Questions for Reflection
In each episode, we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. Our supporters over at Buy Me a Coffee now have exclusive access to the PDF versions of all our Questions for Reflection. Join us today!
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars Podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06):
Where we share personal experiences, so we can learn from each other.
Beth Demme (00:08):
Our mission is to talk about things you might relate to, but that you don't hear being discussed in other places.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:14):
Our hope is that you're encouraged to have honest conversations with people in your own life. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:18):
And I'm Beth. On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled, "His Side of My Story, with Pastor Matt." Hey, Matt.
Matt Horan (00:26):
Hello. Thanks for having me. I'm glad to be on the Discovering Our Scars Podcast. I've been listening to you guys for a while now and I'm kind of starstruck, so thanks for having me.
Beth Demme (00:36):
Aw, well, thank you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:37):
Thanks so much.
Beth Demme (00:39):
Why don't you introduce yourself to our audience and I don't know... Well, why don't you just introduce yourself and then we'll get into all the other stuff.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:45):
And then, you introduce yourself and then I'll introduce how you intersect with my story.
Matt Horan (00:51):
Deal. Sounds good. Well yeah, so my name is Matt. I am the pastor at Heritage United Methodist in Clearwater, Florida. Before that, I was at Seminole Heights United Methodist, also in Tampa. Before that, I was an associate at Hyde Park in Downtown Tampa.
Matt Horan (01:09):
Obviously, met Stephanie by being on staff at Killearn United Methodist a thousand years ago, so that's what I do. I'm married to my wife, Susan, 22 years. We have two daughters, one at the University of North Florida, and the other one is a senior in high school that just got into U-F.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:27):
Well, Matt, thank you for sharing that. When I was in high school, I guess I was in high school, you were working at Killearn. And what was your position at Killearn?
Matt Horan (01:39):
So, I was the assistant youth director in charge of middle schoolers, 98, 99, 2000, in there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:47):
Yeah. So I would've been middle school into high school.
Matt Horan (01:51):
The main connection was that your mom ran my life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:54):
Matt Horan (01:54):
I'm surprised that-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:54):
So, she worked with you because she was the assistant or I don't even know what her title was, but she did all the computer work and grunt work for the youth department.
Matt Horan (02:06):
Right. Right. I forget what it was called-
Beth Demme (02:08):
I thought she worked for the children's ministry.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:10):
Matt Horan (02:11):
Eventually we shared her with them.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:12):
Matt Horan (02:13):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:14):
Matt Horan (02:14):
Well, at first she just ran our lives because we needed more management than the average person.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:20):
And she's good at managing and getting-
Matt Horan (02:21):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:23):
Yes. So, you were working at Killearn and at some point you got the call to ministry. What happened? When was that, what year was that? And then, how did you kind of, begin that journey?
Matt Horan (02:36):
So, we had a brief stint where I was the lead youth director at a church in Georgia, after leaving Killearn. While I was there, I felt called to ministry to go to seminary. So, we left from Georgia to go to attend Asbury in Orlando. And I had just begun my CPE session, it's six months long. I understand you guys have covered that already, what a CPE is. So, I just started that, I think a couple weeks before hearing from pastor Bob about you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:11):
Okay. Okay. So, that's kind of where our story begins with kind of how this all comes together. So you know, we've talked about my book, Discovering My Scars. I really kind of write about the journey that's happened in my life, and it starts with me going into a mental hospital. So, I was actually sent to this place called Central Receiving Center, and I was kind of... it was kind of like a holding cell, but you're not in a cell. It's not a jail, but it feels like one.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:43):
And I was just kind of held there for over 24 hours. And towards the end of that 24 hours, I was really getting anxious and just having no answers, and really needing to get out, and just needing to be with people I knew. And right towards the end of the that, I get a little card from one of the nurses there, and on the front of the card is a dove and it has a little Bible verse, and inside it says, "Stephanie, hi, I'm a hospital chaplain. So, let me know when you get to wherever you're going, and I'll stop by.
Matt Horan ." And a phone number.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:19):
And actually there's three phone numbers on here. He was not joking around.
Beth Demme (04:22):
He really wanted you to know that it was okay to call.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:25):
Beth Demme (04:26):
And that he was going to be there for you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:27):
And just let him know. So I-
Matt Horan (04:29):
Try to find me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:30):
Yeah, exactly. And so, I get this note and instantly, I know who it is. We knew each other. I don't remember being super close to you in... I wasn't really a great youth, to be honest.
Beth Demme (04:45):
You weren't active in youth group, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:46):
I was not an active youth. I liked being with the adults.
Matt Horan (04:50):
Oh, I know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:51):
I was not a great youth.
Beth Demme (04:52):
He felt your rejection keenly.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:54):
Yeah. Just, yeah. I'm glad to clear that up.
Matt Horan (04:56):
Although, if you'd been in middle school, I was there. Surely you would've been there. So, I don't blame you at all.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:01):
Well, I was in middle school until 1990, I mean 2000, I think. So, I'm pretty sure you were the most... We won't get into that, we won't get into that. I rejected high school youth, too, so it's fine.
Matt Horan (05:14):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:16):
But I knew exactly who you were. And basically when I got this note, it meant so much to me. Literally I was on the floor in the small room, rocking back and forth like a movie where you would be like, "What's happening?" And I was handed this note and it literally gave me the strength to get myself together and to realize, wait, there's a human being that knows me and knows that I am a human being and is there, is somewhere.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:45):
And I didn't know where you were at the time. And I didn't know what this meant, but I was like, "This is a human that's somewhere near because he handwrote this, so he can't be too far away."
Beth Demme (05:55):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:56):
So, I don't know if I've ever been able to say this, but thank you. This meant so much to me and was so important as part of all of that, that happened. So, what I really wanted to know is I've told my side of the story obviously, in my book. But I kind of wanted to know, how did you know I was in the hospital? Where were you when you wrote the note? Why didn't you come and save me? No judgment at all.
Matt Horan (06:25):
Well, I thought that having read your book-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:27):
Matt Horan (06:28):
Which is great. And I actually have given it to other people who have been in the same situation, so I've found it to be a helpful resource to people. It's funny because I had just started my CPE, and if I could go back now, knowing what I know now, I would've known that I was able to be more assertive than I was. I just gotten to this thing, I'm still kind of learning my way around the hospitals where I was assigned. And whenever a medical professional told me what the story was, I just believed them.
Matt Horan (07:06):
By the time I was finished, after six months, I realized that patients spend most of their time waiting for the next thing to happen. And they feel this desperation to hear some progress, while the people who work there are managing dozens of people, all waiting to hear some progress. And they aren't nearly as invested in getting you a progress update as you are desiring to have one, right?
Matt Horan (07:35):
So, usually what they would do is they would try to just swat you away. If you're going to add to their day and make their day more difficult, they'll say something sounds authoritative. And at the time I said, "Oh, okay. So, can I please drop off a note that..." Now, I realize I probably could have made a bigger stink and found a way to actually see you in person. And by the way, I want you to find the social worker who actually got you out of there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:03):
Matt Horan (08:03):
That's a cool, heroic story. I thought, man, I want to go find her.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:06):
Matt Horan (08:07):
It's kind of funny. You go through the CPE thing so that you can learn how to help your church members or help people go through the medical process, and through the suffering and the journey. And I didn't learn until later that I was probably able to advocate more for you than I did, but I didn't learn that in my first two weeks of CPE.
Beth Demme (08:27):
How did you first-
Matt Horan (08:31):
That why I just left you there. I left you there.
Beth Demme (08:32):
How did you know that she was there though? Because the last time you had seen her, she was in Tallahassee. So, at this point she's moved to UCF, she's a student there. How did you even know something had happened?
Matt Horan (08:42):
Yeah. Stephanie was a staff kid when I was there. She was one of the staff kids. And so, I obviously knew her from that. She wasn't often in youth group, but she was often in the office.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:54):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:55):
I was helping with stuff, I would do envelopes. I would stuff envelopes. I would do stuff like that, but not go to youth.
Matt Horan (09:01):
Right. So yeah. So Bob Tindale called me, he was the pastor of the church at the time and said that you were there. And so, I was able to look things up and figure out where you were and how to find you, and how to drop off a note to you at the time. So yeah, that's how I found out you were there. I was at home, I'm not sure what I was doing, but Bob called and said you were there.
Matt Horan (09:21):
So, when I got the call from him, I thought, oh my gosh, okay. My home church needs me. I need to spring into action and come through because for all they know, I'm really an expert in all this and I need to look competent. So I felt that kind of pressure too, right?
Matt Horan (09:37):
Because you guys, I mean, Killearn had been supportive of us and I got married there, baptized my kids there. It meant a lot to me, so I wanted to come through. So, I felt that pressure as well, but more than anything what I was picturing was kind of what you described, I guess. Sitting there and kind of like the One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, kind situation where... And I remember, I know her, she's not someone banging her head against the wall, getting shots from people, holding her down all the time. So she probably, I can't imagine why she would be there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:13):
Matt Horan (10:15):
So yeah. So, I wanted to try to find you as best I could. And again, when they said that I didn't have any say over how to help you, I just sort of had to leave then.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:23):
Matt Horan (10:23):
And left you notes and try to do what I could.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:26):
Were you told what had happened and why I was there? Did Bob tell you?
Matt Horan (10:31):
I don't think he did.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:33):
Matt Horan (10:34):
I think he said you'd been Baker Acted.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:36):
Yeah, which wasn't true. I voluntarily went, but I didn't know I was volunteering.
