Blessed are the Cracked, for they shall let in the light… Groucho Marx
Many of you know this to be my favorite quote. I found it on a quotes app on my phone (yes there is an app for that) shortly before I started this journey. It..spoke to me in significance and rang true for reasons I did not understand.
The part that I clung to was Blessed are the Cracked.
I am cracked. I didn’t feel very blessed, but here was somebody saying I am. The light part, I just wasn’t sure about.
What light? Whose light? Does that mean if I was standing in a sunbeam, the light would not be blocked, that because I am cracked it would still come through me, making me less of a nuisance, and rather useful?
Yeah, that worked. Sounded cool anyways.
I have come to understand it a little differently lately. It is not the light behind me, or around me that I will let through by the fact I am cracked…
It’s my light.
Really, I am letting it out. Without even trying. Not that it’s easy, but I am enormously gratified to discover that while I was looking for something to set me apart, something other than a dark illness, to make sense of my disordered and I had thought unremarkable life, while I thought how can I change this, and while I longed to find……. something to make me shine,
I have been shining all along.
Through the cracks.
Starting with just a flicker of light that I struggled so hard, and longed to find in myself.
Now a light so strong, I feel like I could bring home a ship in the night, if I put my mind to it..
When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar, I brought home the Superbill, the page the doctor gives you as a receipt that has numerous ailments with codes by them. They are called diagnosis codes and it is what the biller uses to bill the insurance and serves as your receipt of payment, proof you went to the dr and an indicator of your diagnosis. I had been in the psychiatric hospital for a week. A rest. How I ended up there, what the catalyst is a story for another day, or maybe for never.
It was my second stint in a psychiatric ward, my first having been in the Army, in Panama, and it really was for a rest and to tuck me away so I wouldn’t cause any (more) problems. I ended up being over medicated, isolated from any friends, and completely confused.
It was at one of the evaluations I had there daily, when my psychiatrist informed me that he was discharging me from the Army for mental concerns.
I remember sitting in the sunny room watching the dust float down through the sunbeams and not really registering his words. When I asked him to repeat what he had said and he did, It was if the little me inside my brain came to life but the expressive me, was drugged and in a fog….danger danger…warning bells.
I knew I needed to understand, and I couldn’t. So I asked again, what does that mean I asked..am I crazy?
No he said,
well, it is because you are too pretty.
The Dr. was an older distinguished Panamanian gentleman who had an excellent grasp of the english language in terms no one but the medically educated could hope to understand, and then with his accent on top of it was hard to understand at all.
This was his laymen terms. His, how can I make you understand what we are about to do to you?
I was too pretty he said, to ever hope to have a career in the military. The men would not think of me as any more than a beautiful woman, I would not be taken seriously, I would be used and abused and tossed aside and eventually it would destroy me, the way my mind worked could not ever hope to process this and rein in my enthusiasm and beauty to conform to the proper standards. I would be a liability….
I have spent a lot of years thinking about that conversation. I tell the tale sometimes, but usually stop at, I almost got kicked out of the Army for being too pretty… (remember the best liar post? now you know)
Ha ha ha ha ha .. and I was careful who I told it to because I think it is one of those stories that could be taken the wrong way – as if I am trying to convince you I am beautiful….so pretty I couldn’t be in the military. I am not and do not believe that.
I remember I laughed. It would have been hysterical, but I was too doped up. And asking the good Dr if he was high. He of course was all seriousness and said no and this was the best thing for me.
Part of me was drawn to the idea of going along with this little plan, the thought of sitting there in the locked loony bin until the next medevac in a week, was comforting….shuffle on the plane, drool, get off the plane another week in the Stateside mental ward, and then…home…I so wanted to go home.
And he was handing it to me as nonchalantly as if I had asked for a kleenex.
But I said no. I still had fight in me, I refused to go home with my tail between my legs proving all the people that said I would never last in the military, right.
And some little tiny part of me told me that if I just went along with it, if I accepted this idiocy, I would never fight for anything ever again in my life.
NO I said it again.
And I started to cry. The orderly came and got me and they gave me a shot, and I went night for a few….who even knows…
When I woke, I remembered the conversation and felt panic. Focused only on the injustice of the fact I was getting discharged from the Army, because a dirty old man had the hots for me. (not the case you know but try explaining that to your brain when it’s got a medication hangover and in a state of high anxiety)
I used to have long auburn hair, um, I still do actually just a little streak of grey now, that I refused to cut, even in training when most of the girls gave in, and at the end of my shift or coming in from the field, there was never a better feeling than literally letting my hair down, getting out of uniform and being … me.
I was reprimanded and told to put my hair up even off duty when I wasn’t in uniform, and I did get a fair bit, ok maybe more than I knew what to do with, of attention from the boys.
But I wasn’t a face that launched a thousand ships… not too pretty.. not so pretty to be shunned from my chosen commitment to serve my country. How the hell would I explain THAT one?
Oh hey your home, I thought you had 3 more years to go. WHat happened?
I was too pretty for the Army.
What followed was a combination One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Girl Interrupted and 50 percent concentrated power of will (not the usual 15 percent )
I started hiding the meds under my tongue and spitting them out and when I got to call home, I called a friend instead and begged them to get me out of there. I argued with the shrink countering every point he made which upon reflection, were few. I refused. I would not go home and I demanded to be returned to my unit. Soon.
He said he would think about it, the paperwork was almost done and he would let me know.
When they came to give me my uniform and belongings and walk me off the ward 2 days later, I had no idea if I was going home or back to work, and desperately wished I had saved the meds I spit out if I had to get on a plane and go home.
I walked out the door to my Section Sergeant waiting for me and was flooded with relief, which I quickly stifled, not wanting to look anything but professional. My first successful, albeit unknowing, attempt to rein it in, as it were.
I served for 6 more years without a (mental) hitch. I just shut up and survived. And kept my eyes lowered afraid someone else would get some stupid idea I didn’t belong there.
But I often revisited that discussion, trying to put it into context with the rest of my life. It was as if it was a piece to a different puzzle, a loose end. One of many mind you, but I also look at these little anomalies as clues, that beg to be solved and my brain rehashes them endlessly until they are. Why why why….