I recently saw a meme online that touched my heart:
Broken crayons still color.
That simple message struck home with me, and I adopted it as my own mantra (with no claim to ownership of course).
Its meaning resonates: just because something is damaged doesn’t mean it can’t do the job.
An argument could probably be made that everyone is damaged in their own way. In some, the damage is apparent to the naked senses. Some people go to great lengths to hide their particular damage.
I’m damaged. Not only is it not a secret, I’m also probably more vocal about my disability than most.
Before learning of my disability in 2008, I had used my notoriety in the entertainment world to try to be a role model.
You see, I didn’t have a father in my life, so growing up I relied on role models as a primary source of inspiration and education in my quest to become a good person. So when the opportunity came for me to be role model, I embraced it. It was like I was giving back to the universe what others had once instilled in me.
There’s not a clear-cut way to know if you’ve had a good influence on people, but I figure if I made a difference in even one life, the effort was worth it.
Then life happened.
When I was diagnosed with mental illness in 2008, it shattered my world.
It turns out I’d been suffering from mental illness as early as four years old. But for whatever reason it went flying under the radar. I was considered “unique” or “different”. That label was an excuse by parents, teachers, and peers to not confront the reality that I operated in a different reality.
When I was finally diagnosed in 2008, everything I thought I knew was called into question. And, there was no road map; no clear set of directions on how to handle the confusion, and stigma that comes with carrying a diagnosis. I had to learn to live again.
If sharing my experience of how I have navigated the road from mental illness diagnosis to striving to become a contributing member of society can help others, by all means I’ll share every detail. For a jumping off point, you can read the book Unbecoming Travolta, my memoir detailing the early stages of my battle with mental illness.
So, I’m a broken crayon. I admit it. But I can still do certain things that my particular kind of crayon are able to do whether broken or not. I can still be a part of creating a beautiful picture.
I am of the firm belief that everyone can contribute the greater beauty should they desire. For some of us, it takes more work than for others.
In 2019, Ali Stroker defied all odds to become the first actress who uses a wheelchair for mobility to win a Tony Award for her unconventional role in the Broadway revival of Oklahoma!
Long before that, actress Marlee Matlin became the first deaf actress to win an Academy Award for Best Actress in Children of a Lessor God.
From a diagnosis in my own neck of the woods, the late actress and author Carrie Fisher achieved success despite carrying the label of bipolar.
Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker had a very successful career in professional football even though he has a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder. He also was an Olympic Bobsledder and an undefeated mixed martial artist.
No matter what you deal with on a day to day basis, don’t let life stop you from living.
Embrace the type of crayon that you are and create something beautiful on the tapestry of your life.
I believe in you.
Peace. Love. Trust.