Beth Demme (10:45):
Matt Horan (10:45):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:46):
Matt Horan (10:47):
You were tricked into volunteering to go. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:50):
Matt Horan (10:50):
Which, I also discovered is not all that uncommon, at least wasn't back then.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:54):
Matt Horan (10:56):
So, yes, I don't know that I knew beyond that, which surprised me because I figure, okay if she was Baker Acted, something has happened in her life between when I saw her last and now. That was pretty disturbing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:11):
Yeah. Okay so, I get your note and it was shortly after I got your note that I was moved to the actual mental hospital, Behavioral Health Center. And you came probably an hour or two after I got transferred there, and you actually were able to come see me. And I remember that. I remember like, "I know him, that's Matt. He's that fun youth guy. I know him. He's a little too silly for me because I don't like youth." But I was like, "Good. He's an adult. Now look, he's a chaplain and everything."
Beth Demme (11:46):
Yeah. How did you know she had-
Matt Horan (11:46):
I had a name tag with my picture on it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:48):
Beth Demme (11:48):
How did you know she had been moved from the Receiving Center to the Behavioral Health Center or whatever?
Matt Horan (11:55):
I think I called and asked. That's when I began to realize that they actually valued the chaplains more than had I thought they did at first. So, when I called and said who I was, they began answering my questions. So, I do think that the first place you were in, had kind of a little more mixture of combination police, E-R, kind of, initial triage situation. So, it was a little more locked down, I think.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:23):
Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Matt Horan (12:23):
Once you were actually in a facility that was more a part of the medical structure of the hospital where I was working in, I had a little more access to know where you were and whatnot. So, and then I had my badge that made me official. So, I just had my-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:36):
Showed your badge.
Matt Horan (12:40):
Backstage pass and I got to go see you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:43):
So I remember, I think you came to the dining hall area. I think that's where I saw you the first time. And I think I was eating, I can't remember. I remember a hard roll for some reason. I don't know what the food was, we were knocking on the table.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:02):
So, I think we chatted. I think we chatted. Is that when you first found out, did I tell you what had happened? Is that when you found out actually the extent? And what was your initial reactions when I was explaining what happened?
Matt Horan (13:13):
It was jarring to hear, you were the first person that I'd ever met that had that experience. So, a lot of questions began to swirl in my head, because it doesn't make sense to someone who isn't walking in your shoes. Right?
Matt Horan (13:29):
But I had been in seminary long enough to learn the power of listening far more than the power of giving advice that wasn't asked for yet. So, I felt like what I could offer you, is just to listen and remind you that there were people around that cared about you, and that you at least remembered there were people rooting for you. And they're trying to work on your behalf.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:57):
We've talked about it before in the podcast, but basically I had kind of, I had been dealing with self-injury for a couple years. And I was having a big issue with my roommate and I could have punched her or done something else, but I decided to take it out on myself, and I cut my arm and that's how I ended up in the mental hospital.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:20):
And we've talked about it before where it was non-suicidal self-injury. I wasn't trying to kill myself, I was just trying to feel, a whole long thing. So, when you heard that, when you heard the story, I probably told it really well. I was probably like, "My roommate ate my food. I cut my arm. Why am I here? Why am I here?" That's probably how I told it. It was probably really good.
Beth Demme (14:38):
Probably really good, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:39):
Yeah. I know. I hadn't told it that many times yet. It's probably the first time I told it.
Matt Horan (14:45):
Honestly, I remember that however you felt about it when you first got there, by the time we had that conversation, you had reached eye roll stage. You were already over it and you were kind of indignant at the injustice that had been delivered on you. You felt deceived and you were pretty... I almost feel like you were oddly coherent. If I was here, I'd be, but you were-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:14):
I think I probably-
Matt Horan (15:15):
You knew just what happened and how you ended up there and why you shouldn't be there anymore.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:18):
I think I had probably told the story, I'm thinking through my head, I had probably told it probably 15 times, at least 15 times, because every single person that interacted with me, asked me what happened. And I started to learn, they didn't want the full story or they wanted the Cliff Notes version or they don't actually care. And so, I think I started to realize how to tell the story. So, probably by the time I told you, that sounds about right. That I was like, "Okay, well, hold on, I got this one down now."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:46):
So, you were there and we chatted, and then I remember saying... The initial thing I remember being at the hospital was it was cold. Hospitals are normally cold and this was no exception. This was a Behavioral Health Center, so for people with mental crisis. So, not really medical, but it was cold in the building. And I remember you asked if I needed anything. And I was like, "I need clothes, warm clothes, it's cold." And you said, and I think I might have said, "paper," but I can't remember, or entertainment.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:18):
I don't even remember what I said, but you said, "Okay, I'm going to go..." And I think you said, "make a Target run." I don't know why I remember that. But you ended up going to Kmart, which is fine, but I feel like you said Target run. And you ended up going and coming back and you brought me every single thing I needed. And it was perfect.
Beth Demme (16:36):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:36):
And the cool thing is, I was actually... So before we started recording today, I showed you the notebook that you brought me, because I kept it. But actually almost everything else, I didn't keep. And I gave to people that were there when I left. So, I had a sweater and some pants and stuff. And some other patients, I was able to give that to them when I left. So, I think you even brought me toilet paper or maybe my roommate brought me toilet paper.
