An essay by Brian McLaughlin, Advocate
When I was young, long before the onset of mental illness I had dreams. I remember I wanted to be wickedly smart, artistic and creative, and wealthy.
I learned early that I was limited by nature to having a rather average mind. Yet I was lucky to discover that by studying hard and associating with people of superior intellect I could move beyond my natural limits.
When I was young I drew pictures day and night, and thought the most wildly creative and entertaining thoughts. I even won stuff from time to time, and my teachers were most encouraging.
Finally, when I was young I dreamed of being rich. Not so I could live high, but because I saw how well spent wealth could make great things happen. I didnt know the word for it then but I wanted to be a philanthropist of the highest order.
Recently, symptoms have been knocking the snot out of me. In my despair I remembered my old dreams. I thought to myself what a waste. I got angry that mental illness robbed me of my dreams.
Then it occurred to me that I was the guilty party not the illness. I bought into the lie that having a diagnosis of mental illness meant I needed to settle for a more modest reality. I bought into the lie that wanting more, wanting my dreams, would only serve to aggravate my delicate condition.
As there was no one to talk to and nothing else to distract myself with I switched on my computer and spent the afternoon reading essays written by my peers. I found there the thoughts of wickedly smart folks, superior intellects, and tales of outrageous courage and accomplishment.
I remember reading something Copland wrote, saying that often recovery can be as simple as organizing a drawer or doing the dishes. Basically, she was saying that even the smallest step toward where you want to be or what you want in life brings you closer to your dream of recovery.
I turned off my computer and looked out the window and it hit me light a bolt of lightening. I had just come a little closer to my first dream of being wickedly smart by reading the essays by peers like Copeland and of the global exploits of folks like Rogers.
Encouraged, I dug out an old sketchbook and attempted to reproduce the Sunday Comics. To my surprise I could still draw, and I was good! Yet another dream ignited.
Finally, I turned my attention to my dream of being rich. So I got out my checkbook and discovered I was not suddenly rich. However, I discovered that I was not exactly poor either. So I wrote a check for twenty dollars, stuffed it in an envelope, & mailed it to my favorite non-profit. I was a philanthropist. Granted not on the grand scale that I dreamed of, but I was a step closer to my dream.
Clearly, it is time to dream again. I hope you will join me in reclaiming all those most worthy dreams delayed but not forgotten.
Respectfully submitted for your consideration,
Brian Patrick McLaughlin MS/CPS
MH Consumer Advocate
Erie County, PA.
© 2016 Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA