Name and Preferred Pronouns:
Matt Sassano, He/Him
Tell me about your overall experience with mental health (only share as much as you are comfortable with):
A large part of my story is being a person who is lives with and is fighting to defy my disabilities. I was born pre maturely and as a result came out with 2 disabilities. I have “cerebral palsy” and another disability called “dyscalculia”. I can’t drive, I get lost easily. Dyscalculia poses a lot of problems. I remember a lot of “normal” jobs would often be tough or stress me out. I’d get lost in the building or asked to do a task that my disabilities made a nightmare. I wasn’t as open about my struggles as I am now so spending my life trying to cover the struggle was exhausting. I hated being “different,” my whole life was about developing a sense of humor or other diversions that would cover for my inadequacies.
I remember from a young age physical, mental and emotional abuse from my father. He was a preacher so it was hard to reason with. I hated the hypocrisy but I kept it all hidden. It wore on my mental health. At 17 years I ended up as a patient in a mental health facility. Not many took time to visit aside from my mom. I struggled with frequent panic attacks and anxiety on top of depression. I was on “Ativan” to manage the attacks. It felt like the attacks were always looming. For a long time I was scared to leave the house or take a simple walk alone.
A few years later I attempted to turn things around although I was still fighting some internal battles. I ended up working as a mental health aide in a psychiatric facility. On top of that I’m close to being a certified counselor and did a lot of college work in the mental health filled before I ventured into music. It’s something I’m passionate about.
Is mental health something you talked/talk about within your household?
I think many of us struggled in my family. Mental health was something that was overlooked for many years in my family. My father was narcissistic and had a short fuse. It affected us all. Everyone in my family has had some degree of a mental health fight. I remember my house was even so stressful with arguments and tension sometimes that it even affected our pets. I didn’t think about it at the time but much of the tension in the house would cause our pets to withdrawal. Sometimes when arguments would erupt my dog would go into seizures. It was just a stressful environment sometimes. You don’t catch on to how much a toxic environment affects everyone around you sometimes until you’re out of that situation. I wanna also say that there were great aspects of my childhood too. We lived in a very complex and nuanced life.
Now a days mental health is something my family are much more open about. I’m glad to help remove the stigma for other people. I’m glad my music has helped people in that way.
If you are in therapy, how has that helped with your mental health journey?
It has helped a lot when I was. I will say the key to any healing is being honest with yourself and other people though. For years when I was covering for the abuse I faced things never genuinely got solved. I wouldn’t call it what it was. It wasn’t until I got to a place where I was open with my counselor that it really began the healing. I encourage anyone suffering in silence to speak up. Be 100 percent fully transparent no matter how intimidating or embarrassing.
How has music helped you with your mental health?
Music was the first thing that made me feel empowered. As a scrawny kid who struggled in a lot of areas music inspired me. It gave me a place to channel my emotions. When I was walking around town to escape the chaos at home or just to clear my head I’d slap on headphones. I’d walk around the block with music blaring. I’d be thinking about what it might be like to escape my boring town and play in a band like many of my idols. Music gave me a place to go when I hated my life. I could just put on headphones and be somewhere else for a while. I’m Very blessed to say I’m happy that my music is becoming that escape for the people that message me online every day. Music has given me a purpose.
What is the hardest thing you have had to overcome within your mental health journey? How did you overcome it?
It all kind of accumulated for me. Because of my disabilities I can’t drive and am very very easily lost. I’m heavily dependent on family and friends. To this day I still live with family. Because of that I wasn’t as social as I could have been. Because of isolation I was depressed but often didn’t wanna socialize because I felt heavy.
I struggled in my education so I had a hard time finding a job or something that gave me purpose long term. That caused me to be financially behind and insecure even though family was supportive. Because I was financially behind and unconfident it made relationships difficult. I wasn’t unpopular. I was really good at making People laugh. But….I usually would just give them a very shallow and cartoonish version of myself. I’d be over the top in social situations. I could act like the life of any social event. I’m sure when others looked at me they saw the “funny guy” . Underneath all the humor and energy was a lot of insecurity.
It gets to the point in our lives when it all just accumulates. I wish I had gotten help sooner. If you’re struggling I hope you will be bold and take the first step to recovery. You aren’t too far gone.
What do you do for self-care?
I think in many ways music has become a huge part of my therapy. I think there’s also huge benefits to physical exercise. Even if it’s a little bit per day. A walk in the park or anything that gets the blood pumping a little. Also actively pursuing what you are passionate about has been key for me. Having another outlet where you can be creative outside of the “at home” or “at work” matrix has helped a lot. I’m not currently in therapy but have been in the past. If you’re struggling I strongly recommend it.
What is a piece of advice that you would like to share with others going through similar things?
Like I said before. Be vulnerable. Be open. Be transparent. I know it’s hard to confront some things but if you can be bold It helps. The first step to recovery for me came when I was 100 percent real with what I was facing. Breakthrough happened when I stopped avoiding things.
What is a piece of advice you would like to give your younger self?
So, when I was young I lived in a small, borojg town called “Canisteo” in Upstate NY. My idols on MTV were all I had. Haha
I would tell younger Matt…..”you are not Eminem so stop bleaching your hair every other week and giving your teachers Hell in high-school. You are not “Johnny Knoxville” so stop making home made prank videos and pulling stupid stunts in school. Being the class clown isn’t the most important thing. Stay away from your first girlfriend Sarah. She’s gonna break your heart man”
Can you share a bit about your initiative with TheHopeLine?
I’m super excited to be teaming up with “The Hope Line”. When I was at my lowest and most depressed I used to clear my thoughts by writing letters to God. I would vent my frustrations and to to reason with my faith and purpose. My latest song release “Dear God” is based on those letters. We created a landing page mydeargodletrer.com where people can go to write their own anonymous “Dear God letter” online. Often times social media can look so glossy and pretty. Underneath the filters people are really struggling. Depression, abuse, self hate, divorce, anxiety etc.. mydeargodletter.com gives people a place where they can be real with what they are facing. The Hope Line has been awesome enough to team up with me. They will be offering the opportunity for anyone to reach out and talk with a licensed and trained professional about what they are facing. There’s also many more resources there to help people. The team there wants you to know they care for you and want to be there with you on your journey.
Is there anything else you would like to share with KCL and your followers?
Thank you for chatting with me. follow me on social media if you want. I’d love to chat and I’m online more than your average person. I won’t say my track record is perfect but if you write me I’ll do my absolute best to reply.
Also my new electronic rock EP “In Defiance” is out now. Please stream it on all the platforms or pick up a copy at mattsassano.com or rockfestrecords.com . I’d love to hear your feedback. This EP is a reminder to stand in defiance to whatever beings you down or makes you feel alone or powerless. I hope you dig it.