Matt Horan (17:00):
And the Sudoku book.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:02):
Sudoku. Yes. I can't remember if I actually did it, but I did appreciate. You also brought me an actual book, a reading book, which I really appreciated. I don't think I was mentally able to read at that time, but you did bring me a book. I can't remember which one it was, but you were very much like, "I brought you this and I brought you this." And I was like, "Thank you."
Beth Demme (17:21):
You really did go all out.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:23):
Beth Demme (17:24):
It must have been because you had a personal connection to Steph. That would be an unusual set of things for a chaplain to retrieve.
Matt Horan (17:36):
I absolutely, at that point, was abusing my authority to help a friend of mine. So I'd love to tell you that every chaplain everywhere always comes through with the Target run.
Beth Demme (17:51):
No, this was a friend doing something for a friend.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:53):
Matt Horan (17:54):
Right. What's funny is, and I may have told you this before, but you told me about the clothes and that's all you told me. And I kind of was sort of surprised that they kind of just whisked you away without giving you the chance to pack some stuff or anything. So, I called my wife and I said, "Hey, so let's say that a girl in college needed someone to get clothes for them. What would I be getting?" So I got a list from her, so I can take no credit for getting any of the things you needed because that was all her.
Matt Horan (18:29):
But then, I was thinking about being in there, you need to get your mind off of pile of crap that been laid before you here. So, and that's when Sudoku became kind of a thing that was kind of new at that point. So yeah. So, I tried to grab some things that I thought would occupy you. And then, I went with the notebook because if none of these things work, at least you can draw pictures of you punching people that have been really mean to you, or I don't know what you might do with it therapeutically.
Matt Horan (19:02):
But yeah, that was the kind of the scatter-shot effect of just putting a lot of things in the bag. I don't know. And I actually didn't get to see you. I actually had to drop the stuff off. You were off somewhere having something done to you that I couldn't go be a part of.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:18):
A lot of times.
Matt Horan (19:19):
So, I just had to drop that off and hope that I got it close enough to right.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:25):
Yeah. I think I might have been in the shower, because I took a shower at one point and when I came out, the clothes were on the bed. So, I don't think you put them there, I think you gave them to them and they put them there. But I remember, so it's funny that you said, "Draw a picture" because so, the notebook that you gave me, I literally have right here.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:44):
And by the way, the notebook is where my book started. So, that was amazing that you gave me that because there are words that I wrote in this notebook that are in my book. This was really heavy, so a lot of this didn't make the cut for... It's a little, a lot of it's... And you could see my handwriting change over time, which is crazy. It becomes more, changes.
Beth Demme (20:05):
It gets bigger with more spaces and some expletives.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:08):
Well, and it's aggressive looking.
Beth Demme (20:10):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:11):
But it's funny that you say draw because I just remembered. I was like, I think I drew a picture and I did. I drew a picture of the room in this book, that is-
Beth Demme (20:18):
Like a diagram or like a schematic of the room she was in.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:21):
I drew a picture because I remember thinking... And so I wrote, my bed. I wrote, window. There was Nicole's bed. The bathroom. Yeah.
Beth Demme (20:30):
Can we put a picture of that on, Buy Me a Coffee?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:32):
Oh yeah, we can do.
Beth Demme (20:33):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:33):
Beth Demme (20:34):
I mean you were right, she did use it for a therapeutic purpose.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:36):
Beth Demme (20:37):
I mean, she really did. You got all the right things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:41):
Matt Horan (20:42):
And maybe you drew that to plot your escape.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:45):
No, I remember thinking-
Matt Horan (20:46):
I'm going to begin using this plastic spoon to dig a hole in the wall.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:49):
Yeah. I remember thinking at the time that I was like, there's more to this experience than right now. I remember thinking, which is why I started writing it. I remember thinking there's more, there's a reason I'm going through this. And obviously, I couldn't comprehend enough at the time of exactly what that was, but that's why I started writing. And then, I was like, "Oh, I'm going to forget what the room looks like. I need to draw a picture of it."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:13):
And obviously I can't... It's seared to my brain. I can remember it, but I drew a picture of it.
Beth Demme (21:18):
And remind us what year this all happened.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:21):
Beth Demme (21:21):
2006. Got it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:24):
Yeah. So, you brought me the clothes. I think you did maybe come the next day as well. And I think you just came every day and just talked to me, which was all I needed. Just to know that somebody cared, someone that knew me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:41):
There were people there, there was actually a chaplain that was part of... There was other chaplain that I talked to that wasn't super helpful. He was very much just the standard, God is great. Okay. Thanks. I know. And someone gave me... I think he gave me a Bible, too. He did. That one gave me a Bible.
Beth Demme (21:59):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:59):
You didn't give me a Bible, man. Hey. Hey, that's funny. You didn't bring me a Bible. I just realized that.
Matt Horan (22:05):
Well, Stephanie that's because I knew you weren't into youth group and that kind of thing that you would need a Bible, so.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:13):
That's funny, I just realized that.
