One moment in time can have lifelong impacts, especially when brain injury is involved. 6-year-old Matt was skating with his mom just before the start of the holiday season when he fell and hit his head on the ice. He was not wearing a helmet. Over the course of Matt’s childhood, he sustained additional brain injuries. What followed was trauma and a cumulative build-up of persistent symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and difficulties with attention, memory, and organization, that Matt didn’t know how to deal with. Without education about brain injury impacts, Matt explains, “as a kid you assume it’s you.”

Matt first met BrainTrust after his most recent brain injury. In his words, “I was homeless and meth addiction and meth psychosis and suicidal and I tried to end my own life with drugs and luckily someone found me, but I was gone for a bit.” Anoxic brain injury can occur when the brain is deprived of oxygen for as little as 2 minutes.

Fortunately, Matt was referred to BrainTrust after medical records confirmed anoxic brain injury; despite anoxic brain injury being common after overdose, many individuals do not receive a brain injury diagnosis nor adequate support.

At BrainTrust, Matt accesses Clinical Counselling program and Life Skills Support. BrainTrust’s collaborative, case management approach means his support worker can provide added support to help him carry out the goals he sets in counselling back in the community. Matt says, “having a clinical counsellor is amazing at this point.”

Over the years, Matt has participated in therapy with other counsellors, but having a counsellor who understands his brain injury has, “more impact than [he] knows.” Brain injury has physical, cognitive, emotional, and social impacts. For individuals who live with brain injury, it can be hard for them (and others) to recognize and understand why certain behaviours are happening. Matt explains, “it’s weird because the things I would just label as negative traits, there’s a reason, right?” Counselling has helped Matt better understand how his brain injury impacts his daily life and has given him, “the courage to break through all the lies I’ve told myself.”

“Now I have a reference point of what it feels like to be more well-adjusted. I never had that before. So now things are making more sense.”

Matt is currently living in a community house. He attributes stable housing and clinical counselling to finding, “artistic purpose,” for the first time in his life. Recently, he started doing photography, walked into an art gallery after a piece caught his eye, and has, “picked up the guitar again and really went at it.” He explains, “I’m not in crisis and that’s why things like that are happening.” Having accessible and effective counselling has allowed Matt to be, “in a state of transcendence.”

For individuals like Matt who have experienced brain injury, substance misuse, and homelessness, finding stability in both their physical and mental health needs can be life changing.