There’s nothing quite as valuable and priceless as that journey of self-exploration and discovery that we often take at certain important points in a lifetime. These are some of life’s most important and beneficial experiences, and they often result in reaching a better place in life than where we were before.
Matt Wagner, the man behind MNERVA is an individual who has had his share of highs and lows, as he drew attention to in his recent single “Stuck,” which we premiered earlier this spring. In the song, Wagner confronts his struggles with mental health and ended up becoming hugely important for him, as he credits the song with keeping him from quitting music during the low point of the 2020 quarantine. It offered him an avenue to express his burning anxieties, during a period where he was not feeling very creative. Wagner credits “Stuck” with being the first time where he was honest with himself about his state of mind, and it helped him come to the realization that he needed to seek treatment for his mental health.
This has been something of a turbulent time for Wagner, but he has evolved as a human being, and he largely has therapy to thank for that. In this special guest blog, Wagner details for us how important professional therapy has been for him over these last several months, and he shares with us the breakthroughs that he is beginning to reach, as he continues his progress towards being a better version of himself.
“How Therapy Helped Me Discover Self Worth” by: Matt Wagnger
“Last December, I wrote my newest single, ‘Stuck’ and finally gave a voice to my 2020 angst and hopelessness. I had just hit rock bottom a month prior at an election party and absolutely hated the person I was becoming. The only problem was I didn’t know how to get out of my downward spiral and turn my life around. Desperate for a change, I decided to sign up for therapy, even though the thought of talking to someone absolutely terrified me. Now, four months later, I can confidently say that enrolling in therapy was the best decision of my life and that, for the first time ever, I actually love myself.
For my first session, I had no idea what to expect. I knew I wanted to work on improving my self-concept and deal with the anger I had been bottling up since the pandemic began, but I had no clue how to start the process. When I met my therapist, let’s call her Rachel, I was extremely nervous and started telling her my life story, a mile a minute. We dived into everything from my musical dreams, to my relationship with my family, to my childhood all in a mere 50 minutes. Even though I was all over the place, Rachel followed everything I said and asked the right questions to keep the process moving.
At the end of the session, she handed me a sheet that listed the eight core feelings: anger, fear, hurt, lonely, sad, guilt, shame, and glad. Essentially, all emotional responses can be broken down into one of these feelings and each has a healthy and unhealthy variant. For example, hurt handled unhealthy leads to resentment while treating hurt properly leads to forgivingness. Breaking down emotions in this way finally gave me the proper tools I had been looking for to examine my own responses and start making changes to behaviour.
As our sessions continued and Rachel got to know me better, we started focusing on formative moments from my childhood and how they still influence me to this day. I was bullied a lot growing up because I enjoyed bands such as Linkin Park and Nickelback and because I loved anime and comic books (this was before they were cool). My human desire to belong made me hide my true self as a defense mechanism and, until recently, I refused to open up about my interests to anyone unless they did first. My therapy sessions showed me that this behavior impacted my music career because I was subliminally ashamed of the music I made; if I like a song I wrote, that means no one else will so what’s the point of trying to promote my own music when I’m just going to be ostracized and fail.
At first, I felt very guilty discussing these issues with Rachel because I didn’t have a tragic backstory and my problems felt childish and trivial in comparison to other people’s past. But, when I opened up to her about how I felt, she told me that the brain processes trauma the same way, whether big or small, and then she validated my experience, saying, ‘I had to take a few minutes to collect myself after our last session because these kids were so cruel to you and you did nothing to deserve that.’ Hearing her legitimize how I felt helped me overcome a lot of my shame and made me fully trust her with my entire story.
My biggest breakthrough happened a few weeks ago. We were discussing my relationships and how I’ve had a lot of friendships and flings fall apart in the last few years. I discovered that, ever since I was a teenager, I have been drawn to people that put me down while ignoring others who have a genuine interest in who I am; ‘if a girl threw herself at you, you wouldn’t know what to do with it.’ Because of my weak self concept, I’ve always felt like I’ve needed to work for all of my relationships because I have to give people a reason to love me so, when good people reach out to me, I tend to brush them off. This discussion culminated in Rachel saying, ‘it sounds like you gravitate toward people who don’t care about you because you don’t care about you.’ In that moment, I realized that I deserve to be loved and need to break this cycle if I want to be happy. Now, I’m proud of every person in my life and engage when people reach out to me because I know, deep down, that I am good enough.
I still have a long way to go on my journey through therapy, but, in my last session Rachel, commented that I’m much calmer and seem genuinely more confident than when she met me in January and I couldn’t be prouder of myself. Especially because May was Mental Health Awareness Month, I think it’s so important for us to end the stigma surrounding therapy and that it will somehow change you for the worse. I believe everyone, especially men, can benefit from learning how to understand emotions and having an unbiased source offer a second opinion on your life experiences. My bi-weekly sessions have helped me become a better person and finally accept who I am. Because of therapy, I don’t feel stuck anymore.”