Matt Horan (22:13):
What's funny is, I mean, there was a time when I probably would've thought, okay, she needs some reminders of Jesus, but sometimes you just need permission to say, "This sucks." And things have gone drastically wrong, this isn't God's plan for me to be in here. And it's easy to give platitudes like, "Oh well, everything happens for a reason."
Matt Horan (22:41):
No it doesn't. Sometimes it just sucks.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:45):
Matt Horan (22:46):
I mean, you've given it purpose after the fact, right? You've written the book, you've let your story be a resource to others, that's how we give things meaning. To go around saying, "Oh well, God, how do you go into this mental institution, because he wanted to accomplish this other thing." That's nonsense.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:04):
Matt Horan (23:05):
And you don't need that when you're in the middle of that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:06):
Matt Horan (23:07):
That situation, you don't need me to say, "Oh, Jesus loves you." Well, if that's true, then why am I in here?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:12):
Beth Demme (23:13):
Well, and really you demonstrated Jesus' love by coming and visiting her, and by finding out what she needed, and by dropping stuff off for her. That was a very tangible prayer in action. That does more than just saying, "Oh, here, read some scripture."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:30):
Yeah. And that's what I remember. I remember him talking to me on my level, like a human being, a regular human being, not like I was broken or like God hated me or loved me. And that's why he put him... None of that. I don't remember that. I just remember him talking to me like a person, and that is what I needed.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:48):
And which is kind of funny that the other chaplain gave me a Bible, because it's kind of exactly what you're saying, that's what I didn't need.
Beth Demme (23:58):
As someone who was observing this and observing Stephanie in this situation, did it seem to you like she was getting the help she needed? Did you have an opinion on that?
Matt Horan (24:09):
So, you might need to cut this out, but I'll just-
Beth Demme (24:12):
Matt Horan (24:12):
Toss it in there. One of the things I recall is that you and your dad were not on the same page about this-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:21):
No, not at all.
Matt Horan (24:24):
In the moment. So, I don't know where you guys are on that today.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:26):
We've had a lot of conversations, but yeah.
Matt Horan (24:29):
A good piece of our time was spent talking about how you have a parent who's a professional in this field, and you couldn't believe that it's going the way that it was, considering. So, which was challenging for me because I knew your parents and before that, I would've expected that he was a pretty competent professional in this field that would've known what he was doing. So, I kind of felt like, gosh... I think I actually talked him on the phone at some point during the whole thing.
Matt Horan (25:04):
And I was surprised that he had as much faith in this process considering what you were experiencing of it, it didn't seem to be going well. It didn't seem to be helping you any, it just made you kind of more angry as time went on. I feel like you were really the victim of a lot of the ignorance we still had at that time. And so, if you would've held out and had this happen to you, maybe 10 years later, it would've been better for you.
Beth Demme (25:35):
It's interesting that you say that about-
Matt Horan (25:36):
It's just bad timing on your part.
Beth Demme (25:38):
Yeah. It's interesting you say that about Steph's dad. Because when I read the book, one of the things that I said to her is, "I really feel sympathy for your dad. And I really feel like I'm on his side in this somehow." And I just was making that observation about as an outsider to this.
Beth Demme (25:59):
From my perspective, he was in a tough situation. Having some time and distance from it, maybe he would even say, "Yeah, I could have advocated differently." Or, I don't know what he would say.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:11):
He has. Yeah, we've talked about it. But it's interesting that it seems like Matt was confused at why my dad was acting the way that he was. And maybe Matt was on my side.
Beth Demme (26:21):
Matt was on your side, and when I read-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:23):
And you were on my dad's side.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:23):
Beth Demme (26:23):
Yeah, and when I read the book, I was like, "Oh yeah, I can kind of see, I could..."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:27):
I guess I wrote it wrong because Matt gets it. Matt gets it.
Beth Demme (26:30):
Matt's right, Beth's wrong. That's the takeaway. I hear you.
Matt Horan (26:34):
I recall clearly that you and your dad were not on the same page about it, and he seemed to have an odd level of confidence that this was going how it should. And it didn't seem that way from what I was seeing in person.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:47):
Yeah and my psychologist was actually the one telling me, "No, you need to get out. This is a bad place." Da, da, da. And I would tell that to my dad and my dad was like, "No, this is a great, great place." Da, da, da. And it was just this back and forth thing. And yeah, it wasn't helpful being the person that was stuck in the place.
Beth Demme (27:05):
Matt Horan (27:07):
I can't imagine being your dad, Stephanie, in that moment, being four hours away, maybe knowing someone in there professionally, I don't know, but... And then, also to be an expert in this and to not be able to fix it, there was plenty of pain to go around for everybody. You were obviously at the epicenter of it all, but yeah. A lot of people were suffering along with you in their own way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:42):
So Matt, when you were there, did you feel like you were being helpful? Or did you feel like you were helpless? What was your feeling when it came to kind of the situation?
