There was an episode on MASH in the 5th season called “End Run.” In that episode, the main plot focused on a soldier named Billy Tyler whose leg is severely injured. As he’s brought into surgery, he tells Hawkeye and BJ, the surgeons, “…if you can’t save the leg, don’t save me.” As it turns out, the leg is too badly compromised and they have to amputate it. As this is happening, Radar O’Reilly, the company clerk from Ottumwa, Iowa, tells Hawkeye and BJ that Billy Tyler was a hero last year on the University of Iowa football team and won the big championship game.
When Hawkeye has to tell Billy that his leg is, in fact, gone, Billy is very angry and believes that his life is over. He tells Hawkeye that he has nothing to live for and the only thing he ever knew how to do was run (on the football field). Hawkeye retorts, “You’re still running now.”
Radar approaches Billy and tells him how he and the other soldiers there had listened to the game being played and how it sounded like they were going to be beaten. He asks Billy how he overcame the stalemate in the game and Billy explains that they switched to the “short pass.” He tells Radar that he and the quarterback focused on gaining yards through short passes rather than long ones and they eventually made their way down the field to win the game. At that point, Billy realizes that Radar has helped him figure out how he’s going to figure out how to go on living now that his life has changed so irrevocably. When he’s loaded into an ambulance to be driven to Tokyo, Billy tells Hawkeye that he’s going to focus on his “short pass,” which Radar explains means that Billy is going to try.
I was talking to a friend today about mental health. She asked if I thought anyone would date me since I’m open about being bipolar. And, though it took me a few moments to reply, I said yes, I was pretty sure they would as I’ve been open about my diagnosis for years now and I’ve dated.
However, here’s the thing – for those people who haven’t come to a point of peace with their diagnosis or who are still working to get to where they feel more stable – at first, focus on the short pass. Don’t look at years from now – look at now, tomorrow, the next day. On bad days, look at the immediate present and the immediate future. Feeling strong, feeling safe, reclaiming your Self – those things take time and work and you’ll get there. But, start with the short pass.
And then – look at the long pass. Now there are days when I’ve got to limit my field of vision to the near future. Yet, I’ve gotten to where there are now more days as I go along (and I’m praying things stay that way – I try not to assume or take things for granted), when I think of where I’m going and what I need to do to get there. I’m not going to lower my standards just to be with someone – I’m going to be with someone who makes me laugh, whom I trust, and is a good man. I’m not going to take just any job – it has to be a job that gives me some happiness, means something to me, and pays a decent wage. You get the idea.
In fact, short pass or long pass, I know you’ve got this.