In the mid 1970’s, Dorothy Hamill was America’s sweetheart but she now shares with us a darker side to the glitter and glamour we all saw.
“I’ve had a very blessed, wonderful, incredible life but it’s not that
there haven’t been issues that I’ve had to learn to manage and handle
over the years. It is really important, there is such a stigma
associated with depression and for all the ice skating, training,
physical activity and vitamins and everything that I did and all the
glamour and glory I got, there was still something underlying that just
Hamill says after the Olympics her fame skyrocketed.
“I had an Olympic gold medal. I had the opportunity to skate in ice
shows which is what I wanted to do. I was traveling and meeting all
these fabulous people, television specials, shampoo commercials and
dolls and making money. I was able to pay my parents back. All the
things I thought would make life great and still there was something
wrong. I was walking around in a fog. I was unmotivated and I felt
ungrateful and I felt lazy and just felt awful.”
Hamill was in Omaha where she was guest speaker at Thursday evening’s Community Alliance “Breaking the Silence” event. This is one of the region’s larges educational events focused on eliminating the fear and stigma surrounding mental illness. Hamill says she had the opportunity to speak with some of the women seeking treatment within the program and says they are lucky they are receiving help as many people do not.
“And my heart breaks for those people that don’t have that support, that
support team. I just think the awareness is so important. I’m getting
choked up about it. You can live a productive life. You don’t have to
curl up. You don’t have to end it all but it is something that is
bigger than the person who has it. It takes a team.”
Hamill says she suffered from on-and-off mild depression after the
Olympics but she really hit rock bottom when her first marriage to Dean
Paul Martin ended in divorce. She says she hit another rock bottom when her second marriage also ended in divorce in the mid-1990’s. Then several years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“But I’ll tell you it is a lot easier being accepted into the world with
breast cancer than the hush-hush, depression? You know that kind of
silent pain that one lives in with depression. With all the exercise,
vitamins and all of that, you know, it still happened. Between the
breast cancer and the depression, I know I have to pay attention and I’m pretty lucky that I’ve had to pay attention to my body my whole life
because of ice skating so I try to be aware as I can with all of that.”
Hamill is now married with a daughter and says while it depression still
can be a struggle, her family helps keep her in check.
Mental illness transcends both social and economic boundaries and
affects nearly one in five families in Nebraska. If left untreated,
mental illness may result in unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness and even suicide.