Matt Horan (27:52):
So, I would say that you were on the front end of one of the most important things you learn when you're a hospital chaplain, which is that you aren't really able to be helpful in the typical way that a person is helpful in the hospital. Right? When someone goes to the hospital, experts zip in and fix things and give drugs and do surgeries and because they were there, you begin getting better.
Matt Horan (28:21):
And I hit a point probably pretty early on, probably maybe while I was still visiting you, it was frustrating to just walk in and I'll listen, we'll pray, and I'll leave. And you were every bit as injured or sick or in need of surgery that you were before I got there. And so, it took me a while to, I guess, grasp that what I was offering was also important.
Matt Horan (28:52):
When I got to the place where I could ask a doctor to hang on, let me finish praying before they came in. I think it took realizing that a chaplain visiting is helpful and does make a difference, but I would say I probably didn't realize it at the time. And it was probably more frustrating for me that I couldn't do something to actually help you. Obviously, I appreciate you mentioning it in the book and saying now that it was helpful, but I probably walked away most of the time frustrated that I couldn't do something that actually made it better.
Beth Demme (29:24):
Was it different for you to see someone who you knew because typically in CPE, you see people you don't know. I mean, that's kind of the job at that point. So, and I know you're saying you were really fresh into the whole experience of CPE, but do you remember it being different because you knew Stephanie?
Matt Horan (29:43):
Yeah, it was the first time that I'd seen someone that I wasn't entirely sure they should be here. I just sort of believed it. When I would be summoned to someone's room, you get the printout of their situation. I had no reason to question whether they should be there, right? No matter what they were there for, I just assumed they should be here and I'm going to go visit them.
Matt Horan (30:07):
I walk in to see Stephanie and it had been a few years, but knowing that this was a pretty solid kid who didn't seem to have a whole lot of emotional distress about her. When I saw her, probably more days than not in the office, sort of walk in and go, this can't be right. There's no way she should be here. Now, I didn't grasp that, I mean, you had been going through things that definitely needed to be addressed. But it was jarring to sort of walk in and see someone that I just, didn't seem like this was the right fit here.
Beth Demme (30:50):
Do you remember praying for Steph either while you were with her at the mental hospital or maybe later just in your own prayer time, do you remember praying for her? And I'm wondering if you do remember praying for her, if you feel like that prayer came true?
Matt Horan (31:08):
No, I mean, it's funny. I mean, I saw hundreds of people during my CPE, only remember one of them. So, no offense to the other hundreds that I saw, but. So I'm not really excited to share this, but I remember, this is really early in my CPE, and I remember praying, mostly thinking about what you were hearing, more than I was thinking about what God was hearing. So, I don't want to say that I was praying to you, Stephanie, but I kind of was.
Matt Horan (31:45):
But I also believe that the act of praying is more a decision that we make, and we can trust that God hears what we pray, whether our head was in the right place, whether our thoughts scrolled off to some place else for a minute. I mean, I feel like God is still there and hearing that, but I remember just praying that you would remember that he was with you. I felt this real burden whenever I left that I was leaving you with this collection of people that... And I mean, there were a couple people in there that kind of were, like from the movies.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:25):
Matt Horan (32:26):
I don't know if you recall.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:28):
Did alarms go off when you were there? Because they went off all the time.
Matt Horan (32:30):
I don't recall that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:32):
Okay. There was alarms-
Matt Horan (32:32):
And I feel like I would recall that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:34):
Yeah, there was alarms that went off all the time and then, right across the room from me, there was a room where they would always send in all the male nurses, and they'd hold somebody down, and they would inject them with something. And that was often and it was loud. You could hear the person struggling to get off the bed, but they were strapped down.
Matt Horan (32:53):
So, I saw that happen sometimes, so that wasn't uncommon. But I didn't hear the alarms. I had this one lady who reminded me of the little old lady from, The Wedding Singer, who does the rap song. She was in there in the hospital and I got paged to come see her. Now, Stephanie, a pager is a thing that you would wear on your belt that had...
Matt Horan (33:20):
So, I get paged to go and see her. And I mean, it looks just like her, and I walk in and she unloads this stream of profanity at me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:29):
Matt Horan (33:31):
What the bleep are you doing in here? I don't need you. You can get out of here with all your... And the next day I go back and she's totally transformed and she apologizes up and down. She had a bad reaction to a medication. So, you never know what you might walk into when you go visit someone.
Matt Horan (33:53):
But, I do remember feeling this, just anxiety about leaving you there, because I didn't see a lot of people between you and the movie-asylum people that were there. And so, I remember praying that you would just feel like you weren't alone in there, and that you'd sense the Lord's presence with you. And again, mostly praying so that you would hear it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:18):
I don't remember the prayers. I don't remember the exact words, but I remember not feeling judgment, and that was huge. Having a person in front of me, that wasn't judging me. And the only other person that I felt that from was my roommate, Megan. She came at least once or twice. And she was just, treated me just like she did all the time, and she was amazing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:42):
And then the social worker. The social worker there that I met the last day, she just was like, "I'm going to get you out." And I was out within hours. Like I said, I need to see if I can find her name on paperwork or something because she was amazing.
