Your Mental Health Doesn’t Belong to Anyone’s Schedule

Susan Kathrine Corkran/Fourth Estate


While we slowly chip away at the stigma and silence surrounding issues of mental and emotional health, we have managed to barely scratch the surface of the problematic views we still hold as a society. I want to talk about one especially—prioritizing other people as a reason for your recovery.

I’ve been forced to think about this a lot recently. The weird thing no one tells you about brushing up against death is that the experiences linger with you. Even after your body heals, there is something permanently altered within you. You can remember the smell of the hospital, the touch of the doctors, the pain, the nightmares—the everything. But most of all, you also remember the aftermath. Turmoil can remain, manifesting itself in issues of mental health that have to be addressed just as critically as the physical health problems which preceded them.

Anxiety, depression, trauma … it’s a fun little smorgasbord. And then people wonder why you aren’t getting better faster.

That is my least favorite part. Being sick and facing your own mortality is hard enough, but learning how to live again afterwards is a process. There are moments of progress and many more moments of falling back into old fears and memories. I will keep believing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and all of that. It’s just that when you are still stuck in the dark part, you want to scream that instead pontificating to you, maybe, just maybe, someone could actually take your hand and just walk.

It is not an act of love to shove a shattered person ahead of their healing pace. It is not supportive to force someone into distress. It is selfishness to think that your personal schedule needs to be the priority of someone walking through hell because their progress is not about you.

The other side of that coin is this: when you consider your reasons to keep living, fighting and struggling forward, the ultimate motivation has to be your own wellbeing. It cannot be someone else.

I think about that ‘Do it for her (or him)’ vision board image, and I realize that I have only ever framed my life that way. Anorexia was something for me to overcome for the sake of the people I loved, and since I have never loved myself, I was not part of the equation.

And I am not the only one who has seen themselves that way. When we force a smile on our face and pretend not to have been crying in the bathroom before class, who is that smile for? It isn’t for my own sake that the lie I have told most often in my life is ‘I’m fine.’

People enter and leave our lives, often accompanied by heartbreak. If our reasons for loving and living hang upon other people, then we may well wake up to find our reasons suddenly gone. No one’s journey through life or recovery from mental health issues is a course which will run smoothly, or even in anything resembling a straight line. However, I think that the only way for it to keep moving forward at all is for its catalyst to live only in you.