Trauma is Painting a Car

I still own the car I bought for 500 dollars in 1985. My brother fixed it up in 1990, but by 2022, it was a little rough around the edges (okay, very rough), so I tried to fix it up. I just wanted to get it to look okay if you didn’t get too close. So, I scuffed up some paint and bought a cheap paint gun.

It did not turn out well. I tried to figure it out on my own. Without asking for help or drawing attention to myself, I tried to make it better, but in some ways, I made it worse.

So, then my brother got onboard and has been helping me fix it. He knows a lot more than I do and his projects turn out really well. However, I was overwhelmed. I was almost more of a hindrance to my own project. Mark explained things we needed to do, but I was so over my head that I couldn’t understand. I made mistakes even with his guidance.

I ended up at a lot of part stores. I was now getting advice from people that ranged from smart to numbskulls. Some people didn’t care to help me. Some people really wanted to help but did not understand what my problem was. I suspect some of the people trying to help me didn’t really know what to do but passed off their advice as expertise.

In the middle of this, I really began to see how this relates to people trying to heal from trauma. They want to get better, but like my car, they are just trying to pass off as okay as long as you don’t get too close. At some point, they have gotten knowledge on how to heal their trauma. Yet they are so overwhelmed with this huge task that they get confused. They make mistakes. Like myself when I was covered from head to foot in sanded-off paint, they were just struggling to get through the process without much hope of success.

No matter how much support a person with trauma has, a lot of healing they have to do on their own. So, they make mistakes, like when I forgot how the paint gun works and “orange-peeled” my paint. Their project (which is them) cannot take them to a good spot to get help because it is still in need of repair.

People with trauma try to get help. But it’s hard to apply the advice because of that feeling of being overwhelmed. It’s hard to understand it. Going for help is not so simple. They get wrong advice. They get help from smart people, but those people may not really understand the problem because they have to rely on the person experiencing the trauma. That overwhelmed person.

They have to navigate the advice. They have to apply that advice to their trauma. It’s like that cliché – easier said than done. I listened to my brother and yet, I had no confidence in which grit sandpaper to use and when.

Each time I got to a point of giving up, I learned why people with trauma give up or stop trying. And the thing I am trying to rescue is just a hunk of metal (Don’t tell my car I said that).

I am dragging this analogy too far. However, after making some progress in the car, I realized I was going to have to start over. Did I want to do that? Did I want to keep going until I found success? No. I wanted to slap some paint on the car and go back to pretending my car was fine. It would not have been fixed, but passable.

Sometimes people with trauma do the same.

Yet, hopefully, people with trauma are like me with my car and eventually come to believe that success can be made. Just by learning that not giving up is the key to losing that sense of being overwhelmed.

June 26, 2022

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