Matt Horan (34:57):
The social workers could always get a discharge to happen way more easily than a chaplain could.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:02):
Matt Horan (35:03):
So, you probably had the right person on that, in that situation.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:05):
Well, there was never a part of me that felt like your job was to get me out and was... I never felt like, why isn't Matt working on this? There's no part of me that was... You did exactly what I needed and I do feel like God sent you to me, this all was a God thing. I do feel like that, me being in the hospital, did God put me there for this and that? I'm not going to go that far, but I do think that everything that happened to me, I love where my life is and I wouldn't be here without all the things I've been through.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:42):
So, I don't remember even being mad at God or anything. Maybe I was, I don't remember it at the time.
Beth Demme (35:51):
So, I actually shared some of my CPE, which is Clinical Pastoral Education, I talked about some of that in Episode 95, in case anybody's curious, and we'll put a link to it in the show notes.
Beth Demme (36:02):
But Matt, I'm wondering, did you have any big takeaways from your CPE experience, or a takeaway from your experience with Steph that you haven't shared with us yet?
Matt Horan (36:13):
So, I cannot imagine doing this job without having done that. I know it was optional for the most part when I went through seminary, I think now it's virtually not, I think they make just about everyone do it. But you just see everyone in the hospital, everyone goes to the hospital, every demographic, every age group, every type of malady, you see all of it there. You see people at various stages of distress. If someone codes in the hospital, the chaplain got called to intercept their family, so they wouldn't walk in on someone shocking them back to life. And so, you see all these extreme things that I wouldn't have seen yet in my ministry career if I hadn't seen it then. And so it does really, I think, help you visualize an incarnational ministry, right?
Matt Horan (37:14):
I mean, the story of Jesus is God loving us enough to forsake all of the comforts of heaven, and step into this world to become one of us. And so, that sometimes means going into hard places that you might not normally go. But if you're going to be like Jesus, you're going to end up going to some places that you wouldn't choose. So, it did really give me a sense of what it looks like to shepherd people in various stages of their journey. Like I said, it's funny how I would've been much better at helping Stephanie later on, I think than I was, because I was just starting out.
Matt Horan (37:53):
But when I was reading the book especially is that when someone asks us, asks a pastor to help them in some way, it's really a huge privilege for someone to invite you into their hospital room, and then share their life with you because you're the chaplain or because you're the pastor, you get this access to someone's life and insights into their journey that you would never have in some other job.
Matt Horan (38:22):
So, yeah. So, I feel like meeting Stephanie and all the people that I saw in the hospital from the six months, really shaped me in ways that no class I took could have ever done.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:38):
Well, Matt, thank you so much. This has been something that has been on our list for, since the beginning. I wanted to be able to kind of hear your side of my story, and I think it's so cool to revisit and kind of share about this. We like to ask our guests one last question, just a fun question. So what book, T-V show, or podcast are you excited about right now?
Matt Horan (39:01):
You guys have probably talked about it, have you ever talked about the book, The Body Keeps the Score?
Beth Demme (39:07):
I'm reading that right now. It's one of the ones that I'm reading right now, and I am fascinated. I'm not very far into it, but just even the history of psychology and how he, how the author of the book experienced that, and experienced the changes and the improvements. It's really fascinating.
Matt Horan (39:31):
I think it speaks a lot to, even since Stephanie went through this, how much has changed, how much we've learned since then. But, what I learned from that is that traumas come in all shapes and sizes, and while we're probably conditioned in some level to just sort of shrug off traumatic experiences that don't fall into the categories of being beaten or sexually abused, doesn't change the fact that it may have been a traumatizing experience that has affected your brain chemistry.
Matt Horan (40:09):
And so, I wish everyone everywhere could read that book, because it was a mind blowing insight into how we're wired. And frankly, it revealed something traumatic in my life that I didn't even classify in that way. And, from reading the book and doing some journaling along the way, it kind of unearthed some stuff with my me and my dad that had been affecting how I was living years and years later.
Matt Horan (40:39):
So, I feel like the book gives permission for you to name the things that you might have just sort of brushed aside, because they weren't bad enough to be in the news. All of us have little things that have happened along the years that cause us pain that affect the way that we interact with others. And so, I recommend that book to everyone. You could have a whole month of shows off of that one book probably when you finish it. So, I definitely recommend that, The Body Keeps the Score.
Beth Demme (41:08):
Well, tell us about your book and your podcast.
Matt Horan (41:11):
Oh, thanks. So, ours is called, The Disorganized Religion Podcast, and basically, it does not have near the number of redeeming qualities that yours does because of the ways that yours is helpful. Ours is more a look at the silly life of being on a church staff, and the crazy things that we see sometimes.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:36):
We can talk about that.
