Neither broken nor damaged. Transformed.
Updated: Jan 23
“Don’t try to fix me. I’m not broken.”
— Ben Moody*
Photo by Hannah Gibbs on Unsplash
A physical or emotional breakdown is always an indelible mark on the existence of a human being. There is no good shortcut or detour when the rupture arrives other than going through the pain and confronting, with determination, the upcoming reconstruction process.
Suffering is not romantic. It’s painful.
Beyond the sorrows and afflictions that these losses cause, I have noticed that, on many occasions, people make attempts to romanticize suffering. It is almost as if anguish provided a certain "status" of wisdom or as if we were better human beings for having gone through a specific ordeal. I do not fail to recognize the truth that blows, failures, and losses help us grow and that, after leaving them behind, we emerge wiser and more robust. However, this idealization of suffering can become dangerous. For many, wallowing in pain becomes a coping mechanism, if not a lifestyle. Pain is an intolerant teacher and a precise messenger, and there are even those who have managed to transform it into a critical tool for human growth. However, it should not become a constant companion as long as we can avoid it. Whether physical or emotional, seeking and attending to its causes and origins must become a priority in our lives. What matters is not accepting cracks as irreparable.
It is fair to add that this, too, can be adversely affected not only by our wrong ideas but by the influence of others.
As I mentioned, that attempt to romanticize suffering seems to be floating around. It occurs to me that, among other causes, movies, music, and the ubiquitous social media share the credit of selling pain as the best way to grow. More than that, I often feel we identify it as the only way to do it. And I reiterate what I said before: pain strengthens us, but only as long as we know how to process and manage it.
Now, once broken, the recovery must be in pursuit of reversing that condition. That is why it is called "recovery." It is upsetting to listen to people who declare themselves "broken" or "damaged" even years after overcoming a physical, mental, or emotional breakdown. And it's not that I'm belittling their suffering or minimizing their pain. It is just that wearing that label on our forehead negatively predisposes us to face life's challenges as if we were starting at a disadvantage, whatever the situation. Depression, coupled with this twisted view of ourselves, can become an explosive combination. Besides, we must always attack our adversary with conviction.
Pain does not need our permission to affect us, nor does depression need our consent to send us to the ground in one fell blow. Why, then, make things easy for them? Why give them the leverage that, without a doubt, they will use against us?
Neither broken nor damaged.
Rebuilt, yes. Transformed, definitely. Some think that rebuilding is overrated and that abandoning the remaining pieces after the breakdown is better. They'd instead start building a new self from scratch. I understand that there are pieces that we must preserve because they are the foundation of our essence, of the best of it. But survival goes far beyond semantics and metaphors; each one will know how to translate and interpret their own experiences and reactions. I am trying to say that every fall, loss, or ruin experienced in our past should not become an indelible and constant stamp on our skin. Seals are different from scars. These scars appear to have a positive meaning since they remind us of what happened and how we got out of that situation. They are marks to remember past battles and celebrate either having won or having endured the blow of defeat. That is the main difference compared to the seal of fragility and brokenness. While the former makes us celebrate the fact that we are still struggling, the latter continues to bring the pain and trauma of the past to our present. I have learned to distinguish the difference between them, certainly with a lot of work involved.
I wouldn't remove a scar from my skin, but I would tear down a cracked wall and build it back up.
Imagine, if you'd like, a finished sword, perfect and magnificent. No fissures, no cracks, no capricious warps in its sharp blade. How many blows did it endure, and how many fractures disappeared under the heat of the blazing fire? A defective blade will fracture sooner or later. The reason it doesn't is that those flaws, those fractures, have disappeared. They existed, but not anymore. The final piece is perfect in form and substance, far from the faulty, unworked metal it once was. Why can't we look at ourselves the same way?
Do not accept labels.
A medical diagnosis that declares you unable to perform a particular activity for the rest of your life. A test lost for the umpteenth time that seems to yell at you that that career "is not for you." A sentimental relationship that makes you think about your inability to love or be loved. There are many final judgments in this life, too many contrary results, and invitations to capitulate.
Do not let that happen. Do not give in.
If it is a medical diagnosis, research, seek further help, and request a second opinion. If the test seems impossible, look for weaknesses in the details, emulate those who have succeeded, and try again. If a romantic disappointment has made you doubt your ability to feel appreciated and be unique to someone else, stop rushing, learn from your mistakes, and wait. That someone will come along, and until they do, work harder at learning to appreciate yourself.
Do not accept labels. Don't let them steal your essence.
Don't let them tell you who you are or who you should be. That is your responsibility and also your gift. Remember that avoiding bumps and falls is not always in our control. How to respond, on the other hand, is usually our responsibility.
Robert Frost says in his poem "Servant of Servants" that "the best way out is always through." It sounds admirable and inspiring, but carrying it out is not a walk in the park.
Although you already know, that's no excuse.
* Benjamin Robert Moody II is an American musician, songwriter, and record producer. He is best known as a co-founder, lead guitarist, and co-songwriter of the rock band Evanescence.