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So, What’s Your Damage?

So I had a really great weekend you guys. I met up with some girls from support group. We were all there for the same reason. But we found that we had other things in common too.

“We’re all broken toys,” my friend said succinctly.

One of the uncomfortable truths about life is that there ARE broken people. Look around. It’s pretty clear.

Maybe it’s partially our fault. There’s a lot of people out there with baggage. And I don’t think they all look at themselves that way. One of the most noble things in the world is to use your pain to get stronger. I bet you know a lot of people who are dealing with horrible shit. Much worse than high-functioning autism. They’re able to absorb it and move forward.

But some people carry our pain around all the time. That’s not saying we can’t move forward too. But we’ll always identify with the baggage we hold for whatever reason. I don’t know if we’re inherently more sensitive. It sounds narcissistic to even say that. Like “oh, I’m more sensitive than you.” But there must be a reason.

Let’s just lay aside the blame for a while and get at the facts. There’s a palpable line in the world that separates the Damaged from the Not.

If you’re Damaged, you know it. You’ve been carrying it around your whole life, like a ten-ton boulder you try to tuck in your purse. It will always be there. But eventually, you start to get used to it. You might even buy a proverbial crane and learn to haul it around more efficiently.

You may have gone a long time thinking you’re Over It. But then you do some soul-searching and realize most of the people you gravitate towards are damaged too. Which is the best way to tell. Remember that Japanese proverb: Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.

A lot of these girls were abused. Their pain comes from something being taken away too early. Like all children, they’d assumed people were good.

I’m no expert on this. But from what I’ve been told, people suppress those memories and they filter in in the ways we can least control. Nightmares. Feelings of intimacy. People who were molested as children have been treated like their needs didn’t matter. A close friend’s first memory is of his babysitter assaulting him. He says that to this day, deep down, sex is the only thing he feels he can offer.

Not feeling safe in the world is the most common way for people to be damaged. As an autistic, I can relate to that somewhat. I have trouble trusting my judgment. I’d never want to compare a mental condition to rape. But many people with mental disorders also have some idea what it’s like to look at the world early on and know that it’s not always kind.

Another way to be damaged is to feel a loss of control over yourself. I relate to that a lot more. Being autistic, I’ve always felt like I was half-in the world and half-out of it. Some days I’m more lucid than others. I can sometimes force myself to be emotionally and mentally present, but it takes a lot out of me. I feel like I have less control over my mind than others do.

That’s another big way to be damaged. Feeling like you have no control. Our need to regain control comes out in various ways. For people who were abused (especially men), they often end up abusing others. I know I have an unflattering need to control my environment because I’m so desperate to be in situations I can understand.

Every single person I know who’s internalized more hardship than others has to work a lot harder to be stable. It’s always going to be a fight.

I do know some stable people with Asperger’s. Most didn’t start out that way. Our pain comes from knowing in our gut that we’re locked out of a big part of what it is to be human. Making peace with that involves a tremendous amount of zen. A stable person with Asperger’s has to shut out the longing for a feeling they’ll never have & learn to appreciate exactly what they’re doing in the moment. Neurotypicals could benefit from that too.

I haven’t talked much about physical disabilities here. But a lot of it is the same. I had a friend in a wheelchair who taught me as much as he could about that pain. If you have a visible disability, you’re locked out by default. The onus is constantly on you to prove that yes, you are a person, and you have a right to equal grounds in conversation instead of having to deal with overly personal questions or people shying away from you because they don’t know what to say.

If you’re on the fucked-up side of the world’s divide you should think about why. Did someone take something from you? Are you not fully inhabiting yourself? Or do you feel like there’s something in the world, something deep, that’s locked away from you?

I think all us broken toys feel all these things in different degrees. We have to make peace with how we are. We have to try to understand it. It helps a lot to find solidarity with other people like us so we can heal.

Above all we have to accept that we can never really get closure. There will always be questions unanswered. If you’re autistic, I know what it is. Believe me, I’m dying to know the answer myself.

What is that piece of humanity that we’ll never be able to feel?

What IS it?


*Image from Lana del Rey’s Dark Paradise

So, What’s Your Damage?

Gwendolyn Kansen

Gwen Kansen is a mental health writer in New York. She likes food, karaoke, and smart-but-campy books & TV. She's hoping to capture a little sliver of life on here that might not be the first thing you'd see.

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APA Reference
Kansen, G. (2016). So, What’s Your Damage?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Jul 2016
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