Matt Horan (41:40):
We had an episode where we talked about the different bloopers that come along on Comedian Sundays, right? You might have the person who believes in the five second rule, they fumble the bread and they go, oh, and they feel like reverence for it. So they try to get it really quick. And then they go to dip, and I said, "You have to go Heisman trophy on that." You have to say "No, no, no, no, no. Don't put the bread... Don't dip your floor bread into the ... just wait for another piece.
Beth Demme (42:07):
Or they forget to hold their bread for intinction, they put it in their mouth.
Matt Horan (42:12):
Yeah, they put it in their mouth and then take it out again.
Beth Demme (42:14):
No, don't take it back out. No!
Matt Horan (42:15):
Beth Demme (42:16):
Yeah. I've seen that.
Matt Horan (42:18):
There's the finger dipper that goes about knuckle-deep into the juice.
Beth Demme (42:20):
Matt Horan (42:22):
So, there's a lot of things, that sort of behind the scenes stuff about being on church staff that we sometimes highlight and shine some light on, so it's been a lot of fun. I do like the idea that church can be fun and that we don't have to take ourselves too seriously.
Matt Horan (42:39):
And I like to make church accessible to anybody. So, when people see that we're not perfect and we're broken and we fumble the bread on the ground, I find that to be way more accessible and way more fun than getting it right at all times, all the time. So, we're on Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts and all the places that you find them.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:03):
Awesome. We will put a link to it in our show notes.
Beth Demme (43:06):
And then you also wrote a book called, Church Bells at Midnight, which is about when you were serving at Seminole Heights, right?
Matt Horan (43:14):
Yeah. So, in 2017, there was a serial killer who was murdering people in the neighborhood where my church was in Seminole Heights in Tampa.
Beth Demme (43:24):
With a gun, right?
Matt Horan (43:25):
Yeah, he'd sneak up on them at night, shoot them the back of the head, and then vanish into thin air. And I mean, the book isn't just about that. What we ended up doing at that church to try to reconnect with our neighborhood, because it had been kind of disconnected from the neighborhood for a while. So, we tried to really create a better connection between our neighbors and the church. And from the things that we did, we found ourselves often at the center of different efforts to try to get the neighborhood through the serial killer thing. We ended up being a place where a lot of people came for events, and people sought us out for help with various things. I ended up being asked to do the funeral of one of the victims.
Matt Horan (44:12):
And so, I have that story in there of... Because at the time we didn't know why the person was choosing who they chose. So, we asked for there to be a police officer at the church in case they came and shot up the service. I asked some neighbors who live nearby, who were in the C-I-A or in the F-B-I, to come and sit in the sanctuary. They had their trench coat and their guns with them because we didn't know what was happening. We had our pumpkin patch during that time, and so we had to have all these different, extra rules about having more people out there. Kids used to walk to the church, we didn't let them walk to the church anymore for stuff. So, it was just really scary.
Matt Horan (44:58):
But what we saw emerge was, this place that the church had put itself because of the things we had done before then to be good neighbors. And so, I could take zero credit for having a plan to be ready for that ahead of time. But I did hope that these four people who were killed by this serial killer, by writing the book, I was hoping that their lives could and their death could give some purpose, could be given some purpose by letting that story be told so that other churches might look for ways that they can connect with their neighborhoods, and because you never know when your neighborhood might need you to be there for them. They might not have a church background, they might not have any interest in Jesus at all. But we saw a lot of people, all of a sudden feel really at home there because of what we had done ahead of time. Yeah so, it's been neat to hear people respond to it and get a lot from it, so.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:56):
I really want to read it. That sounds really interesting. Well, we'll put a link to that in the show notes.
Matt Horan (46:01):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:02):
And where can people find you online? Do you have social media? Do you know what Facebook is? Do you tweet?
Matt Horan (46:09):
Yeah. So my Facebook account and my Twitter name,
Matt Horan , I usually do share all the stuff that I have in the book and the podcast there. You can find us online at the church at, heritageumc.com. And so, if you're in the Bay Area looking for a place to go to church, I think we have a pretty and going here, so come on by, we'd be glad to have ya.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:31):
At the end of each episode we end with questions for reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between for you to answer to yourself, or you can find a pdf on our Buy Me a Coffee page.
Beth Demme (46:48):
Number one, what did you take from hearing Matt's side of Steph's story today?
Beth Demme (46:54):
Number two, have you ever wanted to hear someone else's side of your story? Have you reached out to them? Why or why not?
Beth Demme (47:02):
Number three, can you think of a time when you tried to be helpful, but still felt helpless?
Beth Demme (47:08):
And number four, have you ever been shown love or kindness by another while you were at your lowest? Reflect on that. How did it make you feel?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:18):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars Podcast. Thank you for joining us.
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Mental Health Advocate. Author. Podcast Host. DIYer. Greyhound Mom.
I'm a mom who laughs a lot, mainly at myself. #UMC Pastor, recent Seminary grad, public speaker, blogger, and sometimes lawyer. Learning to #LiveLoved.