Why are we so reluctant to admit to having, or to discussing, a mental illness? Has anyone ever been too ashamed to tell their friends and family that they have high blood pressure if they order a low sodium meal in a restaurant, or lied about why they couldn’t go to a yoga class if they had a broken leg? Of course not.
Martin Luther King’s emotionally charged “I have a Dream” speech makes me think of my own personal quest. I have a dream that someday, we will live in a world where the complexities of the brain, and all of its possible complications, will not lead people to live in darkness, but will allow individuals to seek the support they need.
People have been asking me lately why I am being so outspoken about my own illness, and my recovery program designed to help me return to my usual activities (work, school) following my recent acute hospitalization due to bipolar disorder, and I suppose that is my answer.
I have a dream.
I have a dream that someday, the millions of college students in need of, but unable or unwilling to access the treatment services they require for mental health or substance abuse issues, will be viewed with the same public outrage that would occur if 25 million diabetic college students were unable to get insulin.
I have a dream that someone who is suffering from major depression in silence will not fear losing their job if they admit what is happening to them, and ask for some time off for frequent psychiatry appointments.
I have a dream that having a cousin diagnosed with Schizophrenia will not create a black sheep in the family that no one ever sees or talks about.
I have a dream that people standing in line at the pharmacy pick up window will not hang their heads in embarrassment if the pharmacy technician says loudly “Here ya go, Mrs. Smith, here is your Prozac .
I have a dream that an anxiety disorder will not make its host too afraid to live life, but will allow them to speak openly to friends and family, and explain what might ease their anxiety in order for them to more fully participate in activities.
I have a dream that someday, no one would consider asking me why I was comfortable discussing my mental illness, just as I might admit to having a brain tumor or a sinus infection.
I have a dream.