feelings he had toward what happened to his friend, just like if he had been having a conversation with him, face to face. And to this day, this song still lingers in his mind on days when he reminisce about Ron and all they had gone through together.
Years later, looking back at all he had to go through, it is still difficult for Eiahn to understand how he made it through alive. Back then, he truly felt like a “dying soul”, a simple shell of his true self that was going through the day’s motions the best he could without ever really living.
One thing that Eiahn still finds particularly painful to think about and process, is the hardship he put his family through during those years. None of them should have been expected to understand him or what he was dealing with, when he could barely understand himself. Despite the difficult situation they were put in, Eiahn’s family always showed his support, encouraging him relentlessly to continue seeking help, to continue fighting, insisting that it would indeed get better one day.
For Eiahn, that day seemed like it would never come. There were countless nights when he honestly wished to end it all, only held back by his empathy and love for his family. He did not want to be here any longer; he did not want to live any more. It was the thought of the immense pain he would have been putting his loved ones through, which remained enough for him to keep going, however painful it was for him to do.
Now four years after finishing college, he was still without a steady employment, besides his work at the Martial Arts School. He was living at his parents on an off and on basis, having moved with friends and back home again on a few occasions. Eventually, Eiahn made some friends who introduced him to a support group for LGBT Youth that was meeting on a weekly basis in Montreal. He was able to connect to people of his age, that could, at some level, relate to him. This was a strange feeling for Eiahn, as he could not recall this happening before. Nevertheless, it felt liberating. He started some regular counseling at the Youth Program. Eventually was able to put into words, the fact that he was transgender and had never felt right, all of his life thinking he did not have the power to do anything about it.
After having been followed for a while, by this counselor, Eiahn was able to obtain his letter of recommendation to start hormone replacement therapy. January 18th, 2005 was the day he received his first injection. It was a huge step for him, that had a direct and immediate impact on his attitude toward himself and his life. He felt like there was finally a glimmer of hope.
Eiahn’s self esteem grew as the days progressed and so did his confidence. This turned out to have a positive impact on his social encounters. Eiahn started to feel accepted more and more, for who he was, somewhat more comfortable in his own skin. Sure, depression was still present and that new found “freedom to be” was not enough on its own to erase all those years of suffering and self-hatred. Still, Eiahn was able to hope that the years to come would possibly bring him some inner peace and perhaps even happiness. He hung onto that thought, in his darkest moments.
A year after meeting the woman that would eventually become his wife, Eiahn moved to the United States so they could be together. Less than a year later, they got married. Eiahn was able to apply for a work permit and soon after obtaining it, found employment. Eiahn began again to be a part of a martial arts family, learning a new style (Ed Parker’s American Kenpo Karate), and finally had access once again to the ultimate outlet for all of his negative feelings and frustrations.
Being able to work where none of his coworkers were aware of his past was a great self-esteem and confidence booster for Eiahn. It was far from perfect and Eiahn continued to hit roadblocks along the way, as even on the best days, Eiahn was reminded of his struggles by a simple peak under his clothing. But with time and a constant effort, Eiahn was able to finally put a stop to years of self-abuse and self-injuries.
Struggles continued to meet him up head first, but Eiahn held on tight. WIthin a few months of their move back to Quebec, Eiahn was able to find employment once again. He and his wife were able to move into a place of their own, after staying with Eiahn’s parents for a few months.
The gender dysphoria, the constant 24/7 reminder that things… his body… wasn’t right, was taking its toll on Eiahn, more and more everyday. Sporting a goatee, short hair and his usual baggy clothes, were often not enough to alleviate the anxiety and fear that inhabited Eiahn. There was no way to escape his own body. Eiahn used so many different tricks just to allow himself a basic level of comfort when going outside the house. As the months went by, Eiahn’s obsession with his chest not being so flat made it progressively more difficult for him to go out. He started trading back his undershirt for a binder, that would hide some of his body features. He slowly fell back into depression, feeling trapped in his own mind, but made a conscious choice to keep busy with work, which at least kept him out of trouble, for the most part.
Finally, after three and a half years back in Quebec, Eiahn was able to have his chest reconstruction and his hysterectomy done, which allowed him to change back all his paperwork to his rightful name, as well as the gender marker on all of his official paperwork and IDs. With these positive steps in the right direction, Eiahn was at last feeling like he was getting closer to being on an even playing field with everybody else that was “born without factory mistakes”...that he would perhaps get a chance to feel what it was like, to be normal… to be like everybody else.
A year and half after his two surgeries, Eiahn was able to undergo the first step of his gender reassignment surgery, this past December. Complications have piled up and lengthened Eiahn’s recovery time significantly, causing him to still be off work to this day. But he keeps going strong, and would do it all over again if he had to, because for the first time in his life, he finally feels “right”!
Eiahn is still battling depression and still has to fight his own inner demons on a daily basis, but he also has received a new lease on life and intends to take advantage of it to the full extend of his abilities.
...This is my story… or rather, a small glimpse into my life. I didn't ask to be born this way and for me, without the hormone treatments and the surgeries, today, I would be a tombstone for my family and loved ones to visit. Plain and simple.
I doubt anyone who hasn't gone through what I have had to go through can ever fully understand the pain and the suffering that I had to deal with and still endure do to this day, to simply live. If reading this today helps someone gain a better understanding of what I and others in a similar situation are going through, then at least something positive will have come out of me sharing my story.
If somebody else in a similar situation can see through my story, that there is hope no matter how desperate the situation might feel, then it will definitely have been worth it to share.
It is a struggle of every moment for me, even today, but through it all, I have grown tremendously and know deep down inside that there is hope for each and everyone of us. Regardless of how dark the situation might be, no matter how deep the ill feelings might be ingrained.
Things cannot be bad forever, and even if it is only one day a week that brings out sunshine in your life, fill up on that positive energy, refill your battery and ready up to fight those demons for the next six days until you catch another break.
Remember, that no matter what the situation is you are going through, you are not alone.
Take a deep breath and trust the fact that you will get through this one moment at a time. There are people who care, a simple hand’s length away, who will be there for you without a second of hesitation in the darkest times as well as the happy moments. Don't be afraid to lean on them in your times of need! Because in the end, it truly will be okay!
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About the Author
A French Canuck at heart a.k.a. French-Canadian who grew up in Quebec, his creativity is only limited by his endless imagination. Eiahn is an eternal dreamer and forever optimistic, who always looks to expand his knowledge base and further his experience while sharing his thoughts and opinions.