is all damage “good damage”?

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“Because if i don’t [write my book] then that means all the damage I got wasn’t good damage it’s just damage. I have gotten nothing out of it, and all those years, I was miserable for nothing. I could have been happy this whole time…what was it all for?”

Bojack Horseman, S6E10, Diane

Sometimes we gain benefit from our trauma. I won’t say “everything happens for a reason,” but, like the Japanese art of kintsugi, we find a way to emerge more beautiful after we’ve been “broken.”

I know many stories where the ugly duckling transforms into a swan. Where the damage is transformative, rather than purely destructive (which isn’t to say I’m glad it happened! but, yes, some good came of it…) I can’t say how common this is, but it seems these people often come into my life. And I’ve seen a bit of this firsthand…

So, yes, I’ve seen “good damage.”

Living in a time of isolation has brought that sharply to my attention. Seeing who dealt with it almost as if nothing were happening– and those who fell apart and acted like their civil liberties were under attack because they couldn’t get a haircut.

Of course, most of us feel somewhere in between. I didn’t know anyone who quite fell -apart-, but some handled it better than others. It’s a little bit funny how the people I expected to do well have had more trouble, and the people I expected to not be able to handle this surprised me.

— and no, the difference was not those who struggled with financial issues exasperated by the crisis, versus those who worked from home as usual, mostly unaffected by the stay at home orders.

Nor those with higher risks when it came to their health and the health of their loved ones, versus those who had relatively little to fear regarding their own health and the health of those close to them.

No, the difference wasn’t any of that. But those whose lives were a little more of a struggle than most? They seemed to handle it with an ease that almost shocked me. Many of those who struggled financially, emotionally, etc actually did better after the crisis hit. I thought their emotional resources would have been tapped, but no. It was almost as if they were used to weathering hard times already, and this was just, well, another inconvenience to get through.

Certainly, trauma can be good trauma. Or at least, damage can have a silver lining.

I am grateful for my “good damage.” I almost hope it on anyone in privileged situations, because without it, they can turn out shallow and weak. But while it’s almost hopeful to believe that all trauma is for a purpose, I cannot believe this.

Sometimes there is no reason for the hurt. No lesson. No…anything. Or at least, not much of any of that.

I do believe there is a limited amount of “good” that can be gotten out of “good damage.” And sometimes there isn’t anything at all to be gained.

What was it all for? Why did Diane live a miserable early life? She’s fictional, of course, but I’ve known Dianes in my life that were real people. Maybe Diane could have been happy instead of miserable. If she’d let go of her childhood and focused on the good people around her (and there were plenty!) Maybe she did waste all those years for nothing.

Maybe there was no reason. Maybe she did it to herself for nothing. And there’s no deeper meaning, which, as the show touches on, is something humans try to attach to everything. It doesn’t matter how deserving that event/situation/person is of said meaning or not.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta suck it up and move on.

Sometimes the trauma is worth spending time on. Sometimes you need to reflect on it, or turn it into art. But sometimes there’s nothing there. And I can’t tell you which is “good damage” and which is plain, old “damage.” You’ve gotta realize it for yourself. With this trauma, whatever good you got out of remembering and trying to process your bad feelings is over.

That book you’re trying to write, or that awful breakup you want to turn into Taylor Swift worthy lyrics, will never happen. It’s time to simply move on and be happy. And it sucks that you wasted those years, but it won’t do anything to continue wasting your life. You might as well be happy now. Diane finally did figure it out and wrote stilly, fun young adult books. Because she enjoyed it and it made her happy. And I hope you do the same.

Because sometimes that trauma that tags along after you needs to

I can’t promise you will ever leave your trauma in the dust. Mine follows me along, annoyingly. But mostly I ignore her, that unwanted feeling and those unhappy thoughts. Because she’s no longer good damage. She’s just..damage. And she’s no good to anyone, least of all me.

Sometimes it makes us more beautiful…and sometimes…it’s just junk. Toss the junk.

…what makes you happy? Are you holding on to any unhelpful damage that is keeping you from it?

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