Albrecht: The Cobbler's Children

by Emily Albrecht | 9/8/15 7:46pm

There is an old English saying which states that “the cobbler’s children have no shoes.” Though the exact language of this saying and its definitions vary, it refers to when a professional or otherwise competent individual is so focused on work that they do not apply their skills to their personal lives — another example being say, a professional chef who forgets to feed her family. But as I understand it, the basic truth in this saying is that people often forget to apply their perspective and judgments of others’ lives and situations to those belonging to their own families, friends and even themselves.

This same sentiment can easily be adapted to Dartmouth — “Health and wellness are crucial, but only for other people.” Over my three years at the College, I have found that as students, many of us succumb at least in part to this phenomenon, constantly and consistently refusing to acknowledge personal issues regarding our own mental, emotional and physical well-being.

So many of the people I have encountered here are incredibly kind and compassionate. We see symptoms of unwellness in our friends and we worry about them, we ask them to seek help or offer it ourselves, we do everything in our power to make them understand that their personal health is of the utmost importance. For example, students over at least the past three years have been fighting to make personal health a priority of the College, to decrease stigma and increase awareness. We have the “Dartmouth on Purpose” student group and Student Assembly’s “I’m Here For You” campaign. Though Dick’s House myriad problems have been well-documented in this newspaper’s opinion section, the College has an array of support groups, as well as counseling, psychiatric and wellness services available to all students — all of which you can learn about through Dartmouth’s Counseling and Human Development website or by talking to a dean or undergraduate advisor. Yet, so many of these same kind and compassionate Dartmouth students neglect to see symptoms of unwellness in themselves and their lives — I know I have certainly struggled with taking my health seriously in the past, and still sometimes do to this day. When I look at myself and talk to my friends, or really look at my classmates and campus in general, I see so clearly that there is this toxic, underlying and persistent idea that health problems are real and they are important, but only for other people — never yourself.

To incoming first-years, and to all Dartmouth students, know that you are not an exception to the rules of wellness. No one can sustain themselves on three hours of sleep a night, regularly engage in high-risk drinking, control a substance addiction, manage disordered eating patterns or any other unfortunately normalized behavior and still be a healthy, functioning adult. Panic or anxiety attacks and symptoms of depression are not situations to be ignored or shrugged off, no matter your situation. All of these behaviors are not just part and parcel of a Dartmouth education — no, not even routine sleep deprivation or constant anxiety. We all owe it to ourselves to recognize these behaviors and signs in ourselves and to take them seriously. No matter how strong, smart, talented or otherwise capable you are, nobody can handle issues of personal health alone — and nobody has to. Yet while talking about it with your friends and loved ones is necessary, it is not sufficient for true healing. Frankly, many of these issues are above the paygrade of a friend or loved one’s job description. It is not a sign of weakness to seek counseling for anything happening in your life, and to confide in those you trust that maybe, you are not going through the best of times. No matter who you are, what you have been through or where you are going, please remember this piece of truth — it is okay to not be okay.