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Real Life

Real life: I’m using my pain to help and inspire others

Matt Caruana, 20, Baulkham Hills shares his inspiring story.

By As told to Take 5

Matt Caruana, 20, Baulkham Hills opens up to Take 5:

I lay on my bed, trying to answer the questions that raced through my mind.
Does my life have meaning? I wondered. If I died, would anything change? Am I a valuable part of society?
Eventually, I realised there was only one answer: No. I thought I was worthless.
Since I was 12, I'd battled depression and those questions had plagued me.
Although I loved my family and girlfriend, Viv, I didn't feel like I had any purpose.
I decided to take my life.
Next thing, I woke up in hospital covered in tubes and casts.
I'd been found at the bottom of a seven-storey building, with dozens of broken bones.
Amazingly, I'd survived, but I'd suffered irreversible damage.
"You're a paraplegic," the doctor explained. "You may never be able to walk again."
My parents were sobbing beside me. I knew they were thankful that I was alive.
I should've felt lucky, too, but all I felt was rage.
All you wanted was to die and you failed, I thought. How pathetic are you now?
Recovering in hospital. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
Four months later, I was finally ready to face the world, so Mum took me on an outing.
On the train, a man stared at me.
"What'd you do to yourself?" he asked.
Shocked by his bluntness, my walls came down.
"I attempted suicide," I admitted. It was the first time I'd opened up to anyone.
But instead of looking embarrassed, the man just chuckled and said: "Well, that was bloody stupid."
A stunned smile spread across my face. He was crass, but he had a point.
The next morning, I woke up feeling lighter than I had in months. Sharing just a small part of my story had lifted a weight off my shoulders.
That day, my social worker encouraged me to open up to loved ones. I spoke to my parents, my friends and Viv.
My beautiful girlfriend, Bridget, supports me. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
I'd always thought talking about my feelings was a sign of weakness, but I felt so much better afterwards.
Ten months after I'd left hospital and rehab, my social worker asked me to speak at a trauma prevention program for 30 high school kids.
The idea made me nervous, but something told me it was the right thing to do.
My body shook with nerves as I sat in my wheelchair, struggling to look the students in the eye.
But afterwards, everyone applauded.
I'm back at the gym and getting stronger. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
"You inspire me so much," one boy said. "I have friends I could really help now."
One after the other, people explained the impact I'd made on them. I was blown away.
I'd never thought I was special, but my dark and painful past had actually made a difference to others.
The next day, a manager at the hospital asked me to speak at another event.
I agreed right away, but when I got there I found out the audience was 300 instead of 30! I was nervous, but determined to push through.
Just like last time, people came to me, asking for advice.
Speaking to teens has given me purpose and ambition. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
On my way home, my mind was racing. Maybe this is my purpose, I thought.
My mind flashed back to those three questions that had haunted me for so long.
Finally, I had answers.
My life had value because I was using my experiences to help others.
Now, three years later, I'm a professional speaker.
I also have a wonderful new girlfriend, Bridget.
Before my suicide attempt, I felt like I was alone, but I'm surrounded by people who love and support me.
As long as I accomplish my mission to empower people, I'll be fulfilled and thriving.
If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 0800 54 33 54

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